The one thing the roofing manufacturer, consultant and school district administrator interviewed for this article all agree upon is that the worst way to go about school roofing is to look for the cheapest price. Putting in the right roof, the right way, the first time, plus applying the appropriate maintenance, will not only make for a long-lasting roof, it will also save considerable money in the long run. On the other hand, the dynamics of doing it right are not difficult to understand. Nor does the process involve either excessive costs or maintenance.

Here are the perspectives of a manufacturer, CertainTeed Corporation; a consultant, Foursquare Solutions, Inc; and a school district, Jefferson County Public Schools.

Roofing Manufacturer

Good material, good design, good application and good maintenance are the keys to good roofing, says Gene Saxton, national accounts manager of CertainTeed Corporation in Valley Forge, Pa.“If the project is not done right the first time, you’re in for a lot of reroofing costs,” Saxton maintains.

For school roofing, Saxton recommends not only good material, but also“redundance.” “For asphalt systems, for example, you want many layers. This may seem expensive initially, but the savings will come in the long run.”

Good design and good applications go hand-in-hand, Saxton continues. A problem schools face in Pennsylvania, he says, is that they are generally required to put out bids for work and then required to hire the lowest paying contractor. But how can you always get a good contractor in this situation?

Saxton says that every manufacturer has a list of qualified contractors, but some are qualified for roofs that are built to last for 10 to 12 years, but you want one who is qualified to specify and install 20- to 25-year systems. The latter are the high end, bondable contractors with proven work ethics.

The best way for schools to get around the low-bid issue, Saxton says, “is to put among the criteria in print that the contractor must be eligible to install and receive a manufacturer’s 20-year, no-dollar-limit warranty. That will eliminate a lot of the marketplace and narrow down the contractors who can do the work.”

One misunderstanding that schools often have, Saxton says, is that they assume that because they have, say, a 25-year, no-dollar-limit warranty, that they are not required to do maintenance. However, that warranty is voided if the maintenance is not applied. To offset this, CertainTeed, during the past couple years, has initiated, “a program integrity maintenance coverage, with maintenance guaranteed for the first 10 years and the option after that to renew every five years, or the school can take over the maintenance itself,” he says.

Saxton says this might be important in a school in an outlying district that doesn’t have qualified contractors, although he adds that some schools in major cities are taking the offer.

On the other hand, Saxton says, the school can, if not outsourcing the maintenance to a contractor or consultant, have its own staff do these tasks.

Roofing Consultant

Maintenance chores are not that onerous, says Luther Mock, president of Foursquare Solutions, Inc., in Monroeville, Ind. But he says doing it right, especially proactively, can really save in the long run.

Mock, who is also president of the International Roof Consultants, located in Raleigh, N.C., has established a life-cycle cost analysis, which, he says, “is fictional but realistic, which takes into account discount rates, cost of money, tax consequences and inflation. For some of the values, you have to assume a number, but the results are pretty reliable,” he says.He estimates that for a reactive or passive program, in which repairs are made only made when needed, the roof will last 10 to 12 years and cost $503,291.

A moderate program, with annual visual surveys, and doing proactive repairs solving little problems before they get big, will make the roof last 15 years and will cost $394,756, he adds.

But, an aggressive program, which Mock recommends, involving two visual surveys a year (and additional surveys after severe storm events), proactive repairs and keeping a database of information, will make that roof last at least 20 years for a cost of $283,928.

To put some perspective on these figures, the costs for a maintenance program through a 20-year period will cost the reactive program nothing, the moderate program $41,000 and the aggressive program $58,000.

Another way of looking at it is that all roofs will have some repair costs, so adding repair costs to the total maintenance program shows that the reactive program will total $25,984, moderate program $54,816 and aggressive program $67,500.

“All these points go back to the basic principle that if you spend money intelligently, you save money in the long run,” Mock says. “Roofing systems are assets and have a finite life expectancy. Life spans have ranged widely from as little as five years to documented cases of 50 years or more. However, most membrane roofing systems will be replaced, or can expect to receive significant renovation, in less than 20 years. Few people would purchase a new car and not change the oil to protect their major investment,” he says. “Unfortunately, once an investment is made in a roof system, the roof is out of sight and is unlikely to get much thought until there is a problem. By then, the damage may be extensive,” Mock adds.

Roofing Administrator

Jefferson County Public Schools, in Louisville, Ky., has plenty of roofs to keep track of. It is the nation’s 29th largest school district, with 97,000 students in 14.6 million sq. ft. of building space.

Executive Director for Facilities and Transportation Michael Mulheirn reports, “Our roof of choice has been the traditional built-up roof, which could be modified bitumen or cold tar. We expect them to last at least 30 years, and some have lasted as long as 40 to 50 years.” Mulheirn adds that the district has tried other types, such as foam and single-ply, and have had premature failures. He contends that metal roofs result in a lot of finish problems.

“Without a good preventive maintenance program, you’re not going to get your full life out of the room,” Mulheirn says. “Twice a year, in the spring and fall, we have inspections, check blocked drains, see if any flashings are coming loose and look for any other deterioration.” Also, Mulherin says, “Our typical bitumen replacement costs about $7 a sq. ft., which is very reasonable. We were paying that much four to five years ago.”

The school’s philosophy on reroofing, Mulherin says, “is that we want to completely remove the old roof, which includes any wet insulation. If you don’t do that, and just cover it up, you end up with mold and indoor air quality problems. When we remove an old roof, we do a thorough roof deck inspection for structural integrity. We’ve found metal, concrete or wood decking being broken, rotted or in such bad shape that, if we just put a new roof on it, a workman could easily fall through. The one thing you don’t want from a roof is for it to fall on top of you.”