Regular Roof Inspections Help ‘Keep the Door Open’

A roof inspector makes field observations. Photo: Kemper System America Inc.

Regular roof inspections give consultants and contractors a chance to maintain relationships with building owners and managers and create value beyond any immediate repairs.

Commercial roofs should be inspected at least twice a year, typically in the spring and fall. Roof inspections are also advised after major weather events, though contractors may already be deluged with repair requests. Of course, building managers will be more receptive to discussing regular inspections during such times, even though time is short. A service flyer and readily available letter-of-agreement can help quickly close the deal, and be used after any major job throughout the year to create recurring business. Customers should clearly understand the service offer and any special provisions for emergency repairs or exceptions such as during wider emergencies.

Common Sources of Roof Leaks

  • Cracks in or around flashings and penetrations
  • Breaks in and around gutterways and drains
  • Poor drainage or debris-clogged drainage systems
  • Storm damage, tree branches, ice dams, etc.
  • Incidental damage by other trades during construction or maintenance
  • Excessive foot traffic at rooftop access points and around HVAC units and other rooftop infrastructure
  • Old or deteriorating roofing materials

While roof leaks can be caused in several ways, many common sources of leaks can be prevented with liquid-applied coating and membrane systems that fully adhere to substrates and are both self-terminating and self-flashing. Membrane systems are fully reinforced and create a seamless surface. High-quality systems are designed to withstand ponding water, ice, snow, UV light, as well as most chemicals. Unreinforced roof coatings can be used for repairs or complete restoration of the roof surface.

If only a small area is damaged, a limited repair is best, and usually possible with compatible materials over an existing system in good condition.Check if a warranty is in place, and if possible contact the manufacturer before the repair. Perform any repairs within the guidelines of the warranty.

For wider areas, a roof recovery is often possible right over the existing roofing. If interior leaks from a field area are evident, core samples can verify the condition of the existing roof assembly down to the deck. Built-up roofs (BUR), in particular, are susceptible to sun and temperature cycling. Tiny spider cracks and micropores can develop in the surface, and the layers below can absorb moisture and deteriorate. Water always travels to its lowest point and, if left unchecked, will damage the underlying structure.

On low-slope roofs, areas of ponding water are a prime target for inspections. If the roof is covered by aggregate or overburden, it must be cleared from around the lowest point of any low-lying areas, and other areas of suspected damage. A visual inspection can locate the source of an active leak, but there may be more than one source or a larger issue that may not always be visible. Broader sampling is needed to evaluate the general condition of the roof and the scope of any deterioration.

Quality workmanship and materials help avoid callbacks and ensure long-term relationships. After completing any necessary repairs, a PMMA, polyurethane or elastomeric membrane or coatings system can be installed to extend the service life of an existing roof. Elastomeric-based coatings are generally the best value for straightforward repairs and can be ideal for recovering metal roofs. Roof restoration, in general, can enhance building performance with “Cool Roof” products, especially those with a high solar reflectance index (SRI).

At the end of the day, an ounce of prevention and a prompt response to issues can help building owners avoid expensive headaches. People remember expert advice and quality service, especially in times of need. They also may tell others — which is another way regular inspections can help keep the door open to recurring business.

RICOWI Deploys Research Teams to Hail-damaged Areas

The Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues Inc. (RICOWI Inc.) has announced deployment of research teams to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex hail-damaged areas. The teams will be conducting the investigation from May 2-6, 2016.

RICOWI is a non-profit international organization that has implemented a strategic plan for a Hail Investigation Program (HIP). The purpose of the research program is:

  • To investigate the field performance of roofing assemblies after major hail storms.
  • To factually describe roof assembly performance and modes of damage.
  • To formally report the results for substantiated hail events.

Hail Task Force Chair John Gimple says: “The data collected will provide unbiased detailed information on the hail resistance of low slope and steep slope roofing systems from credible investigative teams. We can expect a greater industry understanding of what causes roofs to perform or fail in hail storms, leading to overall improvements in roof system durability, the reduction of waste generation from re-roofing activities, and a reduction in insurance losses that will lead to lower overall costs for the public.”

RICOWI investigated the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 2011. During this investigation more than 100 hail-damaged roofs were included in the research. RICOWI Inc. is again reaching out to the local governments, businesses and the residents to help with this important research project by volunteering their hail damaged roofs for the research project. All information is kept confidential and is used strictly for research purposes. Reports of past research are available for no charge on the website.

The published findings will document roofing systems that fail or survive major hail events and provide educational materials for roofing professionals to design hail-resistant roofing systems.

Pay Per Click Marketing for Roofers

Homeowners never know when Mother Nature is going to cause significant damage to their roof. Every house is only one bad storm away from thousands of dollars in repairs. In today’s market the majority of homeowners turn to Google, Bing and other search engines to find roofers that can come to the rescue.

I specialize in Pay Per Click (PPC) management. PPC is a form of Internet advertising in which advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked.

