Maximizing school resources and managing a shrinking budget — these are two important items affected when a building's roofing system doesn't perform properly. Rather than acting in haste, school and university administrators should do what every teacher tells a student prior to answering any question: think through the research and studies to find the best solution before acting. The same is true when trying to solve a roofing problem.

In planning their course of action, building engineers and school administrators need to consider five elements to help produce a positive outcome:

  • Proper diagnosis.
  • School advisers.
  • Selection of roofing systems.
  • Warranties.
  • Quality control.

Assess conditions

Before ordering that new roof or caulking everything in sight, administrators need to carry out a vital first step: assess the roof's condition and determine which corrective action is needed. Often, an untrained eye will choose a costly repair that is either overkill or just a stop-gap fix. Rather than jump into a repair, facility managers first should do the research.

Although a custodial team may be able to identify the signs (or symptoms) of a leak, a trained professional, such as a specialty engineer, not only can find the cause of the leak, but also identify deficiencies that could lead to future ones (see the sidebar, "Simple steps to extend the service life of existing roofs"). Assessing existing conditions enables education institutions to choose the proper method of fixing the problem, whether it is a repair or, in the worst case, total replacement.

Reviewing the facts can save thousands of dollars and get the job done right the first time. In many instances, the life of the roof can be extended by three to five years with minor repair and refurbishment.

Selecting partners

Do the research when selecting a partner. When people have the flu, they don't go to an accountant. Selecting a professional who is totally versed in repairing and replacing institutional roofing systems is essential. A design professional will be able to properly identify and specify appropriate performance criteria for the repairs or replacement.

The architecture/engineering firm a school hires should be familiar with the geographic location and specific building codes.

Many firms specialize in school construction for new and re-roofing projects. A firm that specializes in this work may cost more, but the additional cost is worthwhile if it leads to a properly specified and installed product without the extras and change orders that inexperienced contractors often submit.