Technical Articles

Roofing: Out Of Sight, Not Out Of Mind

By Eric Younkin, The Garland Company Inc.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a term that is heard all too often when it comes to roofing. It is hard to believe that such little emphasis is placed on roofing - which is actually one of the most valuable building assets. After all, your roof is the most critical waterproofing component for protecting your internal operations and inventory from the external elements. Add the fact that roof replacements are typically a large capital expense, and it only makes sense that your roof should never be “Out of Mind.”

Today, roofing manufacturers, contractors and consultants all realize that building owners need to be able to control capital costs associated with their building envelopes, which is why more and more of them are developing preventive maintenance (PM) programs to assist building owners. Most of these programs can be customized to meet a customer’s specific needs, whether it is a single building, a single campus with multiple buildings, or multiple buildings spread out over a wider geographical area.

PM programs are designed to help building owners protect and extend the serviceable life of their current roofs, while providing the information needed to plan for future roof-related capital expenditures. After all, your roof is no different from any other piece of equipment you may own: if you do not maintain it, it will need replacement sooner than its designed service life – and all too often, when it is least expected.

Components Of PM Programs

There are many things to consider when choosing a PM program. Let’s discuss some of the most important aspects of properly planned preventive maintenance:

• Electronic Database for Storing and Providing Real-Time Access to Roof information and Expenditure Tracking

• Initial Inspections of Roof System Conditions

• Subsequent Periodic Inspections Based Upon Conditions and Life Expectancy

• Planned Preventive Maintenance Based on Each Individual Roof’s Condition

• Emergency Leak Response

A well-constructed PM program should have the ability to electronically capture and store all the necessary information, while providing real-time access to that information, preferably via a protected website. This is the first step in understanding your roofing needs. Without thoroughly assessing the conditions of your roofs, it is impossible to accurately develop a plan for maintaining their waterproofing integrity. In addition, capturing any repair work and the expenses associated with those repairs will help you see where your repair dollars are being spent and assist you in identifying a long-term roof maintenance and replacement plan.

Documentation Requirements

The first and most important part of any PM program is maintaining an accurate inventory of all your roofs along with an evaluation of their current conditions. At the very least, a roofing inventory should include the building location, roof section name, square footage, and roof type. These initial, general inventories can be done through visual inspections or accurate satellite imaging. Visual inspections are typically more informative, since you can record the roof’s conditions as well. There are also more in-depth services that can capture additional information beyond the visual inspection, such as roof core analysis and infrared scans. The condition of each roof will determine how extensive the inspection and its related documentation should be.

A roof core analysis requires that a small cross section be cut through the roofing system down to the structural deck. This common analysis provides accurate data of the complete roof assembly, including deck type, insulation types and thicknesses, attachment methods, number of roofs, roof system composition, and whether or not the roof has moisture in the insulation.

Infrared scans are non-destructive tests that are designed to locate any areas of wet insulation. Since water has a higher heating capacity than insulation, when a roof cools at night, dry insulation cools off relatively fast, whereas wet insulation retains heat for a longer time. With an infrared camera, you can identify those areas of wet insulation.

Analysis Requirements

Once you have a complete inventory of your roofing assets, the next step is putting this information to use. Specifically, it is time to analyze the data in order to develop:

• A proactive maintenance plan to extend the lives of roofs that are still in good condition,

• A capital expenditure plan for roofs that need to be replaced

• A leak response program to address emergency needs

Proactive Maintenance Plan

For proactive maintenance, an annual plan should be put in place to perform housekeeping services and minor repairs that will ensure the roof remains watertight. Typically, annual or semi-annual inspections should also be performed to find any potential issues that may arise throughout the course of the year.

Critical roof areas to be covered during inspections, in order to help prevent leaks and to keep small problems from becoming bigger issues, include:

• Drains – All drains and scuppers must be free of debris and unplugged.

• Pitch Pans – These should be free of rusting and filled with appropriate sealer.

• Flashing – All base flashings should be properly sealed and show no signs of punctures.

• Metal Edges – These should be rust-free and have no signs of splits or tears.

• Vents – All draw bands should be watertight and sealant must be intact.

• Roof Top Equipment – All joints must be properly sealed.

• Walls – These must be watertight, with weep holes clear of obstructions.

Capital Expenditures

Although some roofs may need replaced, by including roof restorations as part of proactive maintenance, the service life of a roof can be extended at a much lower cost than a roof replacement. Restoration products can take an aging roof system that is in good condition and extend its life by upgrading the weathering surface. Planning for and installing these restoration systems can extend rooftop service life anywhere from five to fifteen years, depending on the roof system and restoration type. Performing periodic inspections helps ensure that roofs can actually be restored before their waterproofing has been compromised and a more costly roof replacement is required.