PPC can be a powerful tool to generate new business. It is the only way to guarantee that your website appears when a potential customer searches for a term relevant to your business. However, it can also be an expensive waste of money if your account is setup incorrectly. Whether you decide to manage your PPC campaign in-house or outsource it, you need to follow these tips to make the most from your marketing budget:

Set up the Campaign Correctly

The first tip is also the most important. Make sure your campaign is set up correctly so every single website visitor you get is a realistic prospect for your services. PPC can be a black hole if you are paying the search engines for irrelevant terms, like “roofing equipment”. Also, if your account is not set up correctly, you could be paying for clicks that are completely out of your service area.

Remember, even if you get a bad click, Google still gets paid! Make sure your campaign is laser-focused, so that the keywords, location, device and time of day is most likely to turn into a sale.

Highlight Offers and Specials

For all of your ads you need to make sure you highlight specials and features about your company that will separate you from your competitors. The basic fundamentals are always going to remain the same, but you need to give customers a reason they should be excited to do business with you.

Pay Google and Bing Directly

If you outsource your PPC, it is best to work with a company that has the search engines charge you directly. PPC agencies charge a separate management fee for their services. If you pay a lump sum, then the PPC company does not have to tell you how your budget was divided. Keep in mind the average PPC management fee is about 20 percent of your total spend on Google, Bing and other search engines.

Also, if a PPC agency spends less on clicks for a particular month, then you should be the one to keep the money!

(PPC requires an in-depth knowledge of Google AdWords. It is deceptively easy to create a campaign in-house but I recommend working with an expert to make sure you are maximizing your marketing budget.)

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The Hidden Costs of Workplace Accidents

Asking an employee why he or she wants to be safe is like asking them why they work. Overwhelmingly, every roofer I ask this question to tells me he or she wants to go home at the end of the day. He doesn’t want to lose any time because losing time is losing money. And, believe it or not, money can buy happiness. A New York City carpenter once told me he fell 35 feet and broke multiple bones. He was out of work for two years, during which he collected $57,000 from workers’ compensation insurance. If he worked, he would have made more than $100,000 per year. In his words, “I almost lost my big house on Long Island and my high-maintenance wife.”

In addition to how accidents impact workers’ finances, they can seriously affect a company’s bottom line. A good Health and Safety Program can save a company money by cutting workers’ compensation insurance premiums; heading off needless, expensive and embarrassing OSHA citations; avoiding expensive and embarrassing lawsuits; increasing the efficiency of the workforce; and boosting workers’ morale, which consequently will improve their productivity. A good Health and Safety Program also will give a business owner peace of mind by knowing all his or her employees are working safely.

In my experience, project managers, job-site superintendents and crew foremen are the people who are reluctant to want job-site safety. They believe following safety standards slows the job down. Management is responsible for making money in a business that regularly grapples with close bids, tight schedules and limited job budgets. However, these factors do not take into account the “hidden” costs of workplace accidents. Oftentimes, accidents are more expensive than people realize because of these hidden costs.

Examples of Hidden Costs

Some costs created by accidents are obvious; for example, workers’ compensation claims cover medical costs and indemnity payments for an injured or ill worker. What people often don’t think about are the hidden costs, like the costs to train and compensate a replacement worker, repair damaged property, investigate the accident and implement corrective action, as well as maintain insurance coverage. Even less apparent are the costs related to schedule delays, added administrative time, lower morale, increased absenteeism and poorer customer relations.

Washington, D.C.-based OSHA’s Safety Pays Program states the lower the direct costs of an accident, the higher the ratio of indirect to direct costs. The more accidents that occur in a workplace, the higher the costs in increased insurance premiums and greater indirect costs. According to the Boca Raton, Fla.-based National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc., these include the following kinds of indirect costs:

  • Any wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers’ compensation.
  • The wage costs related to time lost through work stoppage associated with the worker injury.
  • The overtime costs necessitated by the injury.
  • Administrative time spent by supervisors, safety personnel and clerical workers after an injury.
  • Training costs for a replacement worker.
  • Lost productivity related to work rescheduling, new employee learning curves and accommodation of injured employees.
  • Clean-up, repair, and replacement costs of damaged material, machinery and property.

Some of the possible indirect costs not included in these estimates are:

  • The costs of OSHA fines and any associated legal action.
  • Third-party liability and legal costs.
  • Worker pain and suffering.
  • Loss of good will from bad publicity.

The Human Factor

Direct and indirect costs certainly are motivation for preventing workplace accidents. In fact, when I ask roofing company owners why they want their employees to work safely, many automatically default to the money answer. However, in most cases, business owners are generous, caring members of their communities. I once sat across the desk of an owner of a large construction company after his team experienced a fatality. He asked me, “How do I look at myself in the mirror every morning, knowing one on MY guys didn’t go home today?” Even though he did not know this employee personally, he considered this worker one of his guys. Ultimately, it’s the human factor that is the most important reason to ensure safe working conditions on job sites.

My favorite phrase is “To protect my employer, I protect his employees.” I think they’re words to live by.