Category Archives: roofing

Roofing Warranties Provide Course of Action

A warranty will stipulate exactly what remedies you may seek if there is a problem. Some will limit the remedy only to bringing the roof back to a watertight condition. This can mean only patching is covered, no matter how bad the system is. It may not cover items like wet insulation or rotted wood; as long as the roof no longer leaks, the warranty provisions are satisfied. Furthermore, some manufacturers retain the right to solely decide whether the leak is covered or not and will charge the owner back for the site visit if the leak is determined by the warranty holder not to be a covered condition.

Remember, the warranty is a contract, and like most business contracts, the terms can be negotiated. If you do negotiate out some of the more unacceptable clauses, be sure the changes are made by someone authorized by the company to make these changes and sign off on them.

Another key point: Be sure that the warranty form is made out in favor of the building owner, not the contractor, management company, or any individual.

Building owners often ask whether they should obtain a warranty and what length is best to get. Because warranties can help with catastrophic failures, it is generally worthwhile to obtain both a roofing-contractor and a materials-manufacturer warranty. The roofing contractor warranty should generally not be longer than five years since most installation defects show up within the first three. Paying for a warranty longer than that gives diminishing returns. Any clauses requiring the contractor to be hired to provide the maintenance should be negotiated out of the contract. If the roof is asphalt-based, include a rider that the roofer will fix any and all blisters that occur within the first five years. This is because almost all asphalt-based manufacturers exclude blistering from their covered issues.

Even if a roof is designed for a 20-year service life, it’s probably best to go with a 15-year, no-dollar-limit, labor and materials warranty from the roofing materials manufacturer. Longer term warranties are more warm blankets for owners to give them a sense of security than they are useful. Warranties longer than 15 years are expensive and difficult to collect on due to normal aging, maintenance issues, and lack of stipulated leak notifications.

Certificates get lost over time, making collection even more elusive. Long term warranties are used as sales tools by roofing materials manufacturers since they know there is little chance of an owner collecting on them after that many years. The list of exclusions and limitations of liability on the warranty can make it virtually impossible for you to collect on it but they can sell you one anyway and make you feel good about their system.

Installation and maintenance matter more
Recommending the shorter warranty life also is an acknowledgement that the service life of a roof has very little to do with the warranty length. A long lasting, serviceable roof has everything to do with having a knowledgeable and experienced consulting architect or engineer design the roof and observe its installation, selecting a competent and qualified roofing contractor to install it, and having a dedicated and organized building owner to maintain it. Even the National Roofing Contractors Association has stated that the best way to assure a well-installed roof is to have an independent observer watching the installation full time. Using all three legs of a stool can result in never even having to dust off the warranty certificate because you can feel confident that you are getting the most appropriate roof for your building and that it will last as long as its design life was intended.

A final word of advice: You may not need to get a warranty on your roof if you have it designed, installed, and maintained properly. If you do decide to get one, read a specimen copy very closely prior to contracting for the roof and be sure to review all of the fine print. Have your lawyer also read it and together go over the limits of liability, the list of exclusions and the owner’s responsibilities under the warranty to be sure you understand what you can and cannot do, what you must do, and what you can and cannot have.
Warranties can provide assurances to the owner that the roof will perform as intended, but only if you read them first.

Know The Advantages and Benefits of Roofing Warranties

The most important advantage of a warranty is that it gets the manufacturer involved in the roof installation, and any extra eyes on a roofing project is a benefit.

First, the manufacturer may provide a review to assure the system meets its qualifications. Most manufacturers require that the roofing contractor submit their intended system to the manufacturer before starting the roofing project. If no architectural or engineering consultant is involved in the selection of the roofing system, this manufacturer review is essential, even though it is a minimum review done primarily for the manufacturer’s benefit. It’s better than nothing.

Second, because the manufacturer wants to minimize its exposure, it will also do an inspection of the roof to be more comfortable that the roof has been applied according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions before the warranty is issued. Once again, this is mostly for the manufacturer’s benefit but again better than nothing. It is always helpful to have an extra set of eyes on the installation. Manufacturers have lists of approved applicators that are, in general, more familiar with the methods of installing the manufacturer’s roofs and in many cases are preferred installers. If a warranty is to be obtained, one of these contractors must be used to install the roof. If the manufacturer is selective about which contractors can become an approved applicator, this can help the building owner to select a more competent roofer and hopefully obtain a better quality installation.

