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Repair or Replace?

Lots to consider when evaluating your store’s roof

If you’re a facilities manager who’s sick of dealing with a leaky roof, then take some advice from a seasoned roofing executive: read your lease, know which party is responsible for what and work with your landlord for positive action. That’s the message from Art Rankin, Chief Operations Officer for the Chalfont, Pa.-based roof management and contracting company CP Rankin Inc., who says retail tenants often underestimate their importance to the landlord and their willingness to support them.

“We often find retailers have not read their lease, or maybe the real estate department has read it but not the operations or facilities departments,” Rankin said. “The very first thing to do is to understand your rights and requirements as lessee. And if you’re a big anchor store, then you have a lot of clout, and your business is important to the landlord. A big problem for retailers is not knowing their rights or knowing the willingness of the landlord to take care of roofing issues based on their business.”

Facilities managers should document roofing problems, including repairs and expenditures, and contact the FMs at adjoining stores to see if they have had similar issues.

“It’s really about working together in close collaboration with the landlord to ensure the leak repair is done properly, and if the leaks continue, you need to request reroof options,” Rankin said.

For retail companies that own their facilities, the question of whether to repair or replace a damaged roof involves many factors, including:

Extent of the damage. ”If one section of the roof has been punctured but the rest is in decent shape, a patch and some minor repair work might be all that’s needed. But if there is significant bubbling, delaminating or seam separation with the rubber roofing membrane – if it looks a bit like alligator skin and is no longer pliable – then significant leaking is possible, and the roof likely must be replaced,” Rankin said.

Degradation of the roofing membrane can allow water to seep into and waterlog the roofing insulation. From there, the water can reach the wood, metal or concrete roof interior and cause leaks throughout the store, making it difficult to pinpoint the source of the leak.

Local building codes. If your store does need a new roof, one way to limit the cost is a reskin or go-over, in which a new rubber membrane is installed over the damaged one. But most building codes will not allow more than two roofs on one structure, so this is a one-time option. After that, the roofing materials must be removed down to the decking and the building reroofed.

Long-term plans for the store. How committed is your company to the retail location? If your store is thriving, and will not relocate, investing in a new roof might be the best option. But if plans are uncertain, it might be wiser to patch the roof and try to extend its life, especially if the building might be sold.

Age of the roof. Most roofs last 20 to 25 years, depending on the roofing materials, installation, whether roof maintenance has been performed regularly, and the weather the roof is subjected to. A preventative maintenance program can extend roof life, but if an older roof has been neglected or has required costly repairs in the past, a new roof might be in order.

Rankin recommended FMs contact a reputable roofing consultant to obtain a detailed report on their roof, complete with visual inspections and scans for moisture. A roofing consultant can determine the life expectancy of the roof and then work with a certified roofing management and construction company to develop strategies for maintenance, repair or replacement.

By: Nick Fortuna

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Repair or Replace?