3 Things Proactive Property Managers Want To Know About Roofs

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John Triplett's picture
3 things proactive property managers need to know about roofs

Multifamily property managers have two interests at heart - they don’t like their roofs to leak and they don’t want to spend any more money on them than they have to, according to a multifamily roofing expert

By John Triplett

Rental Housing Journal

“Regular maintenance and a good roofing contractor can help. If, for example, property managers have their roofs walked at least annually, and preferably semi-annually, the roofer can verify all roofing penetration areas are water-tight and sealed as needed,” Eric Skoog, owner of Sunvek Roofing in Phoenix, said in an interview with Rental Housing Journal. “Also, on pitched roofs, valleys need to be cleaned out so water or snow can move quickly off the roof, resulting in less chance of damage and water entry.

“I think quite often, building owners mistake maintenance with roofing cost. Our experience is that if you maintain a roof – meaning having someone go up there periodically, do minor repairs, check the roof to make sure everything is in good shape, you are much more likely to be able to extend the life of that roof than you are by ignoring it in order to save money until it leaks,” he said.

 Especially that is the case with flat roofs.

“Very typical on multifamily roofs, you will have mansards, eaves or porch covers on the exterior and a flat roof in the central area simply because it is a less costly way to build initially, and you hide most of the roof,” Skoog said.

“You typically have larger, flat, expanses of roof to deal with. And those flat roofs are going to be some form of roll product – which is either self-adhered, heat-sealed, or some form of adhesive – or maybe spray polyurethane foam,” he said.

 His company installs self-adhered systems, TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) and spray polyurethane foam.

“With foam roofs you do have the issue that they need to be periodically coated. It is much less expensive to maintain than replace. With a roll product you have the issue that seams can pop open, sealant can come loose, and you can have water entry.

“If those roofs are periodically checked and maintained you can defer the need for major investments in restoring them.

“Additionally, with any flat roof system you should be able to coat it at some point and extend the useful life, thereby saving significant sums of money rather than letting that system deteriorate to a point where you need to replace it.

“It is much more cost effective to maintain, coat and restore a roof than to ignore, repair and replace a roof.  And of course your tenants tend to be happier when they don’t have water leaking in their unit,” he said.

Cost of an annual roof walk for preventive maintenance?

The cost of a roof walk check is going to vary depending on the size of the apartment complex. If you have a number of buildings, the unit investment is going to be lower.

“But I think for a typical, 12-unit multifamily building, which might be either two or three stories, it would be reasonable, semi-annually, to have somebody walk the roof, check the penetrations, assess the need for repairs and/or replacement or restoration for $500 to $1,000,” he said.

The larger the number of units, the more cost effective it could be. It could get down to as little as $50 per unit dependent on the type of roof system, he said.  

Tenant communication is key in roof work

3 things proactive property managers need to know about roofs

Photos courtesy of Sunvek Roofing

“The ideal client for us is one who is proactive. They want to maintain their building. They want to keep their tenants happy. And they see the value of having a roof system that keeps water, snow and ice out because that is much cheaper than having to come back and fix it,” he said.

He gave an example of how it worked at an apartment complex he replaced the roofs on several years back.

“The complex had roughly 450 units, so we had hundreds of tenants to deal with. The complex consisted of 20 buildings. We did one building, then moved to the next, and so on through the complex. The property management company was very good to work with. We sent notice in advance saying, ‘We will be on building A, starting this date, we expect it will take a week to 10 days.’ They would then send a notice to the tenants and post a notice on every door.  Plus they sent digital communication, either text or email to every one of the tenants so everyone would know that we were coming.

“They were also really good about including a telephone number to call so that if the tenants had any questions, they could call the property management office, or our office, and one of us would address the issue.

“Our crews went there, set up our tape lines, and did our work. First we had to replace underlayment on the tile roofs, then we did the repair work and coating to restore the flat roofs. It worked out as well as it did because the property management company was very willing to work with us to ensure their tenants were communicated with - as well as to ensure our work crews had the information they needed to do their work.

“For example, they asked the tenants to please not park in these spaces where we need the space available to get our equipment in. And we, on our part, tried to make sure the tenants were notified at least a week or two in advance that we are going to be on their building – ‘here’s what you can expect, here are the hours we will be here, if you have any questions here is who you can contact.’

“It works really well when the property management company and the roofer can work together to coordinate the work,” he said.

Starting a roof repair can highlight other maintenance issues

“We have had tenants approach our roofing crews and ask, ‘Ok that’s great you are getting the roof fixed but when are you going to come back and fix the damage inside my unit from the leaks?’

“And our guys say we really don’t know the answer to that. But, our guys have been very good about telling the tenants we will pass the information on to the property management company because that is not typically something we do. And typically the property management company has somebody who does that type of repair,” Skoog said.

Local codes and requirements for roofs

3 things proactive property managers need to know about roofs

Arizona is unique because building codes vary by community.  One community might have a 2015 standard and another 2012 and a third might have 2010 and so on, so you do have some variation. “But we also have a registrar of contractors that regulates what we do and has minimum standards that we must meet. That helps to level the playing field,” he said.

In some states each community may adopt its own building codes and standard requirements. So you do have variation in requirements. Property management has to be sure and check all locally applicable codes and requirements.

“There generally is a state authority that licenses roofers. And then you will get a city business license of course. Arizona is one of the more regulated contractor states because historically we have had a problem with fakes and frauds,” he said.

Top 3 questions property managers ask when they call a roofer

No. 1 – Can we do a localized repair rather than replace the whole roof?

That is their first fear, that we are going to come back and say everything needs to be redone. And sometimes that is the case but usually we are able to do one plane or face of the roof, or in a flat roof just a section of it as far as repairs go. Our gener

ocalized repair rather than replace the whole roof?al experience with flat roofs is that if we can catch it early enough we can do roof restoration. If maintenance is deferred too long then we are looking at replacement. And there is a tremendous difference in cost.

No. 2 – How much will it cost?

Money is always an issue. Can it be a localized repair, and what will it cost?

No. 3 – How quickly can you get it done?

 If it is a leak they want us there immediately to at least stop the leak and then come back when it is not raining to do the repairs.

“With the property managers that we deal with it really has been nice that for the most part they are proactive,” he said.

“They are looking ahead for their budget for next year. They want us to walk their roofs and give them our honest opinion about the condition of the roofs and what they can do to maintain them rather than having to replace them,” he said.

About Sunvek Roofing

SUNVEK is owned by two brothers, Eric and Bill Skoog. Started in 2001 as Skytop, Inc., it was originally focused on new custom homes. As the residential market boomed, the company grew right along with it, hiring additional work crews as needed. Eric Skoog serves the company as President. He is a certified public accountant (CPA) and has a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Eric previously worked in public accounting and corporate restructuring, and uses that background in guiding the company in day-to-day activities. Bill Skoog has worked in the roofing industry for almost 25 years, starting out as one of SUNVEK’s original employees. Bill serves the company as General Manager, overseeing work schedules and ensuring that materials are ordered.

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