If the building is to be sold, a transferable warranty can give the buyer some comfort that the roof is still within its design life. A caution here to buyers, however — an intact warranty is no substitute for a good due diligence inspection by a qualified roofing architect or engineer.
Building owner responsibilities

A warranty can provide repairs or replacement of the roof if there is an issue due to product failure or installation problems as long as you have kept to the terms of the owner’s responsibilities. So it’s important to understand those responsibilities.

One major responsibility is maintenance. Many owners evaluate a warranty based on its length. Unfortunately, the length of a roof’s service life has very, very little to do with the written warranty. The service life is a function of how the roof has been designed, installed, and maintained. Roofing is like a three-legged stool. Take out one of the legs, and the stool does not stand up. Roofing manufacturers recognize maintenance as the third leg of the stool, and most specifically include a stipulation that the roof must be maintained on a regular basis for the warranty to remain intact. In fact, lack of maintenance is one of the main reasons for a manufacturer to deny a warranty claim for a roof failure. You can liken this to car maintenance. If you never change your oil, when the engine blows up, no car manufacturer will honor a warranty because of your lack of maintenance.

The other big responsibility is that most warranties stipulate that the building owner must notify the warranty holder in writing within 30 days after a leak occurs. Failure to notify the manufacturer of leaks can void the warranty. The reason is that if a leak can be remedied while it is still a minor annoyance, it has less chance of becoming a major disaster. Because manufacturers wish to limit their exposure, fixing a small leak will cost them less than replacing a roof so they want to know about them as soon as possible.

Warranties also tend to have exclusions where the warranty does not apply at all. These usually include standing water, wind over gale force, movement in the structure, materials not supplied by the manufacturer, blistering, and other items that will be listed in the warranty.

Understanding What a Roofing Warranty Is, and What It Is Not

Whenever a roofing project is in the design phase, one of the first items discussed is the length of the warranty. Rather than focusing on what is important, the warranty is shown off like a ten-carat diamond to dazzle the building owner into using that roof system. The question becomes — is it all hype or is it an essential part of any roof installation? The answer lies somewhere between. To know where the truth lies, one must first understand what a roof warranty is and what it is not.

There are two types of warranties: express and implied. The first is what people generally think of as “the warranty” when they choose a roof system — the one that says how long the warranty will be and what the terms are. The second is more fundamental. According to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), for every manufactured product, regardless of what it is, if it is brought to market, the producer implies that the product is fit for its intended use. If a company makes a teapot, it is implying that the teapot will hold hot tea if you don’t crack it or turn it over, i.e., you use it the way it is intended. If a company makes socks, the company implies that they will keep a foot covered and comfortable — but only if you choose the right fit and don’t wear them wet. The manufacturer does not imply that the socks will be functional if you first use them as a dog toy.

If a company makes roofing materials, the implied warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code says that the materials will be serviceable as a roof and will keep the building dry if installed as instructed by the manufacturer on a building that is suitable for the roof installation. The roofing manufacturer has implied that its roof system will function as a roof if designed and installed correctly.

The first type of warranty is a written contract between the owner of the building and the warranty holder (roofing manufacturer, contractor, or both) that expressly states the extent of responsibility and the limits of liability of the warranty holder. It is absolutely not a guarantee that the roof is not going to leak. The express warranty states in legalese not only what the warranty holder will or will not do in the case of a roof failure but also what the owner is required to do to keep the warranty intact. The express warranty also may attempt to negate the UCC by stating that the written warranty overrides any other warranty “written or implied,” thus acknowledging that the materials may not be fit for their intended use.

There are also two different entities that may provide a warranty — the roofing materials manufacturer and the roofing contractor. The roofing contractor’s warranty will generally only repair the roof to make it watertight if problems occur. Because the warranty is issued by the contractor, the only assets available to back up the warranty are those of the contractor itself. Thus, a bankruptcy of the contractor will mean you have no warranty at all. Best you investigate the solvency of a roofing contractor before accepting a contractor-only warranty.

