9 factors in choosing a roofing system

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David Bade
David Bade

My previous column shared how senior living communities can select a commercial roofing company. In this column, I'll discuss how to know which roofing system is right for your structure.

The options are seemingly endless, but it's important to remember that not all roofing systems are the same. Facility owners, guided by their roofing contractor's recommendations, should consider several factors to make a well-informed decision.

  • Geographic location. Consider building codes, weather trends and the direction your building faces. There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” roofing system, because geographic variations in wind velocity, potential snow load and annual rainfall all vary from location to location and year to year. Roof orientation and nearby trees that will shade the roof are important factors.
  • Physical makeup. Consider your building's size, age, shape and design, as well as whether the facility is a new or an existing structure.
  • Building materials/construction. Consider the building's material types — wood, steel, brick, and the current types of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and fire protection equipment.
  • Roof details. Consider the size, shape, slope, deck, edge, protrusions and rooftop access. Some roofs have very little traffic, whereas others require walkways that provide access to rooftop units. If your new roof will have high foot traffic needs, then it will need additional structural pathway support.
  • The building's use. Consider the building's occupancy, insulation needs and maintenance schedule. For example, a retail business has different roofing needs than those of a storage facility. Both require leak-free roofs, but the retail business will need a roof that provides a comfortable environment for customers and staff. The right roof for a warehouse wouldn't be sufficient for a shopping center, a hospital or a school building.
  • Green needs. Does the roof require Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, certification credits, or does it need to meet Energy Star goals? We all want to save money on utility costs, and if that's an important factor, then a cool roof or a reflective roof might be beneficial. Beefed-up insulation and photovoltaic systems also can help achieve energy goals.
  • Renewability. Consider the ease at which materials can be replaced at the end of the warranty period. All roofs need regular periodic maintenance, but not all roof systems can be maintained successfully by an in-house crew.
  • Recyclability. Take into account how the materials can be recycled or “down-cycled” when the roof needs to be replaced. If you plan to own and operate the building for up to 10 or 15 years, then a roof replacement is more attractive. If you plan to own the building for 20 years or longer, then it pays to invest in a roof system that has a long service life and a long-term warranty.
  • Budget. Be sure your budget is realistic and current (updated in the past six months). A 20-year budget forecast is recommended when it comes to roofing and maintenance needs.

Taking the time to educate yourself before plunging into any roofing project is recommended. A roof is a big investment, one that will protect your senior living community buildings and their occupants for years to come. With the aforementioned factors, you will be better equipped to make the right roofing decision.

David Bade is the owner of Bade Roofing Co. in St. Louis.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes guest columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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