Roof Maintenance

Self-Storage Roofs: How Preventative Maintenance Makes Dollars and Sense

Waiting until your self-storage roof springs a leak is the wrong way to approach its maintenance. A proactive approach will minimize repair costs and extend roof life.

By Anthony Vross

If you’re not being proactive about roof maintenance at your self-storage property, you’re not alone. However, that doesn’t make it right. The run-to-failure model allows facility operators to believe they’re saving money on upkeep, but it’s actually the contrary.

In roofing, if you wait until it’s broke to fix it, you can spend nearly twice as much on repairs and premature replacements than if you stayed ahead of issues. And that’s only taking into consideration roof-related costs. Think of the potential damage to your customers’ goods. Practicing proactive maintenance is proven to be more cost-effective in the long run because it extends the life of the roof and delays the expense of replacement.

Prevent Bigger Problems

Here’s a common scenario: A self-storage manager detects a leak in one of his buildings and dispatches a roofing company to repair it. But he neglects to address anything else on the verge of disrepair until the next leak. Then, another service call is needed and the budget takes another hit.

The numbers speak for themselves. Those who only react to problems as they occur pay an average of 25 cents per square foot annually in roofing expenses. Those who routinely inspect and proactively repair—before leaks occur—spend an average of only 14 cents per square foot annually. Plus, maintained roofs last an average of 21 years compared to an average lifespan of 13 years for roofs under reactive maintenance, according to “Roofing Contractor,” a magazine for roofing professionals.

The longer you extend your roof’s life before succumbing to replacement, the more its life-cycle costs decrease, and the more budget dollars you have to spend on other facility needs. Being disciplined with proactive maintenance will not only prolong the life of your roof, it’ll minimize the leaks and other disruptions that occur when you don’t have an accurate assessment of its condition.

There are now sophisticated diagnostic tools, data-analysis programs and scientifically formulated restoration systems available in the commercial roofing industry. Relying on these to effectively asses a roof’s condition, forecast its remaining life and show cost-saving methods to extend its useful life may reveal that you don’t need that complete tear-off and replacement after all.

Assess the Roof

Proactive roof-asset management includes projecting capital expenses for preventive maintenance, repairs and other services designed to extend the life of the roof. The most critical part of this planning is an accurate, scientific-based measurement of the roof’s life expectancy. Asset management can’t be effective if this calculation is incomplete or incorrect.

The first step is an inspection. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that roofs be inspected at least twice per year. Such reviews should be thorough, including a test of roof membranes and core sampling in addition to infrared scans to detect wet insulation, as well as visual examinations.

Many roofs are replaced unnecessarily because of bad information about their condition. A roof undergoes serious wear and tear throughout its lifetime, with factors such as weathering and degeneration taking their toll. However, that doesn’t always mean the roof needs to be replaced. Through scientific testing and analysis, a quality roofing provider can accurately determine the remaining life expectancy and depletion rate as well as whether repair or restoration is a viable option.


Again, preventive maintenance can go a long way toward thwarting or minimizing the impact of roof leaks. In addition to professional inspections, there are things you can do yourself to ensure roof performance and longevity. This simple checklist will guide your self-evaluation efforts:

  • Remove debris such as leaves, sticks and garbage so they don’t cause a backup in the drains.
  • Make sure contractors who have cause to be on the roof—window washers, HVAC techs, plumbers and electricians—are being escorted to proper areas and using walkways as opposed to dragging their equipment and potentially damaging the roof.
  • Verify that mechanical equipment and doors are tight and shut.
  • Check condensation lines to ensure they’re flowing and firmly connected.
  • Inspect the portable hangers—where conduit and pipes sit and are connected on the roof—and make sure they’re in place.
  • Check for coping (metal flashing) that’s missing. Don’t ignore holes in the roof or vegetation growing on the corner of the building.

Positive Steps

Proactive asset management empowers a self-storage operator to take control of roof-related expenditures through long-range planning. This is based on the roof’s current and anticipated condition, taking into account geography, climate and performance of similar roofing systems.

These are positive steps for those who recognize the value of extending a roof’s life. Being proactive can very well be the difference between a less-costly roof restoration now and a much more expensive total replacement later

Anthony Vross is a co-owner of Simon Roofing, a national roofing manufacturer and contractor. The company provides roof asset management, evaluations, preventive maintenance, repairs, restoration and replacement. For more information, call 888.353.7178; visit

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