Another clause that bears noting: Some roofing contractors stipulate that their warranty is only intact if the building owner hires them (for a fee) to provide the maintenance on the roof for the warranty period. This seems like extortion. The building owner should be free to hire whomever he or she pleases to provide maintenance. An alternative to hiring a contractor to be responsible for inspections is to hire a roofing architect or engineer to provide the maintenance inspections and a contractor to do the repairs noted in the report. That way the owner only pays for the work that is required at that time and the maintenance requirement of the warranty is still fulfilled.

Manufacturer warranties
A manufacturer’s warranty can cover either the roofing materials only or both labor and materials. A materials-only warranty is useless as the materials are already covered under the UCC, and failure of the materials is a violation of the implied fitness for use. A materials-only warranty may in fact override the implied warranty. Be sure to read a materials-only warranty carefully, before you ask to receive one, to be sure the warranty does not revoke your rights under the UCC.

Even labor and materials warranties need to be carefully scrutinized. Some manufacturers only provide pro-rated warranties where the amount payable for repairs or replacements depends on the length of time the warranty has been in place. This means the longer the roof has been down, the less money may be available for remedies should the roof fail. The manufacturer justifies this by saying that you have had the use of the roof for the warranty period that has gone by, so why should they pay you for the time you have already used it? Other warranties limit the amount that can be applied to a replacement to the initial cost of installing the roof. This also can provide not enough funds because inflation will often raise roofing costs significantly past the original cost of the roof. The last option is an NDL or “no dollar limit” warranty. This absolutely does not mean that the manufacturer will pay for everything no matter what the cost to repair or replace your roof; it simply means that the warranty is not pro-rated nor is it limited to the original roofing cost. The manufacturer may pay all of the replacement costs if it is found that the manufacturer is liable for the failure but it is the manufacturer’s option whether to do so.

Contractors Key in Roof Replacements

‘Any contractor will do’

Most roof replacement projects must go through a bidding process. Selecting a roofing contractor is based heavily on the bids that are submitted, and the most important factor — often the only factor considered — is the cost. But cost does not determine the long-term success of the project. Instead, success depends more on the performance of the installer.

Poor workmanship is one of the leading causes of roof failures, so managers must properly vet the contractor before making a decision. Review bids carefully to make certain the roof system being bid is the one specified.

Equally important is installer certification. Most roof manufacturers certify companies to install their products. As a result of this process, the contractor’s employees receive the proper training in installing the roof, and the manufacturer affirms that the contractor has performed up to its standards on past projects.

Managers also need to make certain the contractor is insured and properly licensed. Just because a contractor says it is does not necessarily make it so. Obtain a certificate of insurance from the contractor as part of the bid package, and confirm it with the insurance company. Similarly, managers must require bidders to provide license information and verify it with the appropriate state or county office.

The bid package also must include information about past projects the contractor has performed and a list of references, as well as the number of years the company have been in business. Each reference should include the type of roof installed and the date of installation, as well as contact information for each reference. Most importantly, managers must contact each reference or, better yet, visit the facility.

Overlooking the warranty

Too often, the only factor managers consider or even remember concerning a warranty is its length. Every roof comes with a warranty, yet most warranties bought and paid for by a building owner never have a claim completed against them. While claims might be filed, they often are dismissed, since they are for excluded items or because the owner has failed to meet the requirements necessary to keep the warranty in place.

Warranties spell out the steps owners and managers must take to keep the warranty in effect. Twice yearly inspections, limited foot traffic, debris removal, drain cleaning and prompt repairs all are typical warranty requirements. It is important to read and understand these requirements, and it is equally important to document all activities in the event of a warranty claim.

Before settling on a particular contract, managers also need to read the offered warranty closely. Who issues the warranty, the manufacturer or the installer? This is an important question because it is more likely that the roof manufacturer, not the installer, will be in business over the length of the warranty.

Is the warranty for materials only, or does it include labor? What are the exclusions? Is damage to the facility and its contents covered in the event of a warranty-related roof failure?

When facing a large bill for repair or replacement, a manager does not want to find out that the warranty is worthless or has been voided.