Reactive maintenance, on the other hand, is merely reacting to roof leaks and other issues as they arise. When addressing these types of emergency repairs, the cost associated with them is typically higher than those routine proactive repairs made in a preventive maintenance program.

As part of the analysis process, both routine proactive maintenance and all emergency repair expenses must be meticulously documented in order to establish which roofs are most costly and should be studied more closely. If a roof not scheduled for short-term replacement is constantly having leaks and costing money for repairs, it may be better to replace that roof before replacing an older one not yet experiencing costly repairs.

Emergency Leak Response Program

One way to help control the cost of reactive maintenance is to establish an emergency leak response plan as part of your overall PM program. Typically, contractors are busy on repair calls after a substantial rainfall, and the emergency leak repairs are billed at a higher rate than standard repairs. Some PM programs establish a pricing model for these emergency leaks based upon standard repair rates while formalizing a standard response program.

Typical response options may include a standard call-in phone number or an electronic leak notification system. Call-in numbers should be staffed 24/7, whereas you can expect electronic systems to provide instant notification to multiple parties at once via any mobile devices. Contracted response within 24 to 48 hours of leak notification, to resolve leaks and make repairs at a set price, should be the goal of your leak response program.

Whether services performed are proactive maintenance, restoration, corrective repair or emergency leak response, the PM program should provide for thorough electronic documentation of both work and expenditures, since this information is vital for effective planning and budgeting for maintenance and capital costs.

Program Implementation

What is the best way to implement a PM program?

Some building owners have established in-house PM programs for their roofing needs, but this is typically not the norm. Maintaining an aggressive PM program in-house requires building owners who are fully committed, within all levels of the organization, to maintaining their roofing assets, making available not only the financial resources, but a maintenance staff that understands exterior waterproofing and roofing design.

More frequently, building owners choose to work with a reputable roofing organization to protect their rooftop assets. Whether that is a manufacturer, contractor or consultant, here are some key things to consider before contracting for a roofing PM program.

First, you’ll want to consider the cost and how payments are made for the services. Some companies require an upfront payment for all the fees and costs associated with performing the expected repair work annually. Although it may be easier to budget for the entire funding of your PM program upfront, what happens if anticipated repairs are not required? Will your unused costs be reimbursed back? Will unnecessary repairs be made to use up the pre-paid amounts? The best practice is to work with a company that charges upfront for the management portion of the PM program, then bills for repairs as they are completed. This ensures that only necessary repairs are made and that they are performed at the best price available at the actual time repairs are required.

Another important consideration is how will your existing roofs under warranty be managed as part of the PM program? Most roof manufacturer warranties have stipulations on how repairs and maintenance should be performed – otherwise the warranty can be voided. It is best to work with a company that will ensure all repairs and preventive maintenance will be performed by an authorized contractor in accordance with the specific manufacturer’s warranty.

Although some PM programs may attempt to bring all of your current roofs under their warranty umbrella, typically this approach requires additional repairs beyond what might be needed. For example, you may be required to replace a roof where restoration or repairs would otherwise have been a viable, more cost-effective alternative.


Although it may seem that establishing a PM program takes a lot of time and effort, in reality it is a relatively simple process. With a PM program customized properly to meet your specific requirements, the potential cost savings from extending the serviceable lives of your aging roofs will more than justify the investments made.

Eric Younkin is the director of operations for the Garland Company, Inc., a Cleveland, OH-based manufacturer of high-performance solutions for the building envelope. With over 12 years of experience in the roofing industry, Younkin has been involved with product development, product management and customer service. In his current position he oversees Garland’s warranty and approval programs and acts as program manager for cooperative and group purchasing contracts.

About Garland

Garland logoThe Garland Company Inc. is one of the worldwide leaders of quality, high-performance roofing and building envelope solutions for the commercial, industrial and institutional markets. For over 120 years, Garland has continually developed unique product and service offerings that have raised the bar of performance while exceeding the individual needs of customers throughout the world. Today, Garland's network of over 220 local building envelope professionals is ideally positioned throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to provide quality building envelope solutions for single and multi-property facilities. The Garland Company Inc., headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company. For more information about Garland, visit or call 800-321-9336.

Garland's featured ad

Garland's featured brochure

Garland's featured video

^ Back To Top