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Commercial Roof Replacement [Full Process Outline]

Written by

Leroy Whitt

Commercial roof replacement is a significant investment and a crucial aspect of property maintenance for any business owner or property manager. Over time, the wear and tear of weather, environmental factors, and aging can take a toll on commercial roofs, leading to:

  • Leaks
  • Structural damage
  • Decreased energy efficiency

In this guide, we’ll explore the unique aspects of commercial roofs, signs indicating the need for replacement, the pros and cons of various roofing materials, and the average costs associated with commercial roof replacement.

Understanding Commercial Roofing: What Makes it Unique

installing commercial metal roofing

Commercial roofs differ from residential roofs in several ways, primarily due to their size, complexity, and intended use. Here are some key factors that make commercial roofing unique:

  • Size and Scale: Commercial buildings often have larger roofs than residential properties, requiring specialized equipment and expertise for installation and maintenance.
  • Flat or Low-Slope Design: Unlike many residential roofs with steep slopes, commercial roofs are often flat or low-slope, presenting unique challenges in terms of drainage and water runoff.
  • Material Options: Commercial roofs utilize a variety of materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, to accommodate the specific needs of the building and its occupants.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Commercial roofing projects must adhere to local building codes, zoning regulations, and safety standards, adding complexity to the replacement process.
  • Occupant Considerations: Commercial buildings may house businesses, offices, or industrial operations, requiring minimal disruption during roof replacement to ensure continuity of operations.

Signs That You Need to Replace Your Commercial Roof

Knowing when to replace your commercial roof is essential for preventing costly damage and maintaining a safe and functional building. Here are some common signs that indicate it’s time for a roof replacement:

  • Leaks and Water Damage: Persistent leaks, water stains on ceilings or walls, and mold growth are clear indicators of roof damage that may require replacement.
  • Age of the Roof: Most commercial roofs have a lifespan of 20-30 years depending on the material and maintenance history. If your roof is approaching or surpassing this age range, it may be time to consider replacement.
  • Blisters or Bubbling: Blisters, bubbles, or uneven surfaces on the roof membrane are signs of trapped moisture and potential membrane failure, necessitating replacement.
  • Visible Wear and Tear: Cracks, splits, or punctures in the roofing material, as well as deteriorating seams or flashing, indicate structural degradation and the need for replacement.
  • Energy Inefficiency: Rising energy bills or difficulty maintaining consistent indoor temperatures could be due to poor insulation or an aging roof that lacks energy-efficient properties.
  • Roofing Material Issues: Certain roofing materials may exhibit specific signs of deterioration, such as rust on metal roofs or granule loss on asphalt shingles, signaling the need for replacement.

Pros and Cons of Different Commercial Roofing Materials

Choosing the right roofing material is crucial for the longevity, durability, and performance of your commercial roof. Here’s an overview of the most common commercial roofing materials, along with their pros and cons:

Built-Up Roofing (BUR):

  • Pros: Excellent waterproofing capabilities, long lifespan (20-30 years), UV resistance, and fire retardancy.
  • Cons: Heavyweight requires strong structural support, labor-intensive installation, and potential for moisture retention in insulation layers.

Single-Ply Membrane (TPO, PVC, EPDM):

  • Pros: Lightweight, flexible, easy to install, UV resistant, and energy efficient.
  • Cons: Vulnerable to punctures and tears, shorter lifespan compared to BUR (15-25 years), seams may require maintenance over time.

Metal Roofing:

  • Pros: Long lifespan (30-50 years), highly durable, low maintenance, recyclable, and energy efficient.
  • Cons: Higher initial cost, expansion and contraction issues, potential for corrosion if not properly maintained.

Modified Bitumen:

  • Pros: Multiple layers provide enhanced durability, UV resistance, and flexibility, suitable for low-slope roofs.
  • Cons: Vulnerable to punctures, seams may degrade over time, limited aesthetic options.

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF):

  • Pros: Seamless application, excellent insulation properties, lightweight, and durable.
  • Cons: Requires specialized installation, susceptible to UV degradation without protective coatings, may require recoating every 10-15 years.

Commercial Roof Replacement Process: 9 Steps

commercial roof replacement

Replacing a commercial roof is a complex undertaking that requires careful planning, skilled labor, and adherence to safety standards. Here’s a step-by-step overview of the commercial roof replacement process:

1. Initial Assessment and Inspection:

Before beginning the replacement process, a thorough assessment of the existing roof is conducted. This includes identifying any damage, determining the condition of the underlying structure, and assessing the suitability of the roof for replacement.

A professional roofing contractor will inspect the roof for signs of wear and tear, leaks, moisture damage, and structural issues. They may also evaluate the insulation, drainage systems, and any existing rooftop equipment.

2. Planning and Preparation:

Based on the inspection findings, the roofing contractor develops a detailed plan for the replacement project. This plan includes selecting the appropriate roofing materials, determining the scope of work, and establishing a timeline for completion. Necessary permits and approvals are obtained from local authorities to ensure compliance with building codes and regulations.

Preparatory steps such as securing the work area, protecting surrounding structures and landscaping, and arranging for the removal of debris are undertaken to minimize disruption and ensure safety during the replacement process.

