Understanding roof restoration episode 12 - The argument for good roof maintenance - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Understanding roof restoration episode 12 - The argument for good roof maintenance - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
December 8, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Greg Hlavaty and Hal Leland from Western Colloid. You can read the interview below, listen to the podcast or watch the recording

Karen Edwards: Hello, and welcome to the Understanding Roof Restoration podcast. I'm your host, Karen Edwards, from askaroofer.com. The Understanding Roof Restoration podcast dives deep into the topic of restoring roofs. As the popularity of roof restoration continues to grow among building owners and contractors, there are many questions that arise. With a wide variety of roofing systems on existing buildings and many available restoration options, we turn to the experts at Western Colloid to answer your questions on roof restoration. Greg Hlavaty, Hal Leland and the team at Western Colloid have been manufacturing and installing these systems for more than 50 years, and they have seen it all. We will tackle a different topic each month and answer questions submitted by you, our listeners.

Hi everyone, this is Karen Edwards, and welcome to another episode of Understanding Roof Restoration. Today, we're going to be talking all about roof maintenance, and I am excited to welcome back Greg Hlavaty and Hal Leland from Western Colloid. Welcome.

Greg Hlavaty: Welcome, how are you?

Hal Leland: Hi, good to see you.

Greg Hlavaty: Now, you actually say Hlavaty better than anybody in my 70 years, unless I'm home in El Campo, Texas.

Hal Leland: It's still not perfect, but it's the best that we've heard.

Greg Hlavaty: You actually-

Karen Edwards: Thank you.

Greg Hlavaty: Because we always say the H is silent, but you actually, it's not truly when you say it, if a Czech person says it. That H is just there in the beginning and you actually put that in there.

Karen Edwards: Well, I tell you, I was born with and grew up with a Polish name ending in S-K-I, so I always try to pronounce names as best I can, so thank you for that compliment. So this is our episode 12 of Understanding Roof Restoration, and as I mentioned, we're going to talk all about roof maintenance. And I'd like to start off just by talking a little bit, maybe Greg or Hal, how do we define roof maintenance, what does it consist of?

Greg Hlavaty: Well, first I'm going to say that this is maybe the most important, or to a building owner podcast that we've done because following just some of these, the basic guidelines for roof maintenance may either, I'm not going to say it'll eliminate, but it'll indefinitely prolong all the previous podcasts we've done. Fixing my foam roof, fixing my metal roof, BUR, how do I... All those things can be either, not fully avoided because eventually everything wears out at some point, but you can dramatically extend the life of a roof with some good roof maintenance.

And it's well known, this doesn't come from the roofing side. You can go to BOMA, a building group or IREM, all those that have different kinds of seminars, and they'll tell you the worst problem with maintaining a building is the roof because nobody wants to get on the roof. You don't see it. You see the walls, you see the windows. They're fixing the landscaping. They're power washing the walls, they're painting the walls. They're doing everything to make that building look decent, but nobody wants to get up onto that roof, and that's probably the most important weather barrier that they have on the building. So first of all is don't be afraid to either get up on the roof yourself if you're capable of, there is some ladder climbing in that and take a look for yourself.

Or better yet, hire somebody, and it's probably your good roofing contractor to go up there and do the maintenance. But the maintenance consists of very simple things, which is just getting the leaf and debris out of the drain sumps, because if a drain plugs up and it doesn't drain fast, then the water sits on the roof. Instead of hours, it sits on there for days, sometimes weeks. That's probably the worst of all things. But then you have trades that go up there and work on your roof. HVAC people, painters, electriciansm, and they leave. They don't care about the roof either, they leave it as they found it.

Karen Edwards: Or they drop a tool, right?

Greg Hlavaty: Right. So roof maintenance, first of all is just observing your roof. How does this, I get up there, and oh my gosh, there's debris everywhere. The drains are plugged. Those are simple things that a building owner can have a maintenance person take care of. Some of it's a little bit more elaborate. Go ahead, Hal.

Hal Leland: It's out of sight, out of mind, right? You just never look at the roof. And our whole thing is annual roof maintenance, whether you put one of our assemblies on or not, when you have a roof, it's just like any part of your building. It's your carpeting, you need to clean it, right? The rooftop, you don't see it, you don't look at it. It's got gutters, it's got leaves in the gutters. It's backing up water, it's out of sight, out of mind. And like I said, again, every year you need to be up on that roof, just taking a look at it. You do that, you can double the lifespan of your roof alone.

