IN PARTS OF THE UNITED STATES THAT EXPERIENCE EXTREME WINTER WINDS, rain and natural disasters, it is not uncommon for storage facilities to experience roof damage. The elements are a common threat to your facility and your customers' stored goods, so it is essential to prevent winter-storm damage by properly maintaining and repairing your roofs.
Far too frequently, the cause of a roof failure during a storm is lack of proper maintenance. Storage owners often attempt to repair roofs themselves to save money. If the job is not done right, the final outcome may cost a lot more than if a professional had done the work.
According to Patricia Barthen of Flexospan Steel Buildings Inc., people who aren't roof-repair professionals usually don't know the entire process to prevent leakage, which is one of the most important factors in roof maintenance. Poor repair jobs can range from something as small as overtightening screw fasteners to using the wrong sealants.
A perfect example would be a claim made by a storage owner who experienced roof damage to his buildings after a severe winter storm hit his area. When a claim like this is made, it is typical for a roofing engineer to inspect the damage and determine if it was caused by the elements or the result of poor installation or maintenance. In this case, the storage owner hadn't properly cared for his roof, and the damage was considered regular wear and tear. For building repairs to be covered by your insurance policy--and for you to avoid liability for damage to customer's stored goods--the damage must be a direct result of a storm and not regular deterioration, which is more than likely excluded from your policy coverages.
Call it insurance, or call it foresight--the best way to avoid simple mistakes and costly damage to building roofs and contents is to properly maintain your property with regular inspections. Have repairs done correctly. Periodic visual inspections and consequential maintenance can greatly increase the life of any roof. When inspecting a facility, always check the ceilings of units for any evidence of water leakage. It isn't a bad idea to have a consultant inspect your roofs every couple of years and provide a report of their condition. Necessary repairs should be made immediately. Even the tiniest problems will become big if not addressed right away.
If you hire a professional to inspect and repair damages to your roof, you'll want to feel comfortable with your choice. Here are some helpful tips for finding the right roofing contractor, supplied by the Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Georgia (www.rsmca.org):
- Ask friends and associates for the name of a roofing contractor with whom they have had good experiences. There are many roofing contractors specific to the self-storage industry.
- Call your local, state or national roofing association and ask for referrals. Also consult your self-storage association or other self-storage owners.
- Get more than one estimate/proposal and insist on details.
- Ask about the various options for roofing materials.
- Obtain references from the roofing contractor and make sure he has knowledge of self-storage facilities. Ask for a listing of jobs he has done in your area in the last year or two, then go and see them. Ask for the names of vendors the contractor uses.
- Insist on a certificate of insurance naming you as the certificate holder. If the contractor does not have property-and-casualty (general-liability) and workers'-compensation insurance, you may be liable for damages he causes or injuries to himself or his employees.
- Ask for a copy of the roofing contractor's warranty for materials and workmanship, usually for one to two years. This binds the contractor to repair any leaks caused by his workmanship or failure of the materials for the most critical period. Many problems with a new roof will show up in the first year or two.
After Choosing a Contractor
- Don't pay in full until the job is done. Then, if you're unsure of the quality of the job, you can hire an independent inspector to check the work.
- Have the roofing contractor look inside your buildings. If you have ceilings that are immediately below or part of the deck, fasteners could possibly penetrate them.
- Watch the application of the new roof and ask questions when you see anything that doesn't look right.
- If the contractor has included debris removal in the contract, insist it be done promptly. Ask for a magnetic sweep of the area to remove any stray nails. You don't want to find them the hard way later.
- Make a roofing file. Keep a copy of the proposal, the certificate of insurance, the manufacturer's warranty, the contractor's warranty, and a copy of a receipt for the materials from the supplier or the affidavit from the roofing contractor stating he paid his suppliers for the material used on your project. This greatly reduces the chances a supplier can perfect a lien against you if the contractor doesn't pay for the materials. Also keep a piece of one of the shingles. Wrap it in aluminum foil very tightly. This will prevent weathering and will allow you to make a close match many years later, if necessary.
- Maintain your new roof. Keep it clear of leaves. Keep gutters and downspouts clear. You should inspect your roof at least twice a year, in the spring and fall.
- During the warranty period, call the contractor and ask for repairs as soon as a problem is detected. If you don't get proper response, write a certified, return-receipt letter specifying a time in which you expect repairs to be made.
Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; call 800.844.2101; fax 480.970.6240; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.vpico.com/universal.