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So what else can be done? If you have a roof that is more than 25 percent wet and you do not have the money to replace it, what are your options? The answer depends on how the local building code department interprets roof coatings. If they see them as a roofing system, all of the same considerations and restrictions apply as if you were to re-cover with a membrane system. However, if they do not consider roof coatings to be a roof, you may be able to apply a waterproofing coating to the existing roof, thereby buying yourself some time. Please be aware, however, that if you choose this option, you probably will not be able to get a manufacturer's warranty. That's because no manufacturer will warrant a roof over a wet substrate. However, this should not be a great issue because the coating is only intended to be a short-term solution for a deteriorated roof anyway — just enough to keep the building dry until you can properly reroof it.
The best course of action is to avoid zombies altogether. There is no voodoo involved, just some planning and common sense. Before your roof dies, take some precautions in the form of a roof survey and annual maintenance. A good roof consultant can not only tell you what state your roof is in, he or she can also tell you about how much longer it is going to remain serviceable, and that is what helps you to ward off zombies.
If you have advance warning that your roof is about to die, you can plan ahead and start budgeting for it. If you know that five years down the road you will have to spend money on a roof, you can start preparing the financial decision-makers for the worst.
But, in addition to planning for the new roof, there are steps you can take to keep the one you have. After you have the roof survey done and received recommendations for repairs — do the repairs. Not just the reactive ones, but also do the ones that are proactive — the maintenance items that will keep your roof serviceable for a long time. Without maintenance the average roof lasts about half of its design life. If you can double the life of your roof by doing a few repairs and a bit of maintenance, why would you not?
Avoiding a zombie roof is as simple as that — perform inspections and maintenance and your brains will stay intact.
Karen Warseck, AIA, LEED AP, is president of Building Diagnostics Associates, a Hollywood, Fla., architecture firm. She is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management.
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