Karen Edwards: It reminds me of the refrigerator in the kitchen, especially if you're not tall enough to see on top of it. You may climb up on a step stool to open those cabinets above the fridge and you realize, "Oh my gosh, look at the dust and dirt on top of my fridge. I need to clean this." Same thing with the roof, right? You just have to make sure you do that a couple times a year even.

Greg Hlavaty: Right.

Hal Leland: Yeah. I'm 6 foot 6, so I see the top of my refrigerator, you're right, it can be disgusting. Sometimes you can't get your arm all the way back in there either, so.

Karen Edwards: And that's in your house.

Hal Leland: Right.

Karen Edwards: So imagine what a roof is going to look like being exposed to the elements with all that, the leaves and debris.

Hal Leland: Oh, it can be horrible, right?

Karen Edwards: Yeah.

Hal Leland: And so like Greg said, they're maintaining. You're painting the outside, you're trimming the trees around it, but no one cares where those leaves are going, right? They're going up on that roof deck, especially if you have a parapet wall on it, you can never see what's up there.

Greg Hlavaty: And as your building ages, especially commercial buildings, but residential too, but especially commercial, the other thing that happens is your landscaping matures, and what used to be small trees that were maybe two or three feet from the top of the building that you placed around to make your landscaping around the facility or maybe the owner of the property all around has trees. Well, those get bigger and bigger every year, and as they get bigger, they get taller. As they get taller when the wind blows or their branches overhang the roof, what might not have been a problem the first five years, the second five years are shedding leaves and branches and squirrel nests. I mean, we have some amazing pictures of palm trees growing out of drain sumps. I mean, two or three foot tall palm trees growing out of drain sumps. Ivy growing up and down the parapet walls on the inside. Just amazing-

Hal Leland: It takes about two years for a palm tree, a Mexican fan palm in California to grow three feet tall. So in two years, you can have a three-foot tree on top of your roof. It's not in your [inaudible 00:07:53]. Right out of a drain. And the roots are, that's a grass family so the roots are incredible, so it's stopping all water from exiting the roof.

Greg Hlavaty: So that's the main thing is don't be afraid to either get up or have somebody get up on your roof. It's not going to be free if you don't do it yourself, but the money you spend will do two things. It'll prolong the life of that roof, and if you have a warranty on that roof, Western Colloid, like many if not most building roofing manufacturers require some maintenance to a roof to keep that. You can't just put a roof on, say, "I'm not going to touch it for 20 years," and if you have a 20-year warranty and expect it to perform.

Just like with your car. You don't get to go buy a car, get the warranty, don't change the oil, don't do anything else, and then you have a problem with it after three years, you pull it in and they say, "Well, you haven't done any maintenance on this. This warranty is not in effect." You have some liability and responsibility on your side, and whether you have a warranty or not, look at it as your own warranty. You can get up there, you can catch things when they're early. Sometimes it's one gallon out of a little three gallon bucket to fix something, a deficiency that's showing itself a small split in that area.

Hal Leland: Hopefully they're not using silicone to do that patch with, we've spoken about before. But on another note, I mean, every commercial building has a maintenance guy that they've hired on staff, almost everyone or a guy that flows between these buildings and that should be one of this guy's, his key hits every year is go and look at that roof. So that's just another note for a building owner.

Greg Hlavaty: You can do it anytime of year, but I always recommend if you're going to do it once a year, do it in the fall before the winter sets in, so then you catch, it's gone through the dry season, all the leaves are from the previous year there. You can get up there and get it in good shape. I've just spent the last two weekends going around my property here making sure, we got a winter coming. I'm looking at all the things that once it starts raining and the wind blows and it gets wet, it's hard to do. So do it late summer or fall and get prepared for the winter so that you can just not be woke up in the middle of the night by a tenant or your own people saying, "Hey, it's coming in around the fax machine," or the computer or whatever.

That's the biggest thing is what the downtime that it might put to your building operations. And there are simple things. Some owners can do it themselves. Like I say, it's always good to have a roofing contractor do it because they know what to look for. There are signs of that they can get up there. And again, it's not going to be free, but it is going to be cheap compared to the alternative. There are so many things like the pipes that direct water from air conditioning units. So many air conditioning units dump onto the roof. Well, that's like raining every day. You think, oh, it's dry this summer, we didn't have any problems, but you had an air conditioning unit working. You don't have a drain pipe running to the drain. So every day that water that it accumulates from the process of condensing the air. Spills onto the roof, and that's like rain and it'll wear it out. It'll fill ponding areas.

