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How to Tell if Your Roof was Built at the Same Time as the Building

When you purchase a building for your company, you typically consider factors such as location, square footage, and the strength of the commercial real estate market. It’s likely that you never think about the roof, roofing materials, or the cost of any potential commercial roof repair.

Your business expertise lies in your industry, so no one expects you to be highly knowledgeable about commercial roofing. Still, to make an educated decision, it’s important to know as much about your purchase as possible, such as whether the roof was built at the same time as the rest of the building.

Why the age of your roof matters

All commercial roofs age differently. No matter what roofing products are used factors such as sun exposure, humidity, wind conditions, and placement of HVAC units can affect your roof in different areas at various times.

If the roof of your building is in a steady decline, it may be time for a replacement. A new roof over the old one might work (and also save you money). However, this may not be possible if building codes don’t allow it or if too much moisture has penetrated the insulation and deck.

The most important steps you can take are to be aware, prepared, and proactive. Regardless of the age of your commercial roof, learn the details of its condition and be ready to take any necessary action. This might include budgeting for roof replacement, making commercial roof repairs, or shopping around for a new location.

What to look for on your commercial roof

Ask for access to the roof and look around. While you might not be a roofing expert, there are several signs you should look for to ensure the roof of your building is sound. Most of these can be seen with the naked eye.

Make sure the roofing materials used are sturdy. Most commercial roofs today are made with steel, copper, or metal tie. Slate or ceramic tiles can be expected to last several decades. Asphalt shingles, also common, would be less desirable. Heavy storms can cause shingles to break or come loose.

Watch out for cracked tiles and any movement or shaking of the roof. Also, check for any evidence of leaks, like stained walls or ceilings in the building. Signs of moisture, rot or mold can cause bacteria to grow and reproduce, leading to health problems for your employees.

Blistering, erosion, and splitting could be evidence of bigger problems. Deal with these issues right away, instead of procrastinating, and make the right decisions on roofing materials.

Puddles or standing water is a major issue. According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, water that doesn’t drain within two days is a threat to the future of your roof. A pond of water just one inch deep weighs more than five pounds per square foot. This additional weight load can put pressure on the roof and open a real possibility for collapse. You might need to add drainage or insulation to fix the issue.

Problems that can occur if the roof was not built at the same time as the building

Any type of punctures or spaces in the roof, such as for piping, vents, or gas lines are potential problem spots for leaks. Make sure they are kept water-tight with proper flashing, insulations and rain collars.

Damage to the roofing membrane can also be cause for alarm. Look for shrinkage, punctures or cracks, which can allow water to reach the interior of the building. Catch this problem in time to prevent future headaches.

Questions to ask about your commercial roof

Who installed the roof?

Amateur installation companies comprise one of the biggest problems with commercial roofing. This leads to roofing problems further down the road which result in more headaches and more money spent.

Can I get a written inspection report?

Know if there are any potential problems ahead of time. The report will explain any structural changes or modifications to the roof surface. You can hire your own contractor to review the report, make suggestions and provide recommendations. Inspections should be conducted at least twice a year, usually in the late fall and early spring.

How well has the roof been maintained?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Potential problems should be noticed and addressed before they become big headaches. For maximum effectiveness and to extend the life of your roof, maintenance must be done as soon as possible. Improper commercial roofing repairs can also cause problems. Make sure anyone hired for repair work is certified and licensed. Also, any roof presence should be documented, as too much foot traffic may increase wear and tear.

All you need to know about commercial roofing

  1. Before getting repairs or estimates, check with the Better Business Bureau or other ratings agencies. You don’t want to compound problems by choosing the wrong contractor. Your insurance company can also be a good guide, as they work with roofing contractors all the time and can warn you in advance of any potential issues.
  2. Don’t skimp on roofing materials. The phrase “you get what you pay for” applies especially to roofing. Budgets may be tight but you want to make sure your roof lasts many years.
  3. Look for ways to extend the life of your existing commercial roof. Spray systems, products to protect your roof from the heat and patching small problems can help to avoid or delay a full on roof replacement.
  4. Fix problems early. Procrastinating on roof repairs means you may have to pay to replace the roof in addition to resulting water damage.
  5. Have a roof management plan. With proper maintenance, a commercial roof should last 20-100 years, depending on the roofing materials used. If your building is that old already, chances are that the roof is even older. Build relationships with a top quality roofer so that when it’s time for commercial roof repair or replacement, you will be able to hit the ground running.

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