Choosing the correct replacement for an aged roof – or identifying the best choice for a new building – is no easy task. The perfect roofing solution for one building may be the worst option for another just down the street. That’s because no two buildings are precisely alike, even if they closely resemble each other. So how do you choose a new roof, given all the choices in the marketplace? You can start by asking a series of questions, before you choose the roof, the roofing contractor or the manufacturer.
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1. What is this building’s mission statement?
Before calls are made to Detroit Roofing Service, the first item to address is the company’s mission statement as it relates to the building.
Whether you are building new facilities or managing existing properties, you want to be confident that the roofing systems you select deliver the performance you expect.
Does the roofing company plan to keep this building as part of its real estate assets for the next 10 to 20 years? Are there any plans to expand it in the near future, or to change its use? What are its current and future occupancy, insulation requirements, aesthetic priorities and even the maintenance schedules for rooftop equipment?
These and other mission statement issues will help shape answers to types of roofing to consider and how much of the capital budget is really needed for the job.
For example, as more companies move toward operating 24 hours daily, seven days a week to satisfy global customers, the data center must never spring a rooftop leak. Water on computer systems generally spells disaster.
A special set of concerns arise for cooling-dominated climates. Does the roof contribute to air conditioning savings and address other key issues? Is it part of a total energy program? There is a growing concern about urban heat islands. Reflective, white roofs have become of interest in those areas for a few reasons. They keep the building cooler, reduce air conditioning costs and also minimize the heat-loading of the surrounding environment.
2. What physical and other elements influence the roofing system selection?
You also need to look at the construction materials used to build the facility and the location of HVAC and fire protection equipment, particularly if either or both of these are partially or totally housed on the rooftop.
When it comes to roof replacement, you need to list the attributes of the roof area itself. It’s best to detail the roof’s size, shape, slope, deck construction, edge detailing, protrusions, rooftop access and existing roofing system. Along with this basic information, you need to find out why the original roof is no longer adequate.
3. What flexible-membrane roofing options are available?
They are easily identified on the rooftop. Just look at the seams.
Most TPO membranes are reinforced with polyester, fiberglass or a combination of the two, but unreinforced TPO membranes are available.
Modified bitumen membranes incorporate the formulation and prefabrication advantages of flexible-membrane roofing with some of the traditional installation techniques used in built-up roofing. Modified bitumen sheets are factory-fabricated, composed of asphalt which is modified with a rubber or plastic polymer for increased flexibility, and combined with a reinforcement for added strength and stability.
4. Which type of membrane and attachment system are best for the building?
Many factors determine the best system for a particular building. For most buildings, there are a number of options and advantages that need to be weighed against the facility’s mission statement. The decision should not be made only on the basis of cost. Other important considerations for membranes are building height, wind exposure, anticipated roof traffic and aesthetics.
If the roof deck is able to withstand the weight, a ballasted roof may be the best option.
For those concerned with building aesthetics, colored membranes can make an attractive contribution to the building’s appearance.
5. Does all roofing material delivered to the job site bear the UL label?
Additionally, be sure that the roof assembly you buy or specify, which includes the insulation, is UL-classified and -labeled.
Make sure that the product you are getting is the actual product that was tested. You don’t want something that is similar but not equal. Look for the label at the job site and make sure all components of the system were tested together. You want the membrane tested with the insulation that you are using on your building.
6. Does the system require a wind uplift rating?
Wind uplift damage can be extensive and expensive. Accepted as an industry standard, American Society of Civil Engineers Standard 7-95, “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures,” can be used to determine the wind zone of the building. Wind uplift testing, such as that performed at Factory Mutual or Underwriters Laboratories, can be used to determine that the selected roof system meets or exceeds the local wind uplift requirements.
7. How much does the completed system add to the dead load weight of the roof structure?
In choosing any reroofing option, the facility executive should be aware of the load-bearing capacity of the roof deck to make sure the right flexible-membrane option is chosen. In new construction, savings in structural steel can often be achieved by installing one of the lighter flexible-membrane systems.
A ballasted roof may be the best choice for a given facility.
8. What are the expertise and financial strengths of the roofing contractor you are considering?
Roofing contractors need to be chosen with great care. The introduction of new roofing materials and application techniques within the past 10 years has led to many changes. A professional roofing contractor should be familiar with different types of roofing systems, to help you make the best decision for your facility, based on your budget.
Check that those coverages are in effect for the duration of your roofing job.
The installation of different roofing systems varies considerably. Education and training are the most important elements in the installation of roofing systems. Make sure the roofing contractor you choose has had detailed and ongoing training on the system being installed.
The National Roofing Contractors Association offers a professional roofing selection guide. In addition, many manufacturers have approved contractor programs with specific qualifications that roofers must complete before approval.
9. What is warranted and by whom?
There are two basic categories of roofing warranties. The contractor’s warranty typically covers workmanship. The manufacturer’s warranty covers at least the materials, though many cover additional items. Even if the manufacturer’s warranty is broad, it will not completely protect you if the roof is improperly installed.
Carefully read and understand any roofing warranty offered and watch for provisions that would void it. For example, it’s nearly impossible to avoid all ponded water. Ponded water can be caused by a clogged roof drain or deflection of the roof deck in between the support columns. Proper roof maintenance can help assure that the warranty remains valid. Be aware of warranty language that voids the guarantee.
More important than the warranty, however, is getting the right flexible-membrane roof on your building in the first place.
10. After the roof is installed, what after service and educational programs are available for the facilities management team?
Seminars offered by roofing industry associations like SPRI and manufacturers can be invaluable ways for the building’s roofing team to expand their understanding of commercial roofing system types, installation processes and maintenance considerations.
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