City, Roofer Spar Over Water Leaks


When it comes to the condition of roofs installed on two community centers in Charleston, WV, an Ohio-based contractor has said the city’s allegations in its lawsuits are literally for the birds.

The West Virginia city, by and through its attorney, filed a civil suit in late November against Marietta, OH-based Ohio Valley Spray Foam Inc. According to the complaint filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, the city said two roofs the company installed in the mid-2000s should have had 15-year warranties per the city’s contract with the roofer.

But the roofing company said that damage caused on the roofs during the past decade has been caused by “bird pecking, storm damage, softballs and improper maintenance and plug drains,” according to an answer filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the defendant asked that the case be moved from the West Virginia Circuit Court where it was filed to the federal court.

Poor Installation, Or Nature?

In the complaint—filed by Charleston City Attorney Paul Ellis on behalf of the city—the city alleges that roofs installed on the North Charleston and Martin Luther King Jr. community centers began leaking well before the roofing company’s 15-year warranty should have expired. The roof on one was installed in 2006; the other, in 2007.

That should have meant that the company would replace leaking roofs until 2021 and 2022, respectively, the city said.

Instead, the roofing company—which installed a polyurethane foam-applied roofing system on the recreation centers, according to the complaint—said it is not to blame for the city’s lack of maintenance and acts of nature.

In the answer filed in federal court, the company also alleges that the city filed its complaint beyond the statute of limitations for which it otherwise would have been entitled to seek damages, which were unspecified in the original Circuit Court complaint.

Those answers do not sit well with Charleston’s parks and recreation director who told Charleston’s daily newspaper that many rooms in the community centers are no longer usable because of rainwater leaking through the roofs.

“They’re good at trying to get it cleaned up as it happens,” John Charnock said of the community center’s employees. “We try to catch it in buckets if we can.”

In the complaint, the city said the leaks began in 2011. The reason, the attorney wrote, is that the SPF roof system was improperly applied. For example, he said, the thickness of the spray foam and the urethane coating was insufficient for the application. That left pinholes and blowholes in the surface prior to the company applying the urethane coating.

The complaint also alleges that the SPF was applied on the roof surfaces with slopes less than ¼ inch per foot, and that the majority of the damage on both buildings is a result of this improper application by the company. The city also says the roofing company didn’t remove the existing layers of the roof before applying the SPF system.

This, Ellis said, is “a violation of industry standards.”

Widespread Water Damage

As a result, the city alleges that the North Charleston center has sustained damage to the building’s gymnasium; weight room; youth lounge; northwest hallway; cage room; fitness lab; men’s shower room; and women’s shower room.

At the King Community Center, water damage from the leaking roof has affected the gymnasium; King Center 1; King Center 2; the kitchen; the boxing room; the main hallway; the men’s locker room; the men’s restroom; the electric room; the recreation room; and the meeting room.

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The company said in its answer that it is not to blame because birds caused most of the damage and the city did not maintain the roofs properly.

The complaint alleges that the company has refused to replace the roofs or the damage to the centers, which the company does not deny in its answer. Charleston has said that the company breached its contracts with the city by promising the roofs wouldn’t leak, the daily newspaper said.

Suggested Resolutions, Litigation

In the original complaint, the city says the company suggested placing decoy owls to scare away birds that were causing damage. But the city said that while some damage on the North Charleston roof has been caused by birds, the King center shows no evidence of any animal damage.

Ellis told the daily newspaper that he had hoped the city and company could resolve the issues “before we have to spend a lot of time and effort in litigation.”

But that seems unlikely, as the leaks continue and the city and company have come to a stalemate. Both have asked in separate pleadings that the case be heard during a jury trial.

Charnock told the daily newspaper that something needs to be done to fix the roofs in the meantime.

“All it’s done has gotten worse,” he said of the leaks.


Tagged categories: Ethics; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Roof coatings; Roofing contractors; SPF defect; Spray polyurethane foam; water damage; water leakage

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