When should you replace your roofs? On a specific timetable or not until you start having problems?
The roofs that cover the buildings in your multi-family condo, apartment or townhome complex do an important job — they protect the units and everything in them. Knowing when it’s time to replace the roofs or just fix them is part of an effective property management strategy and can greatly impact your budgets.
Here’s how to know if it might be time for new roofs:
1. Your roofs are aging
The most obvious reason to consider replacing your roofs is that they’re old. All roofs have a lifespan. However, if you’ve kept your roofs in good shape with a regular maintenance program and have taken care of any problem areas quickly, your roofs may perform beyond their expected lifespan. So don’t assume you need to replace your roofs just because the warranty period is coming to an end.
On the other hand, if some or all of the roofs in your complex haven’t been well-maintained or are experiencing any of the problems below, they may not last as long as they’re supposed to.
Your roofs also may fail prematurely if they were not installed properly. Contractors make mistakes and can cut corners without your knowledge. If they didn’t follow installation specifications, including using the materials recommended by the manufacturer, your roofs could have a shortened lifespan or worse. The only way to know for sure is to have them inspected by a qualified contractor.
2. You’re spending multiple thousands of dollars a year on repairs
If you’re spending a lot of money repairing your roofs each year, that’s a sign they need to be replaced.
Look at your records over the past several years and calculate the amount you’ve spent on repairs. Remember to include the cost of repairing anything damaged on the inside of the buildings — ceilings, walls, cabinets, and any household items that may have had to be repaired or replaced (you’ll need to collect the information from your residents if you don’t already have it).
Then compare what you’re spending on total repairs annually to what it would cost to install roofs that do their job properly. If, for example, you’re spending $15-25K a year on repairs, that money could go toward a new roofing system that doesn’t leak. Over several years, it can really add up. You’ll also avoid the type of future roof failures that can get quite expensive.
If you’re in a situation where your roofs are fairly new and you’re still paying a lot to repair and maintain them, something is wrong with the installation and you should have them inspected by a third party.
3. You see signs of deterioration regardless of age
Sometimes roofs that aren’t very old start to deteriorate anyway. Signs of deterioration include things like bald spots on the shingles, shingles that are curved, cupped or curling, or shingles that have had some pieces blown off during storms or strong winds.
Bald spots usually occur with lower-tier asphalt shingles — sometimes the manufacturing process won’t embed the granules well enough. Cupped or curling shingles are usually caused by too much moisture or an improperly vented attic. And if pieces of shingles have blown off, it’s likely the adhesive is failing.
If an entire shingle has blown off and the property hasn’t experienced wind speeds beyond what the roof is rated for, then the material wasn’t installed properly.
Shingles experiencing these issues are not protecting your roof. Expect leaks. The sun’s UV rays will also eat away at the unprotected areas, speeding degradation and making the risk for leaks even greater. Keep in mind that asphalt shingles are not waterproof. Since they are installed on steep-sloped buildings — buildings with roofs that have a slope greater than 3:12 or a 25% slope angle — asphalt shingles are designed to protect the roof structure by keeping water moving off of the roof.
If some of your roofs are showing signs of deterioration but others are not, consider re-roofing in a phased approach. Start by replacing the problem roofs then move on to the other roofs the following year. While it’s more economical to re-reroof all of your buildings at the same time, it may work better for your overall budget to divide the project into phases.
4. You want to update the appearance of your community
It can be remarkable the difference new roofs can make in the appearance of a complex. This is especially true if your current roofs are lower-tier, fading, or in a color that’s mismatched or detracts from the rest of the property. With 3-tab shingles, changes to roof appearance can happen pretty quickly after installation. If your roofs have started to experience telegraphing over time, which gives them a wavy or rolling look and can be common with 3-tab shingles, they’ll be perceived as old and shabby and can devalue the property even though the roofs may still be performing adequately.
If your condo or townhome owners want to increase curb appeal and market value or compete with other properties that look refreshed and more upscale, upgrading the roofs can be an important step in that direction. The huge number of asphalt shingles options available now give you an opportunity to transform your buildings visually while getting a better roofing system that won’t need much maintenance for many years. The transformation of properties built in the 1960s and 1970s is often the most extreme.
5. You want to make additions or improvements to other parts of the property
When you’re planning to make improvements to the property — such as painting the buildings, repaving the parking lots and driveways, adding canopies, or upgrading the landscaping, lighting or signage — it’s a good time think about the roofs. Replacing the roofs in conjunction with your other improvements can have a multiplier effect.
If you’re planning to make additions to the buildings themselves or adding new buildings to the community, you’ll need to choose coordinating roofing materials so your property looks good holistically. Sometimes you can match the existing roofs exactly but other times it’s best to choose the same type of shingle in another color (this will keep from calling attention to fading roof color).
Other times re-roofing the existing buildings so all the roofs match may make the most sense. Each situation is different but since you will have to replace the existing roofs at some point, you’ll get economies of scale if the next time you have to re-roof you can do everything at once. Remember, it’s more efficient for your roofing contractor to do all of the roofs at one time.
Is something growing on your roof?
If you have algae, lichen or moss growing on your roofs, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for new roofs but it’s definitely time to clean them. These tiny plants can be destructive over time and degrade your roofs prematurely.
Algae: If you see streaks of black on your roof, it’s probably algae. Algae won’t affect roof performance but may speed up roof material degradation and it certainly doesn’t look good. It’s a good idea to clean algae from your roofs as soon as you see it — it may also evolve into lichen, which is much more difficult to remove.
Lichen: Lichen grows in flat, small patches and is usually light green or blue-green. It evolves from algae and attaches itself very securely to shingles. It can attach itself so firmly, in fact, that it can pull the top layer off of your shingles. Lichen also stays moist, which speeds the degradation of the roofing materials underneath.
Moss: Moss is a plant that can grow thick. It starts in damp, shaded environments and makes a nice home for itself by establishing a root system that’s attached to your shingles. As the plants grow, so do the roots. Dirt from the wind can build up and thicken the moss layer as well. The moss keeps your roofs moist and the roots can grow under the shingles and lift up the edges. Both will speed roof degradation. Have moss removed when you first notice it.
A word about mold
If your property has experienced roof leaks and you’re concerned about mold that may have started growing inside your roofing system or attic, here are some facts to help ease your mind.
It takes about six months for mold to grow so unless the roof has been leaking undetected for a long time, mold shouldn’t be an issue for you. Fans and dehumidifiers (from your management company or an outsourced company like ServerPro) will usually return wet areas to bone dry again in about 48 hours. Any insulation that got wet will need to be replaced, of course, because it no longer does its job.
Many, if not most, areas that have gotten wet from a roof leak will dry on their own and don’t need additional measures like fans. Still, we understand mold is a four-letter word to homeowners and we are glad to discuss your specific situation with you to see if it might need remediation.
Proper installation and maintenance are key to long-lasting roofs
The best way to avoid having to replace your roofs early is to have them installed properly by a qualified contractor and take care of them from day one.
With regular maintenance and maintenance reports that include photos, you will know what’s going on with the roofs in your townhome, condo or apartment complex and shouldn’t be faced with surprises except those related to mother nature.
Also, keep good records about each roof on your property. Log any problems, leaks, and repairs performed and costs involved, including the cost to repair or replace items inside the buildings. Having this information on hand will help you determine when it’s time to re-roof and will help your roofing contractor give you the best advice about your roofing system, roof management timeline and replacement options when it’s time to re-roof.