Replacing Hail-Damaged Roofs

In just the six years since its founding, Aspen Contracting, a roofing company based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, has grown into the fourth largest US roofer, according to Roofing Contractor magazine’s 2012 list of the Top 100 Roofing Contractors, which is measured by total revenue. That’s an accomplishment company president Patrick Nussbeck attributes to the customer-focused ideals of the firm’s 350 employees, who view Aspen not as a roofing company but as a service company that just happens to do roofs. Here, Nussbeck breaks down the firm’s repair of three 400-square-foot, hail-damaged roofs in an office park in Olathe, Kansas—an example of Aspen’s service approach in action.

Atop this hail-damaged roof, Aspen Contracting installed reflective white thermoplastic polyolefin for greater energy efficiency.

1. Get the call

On April 3, 2011, a hailstorm hit an Olathe office park, damaging the metal roofs of three 85-foot-long buildings owned and operated by Mather Companies. Mather asked Aspen Contracting to assess the damage because insurance companies usually don’t cover just cosmetic problems. “They want to see that the water shedding capability of the roof has been compromised, such as with a leak,” Nussbeck says.

2. Assess the damage visually

Upon visiting the property, Aspen looked for indications that hail had indeed hit the roofs. “A small dent in a metal roof doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to leak,” Nussbeck says. “But if hail takes off the roof’s finish, the roof will eventually rust, so we’re looking for that. We’re also looking to see if hail hit where two roof panels meet because that causes the integrity of the panels to be compromised.”

3. Do a water test

At first sight, the roofs looked like they were in good shape, so Aspen did a water test, using a hose to pour water over different roof sections, one at a time, to determine where the leaks were occurring. “There was damage to the locking mechanisms, which hold the metal roof panels together, and water was getting trapped between the panels, leading to leaks inside the buildings,” Nussbeck says.

4. Temporarily protect the building

Aspen usually works with insurance companies, but getting an insurance adjuster on-site can take time—usually a week for residential properties but four or five for commercial buildings. “A property owner, per its policy, is supposed to minimize any water intrusion as soon as it can while it waits for the adjuster to visit,” Nussbeck says. “We use tarps or other materials as a Band-Aid until the insurance company can get its adjuster out to the property and before we are able to start work.”

5. Work with the claims adjuster

When the insurance adjuster finally visited the site to investigate the office park’s damage, much of the earlier process was repeated. “We had to do another water test when the adjuster was there to prove how the hail had led to the leaks,” Nussbeck says.

Next, Aspen worked with the adjuster to determine whether the roof needed to be repaired or replaced. Aspen’s estimating software—which is the same software used by insurance companies—and aerial photographs helped calculate the cost. “In this case, we agreed it was more cost-effective to replace the roof than repair it,” Nussbeck says.

The roof’s metal substrate allowed the firm to work without disrupting tenants.
The roof’s metal substrate allowed the firm to work without disrupting tenants.

6. Plan around the client’s needs

Business was still happening inside the buildings being repaired, so Aspen had to take care to minimize the impact of its work on tenants and visitors. Fortunately, the roof’s substrate was metal [right], creating a barrier between the exterior and interior, so Aspen was able to perform the work without opening the roof (and thus forcing occupants to relocate).

Aspen Contracting raised materials to the roof from the back of the building.
Aspen Contracting raised materials to the roof from the back of the building and marked off work areas with cones and caution tape.

7. Repair the damage

The company worked in sections, at times of the day that did not inconvenience tenants. It also took many steps to minimize the visibility of the work being done. “We had to bring in cranes and forklifts and big dump trucks to hoist up the new roofing material and get rid of debris, but we used the back of the building when possible and always marked off areas where we were working with caution cones and tape [seen left],” Nussbeck says. In total, the project took three weeks to complete.

reflective white thermoplastic polyolefin roof—added 10–20 percent to the cost of the project at the property owner’s expense, but over time Mather is likely to earn back twice that amount because of the long-term energy savings.
The white thermoplastic polyolefin roof added 10–20 percent to the cost of the project at the property owner’s expense, but over time the client is likely to earn back twice that amount because of long-term energy savings.

8. Send the bill

Mather’s out-of-pocket expenses were no more than its insurance deductible—for the basic work. In this case, however, Mather wanted to upgrade its facilities to increase energy efficiency. Aspen’s improvements—which included insulation and a reflective white thermoplastic polyolefin roof [right]—added 10–20 percent to the cost of the project at the property owner’s expense, but over time Mather is likely to earn back twice that amount because of the long-term energy savings. “[Efficiencies] are always items we are looking to do when we do a roof,” Nussbeck says. “We try to go as green as we can.” ABQ