Roof Replacement Success Requires Research

Skipping the homework

One of the biggest mistakes managers make when replacing a roof is to automatically specify a replacement that is same type as the existing roof. This strategy assumes that the type of roof originally installed was the best type of roof for that application.

In fact, it is more likely that someone made the choice previously based on installation costs more than suitability. Even if the existing roof was the best choice at the time of installation, subsequent changes in the way occupants and visitors use the building might mean that type of roof no longer is suitable for the application.

Consider the way building applications can evolve over 20 years or so of a roof’s performance life. Telecommunication equipment and HVAC systems that did not exist when the roof was new might have been placed on the roof after its installation and require regular access for maintenance. Changes in operations within the building also might have resulted in the installation of exhaust systems that discharge onto the roof. Not all roofs stand up equally well to foot traffic or exposure to chemicals.

Managers also must consider other factors before deciding. For example, what is the roof’s slope? Some roof materials will not perform well on steep slopes; others perform poorly on flat surfaces.

How well does the existing roof drain? Ideally, no ponded water should not be present on the roof 24 hours after the rain has stopped. If the existing roof has poor drainage, managers have options to increase the slope of the roof to improve drainage.

Different roof types also result in different loads on the roof deck and the building structure. Managers must make certain the facility has the structural strength to support the type of replacement roof selected. The number of roof penetrations also influences the type of replacement roof installed. Each penetration is a potential hole in the roof, and some roof systems handle penetrations better than others.

No single type of roof system is the most appropriate for all applications. Just because a particular roof type has performed well in one application is no guarantee it will perform well in another application. Managers need to do their homework before settling on a particular replacement type.

Avoiding Roof Replacement Problems

One of the most challenging aspects of managing an institutional or commercial facility is addressing roofing issues. For many maintenance and engineering managers, roofs frequently are problems from the day they are installed.

One immense issue is that roofs are not the easiest components to maintain. Correcting a problem in one area seems to generate a new issue in another area. Replacing a roof is a big-ticket investment, not to mention disruptive, and they do not improve with age. In fact, nearly one-half of all roofs require replacement before they reach their rated service lives.

Eventually, all roof systems require replacement. The success of the replacement project depends to a great extent on actions that managers take before and during the replacement process. While many issues can contribute to a less-than-successful replacement project, managers need to be aware of the four of the most common problems.

Waiting until later

The usual approach to roof replacement project is to wait until a major issue arises, such as a membrane failure or a major leak, to start the planning process. The problem with this approach is that roofs rarely fail suddenly. They deteriorate over a long period.

Managers and front-line technicians can take steps to detect problems early and track deterioration. Roofs send signals as they go bad. Membranes move, seams split, surfaces alligator, flashing lifts and water leaks. All of these symptoms are warning signs that something is going wrong with the roofing system, and that something is almost always bad. Most problems are easy to find. All technicians need to do is look closely.

Managers should schedule regular roof inspections to be conducted by a qualified individual. If in-house expertise is not available, the manager should contract with an outside roofing inspector. Ideally, this person will complete two inspections each year — one in the fall after the roof has been exposed to the harsh temperatures of summer and once in the spring to check for damage from snow and ice.

By tracking the inspections over time, managers can develop a feel for the way their roofs are performing and the rate at which they are deteriorating. Accelerating deterioration and growing repair requirements are two signs the roof is nearing the end of its service life. Just because a roof has shown no major problems does not mean managers should put off replacement. If a 20-year roof is only 15 years old, it does not mean managers should wait another five years or more before making plans for replacement. The replacement schedule must reflect the actual condition of the roof.

Choosing to replace the roof before it actually fails might seem like a waste of money. In fact, this option can save money. When roofs fail, the results can be extensive damage to the building interior. Replacing a roof before it actually fails and wreaks havoc inside a facility can enable managers to avoid damage repair costs.

One additional benefit of replacing a roof before it actually fails is that by picking the time for replacement, a manager can schedule the project for a time that best suits the department’s workload and the facility’s activities. Effective scheduling also allows managers to evaluate their roofing options properly, prepare specifications, and select a qualified installer.

Properly Maintaining a Roof After Coating Application

What comes after?

