repair or replace commercial roof

Is It Cost-Effective to Repair or Replace My Commercial Roof?

Greg PalyaSpray Polyurethane Foam Roofing

Let’s say that you have a commercial roof that’s leaking in a few areas. Maybe you’ve made a few repairs over the years, but you wonder, when is it going to be more cost-effective to just replace the entire roof as opposed to repairing it over and over again?

This is very similar to car repair.

Would you replace the brakes on a 2018 vehicle? Of course. The brakes cost $800, the vehicle is worth $30,000, and you predict it will last the next 5 years at least.

Would you replace the transmission on a 2001 vehicle? Of course not. A new transmission costs $2500, and the vehicle is only worth $3000, and you predict it’ll last only a few more months.

Plus, once you fix the transmission, what’s the next repair going to be?

The difference in vehicles and commercial roofs is that it’s hard to determine the projected roof life of a roofing system.

In this article, we hope to clarify the reasons why a roofing contractor will tell you that it’s more cost-effective to repair your roof or to completely replace it.

NOTE: A roofing contractor has nothing to lose if they recommend a complete replacement. If you do a full replacement and the roof performs great for the length of the warranty, both sides are happy. But what if you could’ve gotten away with a few simple repairs that cost 5% of a full replacement. And what if that roof lasted 10 more years? Would you still be happy? Probably not.

The bottom line is:

  • If you replace a roof too soon, you’re wasting money replacing a good roof that could last many more years with a few simple repairs.

  • If you replace a roof too late, and you’ve already spent thousands in repairs, and you have to replace the entire roof shortly after, you’re also wasting money.

Since 1979, West Roofing Systems has been providing building owners the most cost-effective solution to their roofing problems. Our goal is to educate building owners, so they not only know if repairing or replacing their roof is the best solution, but why.

Let’s get started.

How saturated is your roofing system’s insulation?

The first step in determining the remaining roof life is to determine the level of saturation of water in the insulation.

Since you cannot see insulation without removing the membrane, a roofing contractor will use an infrared camera.

The roofing contractor will come out to your facility shortly after the sunsets. At this time, there will be a difference between the membrane temperature (which is cooling because the sun is down) and the temperature of the water trapped underneath the membrane (which is still warm from the sun during the day).

The infrared camera identifies the temperature differences between these two layers and allows a roofing contractor to highlight those areas.

After the infrared inspection is complete, you will know what percentage of your roof’s insulation dry, and what percentage is saturated.

Repair or replace if the roof is less than 25% saturated?

Let’s say that after the infrared inspection, it’s determined that your roof is only 10% saturated.

If your roof is less than 25% saturated, you should lean towards repairing your roof instead of completely replacing it.

The cost of repairing a roof is estimated to be between $600 to $1600.

There are many, many variables in price, such as how large the repair area is, what material needs to be removed and replaced, how long will the job take, how many areas need to be repaired, etc.

The cost of a complete roof replacement can be anywhere from $4 – $7 per square foot. With an average commercial roof being 20,000 sq. ft, the cost of a complete replacement would be $80,000 to $140,000.

You would think, if my roof is less than 25% saturated, it’s more cost-effective to go the repair route. However, there are other factors to think about before deciding, such as:

How old is your roof?

If your roof is 20+ years old, you may want to consider doing a complete roof replacement. Even if there’s perfect weather, your roof may only last 2-3 more years.

But what if there isn’t perfect weather?

You may have a costly repair bill today…and pay for the cost of a complete replacement in the same year.

What condition is the roof in?

Just because there isn’t 25% saturation today, you can look at parts of the roof and see how long those areas are projected to last.

Maybe the tape that’s holding the rubber seams together doesn’t have much adhesion left. One more windstorm could rip those seams apart, leaving a large part of your insulation exposed.

Maybe the flashings have small cracks in them, which aren’t allowing water in today, but once that crack expands and deepens, it could be easy access for water.

The only way to get an accurate measure of the health of your roofing system is to schedule a roof inspection.

Most roofing contractors do not charge for this service.

An expert technician will walk around your roof with you (if you aren’t scared of going on your roof ?) and show you what they are thinking.

This flashing is in bad condition because…

You can see the seams are losing their adhesion right here…

It’s in your best interest to walk the roof with an expert, that way when they give you a scope of work to be performed, you’ll know exactly what they are talking about.

How many saturated areas does your roof have?

Your roof can be 20% saturated, but what if the saturated areas aren’t in the same location?

What if you had 30 smaller areas that have saturation?

It would be very time-consuming and difficult to remove 30 different areas and piece them back together with the dry areas of your roof.

Your roof would look like Frankenstein!

For the money you would spend in labor and materials, it would be cost-effective to completely remove your roof and have all the areas be the same age, and under the same warranty.

Is the decision to repair or replace your commercial roof a little more clear?

Hopefully, after this article, you have a clearer perspective on what a commercial roofing company will look for in determining whether to repair or replace your roof.

West Roofing Systems has been providing owners the best solution to their roofing issues (and explaining why) since 1979.

Have any other questions that we didn’t answer?

If so, please contact us and we’ll answer your question right away.

If you’re ready for a roofing contractor to contact you to discuss your roofing issues, please request a quote.

About the Author

Greg Palya

Greg Palya is the Digital Content Manager of West Roofing Systems, Inc. He has a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Akron and an MBA in Marketing from Walsh University. When he's not trying to teach others about spray foam roofing and silicone roof coatings, you can find him on the basketball court or golf course.