A Lasting Relationship

Many factors contribute to long-term school roofing performance: the quality of the specifications, details and design; the quality of the materials; and the workmanship of the contractors. Some roofs are designed for a life expectancy of 30-plus years; some for 10 years or less. Regardless, the biggest reason why roofs do not survive their anticipated life cycles is the neglect of maintenance.

Of the many types of roofing systems available today, some provide better service life than others, but all will fail prematurely unless they are properly maintained. With a good maintenance program, workmanship problems and design flaws often can be detected and corrected early, before serious damage results.

On top of details

All roofing systems will require routine maintenance, such as cleaning debris, unclogging drains and inspecting roof surfaces for ponding or other indications of developing problems. However, one of the major advantages of high-performance roofing systems is lower maintenance requirements over the life of the building. When a roof has exceptional tensile and tear-strength performance, UV resistance, and the flexibility to adjust to thermal-related movement, it is far less likely to require anything more than routine maintenance.

There are many reasons why administrators fail to maintain their roofs properly. One is the false sense of security provided by roof-system warranties. A warranty is intended primarily to protect the manufacturer. Typically, strict conditions, limitations and maintenance requirements are specified that cannot be ignored. Without proper maintenance, the most comprehensive warranty in the world is worth nothing.

Roof warranties vary, ranging from very limited to unlimited, over periods of five to 30 years. One thing that most warranties will not cover is roof negligence. A school facility manager must ensure that the roof is inspected periodically, and kept free of debris, clogged drains and minor damage. Reflective coatings, which are not usually covered by warranties, must be renewed periodically. Roofs should be recoated every three to five years.

Picking partners

In today's market, hundreds of roofing-materials products and systems are available — and many methods for distributing and purchasing those solutions. If you purchase your roofing system through a general contractor, a roofing consultant or an architect, it can be difficult to resolve issues of liability if problems occur.

One solution is to deal directly with a materials manufacturer who can provide contractor training, on-site installation inspections and long-term maintenance support. With such an arrangement, a single party is responsible if something goes wrong.

If building conditions demand a high-performance roofing solution, a school can obtain a long-term preventive-maintenance partnership with a roofing-materials manufacturer.

If an institution chooses a roofing contractor, it is essential to develop a long-term relationship with one who is capable of carrying out all maintenance recommendations made by the manufacturer — regardless of the quality of the solution purchased.

When evaluating a long-term maintenance agreement, consider two things: commitment to emergency response and commitment to routine maintenance support, including inspections.

General maintenance and inspection

When opting for a high-performance roofing solution, the materials manufacturer should be expected to remain diligent during the roof's installation. The manufacturer's representative should visit the site at least twice weekly to identify and correct small problems before they become large ones.

Even high-performance roofing systems require basic maintenance. Like any roof, they should be inspected at least twice a year, and after any heavy storm. It is common, especially in schools, for foreign objects like balls to block drainage systems, and for foot traffic or debris to cause small nicks.

The importance of walking the roof periodically cannot be overstated. This minor and relatively inexpensive procedure can help avoid the costs incurred by major roof repairs, facility downtime and internal property damage.

Reming is owner of Reming Roofing, Walton Hills, Ohio.


  • 5 TO 30
    Number of years covered by a typical roofing-system warranty.

  • 24
    Number of hours a school or university might expect to wait for a response to a roof leak.

  • 3 TO 5
    Frequency in number of years a school or university should recoat its roofs.

  • 2
    Number of times per year a roof should be inspected, not counting after heavy storms.

Choosing a quality manufacturer

The roofing manufacturer you choose can be as important as the type of system. The following checklist can help to ensure that the roof system you are evaluating functions properly after installation:

  • Make sure the manufacturer is a reputable, financially stable company.

  • Confirm that the manufacturer has been in business for at least as long as the warranty it is offering.

  • Verify that the quality of the materials has been tested by independent laboratories.

  • Make sure that the specifications are outcome-driven and that they cover both service and materials requirements.

  • Compare apples with apples when evaluating material specifications, taking note of technical specifications, testing methods (different testing methods can produce different results) and service commitments.

  • Ensure that the performance specifications are not only acceptable to conventional standards, but also adequate for the intended use of your building.

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