3. Roof Removal (Tear-Off):

The existing roofing materials are removed in a process known as tear-off. This typically involves stripping away layers of old roofing material, including membranes, insulation, and substrate, down to the roof deck.

Specialized equipment such as roofing shovels, tear-off machines, and dumpsters may be used to facilitate the removal and disposal of debris. Care is taken to protect the underlying structure and minimize damage to the building interior during the tear-off process.

4. Structural Repairs and Preparation:

Once the old roofing materials are removed, any underlying structural damage or deterioration is addressed. This may involve repairing or reinforcing the roof deck, replacing damaged support beams or trusses, and correcting any issues with ventilation or drainage.

The roof deck is inspected for signs of moisture intrusion or rot, and necessary repairs or replacements are made to ensure a stable and secure foundation for the new roof system.

5. Installation of New Roofing System:

With the roof deck repaired and prepared, the installation of the new roofing system begins. This involves laying down the chosen roofing materials in accordance with manufacturer specifications and industry best practices.

For built-up roofing (BUR) systems, multiple layers of roofing felt and bitumen are applied and hot-mopped or cold-applied to create a waterproof membrane. Single-ply membranes are mechanically fastened, adhered, or heat-welded to the roof deck, providing a seamless and durable waterproofing barrier. Metal roofing panels are installed with fasteners or clips, ensuring proper alignment and secure attachment to the roof deck.

Modified bitumen roofing is installed using heat-welding, cold adhesive, or torch-down methods, with overlapping seams to create a watertight seal. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) roofing is applied as a liquid that expands and solidifies into a seamless foam layer, providing insulation and waterproofing in a single application.

6. Flashing and Detailing:

Flashing, sealants, and other detailing elements are installed to reinforce vulnerable areas of the roof, such as roof edges, penetrations, transitions, and intersections.

Flashing materials, such as metal strips or membranes, are custom-fabricated and installed to prevent water intrusion and ensure a watertight seal around roof penetrations such as vents, pipes, and HVAC units. Sealants and caulks are applied to seal gaps, joints, and seams, providing additional protection against water infiltration and air leakage.

7. Quality Assurance and Testing:

Throughout the installation process, quality assurance measures are implemented to ensure the integrity and performance of the new roof system.

Roofing contractors conduct inspections and perform leak tests to verify the effectiveness of the installation and identify any areas that require additional attention or remediation. Thermal imaging, moisture meters, and other diagnostic tools may be used to detect hidden defects and ensure that the roof meets performance standards and manufacturer warranties.

8. Final Cleanup and Site Restoration:

Once the installation is complete and the roof passes final inspections and testing, the work area is thoroughly cleaned and debris is removed from the site.

Any temporary protections or barriers are removed, and the surrounding area is restored to its original condition as much as possible. Proper disposal of old roofing materials and debris is ensured, following local regulations and environmental guidelines.

9. Post-Installation Inspection and Maintenance:

After the roof replacement is completed, a final inspection is conducted to verify that all work has been completed to the required standards and specifications.

The roofing contractor provides documentation, including warranties, maintenance guidelines, and contact information for ongoing support and service.

Regular maintenance and inspections are recommended to prolong the lifespan of the new roof and address any issues that may arise over time, such as weather damage, debris accumulation, or wear and tear.

By following these steps and working with experienced professionals, you can ensure a successful commercial roof replacement project that enhances the durability, performance, and value of your property for years to come.

Average Cost of Commercial Roof Replacement

The cost of replacing a commercial roof varies significantly depending on several factors, including the size of the roof, the complexity of the installation, choice of materials, and geographic location. On average, commercial roof replacement costs range from $5 to $12 per square foot. Here’s a breakdown of typical costs for different roofing materials:

  1. Built-Up Roofing (BUR): $5 to $10 per square foot.
  2. Single-Ply Membrane: $6 to $12 per square foot.
  3. Metal Roofing: $8 to $15 per square foot.
  4. Modified Bitumen: $5 to $10 per square foot.
  5. Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF): $6 to $12 per square foot.

Additional factors that may influence the cost include:

  • Roof Accessibility: Ease of access for equipment and materials can affect labor costs.
  • Tear-Off and Disposal: Removing the existing roof layers and disposing of debris adds to the overall cost.
  • Roof Complexity: Features like HVAC units, skylights, or roof penetrations may require additional work and materials.
  • Warranty Coverage: Extended warranties or maintenance agreements may increase upfront costs but provide long-term value and peace of mind.

It’s essential to obtain multiple quotes from reputable roofing contractors and carefully review the scope of work, materials, warranties, and payment terms before proceeding with a commercial roof replacement project.

Learn More About Commercial Roof Replacements

Commercial roof replacement is a significant investment that requires careful consideration of various factors, including the unique characteristics of commercial roofing, signs indicating the need for replacement, the pros and cons of different roofing materials, and the associated costs. Remember, proactive maintenance and timely replacement are key to protecting your investment and maintaining a safe, secure, and functional commercial property.

Contact Whitt’s Quality Roofing to learn more about our commercial roof services.

Leroy Whitt

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