Roof coatings considerations do not end with the application process. Once a coating is applied, managers need to consider several important issues that can prolong the life expectancy of the roof.

Managers who schedule routine maintenance and twice yearly roof inspections can expect to get the most out of their roofs.

“Roof inspections should be conducted twice a year,” McKain says. “Once in the late fall and again in the early spring. Seventy-five percent of roof damage occurs during the winter. If there is damage to the roof, it needs to be repaired with like materials.”

Regular maintenance entails having technicians periodically inspect the roof to ensure that scuppers, drains and other details are not clogged. This ensures that water flows properly and does not deteriorate the coating prematurely. The roofing contractor also should perform an annual maintenance checkup, Carlin says.

In addition to assessing the overall condition of the look, technicians should pay special attention to high-risk areas, including roof hatches and drains and around rooftop equipment. Minimizing foot traffic on the roof also can prolong the lifespan of the roofing system.

“Cleaning the roof also maintains the reflectivity of the coatings, as can regularly removing any debris that can impede drainage can cause ponding water, which can degrade the coating,” Baumann says. “The (National Roofing Contractors Association) recommends you don’t want any ponding water on your roof longer than 48 hours after a rain storm. Providing walkways around and leading to HVAC systems and other areas that require regular inspections and maintenance can also help maximize the performance and lifespan of the coating.”

What Type of Roof Coating is Best

Which one?

Once a manager has decided to specify a roof coating, the next question is, which coating is most appropriate for the application? Several types of roof coatings offer a range of benefits to a facility, and in recent years the formulation of roof coatings has evolved. For these reasons, managers need to consider several issues related to performance and materials before making a final decision.

“There have been a number of changes that are allowing the market to rely and call on these kinds of products much more than we have in the past,” says Keith Borden with Tropical Roofing Products. “I think with newer technologies, easier applications, less labor and being less disruptive on the overall performance of the business, roof coatings are more popular than ever.”

Managers looking to address specific roofing issues can focus on developments in three areas — silicone content, reflectivity and sustainability.

Silicones are the newest options in roof coatings Baumann says.

“Developed earlier this century are the high-solids, 100 percent silicone coating systems,” she says, adding that they “typically contain solids in excess of 95 percent, and they contain no water and no solvents. This means they are a condensation curer.”

As the coating absorbs atmospheric moisture, it begins to transform from the liquid coating into the seamless, monolithic system that protects roofs, she says. Compared to low-solvent silicone coatings, which contain 30-40 percent solvents, the new formulation often is a higher-quality product.

Silicone roof coatings tend to last longer than other coating materials, perform better and extend the life of a roofing system, says Josh McKain with Progressive Roofing.

When specifying roof coatings, manufacturers also need to carefully consider the coating’s reflectivity.

“If you’re in a roofing area where you have more cooling days than heating days, it may be more advantageous to have a highly reflective roof,” Baumann says. “By having a white surface, the sun’s rays hit that surface get reflected off and back up into the environment instead of being absorbed into the roofing system.”

By specifying coatings with higher reflectivity and emissivity ratings, managers can keep buildings cooler and energy costs down because the cooling system is not running as often or as long.

As with most other products going into and onto facilities, roof coatings also have come under greater scrutiny in terms of their sustainability.

“There has been a big push for materials to be environmentally conscious while still maintaining properties that both building owners need or want,” Carlin says. “Building owners want a roof that has solid performance, withstands the effects of weather, assists them in saving money, and in some instances, looks visually appealing.”

Today’s coatings make it easier for managers to find the balance between sustainability and performance. By removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new-generation roof coatings, manufacturers have addressed odor concerns of both technicians applying coatings and building occupants.

Solventless coatings offer a safer solution by minimizing the VOCs and, in some cases, eliminating them completely.

Managers “can now have products that are extremely low in VOCs, if not zero, that are very environmentally friendly,” Borden says. “There are no odors associated with the coatings, and that can eliminate hazardous conditions for applications. There are solventless products that perform exceptionally well.”

Applications of roof coatings also address sustainability considerations because they can save managers from having to fully replace a roof.

“They not only save a facility money,” Carlin says. “They can save the environment by not adding more to our landfills.”