They should all have a PVC pipe or some sort of pipe to direct it to the drain, and so many of those that had them when they were new, but an AC guy or somebody else up there doing something, kicked it and broke the pipe so it spills on the roof, that's one of the easiest things to find. And one of the worst offenders to roofs is directing water from HVAC units to drain areas, that's a big problem. That is really bad in the summer because what happens in the summer, you get direct, a lot of UV light, a lot of heat in the summer, but wet at night from the AC or during the day and so that bakes off. And when you wet it down, bake it off, wet it down, bake it off, that's really tough cycling of that roof membrane. You're accelerating the weathering of it by two or three times.

Karen Edwards: Wow. Something that simple as a PVC pipe to direct the water, as long as your drains are clear. Now, do most contractors offer maintenance package? I know in my home, my HVA system, I have a contract with a contractor who comes out in the fall and the spring and does an air conditioning check and a heat check. Do contractors do that for roofs?

Greg Hlavaty: Absolutely. And we recommend it even when they've put on one of our systems, talk to the building owner. Maybe the first couple of years, it's going to be in good shape, but start a program where... And usually you'll get it a little more reasonable, because they'll charge, instead of a one time, oh, I got to do a lot of stuff. I'll be up there every year, I'm going to spend two hours on your roof with one or two men. Here's what it's going to cost you, and every year, I'll give you a little report. And anything we catch, we'll take care of in that two hours. If there's something more major, something, an air conditioning has been installed or something's been removed and it takes more work, then there might be some additional charges. But absolutely a yearly maintenance package is ideal way to go for cost.

Hal Leland: Every one of our contractors has a maintenance division, and these guys, if they're not working full-time on a crew and they've got some other responsibilities, they're always providing maintenance for their home, for their owners. So that's a big-

Greg Hlavaty: Yeah, and oftentimes you'll find an additional benefit because if you do have a problem or a leak that is unseen and it comes up and you're one of the people that this contractor has a maintenance contract with, you're going to be one of the first he gets out to. He might have a stack of 25 calls he's got to make, and it might take him three or four or five days depending on how long it's been raining to get all those calls done. But if you're one of the people that has a maintenance contract, you're going to be on the top of that list.

Hal Leland: You're in the database, right. Mr. Jones? Yep, we'll be right out there.

Greg Hlavaty: Right.

Karen Edwards: That's a huge benefit. And I wonder too, I would think, but I don't know this and maybe you don't as well, but would my insurance company see it more favorably to know that I have regular roof maintenance contract in place and that I'm taking care of that?

Greg Hlavaty: You'd have to go company by company policy. There are different things that you can get insurance breaks on, fire rated roofs and non-fire rated roofs, different things that you can provide. So I can't answer that for all of them, but there may be some. It's worth the question, and Hal brought up something that he just touched on, but I don't want to touch on it, I want to hammer on it. And that is, oftentimes a building owner will get that friendly guy that's been coming around saying, "Hey, I'd like to do work on your roof." And finally he decides, "Okay, get up there. You can do some roof maintenance." And many times, that roof maintenance for some of the smaller contractors is going over to the roofing distributor, picking up a five gallon bucket of silicone coating and going up and rolling it on in the low spots and around the drains. I'm pleading, begging, building owners do not allow your little contractors to go up and make repairs on your roof with silicone unless you intend on putting a completely coated silicone coated roof system on there.

Because what you do is, it sounds like a good idea because a silicone, as we've talked about in the past, is an amazing product and it weathers beautifully and it has all kinds of wonderful, it can withstand ponding water in its own. It doesn't always help the roof withstand ponding water, but the coating itself does. But what it does do is it makes, when it comes time to either re-roof or coat that roof or put a maintenance system on, if there's silicone spots all over it, you can't because nothing will stick to it. So all of a sudden, you could increase the cost of your re-roof or your roof maintenance system like we would provide, or many other roof coating companies like ourselves that is economical. It'll put you out of that market because people can't stick to it. Oh, we put silicone on it now, we can't put a maintenance system on.

Nothing will stick to it. So you're going to have to tear that roof off now if you have problems, or you're going to have to put a board overlay over it to separate it for the new roof doubling or tripling the cost of what you thought it was going to take. So please be careful. So many of these guys run around, and that seems like a good idea. Using this product that has great weathering ability but is not the right product for doing maintenance. Do it with a good, use a good modified mastic. We use acrylic mastic and reinforcements. Reinforced acrylic coating, a reinforced urethane coating, some of those, you can do all those things to do the maintenance, but once you put silicone, you can never go back. And so that means you've just condemned that roof to either not being able to put a maintenance overlay on it, or a tear off.

Karen Edwards: So we're not saying all silicone is bad. We've got systems that work great. We're just saying don't use it for maintenance and repair.

