Replacing the roof of a self-storage facility can be a costly project, so how do you know when it is the right time to get it done?
Signs that your facility needs a new roof are “multiple leaks, repeat leaks, and leaks that roofers can’t seem to fix,” said Charlie Fish, project manager and sales manager at Broken Arrow Roofing, a company that does roof projects throughout the western U.S.
Typically, self-storage business owners patch roofs when isolated leaks are discovered. However, when the patches begin to fail and new leaks start turning up with regularity, a new roof may be required. If leaks go unrepaired, there may be widespread damage to the property of tenants.
Protect your reputation
While tenants typically assume responsibility for losses due to water damage, if news of water damage at your facility becomes widely known, your business can suffer, Fish stressed.
“The long-term effect of bad reviews online can be catastrophic compared to what a new roof would cost you,” he said. “How much is your reputation in the storage industry worth?”
Natolie Ochi, vice president of SKS Management, which runs storage facilities in California and Hawaii, said roofing problems need to be addressed right away. If you know about leaks and do nothing, you could end up getting sued for liability due to negligence, she added.
When you learn about leaks, call an experienced, qualified roofer immediately to determine how extensive the problem may be. It may be necessary to open rental units to determine the extent of the damage, she said.
Dealing with emergencies
If there is an emergency, you may need to cut the locks to individual units to gain access and replace them later, Ochi said.
Most isolated roof leaks can be repaired for between $500 and $2,000, said Fish. In contrast, a new roof can cost well over $100,000, depending on the size of your facility and the type of roof you have. No matter what the cost is, you should resist the temptation to save money by hiring a cut-rate roofer, he stressed.
“Make sure you don’t call Joe Blow down the street who has a ladder on the back of his pickup truck,” Fish said. “A lot of roofers will do more damage than good.”
Never pick a roofing company at random out of the telephone directory, said Diane Gibson, owner of Cox Armored Mini Storage Management, which runs facilities in the Phoenix area. It’s better to get recommendations from other self-storage facility owners.
“I always go to the Arizona Self Storage Association website first, to see if they have contacts,” Gibson said. “If not, I go to my peers and find out if they have good people who work with them.”
Choosing your roof
Many facilities today have roofs consisting of metal panels. Standing seam panel roofs are connected with clips, as opposed to some metal roofs that are fastened down with screws. Fastened roofs can deteriorate after 10 or 15 years, leaving screw holes that have the potential to leak, Fish said.
Some leaky roofs can be resealed with acrylic or urethane. This often costs between 50 cents to $1 per square foot and the warranties typically last 5 to 10 years, Fish explained.
Roof coatings are sprayed or rolled onto roofs to prevent leaks, said Mark Skeans, the former president of the Texas Self Storage Association. “It’s kind of like a Playtex glove.”
Typically new roof construction costs from $4 to $5 per square foot, Fish said. A warranty generally will last between 15 and 20 years, he added.
Caesar Wright, president of Mako Steel construction company, said standing seam panel roofs that are assembled properly should last for 20 to 30 years.
Some self-storage facility owners finance the cost of roof replacement when they purchase their business. That way they are able to fold the expense into a real estate loan and repay it over time.
Practicing good maintenance
As a self-storage facility owner or manger, part of your job is keep an eye on your roofs, Ochi said.
Just as you check on the condition of security cameras, storage unit doors, and asphalt driveways, you need to inspect roofs routinely for damage. Check the metal flashing around vents, exhaust pipes and chimneys for leaks. If you ignore minor damage, you may end up with larger problems later.
(Top photo courtesy Mako Steel.)