What's the Best Roof for Your Building?

Feb. 9, 2018

Best roofing options: Don't just settle for the traditional go-to roofing methods. Dig deep to determine which one is the best for your building.

Which roof is the best match for your facility? Every roofer has a go-to material and method, but what facility owners and managers may not realize is that the go-to isn’t always the best choice. That’s why fairly weighing all of your options is vital to picking a durable, long-lasting roof, says Helene Hardy Pierce, vice president of technical services, codes, and industry relations for roofing manufacturer GAF.

Facility owners and managers may not realize is that the go-to isn’t always the best choice

Pierce’s three-step process helps roofers and facilities professionals come to an agreement on the best way to move forward.

Step 1: Roof System Traits

Start by weighing the most basic considerations: the labor cost to install it, the upfront capital investment, the complexity of installation (which could include any special equipment that has to be moved up to the roof), speed of installation and cost effectiveness (for example, a system with a high labor cost that also installs very quickly could be cost effective).

Then look at the performance of each of your systems, including wind and impact resistance, redundancy, fire resistance at the slope and reflectivity. Code may require you to meet a certain benchmark with any or all of these, so that can be a great way to narrow down your options.

Related: The Solutions Behind 7 Tricky Roofing Problems

Then look at other qualities that may not be required by code, but could still be important to your facility. For example, a hospital would want a low- or no-VOC option that could be applied on a fully occupied building. Other facilities may decide to prioritize things like a wide application window, traffic resistance or a uniform appearance, Hardy Pierce explains.

Step 2: Roof Specifics

Next, look at the specifics of your existing roof, including the deck, insulation, location, building type and whether you’re planning a new roof or a re-cover project. Understand what material you’re using for the deck and the existing insulation and determine whether you need to add more insulation.

“R-value is becoming more and more important because of the energy code,” Hardy Pierce explains. “How much do I need? What’s that going to do to my edges and the amount of blocking I need to do to meet the energy code? Do I have to put down 5 inches of insulation all of a sudden? If you’re putting down a single layer, you may have problems meeting code.”

On topic: 3 Vital Roles of Roofing Insulation

Location doesn’t just affect the use of vapor retarders or reflective materials, Hardy Pierce adds. “It’s also regional in terms of worker expertise and availability of materials. When FedEx was first building a big distribution center in Memphis, the architect was out of southern California and he specified regular asphalt and a cap sheet. The construction was in February and cap sheets can’t be installed unless it’s 60 degrees F. outside. They called the manufacturer every single day to see if they could roof that day and the answer would be ‘No, it’s 40 degrees.’”

Code and your ability to secure a warranty come into play here too. Re-roofing projects have their own section in both IECC and ASHRAE 90.1, the basis of many local energy codes, so make sure that you’re aware of any special requirements if you’re putting a new roof on an existing building.

Step 3: Owner’s Needs

Consider whether you have any other requirements that don’t fall into the other two categories. For example, a tall office building in Chicago likely has a small footprint and not much room to stage roofing materials, so a self-adhered product or an adhesive that comes in 5-gallon buckets workers can carry up a ladder would be useful, Hardy Pierce explains.

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About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.

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