Greg Hlavaty: Yeah.

Karen Edwards: Okay.

Greg Hlavaty: Because it'll eliminate about two thirds of the products you can then put on when it comes time to spend a little money and put a 10 or 20 year overlay system on that.

Karen Edwards: Okay. Well, at this point, we're going to take a quick break so we can hear a message from our sponsor, and then we'll be right back to finish this conversation talking about roof maintenance, so stay tuned.

Ad: This podcast is brought to you by AskARoofer and Western Colloid Fluid Applied Roofing. When you're looking for answers for your roof, what better place than askaroofer.com? If you are looking for answers on restoring your commercial, industrial or low slope roof, look no further than Western Colloid. For over 50 years, they have been bringing old roofs new life. Together, we're helping contractors, building owners, property managers, architects, engineers and consultants choose the best commercial roofing system. Find Western Colloid today on askaroofer.com.

Karen Edwards: All right. Hi, everybody, we are back to continue our conversation about roof maintenance, the importance of it and why it matters. My next question is, how do you find a contractor and start that relationship? The Yellow Pages of the past, you look, see who's got the biggest ad and maybe they've got more money or bigger, better contractor, but what are your tips on choosing the right partner for your roof?

Greg Hlavaty: Well, a lot of it is, there's a little bit of due diligence in it. You can call a few of them and see if they have any references. References are, I think they're critical in finding a contractor. So many building owners use the who's the cheapest method of, even if they're doing a new roof, a re-roof, a maintenance, whatever they'll call, one contractor will come out and give them a proposal, and the next thing you know, they're calling four other guys, "I want you all to come out." And then they look at the cheapest one. And I often say, "Well, you know what? Take the cheapest one and when you get the cheapest one, call me because I'll find you somebody who'll do it cheaper." There's always somebody that'll do it, and if that's your goal, then that's all you're going to get is a cheaper system.

So you might want to talk to a couple of them, but sometimes it only takes one. You get either a good feeling or you get some good references. "Hey, who do you do work for?" Or, "Is there somebody around that you could refer me to, so I know I'm getting a good deal?" I think networking is often the best way to go as opposed to just finding the guy that's the cheapest. There are a lot of guys running around in pickups and there's many unlicensed contractors. That's another thing. And many of those guys are good qualified guys. They just haven't gone through the process because there's more to becoming a licensed contractor, and that's something we haven't talked about much.

But being a licensed contractor is a big deal in that you not only have to do the right kind of work, you also have to have the business sense because everybody up there putting that roof on tomorrow could go around with their truck and do some sort of roofing work for somebody. But doing the whole package, having the insurance, having the equipment needed, having the business backup to run a business that's profitable. If they're not running a profitable business, they're not around to come back and fix what they did before. So you want somebody that's been around, just because they're new doesn't necessarily mean they're not good because there's always new contractors starting up. But there's many ways to look at how to get a contract.

Hal Leland: Myself, I get a dozen calls a year from people who have reference or search to our building maintenance groups like BOMA and IREM, and the good reputable contractors and manufacturers are listed on their website as members, and that's another resource that we get these larger commercial properties that really, that's their due diligence. If you're a homeowner, like Greg said, it's word of mouth and someone that you know, and do you know someone in the construction industry, but these larger groups go with the larger groups like we belong to.

Greg Hlavaty: Right, that's a great point because contractors that have been around a while, they support the building management, different groups and societies like BOMA, IRAM, facilities maintenance, IFMA, and if they're in there, you're not the guy that just started yesterday, went out, bought a pickup and all of a sudden is on their radar. You've been involved with those people. You've got to perform, or you're going to get a black eye in those groups so that's a great resource. Even if you're not a member to one of those resources, they have their guides online that you can find a lot of those things. So somebody that's responsible, they may not be the absolute cheapest because they have overhead and what have you. That's the other thing. One person, a company, and all he has is a truck and a little bit of equipment has very little overhead.

So he can be pretty darn cheap, maybe quality, but maybe not. And so you know somebody that's paying their bills has the overhead is doing it, they're doing something right, and they can always, if we're involved, you can come to us because we have guys in different regions that we would refer you to because we know the guys that do the quality work, not only the systems, but then do the maintenance to those systems too. So do a little bit of homework. It might only take a couple calls, but that's a really important factor because the original founder of our company back in the late '60s, early '70s, one of his first flyers that he used to mail out was protecting your most valuable asset.

