Henry Staggs, RRO

May 3, 2020

The life cycle of your roof

We work with a lot of HOA's. Their reserve studies tend to neglect an expense for the roof. Several of our commercial clients have similar budgeting challenges. At least they did before they hired us. Knowing the life cycle of your roof. Will help you prepare for the cost of owning a roof. That's right; the roof is not a "one and done" deal.  Once the roof is installed, there are costs to maintain it.  Restore it.  Replace it and start over. 

Newly installed

Wow, that was expensive! Paying for a new roof is not cheap, that is, if you want a good roof. You could get a low bid contractor to install a substandard roof system.  And it might get you through a few years. But that's a gamble that might end up costing you much more than you are saving. A bad roof can result in leaks, mold, even a cave in. A Safeway here in Phoenix caved in. Due to lack of roof maintenance and the building burned down. Before you spend a lot of money and a new roof, make sure you have someone helping with you with design and quality assurance. Make sure you get the right roof, designed and installed correctly. 


Assuming you had the roof installed right by a good contractor with the help of a good roof consultant. The next phase of your roof's life is care and maintenance. It does cost money to take care of your roof. But so does roof leak, or premature failures, or a collapse. The cost of taking care of the roof will save you more than you are spending. Imagine the hassle of a roof leak right in the middle of the building. Having to clear the area, get the roofer out if you can. Your loss is much more than the simple cost of the repair. 

Devise a plan and stick with it. Keep the roof clean of debris. Make sure the drains are clear. And get an annual roof assessment. To help you, I wrote a book. You can get for free on this website. Go to the home page, look for the FREE BOOK tab along the side and click.  If you have any questions at all, just give me a call. I think if you read through that book, you'll see there is quite a lot you can do yourself. 


One of my favorite things is to design a roof restoration system. Some contractors might come in and say, "Just coat it" and call it a day. There is an art to this. A process that should be followed to make sure you don't waste your money. The goal of a roof restoration is to extend the life of the existing roof system. It means no tear-off and all the disruption that comes with it. It means the contractor's crew will be on-site for a shorter time. It means some savings compared to re-roofing. In some cases, a lot of savings. In others, the restoration might even cost more than a re-roof. That is why it is so important to follow the correct process.

The process starts with a visual survey of the roof. We need to assess its condition. Make sure the existing materials are in good condition for a restoration system. The fact of the matter is that all roofs will deteriorate at a certain rate over time. There is a point when the deterioration rate is accelerated. When your roof reaches that point, the window of opportunity for a roof restoration closes very fast by the way that is why annual roof assessments are so important. 

Most restoration systems include some kind of coating materials. Some have a reinforcing fabric in it. Some times its best to overlay the existing roof with a single ply, like TPO or PVC. Restaurants are great examples. The grease can wear down the asphalt roof, and if we catch in time, overlaying the roof with a PVC single-ply works great. It stands up to the grease really well and gives you some bang for your buck.

Choosing the right roof restoration system takes some time. Some testing and experience. There is more to it than just coating the roof. The goal here is to extend the roof another ten or even 20 years. We need to make sure it's done right. 


Back to care and maintenance. The restored roof will need to be cleaned. The drains kept clear, and you will need the annual assessments. The risk of premature failures exists with a restored roof. It isn't magic, after all. If it's a coating restoration system, you will likely need to apply a new top coating once or twice during its service life. Good news, though, that is something we can predict and plan for.

It's pretty much the same protocols as before. The only difference is when the restored roof reaches the end of its service life—no more restoration.


20 years later. The roof we restored was in service for 10 or 15 years. It is ready for replacement.  You did pretty well getting some 30 years or more from one roof. But ultimately, the roof has to be replaced. It's just the cost of owning a building.

We need to figure out what type of roof system is best for your building. What will the building be used for? How long do you think the building will be there? Are you expecting any change in use? Many more questions need to be answered to choose the right roof system. The process starts all over. The new roof is only as good as the installers and the quality assurance professional you hired. It has to have to be cared for and maintained to make sure to squeeze every day of service life out of that you can get.