Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Roof Repairs Can Be A Surprise Expense To a Laundromat Owner

Jena Jo needs to pay better attention
My friend Jena Jo loves to travel.  During a recent meeting in a Starbucks, she told me about her trip to Africa. She brought along a truly scary picture and an equally scary story.  She was on tourist tour in a river boat and was not paying particular attention to the guide.
She missed the part about how soon they were going to dangle a chicken on a string and a crocodile would come out of the water and snatch the chicken carcass off the pole.  She should have paid attention to the length of the pole and how close to the edge of the boat the chicken was going to lure the creature in.

Having seen a number of the alligator shows in Florida, Jena Jo was unprepared for the sudden appearance of a super huge crocodile just inches from her face.  She thought she was an experienced outdoors woman, skilled world traveler and had been on many adventures.  This experience scared her to her bones.  She had even thought of leaning down a few moments earlier to dangle her hand in the cool river water.

It made me think of how many buyers of Laundromats think they know about how to buy a business and then all of a sudden out of the depths of realty comes a really scary moment.  The one that comes to my mind at this moment for me is the failure of most buyers to inspect the roofs of their Laundromats before a purchase.

The roof inspection should be done as a part of your due diligence.   A visual inspection by a walk on the roof by the buyer is the norm.  Detailed inspections are done after an offer is made and your approval of the roof condition is included as a contingency of your purchase. 

Staining of ceiling tiles is not uncommon.  There are usually no AC units on Laundromts.  Swamp coolers are used in Laundromats in southern California.  The water used in the swamp cooler process can drip over time onto the tiles surrounding the interior vents. Look for interior stains and shrinkage of the sealant around the swamp coolers.

Interior roof stains can be removed by using a 50%-50% mixture of liquid bleach and water.  Spray lightly on these stains and they disappear. Sometimes a second or third treatment is needed.  Wear old clothes, and a mask so you don't breathe in the bleach.  If the stain is too deep, the ceiling tiles will have to replaced.

The swamp cooler unit should be inspected every year to insure that it is functioning properly and is clean.  The water portion of the cooler is similar to a toilet, with a float.  The remaining portion of the cooler is composed of a box, screens and a motor driven fan.  If the units are made out of metal they can eventually rust out (the water is held in a pan and pumped to the screens) but it is unlikely that they are rusted and as I remember we used fiberglass units.

All Laundromats have roof leaks because of the high number of roof penetrations and the high summer temperature in southern California.  The sealing around the vents (caused in part by the motion caused by the force of dryer air) can shrink and cause cracks that allow in water.  During your yearly roof, swamp cooler and vent inspection, I suggest you take a putty knife and some Henry's sealant with you to smear around any cracks that are developing.  This should be done prior to the rainy season.

Avoid the surprise of a huge repair bill by inspecting your roof prior to purchase and keep up the inspections on a yearly basis.  This is one monster you can avoid if you are paying attention.  Are you paying attention?

                                     -The Latina Laundromat Advisor