Introduction: Avoiding Expensive Mistakes and Tenant Complaints
Our team gathered to share best practices learned from performing multifamily roofing projects over the years, and identified AC/HVAC equipment as a key challenge that requires planning to keep tenants happy and projects running smoothly. Here we share why these challenges exist and outline best practices for planning and protecting these critical systems.
Below, this article is split into two parts: the planning ahead around HVAC equipment, and protecting units during construction. First, though, the list of key considerations generated from the questions about why and how HVAC presents a challenge during overhead construction projects like roofing. Here are the things to keep in mind during planning and execution of the project
- Downtime Impact: AC and HVAC units are essential for tenant comfort, particularly during the hot summer months. Any downtime can significantly impact residents.
- Coordination with HVAC Professionals: Proper coordination with HVAC professionals is crucial to minimize downtime and ensure safe disconnection and reconnection.
- Delicate Equipment: AC units are delicate and sensitive to damage, making them vulnerable during roofing projects.
- Rooftop Units: Some complexes have rooftop AC units, adding complexity and requiring specific protection measures.
- Varied Roof Types: Multifamily properties may have different roof types (flat and sloped sections), further complicating the project.
- Access Limitations: AC units are often grouped together, limiting equipment access to entire sides of buildings.
- Flat Roof AC Challenges: Flat roofs introduce additional challenges, such as pitch pockets and the need to move units temporarily.
Part 1: Planning Needed for HVAC
Effective planning is crucial to address these challenges:
- Intentional Building Flow: Ensure efficient project flow, considering tenant access and safety. See our piece on Building and Site Map Flow for Multi-building Roofing Projects.
- Timing: Any time when working around HVAC equipment, start early in the morning and avoid starting these areas on Fridays to allow HVAC professionals ample time to address any issues without extended downtime.
- Seasonal Adjustment: Consider seasonal adjustments (e.g. waiting until Spring/Fall), especially for facilities with vulnerable populations like senior living or rehab centers.
- Tear-off Equipment & Access Needs: Plan for equipment and protection required during tear-off and access needs for roofing and HVAC maintenance.
- Tenant Communication: Communicate project details clearly to residents, including expected downtime and any necessary temporary relocations.
Part 2: How to Protect AC Units During Construction
Protecting AC units is essential to avoid damage. When evaluating a roofing (or other overhead services) contractor, ask detailed questions about plans for HVAC equipment protection. A reputable roofer who has experience with multifamily/multi-building complexes will have a plan, and likely have specialized systems to protect equipment.
- Avoid Direct Contact: Never place anything directly on top of AC units. Covering exhaust on these units will cause motor damage. One method is to use oversized sawhorse structures that allow a gap between plywood/OSB protection sheating and space for airflow.
- Avoid Tarps: Tarps should not be used as they can block airflow and potentially harm the units. Instead, consider using cargo netting, ideally suspended at angles, with holes small enough to protect against falling debris getting through
- Keep tear-off debris from falling in the first place. Telehandlers with trash buckets, or specialized lift trailers like Equipters, can reach the roof deck during tear-off and prevent material from falling in the first place. For any residential setting (or to protect landscaping), we believe this is an absolute must. See our article on Equipment Needed for Multifamily Projects
Work with Experienced Multifamily Professionals
Collaboration with experienced professionals is vital:
- HVAC Contractors: Always work with licensed HVAC professionals for any disconnections or maintenance related to AC units.
- Roofing Contractors: Choose a roofing contractor with experience in multifamily projects, not just single-family roofing.
AC and HVAC units require careful planning and protection during multifamily roofing projects. By considering tenant comfort, coordinating with HVAC professionals, using proper protection methods, and collaborating with experienced contractors, apartment building managers can ensure a smooth roofing project while safeguarding essential systems and maintaining tenant satisfaction. Remember that transparent communication with tenants is key to a successful project.
Ask plenty of questions to your prospective contractor to make sure priorities are aligned. If you are located in the lower Midwest, Rhoden Roofing is here to help. Our team is based out of Wichita, Kansas and has been serving the multifamily roofing market since 2008. We offer free routine inspections, and serve the Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas region.
This article is part of our Multifamily Roofing Comprehensive Planning Guide. Learn more about:
- Ensuring Smooth Projects
- Know Before You Start
- Common Challenge Areas
- Related Education