Spring has sprung and the April showers have not only brought rain but roof leaks as well. Building owners don’t usually call when the weather is sunny, but when it isn’t they will call looking desperately for solutions. The questions you need answered on each and every call are, “Is the owner a good candidate for a retrofit?” and “Can the roof be installed affordably and within budget?” To answer these questions, as simple as it sounds, you will need to get a ladder and get on the roof. But before you do, read on.
Flat roofs utilize a design considered to be hydrostatic
(watertight), and their inability to shed rainwater to the roof’s perimeter subjects them to a broader range of performance issues. Retrofit metal roof systems employ another design method known as hydrokinetic (water-shedding). By discharging the rainwater, the roof’s weathering surface is subject to fewer performance issues.
The feasibility of any construction project is subject to the building owner’s needs and, specifically, what has to be achieved or satisfied. One of the first steps you will want to do is to interview the building owner to see if the prospect is real. This isn’t any different than any other project, but some important things to explore in this interview are as follows:
Find out if the building owner is currently or has recently experienced roof leaks and if he or she has undertaken previous attempts to eliminate them. Many owners have spent enormous amounts of money for constant repairs. And if the building has a flat roof, the owners may even gone to the extreme of doing a complete tear-off and replacement, usually within the last eight to 10 years. Exploring the history of roof problems will tell you if they are looking for a “patch and repair” or a complete roof replacement and a final solution, which a retrofit has to offer.
• Understand that the building owner who becomes interested in retrofit typically is one who intends to occupy the building for many years. The exception is if the purpose is for an aesthetic or energy-efficient upgrade or for a renewable solar installation, which we will discuss later this year. Is this building owner’s occupancy long term?
• Determine if the intent of the retrofit is strictly to shed water from the building. If so, then consider a minimal slope framing and a functional standing seam metal roof system. Some metal roof manufacturers will weathertight warrant their roofs down to a 1/4-inch per foot roof slope. The lower the slope, the less the framing material and installation labor cost, and it may prevent rework or relocation of existing rooftop equipment.
• Speaking of rooftop equipment, if the building roof is flat, identify the locations of air-handling units and their proximity to the roof edges. If they are too close, it may cause the entire retrofit framing system to be taller to build over the units, or they may have to be elevated to the new roof. Either of these will increase the cost. If you build over, you will have to provide under roof access for maintenance and future replacement.
•Evaluate the building operations and activities for an energy efficiency upgrade. Adding insulation in your retrofit not only decreases heat gain/loss through the roof assembly, but will also improve the work environment and worker productivity. Even if the building is a warehouse, the inside space is improved. And, of course, if the building is temperature controlled, energy savings will result.
• If the building owner is facing a tear-off and replacement to install a new conventional membrane, evaluate the effect on the business’s operations. The cost associated with the loss of production and/ or relocation of business operations-either within the building or to a temporary site-should be added to the conventional re-roof/retrofit comparison. This is especially true in a metal building retrofit application. Removing that old metal roof can cause major structural concerns insofar as bracing and the addition of new purlins to satisfy new building code snow and wind loading requirements.
Qualifying your prospects is good business. The fact is a large number of building owners will struggle with investing in a retrofit solution over and above a tear-off and replacement because they cannot see the payback. Just remember, a new metal roof’s service life will probably outlast the building owner. Convincing them on metal roofing’s benefits is where your job starts. They will thank you for it in the end.
Mark James has more than 40 years experience in the retrofit and metal construction markets, working for leading manufacturers and executing great projects. Currently, he is president of RetroSpec LLC, a consulting company offering direction and deep knowledge of the retrofit business for manufacturers and contractors. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org