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Roofs/asphalt. Repair? Replace?

A building’s roof and its asphalt parking lot are two of the most common significant cost components for repair or replacement that an owner or landlord can confront.  So the question becomes, does one spend significant amounts of money for replacement, or simply make the repairs that are needed, knowing replacement is inevitable in time? It’s never an easy question to answer, and the decision can have major financial implications. The costs involved are significant. Roofs can cost up to $500,000 to replace but routine maintenance will be much less, and can extend the life of the roof significantly. A roof in disrepair can easily bring down the selling price of the building significantly.

Left unchecked, small asphalt damage can grow into large repairs and even lawsuits; for example if potholes in the asphalt cause damage or injury. Leaking roofs and/or HVAC systems and damaged mechanical structures can ruin or destroy ceilings, electrical wiring and carpets. The debate for the building owner and property manager then becomes one of spending large sums to repair or replace, or run the risk that additional serious issues may arise.


So what problems can you expect from a building’s roof? Roofs are often the most ignored and forgotten property component, given that they are out of sight and not often accessed. Issues usually arise from shoddy welding, seam voids, fasteners that are the wrong size or placed incorrectly, base flashing and membranes that are not adhered properly to the structure, contaminated roof substrate and the displacement of flashing are just some examples. Problems are also caused by weather, foot traffic and neglect. Debris and clogged drains can lead to water backing up and forming pools of water that can find its way deep into the structure. Further, vegetation can grow in water and roots can penetrate the roof membrane and cause leaking. Heavy snow and freezing water can lead to roof collapse.   Overall, poor quality and workmanship and poor selection of materials could lead to poor maintenance, and that could result in roof problems.

In fact, not properly maintaining a roof can even void any Roof Warranty the building might have. Routine annual inspections are critical in preventing damage and early repairs prevent expensive replacement down the line. Some roof manufacturers suggest scheduling at least two inspections a year and I would recommend a qualified roofing contractor should be called in at least once a year. Inspection should include roof-flashings, sheet metal and drainage components. Check HVAC condensation lines and that all equipment access panels are securely in place. An annual inspection should also involve clearing debris from gutters and downspouts, roof drain strainers and overflow outlets.


Asphalt brings a different spectrum of problems. Asphalt, a by-product of oil refining, is vulnerable to oxidation, solar radiation and chemicals spilled from vehicles and can deteriorate rapidly. Signs of distress include fading colour, oil spots, loose or missing aggregate, cracks, high spots and rutting. Asphalt always needs proper and regular maintenance that includes seal coating and crack sealing. The rate at which asphalt deteriorates is a function of vehicle traffic volume, quality of design and installation, weather and, of course, quality and timeliness of maintenance.

Decision Time

As an owner, you are the only person that can decide on your strategy.   Your approach may be dictated by a number of factors, including your available cash flow, how long you wish to own the building, or whether you are in an investment or maintenance mode with regard to the asset etc.  Either way, this decision will impact on the value of the building within your portfolio of assets, so think very carefully and weigh up your options.

Generally, from a property management perspective, we have seen that maintenance is a better alternative, especially since it involves spending smaller amounts of money more regularly; however we understand that it is ultimately the owner’s goals and objectives that drive that decision.  And the ultimate decision lies with the owner/landlord.  Carefully consider your options and be aware of the possible outcomes before you make this important decision – feel free to discuss this with your property manager who is in a position to provide further advice and an independent perspective.

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