Some Notes on Roof Maintenance

"Pay me now or pay me more later."  I don't know who coined that phrase, but I’ve heard it repeated often. In my 30 years as a reserve professional I have seen the truth of that phrase demonstrated time and time again.

In many condominium developments, a few components are so large and account for such a significant portion of the reserve budget, that any remaining components can seem insignificant. shingle roof problemsThe big-ticket items that seem to be universal are roofing, painting, and paving. And, yes, I have seen many examples of associations where fencing, swimming pool, landscaping, clubhouses, and fitness equipment are also significant items. But, the big three - roofing, painting and paving - make up the largest portion of the reserve budget for the majority of condominium associations.

These three components also share one feature: water is their enemy. There is no place that is more true than on the roof. Many associations will “slap a roof up” knowing that they've got a 25 or 30 - year warranty on it, and never think about it again for 25 or 30 years. Bad move. The roof should be inspected annually for any indication that things are not going as planned. The type of inspection will vary depending upon the type of roofing material that you have and whether or not you have a flat roof or a pitched roof.

Assuming you have an asphalt composition shingle roof (probably the most common roofing material in the country), your inspection will start with looking for any loose, torn, or missing shingles. If the roof was installed properly the overlay of shingles along with proper flashing and gutters should divert water away from the building. One of the most vulnerable areas of the roof is the shingles at the roof peak. Sometimes just replacing the cap shingles alone can extend the life of the entire roof by several years.

shingle roof mossAny piercings of the roof membrane provides an opportunity for water to go where it doesn't belong. These areas should be inspected and re-sealed as necessary to avoid water intrusion. Also remove any debris that has built up on the roof. A simple guideline is that you shouldn't have plants growing in the built-up debris on your roof.

Inspect the rain gutters. You should clean up any debris in the gutter system that has built up including, leaves, twigs, or any other waste material that can stop water from draining properly. Tree limbs hanging directly above the roof should be trimmed back to avoid or reduce leaves and twigs and branches that can fall on the roof causing damage. Also check the gutters to see if any shingle granules are making their way into the gutters or onto the driveway. This is an indication that the roofing material may be failing.gutter

Check the inside of structures for any leak stains on the ceiling. Since water can travel a long ways from where the leak is to the ceiling where it can be observed, it doesn't necessarily mean that the leak is directly above water stains on the ceiling. When you see water stains on the ceiling it is time to call a roofing expert to help you diagnose the problem.

Also, if you notice that your roof appears to be sagging at all, it's time to call an expert. If you’re going to hire a contractor to repair or replace your roof, check their credentials.  Also seek advice as to whether or not you should engage a roofing consultant who is not the contractor that would be performing the work. Often the work on your roof can entail hiring several different contractors.  Most board members don't have the expertise to make this determination.

Review your roof’s age and warranty to make sure you replace it on time. Trying to extend the life of your roof by a few extra years could end up costing you more money if you have to make numerous minor repairs in between or if you suffer water damage as a result of inadequate maintenance.

Remember, as we said at the start, pay me now or pay me more later.


This article was originally published at HOA Pulse in May 2013