One of the largest capital expenses in the Reserve Fund Study for condominium corporations is the inevitable replacement of the roof system. Shingle roofs (sloped) or flat roofs (low-slope) eventually require replacement, and the timeline for this process varies greatly between properties. The two main factors that determine this timeline are generally the quality of the original installation, and the quality of roofing products installed. The location of the condominium plays a factor in life expectancy as well as the climate (temperature variations), the environment (trees, pollution, wind), and the roof traffic from mechanical contractors, telecommunications contractors or residents.
Unfortunately, at many condominiums (like most organizations) the roof is only discussed when there is a leak and what the costs were to repair it. The phrase ‘roof system’ is also heard when the Reserve Fund Study is reviewed. However, this is based on an average life expectancy, not necessarily a thorough evaluation of the roof systems, and what is required to meet those life expectations at the specific condominium in question. Unlike the other major assets of buildings such as the elevators, the mechanical systems, the parking lots or even the landscaping, the roof is rarely discussed when it comes to maintaining it. Maintenance programs are very common for most parts of the condominium building or complex, but very rare when it comes to the roof itself. However, the cost-benefit analysis is the same, and establishing some form of roof maintenance program generally provides a positive net result.
So why should this way of thinking be changed? Why should the condominium board or property manager consider establishing a Preventative Roof Maintenance Agreement with a qualified and reputable roofing contractor? Like every other building or multi-dwelling asset, regular maintenance may prevent problems (roof leaks in this case), and potentially prolong the life of the asset (the roof system). The expense of reactively repairing roof leaks and resulting damages far exceeds the cost of regular proactive maintenance on a roof system. The delay of the capital expense of replacing the roof by even a year or two is of significant benefit to the balance sheet of the corporation, and importantly, the unit owners.
What is a ‘Maintenance Program’ on a Roof?
A typical maintenance program involves an annual, or bi-annual, visit to the condominium site. Debris is cleared from the roof and drain areas to prevent clogging of the drainage system. Sealants are checked on roof penetrations and upgraded as required so deteriorated caulking issues do not cause a leak. Metal components are reviewed and minor repairs such as fastener replacement completed. Even on shingle roofs, the clearing of trough debris can eliminate issues in the winter from snow and ice accumulation. The roof area(s) should always be inspected during a maintenance visit. Items such as deteriorated flashing membranes, blisters or ridges in the roof system or missing metal components are itemized and reported back to the property manager. Early identification leads to early repair, and a reduction in problems. It is this process that helps to limit the number of ‘unexpected’ issues inside owners’ units, allowing the condominium corporation to repair them in a cost-effective manner, and reduced headaches for property managers.
Will My Roof Last Forever with Maintenance?
Much like ourselves, perfect maintenance does not lead to immortality. Every roof does eventually break down and will require replacement. However, by implementing a maintenance program on a roof system, the condominium corporation has provided itself the best opportunity to maximize the life of the roof system, and minimize the disruptions caused by it as it does approach the end of its natural life cycle. It is time to stop ignoring the asset known as ‘the roof’, and time to start maintaining it.
Bryce McCandless is currently the Director of Business Operations, Western Ontario for Semple Gooder Roofing Corporation, one of the largest commercial roofing firms in Ontario. He has been actively involved with CCI members for several years.