Roof leaks are among the most insidious problems facing self-storage owners and managers. How do you know if a roof is leaking unless you are “fortunate” enough to see a drip in a hallway?
Facility owners and managers often won’t know a roof has failed until a disgruntled tenant shows up at the office with the news that a leak has damaged the customer’s contents. That’s because the vast majority of the facility’s space is hidden from view, behind the tenants’ closed roll-up doors.
Self-storage management can help ward off potential problems with regular roof inspections, especially following a major storm. Wind, rain, and hail cause obvious and sometimes subtle damage to a metal roof.
Semi-annual inspections and maintenance can potentially extend the roof’s life, but you have to know what to look for. Here are some common problems we see in metal roofs:
- Fasteners can become loose or lost. Make sure the fastener holes have not become enlarged because this can compromise the seal.
- Exposed sealants are constantly under attack from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Check for cracks or shrinkage that could allow water to enter a building.
- Check all penetrations where pipes and the HVAC system enter the roof. Make sure boots fit properly and periodically check for dry rot or sealant that has dried up.
- Check for ponding water, since this will cause the metal to rust and shorten the life of the roof system.
A common cause of leaks and corrosion is clogged gutters from leaves and other debris. Sometimes a random can or bottle can clog a gutter, which can have costly implications if it causes water to back up.
If the roof is still structurally sound, a licensed roofing contractor can make repairs that will help prolong the life of the roof. But corrosion or leaks are sure signs that a roof is reaching the end of its lifecycle, and many repairs often end up being expensive and short-lived. Usually the money spent on repairing an old roof would be more wisely invested in a new roofing system.
When it comes time for a replacement, most self-storage owners choose a metal roof, and with good reason. Industry research has found that a metal roofing system can last up to 40 years, which is more than double that of other roofs.
One popular system is the standing seam metal roof, which uses panels that overlap each other and are locked together. All fasteners are concealed so you never need to worry about screws or washers wearing out over time. Also, standing seam metal roofs require little to no maintenance throughout the years.
Most self-storage owners become nervous about a reroofing project—not just because of the expense but also because of the inconvenience of tearing off a roof above rental units and potentially exposing their contents to the elements.
One way to resolve this issue is by installing a retrofit system, especially in climate-controlled environments. Retrofitting can be done quickly and sometimes at a lower cost than removing and replacing a metal roof. It also minimizes the disturbance to facility tenants and employees because the old roof is left largely intact while the retrofit system is constructed overhead.
Retrofitting an existing roof also gives the owner the ability to add insulation between the two roof systems and lower future energy costs. Plus, a retrofit rarely requires the building to be brought up to code, whereas a removal or replacement almost always has a code requirement.
Periodic roof inspections are one of the best insurance policies management can take out to prevent a minor problem from becoming an expensive repair in the future.