Determining The Condition of a Roof

Roofing problems seem to show up at the worst possible times and, often, in the worst possible places. They also can quickly turn from small drips into large, costly headaches. Among the numerous options managers have in trying to prevent roof leaks and other problems is the use of roof coatings. Options in coatings have expanded and evolved in recent years as manufacturers seek to address customer demands for performance, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. To make smart coating decisions for their facilities’ roofs, managers need to answer three questions related to specification, coating type, and post-installation inspection and maintenance.

What shape is it in?

Managers need to understand the condition of the roof in question before deciding on whether or not to apply a roof coating. Is the goal to preserve and maintain a roof that is performing relatively well, or is it to repair and restore a roof that has developed leaks?

“A reflective coating would be a good choice for a facility looking to preserve a roof and make it more reflective,” says Michelle Carlin with GAF. “A liquid membrane is a fabric-reinforced coating system that restores a roof by forming a fully adhered and seamless roof system. This liquid-applied membrane is a system that a facility might choose for restoring a roof that has begun to show signs of failure via leaks or cracked seams.”

Weather and climate conditions, as well as the type of facility, also should play a part in the decision. Managers in facilities such as schools and hospitals with occupants who could be sensitive to solvent fumes should specify odorless coatings.

Silicone roof coatings tend to be more resistant to grease, fats and oils than water-and solvent-based coatings.

“That makes them a better choice for use on restaurants, airports, food processing facilities and other commercial buildings,” Kate Baumann with Mule-Hide Roofing Products says. “The other things to look at are temperature, weather, humidity and other climatic conditions likely to be faced during and just after the coating application.”

Silicone and solvent-based coatings are more cold tolerant than water-based coatings, Baumann says. Technicians should conduct adhesion tests following the coating manufacturer’s specifications to make sure the coating selected will adhere properly to the substrate.

Coatings are not always the solution, however.

”Managers should look at all solutions,” Baumann says. “Coatings are often an excellent choice, but sometimes there are other choices with reroofing, and you really need to take the soundness of the current roof under consideration and make an educated decision overall with all of the choices.”

Managers who do decide to apply roof coatings could see multiple benefits for their facilities, both immediate and long-term.

“Coatings have always had an edge when it comes to benefits for facilities,” Carlin says. “Facilities save money on initial installation costs, they save money by choosing a reflective coating, and they save money by allowing existing roof components to perform better.”

Because coating application can take place while occupants are in the building, the process does not need to disrupt them or their activities. Reflective coatings have been proven to save facilities up to 30 percent on cooling costs, Carlin says. Coatings also help address the urban heat island effect by not contributing to a rise in surrounding air temperatures.

What You Need To Know About Flat Roof Coatings

Flat roof coatings can be a good investment for many facilities. A flat roof coating can extend the life of a roof because it lowers the roof temperature. It can also lead to additional energy savings as the temperature is reduced.

Still, because there are so many different types of roofs in use today, specifying a flat roof coating isn’t easy. Different substrates require different coatings. A coating’s adhesion might depend as much on the substrate’s characteristics as on the coating type. In general, it is more difficult for coatings to adhere to hard, smooth, chemically inert surfaces and easier on rough, irregular, chemically active surfaces.

A coating’s adhesion to a substrate often improves when the installers put down a primer or base coat. Coatings manufacturers recommend certain primers or base coats for managers trying to match a specific topcoat with a specific substrate. Managers should use only the base coat or primer specified by the coating’s manufacturer.

With the introduction of roof membranes such as ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thermal polyolefin (TPO), Hypalon, modified bitumen, and built-up roofing, manufacturers have developed a variety of roof coatings to address multiple substrates with different adhesion and weathering characteristics.

Managers can specify asphaltic and tar-based coatings for use with coal-tar-pitch built-up roof systems. Non-asphaltic coatings, including urethanes, acrylics, and polyureas, are most commonly used on single-ply systems.

Each of these coatings has different cost and performance factors. Due to variations in coating formulations, a manager should work closely with a roof consultant and the manufacturer to make sure they specify the right coating for the roof substrate and that workers perform the correct repairs before applying the coating. Manufacturer representatives and product data sheets also can assist in specifying coatings.