6 stages of a successful roofing project

Selecting the right contractor and proper planning can minimize disruption to your plant's operations.

By Donald G. McNamara, President and CEO, TECTA America Corp.

If you are considering reroofing a building that is in use, you are probably concerned about maintaining "business as usual" while the project is underway.

The success of any project depends, in part, on preparation and planning in the early stages. By being aware of your options, communicating effectively with your roofing contractor and making the correct decisions up front, you can help ensure a successful outcome and save yourself time, money and frustration.

Let’s look at the various stages of a reroofing project and the impact each can have on your operations.

Selecting a roofing contractor

"Roofing Contractors" is the fifth largest group listed in the Yellow Pages. Many of these companies claim to have expertise in commercial and industrial work, yet only a small number really do. One way to find the most qualified roofing candidates is to ask your current contractor to name his best competitors. If your contractor is "worth his salt," he won’t feel threatened by the question and will be confident in bidding against them.

If you are not satisfied with your present contractor, then you will need to identify good contractors by another means. One good way is to ask other plant owners and managers in your area about their contractor and satisfaction level.

The next step in the pre-qualification process is to ask your "short listed" contractors for the following information:

  • Number of years in business. This will help determine the contractor’s longevity and financial stability, as well as the company’s history of meeting its obligations.
  • Customer references. Be certain to check them.
  • Personnel and training. Does the contractor have experienced, well-trained roofi ng professionals who know and will implement proper installation and safety procedures?
  • Insurance coverage. Is it adequate? At the same time ask about their Experience Modification Rating (EMR). The rating is based on a number of factors, including the contractor’s safety record and worker compensation claims. An EMR rating more than one is unacceptable. The lower the number, the tighter their ship.
  • Facilities and equipment. Are the contractor’s facilities and equipment capable of meeting the special requirements of your roofing project and completing it in a timely manner?
  • Services offered and areas of expertise.
When you have narrowed the list to two or three qualified contractors, ask them to submit a detailed proposal for your project.

When you have narrowed the list to two or three qualified contractors, ask them to submit a detailed proposal for your project. Then sit down with each contractor and go over it. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the line items, especially personnel, procedures, materials, workmanship, pricing and scheduling. Good contractors know that educated customers make the best buying decisions, so they will be pleased to take the time to explain their services to you.

Planning

First, establish an internal project team consisting of those affected by the areas being reroofed.Without question, someone from the safety department should be a key player.

Prior to scheduling or establishing procedures, the roofing contractor should ask you about your needs, especially relative to your occupancy considerations. Make sure your contractor is taking appropriate steps to protect sensitive areas and activities within your facility. An example that comes to mind is a recent project that required reconstructing a roof over an electrical substation. Extraordinary care had to be taken to prevent dirt, debris and moisture trapped in existing insulation from dropping into the space below.

You also want to protect the outside area surrounding your facility. If you are in a congested location, you will need procedures to protect the safety of passers-by. In some cases, scaffolding will be erected on the exterior to serve as a walkway to protect pedestrains during hoisting activites. Other temporary protection like plastic sheathing on the interior can minimize falling debris and dust from beams and purlins.

Contract performance

If you are considering reroofing a building that is in use, you are probably concerned about maintaining "business as usual" while the project is underway.

– Donald G. McNamara, President and CEO, TECTA America

Reroofing often requires a combination of activities. Demolition work to remove the old roofing materials is by far the most disruptive phase of the reroofing process. Heavy equipment and men working overhead cause noise and vibrations. If you need to replace deteriorated decking, it is often a good idea to cordon off the area underneath and restrict access. If this is not possible due to ongoing production be sure the plant occupants understand the nature and duration of the work. Effective communication among all parties is important.

The existing roof may contain asbestos materials. When present, asbestos must be removed and disposed of in accordance with current federal, state and local regulations. Be sure your contractor is certified by the appropriate regulatory agencies to perform this work. In most cases, it is neither difficult nor expensive; however, there should be a paper trail for the protection of everyone concerned. Under the law the plant owner has cradle-to-grave responsibility for asbestos.

Construction of the new roof

If the preplanning has been properly executed, this phase should go well. Once demolition is completed, the new roof is installed. The contractor should never remove more than can be replaced in one day. This protects the interior against rainstorms. A temporary connection is made between the old roof and each day’s production. Since the connection must be watertight, the contractor should double-check it before leaving the site each day.

Installation of architectural sheet metal. This is a critical step in a roof’s construction. If the sheet metal that forms the finished edge of the roof is not carefully planned and properly installed, the roof’s life expectancy will be significantly diminished and your maintenance costs will increase. If your facility is in an area that experiences climactic anomalies, such as heavy snow or hurricane-force winds, the quality and proper installation of the finished edge will be a major factor in the roof’s long-term performance. In addition, this is one of the few things visible from street level, so aesthetics is a concern. Properly installed sheet metal looks good, resists wind forces, (and possible blow-offs) and provides a weather-tight seal at the building’s perimeter.

Coordination of other work

In addition to roofing and sheet metal work, there is usually other related trade work to be performed, such as: 

  • Carpentry work for wood blocking at the perimeter. 
  • Installation and retrofitting of new and existing roof drains. 
  • Disconnecting and reconnecting HVAC equipment.

Your contractor should keep you updated on the project’s progress and discuss any variances with the proposal. You should inspect the roof to see what is being done.  

Protecting your investment

Your contractor will deliver any warranties that apply and suggest a long-term maintenance program. Remember, even if you purchased a long-term manufacturer’s warranty, maintenance is still your responsibility and, if not performed, your warranty may be voided. Many contractors are developing databases that allow them to track the work performed on a customer’s roof as part of a long-term asset management program. If you don’t have the time, capability or inclination to do this internally, ask your contractor to do so. Any plant system, roofing or otherwise, will last much longer if it is maintained.

It is important to select a maintenance program that shifts the focus from reactive to proactive, i.e. from emergency patching to scheduled repairs. Not only will this extend the roof’s life and performance, it will also protect the investment you made in other facility improvements, such as interior paint and equipment. A planned maintenance program has other benefits as well: 

  • Minimal downtime from roofing "emergencies" 
  • Improved safety
  • Increased efficiency of facility managers

By working closely with your full-service roofing contractor, you can efficiently manage your roofing systems, while assuring the maximum life and return on investment.