Advance Preparation

To shield the substantial investment made in your facilities, equipment and supplies, you need to have a comprehensive plan for replacing and maintaining roofs.

A successful roofing system has two key stages: The steps taken before, during and after the roof is installed; and those taken after installation to keep the roof at peak performance for the life of the system.

Pre-planning

Before starting the actual roofing work:

-Hire a professional to create specifications. Most facility managers do not have the engineering background to know what type of roofing system is required. Hire a design professional, structural engineer or construction specifier to create the kind of roofing system that will meet future needs, not just the needs of today. Their expertise will be invaluable during the installation to ensure that the work is being done properly. If you have never worked with a design professional or specifier, ask your insurance-carrier representative to provide a list of licensed, experienced professionals.

-Choose your roofing contractor carefully. Even if you have a roofing emergency, do not rush into a decision. Look into a company's history and financial position. Check to see how much experience a contractor has had installing the specified roofing system. (The specifier should be able to provide a list of qualified contractors.) Visit a contractor's ongoing roofing projects to see his or her operations, personnel and procedures in action. In addition, speak to customers from several years ago and find out if their roofs have proven to be strong and reliable.

Important tips

Other important issues to consider:

-Beware of the low bid. A really low bid is a warning sign that the contractor may be:

-Using poorly trained, inexperienced workers.

-Not paying workers' compensation insurance premiums, leaving you open to liability and the possibility of higher insurance premiums.

-Improperly disposing of construction debris. You could be subject to negative publicity, or fines and citations for proper disposal.

-Have a pre-construction meeting. Once you select a roofing contractor, it is vital to discuss what is expected. This will ensure that the project begins on the right foot and avoids problems down the road.

-Work hours. Contractors need to know if the site is a high-traffic area so they can adjust the work hours accordingly. Discuss a general safety plan, and provide contractors with emergency phone numbers for the superintendent and owner's representative.

-Logistics. Discuss the practicalities of creating a staging area for equipment and material, the importance of not removing more roofing than can be covered in a day, and the availability of bathroom facilities for workers. In addition, stress that the roofing company's employees should behave appropriately and keep the working area neat and clean to reduce the chance of accidents and avoid any possible hazards or inconvenience for the students or staff.

It is appropriate to establish a schedule in the contract and set penalties for failing to meet the schedule. Also, consider incentives for completing the work ahead of schedule.

-Monitor the installation carefully. The design professional should check on the roof regularly. This accountability can ensure that the construction is being done correctly and on schedule.

-Document the completion of the project. As soon as the contractor completes the project, he or she needs to develop a "punch" list and forward it to the appropriate school contact and design professional. When the punch list is completed, inspect the work with the contractor.

-Closeout binder. After the inspection, expect the contractor to prepare a closeout binder. This should include the manufacturer's warranty and maintenance guide, contractor's warranty, final release of liens, as-built drawings a nd permit finals.

Looking after the roof Following are some guidelines to follow to make sure the roof provides the promised protection:

-Carry out preventive maintenance. Most facilities managers do not check their roofs regularly, so most property owners are usually unaware when a problem arises. If the first hint of a difficulty is a stained ceiling or a puddle on the floor, there's probably significant damage.

Have the roof checked twice a year. If the campus is in a hurricane zone, it is particularly important to practice preventive maintenance and check roofs twice a year-during the dry season and at the beginning of the hurricane season.

Standing water on the roof, particularly if there has been no rain in the previous 48 hours, is an indication of inadequate drainage and poor roof design.

To detect roof moisture, some roofing contractors use infrared technology. A sensitive infrared and nuclear moisture survey provides early warning readings on moisture zones. By identifying moisture in a roofing system at this stage, you can fix leaks while they are still minor.

-Supervise anyone who works on the roof. Heating, ventilating and air-conditioning technicians work on roofs regularly. Without proper training or supervision, they can cause damage and make the roof susceptible to water seepage. A roofing contractor can provide someone if you do not have a qualified employee to supervise.

-Do not be afraid to upgrade the roof. Minimal government guidelines are not always enough to ensure an effective roofing system. Be prepared to go the extra step to ensure safety.

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