When is roof replacement a better option than continued roof maintenance? Of course, the ideal answer to this question is never, but it is rare that a roof's service life equals the service life of the rest of the building.
The more obvious answer to the question is that roof replacement is a better option when the roof's watertight integrity (its primary function) is compromised. When leaks become intolerable, it is time to replace the roof!
When do leaks become intolerable? Is leak tolerance the best or most cost-effective reason to make a huge capital investment? A central element in the roof-replacement decision for managers is determining when leaks become bad enough to mandate replacement.
In some cases, a financial model can help determine when roof maintenance has reached the point of diminishing returns, in which case building owners or managers essentially end up throwing good money after bad. As much as preventive maintenance is preached for roof systems, at some point it becomes useless.
It is difficult to justify the capital expense of replacing a roof, especially when that money could go toward buying new equipment and systems that would benefit the organization's bottom line. But roof leaks also can hurt the bottom line. Consider these real-world examples:
- Interior damage. Roof leaks that damage ceiling tiles, carpet, furniture, and computers are common, but the damage can be much more severe. What if a school lost its gymnasium floor due to damage from roof leaks? The school would have to cancel or move athletic events and replace the floor, at a cost of $500,000 or more.
- Operations downtime. A roof leak could shut down operations for a day or longer, costing the company tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
- Damaged products. A retail store could lose tens of thousands of dollars worth of products due to one roof leak.
- Lost business. Roof leaks could force a hotel to close its top floor (the priciest rooms) for weeks, causing significant lost revenue.
Building owners and managers must incorporate all of these factors into any life-cycle cost analysis in trying to justify a roof replacement. Granted, for any manager who has not gone through the cost-justification process, projected costs are only predictions. But to neglect figuring in these costs is misleading and provides a false sense of security.
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