Most of us, the biggest chunk of money we have in anything that we invest is that building. Not our cars, not our refrigerators, not even often our homes a lot of times, it's our commercial buildings in that. And so that roof is protecting that, your valuable asset and the interior of that asset. So take a little bit of time, but reach out to a, and if it's not us, reach out to another manufacturer. If you're going to be on the list of a quality manufacturer that puts out good roofing systems, they're not going to lead you to somebody that just popped up yesterday. They're going to give you somebody that does work with them so they can give you references.

Karen Edwards: It's a good point for any contractors that may be listening, right? Is to build those relationships with your manufacturers, with your suppliers and join those organizations and get involved and build those networks.

Greg Hlavaty: Absolutely.

Karen Edwards: Agree, 100%. Also, you want to, I think it's very important to make sure they're insured. There's a lot of risk that goes into getting onto a roof. And as the owner of that building, you want to make sure that anybody that's going on that roof is practicing safety, the correct safety measures and they're carrying the right protection and insurance.

Greg Hlavaty: Exactly. You want to question, do you have a safety program? Do you have... Because if they don't have the right insurance, if that guy falls, it's your responsibility as a building owner, it's going to come down to your liability. So you want to be sure that that is done and that they have all the things they need to go up that roof. Because roofing is one of the more hazardous.

Karen Edwards: Occupations, yes.

Greg Hlavaty: Occupations, right, exactly.

Hal Leland: Only if you fall off.

Karen Edwards: Well, true. True, and we don't want that to happen.

Greg Hlavaty: The other thing is when you get somebody that go up there, if they're going to give you a report, a maintenance report today, it is so easy with our phones and cameras to, they'll give you pictures. Ask them for a photo report. Show me what you found, because you don't always want to go up on the roof. Matter of fact, you may absolutely not want to go up on a roof. There's many times when we go do a roof inspection, the building owner doesn't feel comfortable going up a 20 or 25 foot ladder. And that's fine, but they would like to know what's going on up there. So you can do a quick photo, give them a photo report when you come down, either after you do the maintenance or with a proposal for the maintenance. Here's what I found, you've got leaves here, you've got this here. You've got these broken pipes. I'm going to do this, this, and this, and this, it's going to take me this many hours. Here's what it's going to cost you, and here's the proof. Here's the photos of your roof.

Hal Leland: Our big guys do the before and after, and it's in a file, right?

Karen Edwards: Yeah. I was just going to say the after is so important too, especially because say you do have severe weather come through and you maybe have some damage, and then you might need to file a claim. And sometimes insurance companies will say, "Well, that wasn't there because that's from lack of maintenance." And then you can produce a report and say, "Here's my before and here's my after picture, and here's the date that this was done," so it gives you a little bit of leverage in those situations.

Greg Hlavaty: That's a great point. That's a great point. Because we all know that we all have to live with them, but sometimes we have to fight with them, and that's insurance companies. So having that proof and backup is a great asset to have and keep in your files.

Karen Edwards: Definitely, wow.

Greg Hlavaty: Just real quickly, it's really funny because some of the biggest companies and even the smallest companies, but the ones we've had the longest relationships with and use the systems, we hardly ever get warranty calls on it. And that's because they do the roof maintenance, and those roofs just sail through their years of lifespan with little or no problems. And if there is problems, that's the other thing that I should have said before, we have a maintenance engineer. He's actually a trained civil engineer that went to work for a very large, you'd know the company if I said it, but has multiple buildings on the West Coast. Over a period of almost 20 years, he kept records of every time somebody went on the roof, you went on the roof if you were an air conditioning guy and paint, you had to sign in and sign out.

But the most thing he did is he kept records of roof leaks, and what they were caused from. Every time there's a roof leak, was it a window on a wall? Was it an interior leak at least? And surprisingly enough, less than 50% of all the roof leaks over those 20 years were from the roof membrane. They were from flashings, they were from walls, they were from air conditioning ducts. They were from pipe that were put in and not properly flashed. So not as many as you think actually come from the roof membrane. But all those things are very technical and they have to be looked at, and they have to be looked at by somebody who knows what they're looking at.

Karen Edwards: For sure, wow. This was a really great conversation today on the importance of roof maintenance. We hope that you learned something and take that information and implement it in your everyday practices and processes for your roofs and your buildings. Greg and Hal, I want to say thank you so much for all these episodes we've worked on. We are going to be taking a little bit of a hiatus, but we've got so many episodes in our backlog. As you mentioned at the beginning, Greg, we've talked about restoring metal, restoring single ply, built up, all kinds of, reflectivity. Any topic that you possibly have any questions about, take a listen because you're going to get your answers there. And as always, you can listen to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform, on westerncolloid.com or askaroofer.com. So thanks for joining us today, and we'll see you next time. Bye, guys.

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