Commercial Roof Restoration or Commercial Roof Replacement?
In the past, when a commercial roof's warranty period was nearing its end or it showed signs of aging, the obvious solution was to replace it. However, this is no longer the case.
More and more building owners are opting for commercial roof restorations as a way to prolong the life of their roofs. Not only is it a cost-effective solution, it can also bring a host of benefits. The roof can be restored to a near-new condition, making it waterproof and able to withstand harsh weather conditions.
The cost of restoration is often significantly lower than replacement, and it can also improve the building's energy efficiency. Additionally, there is less disruption to normal building activities, and a restored roof comes with a fresh warranty. Additionally, it is also a more sustainable choice.
However, not all commercial roofs are suitable for restoration, and a variety of factors must be taken into consideration when determining the best approach for restoring a given roof. The contractor must first determine if the roof is a good candidate for restoration and then determine the best approach for the restoration..
Commercial Roof Restoration or Commercial Roof Replacement – There is a Difference
Flat roofs can be restored using two different methods: coating the roof with fluid-applied systems such as silicone, acrylic, or SEBS thermoplastic elastomer, or covering the existing roof with new materials such as TPO, EPDM, PVC, or modified bitumen. However, it is important for contractors to understand that a restored roof is not the same as a brand new roof and should not be presented as such to building owners. It is important for contractors to understand the limitations and capabilities of roof restoration and the different mindsets required for restoration and replacement projects, and to communicate this information to the owners.
Restoration can extend the life of a roof that is in good repair, delaying the need for a new roof for years or even decades. However, it cannot fix an unsound roof or magically resolve leaks, ponding water, and other performance issues. Repairs must be made before restoring the roof, or the problems will only worsen. Additionally, contractors must view replacement and restoration projects through different lenses, as the existing roof's type, material manufacturers, and installation methods are highly relevant when restoring a roof, but not when replacing it. Compatibility with the existing roof is a vital consideration when choosing the coating system or the adhesive for attaching a new membrane.
Assessing the Existing Commercial Roof
The commercial roofing industry has seen a number of stories about roof restoration "failures," which has led to a negative perception of restoration. However, the reality is that when restorations fail, it is usually not due to the products used but rather because the roof was not a suitable candidate for restoration in the first place.
To avoid this, it is crucial to conduct a Commercial Roof Inspection of the existing roofing system, from the top layer to the roof deck. This assessment should include information such as the roof's age, the components used initially and added since, the installation methods used, the quality of the installation, and the roof's current condition.
The contractor should begin by conducting a thorough visual inspection of the roof, removing any trash or debris that might impede the inspection. They should look for signs of issues such as ponding water or decking that is rusted, rotted, or cracked, which may indicate that the roof deck has reached the end of its service life and the roof must be replaced. During a roof assessment, certain signs may indicate that the roof deck has reached the end of its service life and that the roof needs to be replaced.
- These include ponding water or rusted, rotted, or cracked decking.
- Soft spots when walked upon can be an indication of saturated insulation, and further investigation is needed to determine whether the leak is small and can be repaired or if it is a more pervasive problem.
- Splits in the membrane could be caused by unanchored insulation or damage from hail or temperature changes and the cause must be determined to take the appropriate action.
Additionally, the assessment should include core cuts and a moisture survey. Core cuts, similar to soil samples, reveal all layers of the roof and provide insight into its history and condition. Cylindrical cuts measuring approximately 1.5-2 inches by 1 foot are made to remove samples of all roof layers down to the deck. One sample per 40 to 50 squares should be taken and more samples if the roof appears to be in poor condition. It is crucial to conduct a moisture survey to ensure that the underlying substrate of the roof is dry. There are several options available for this, such as:
- Infrared Moisture Scan: A handheld or drone-mounted infrared camera is used to detect moisture on the roof. Wet areas will appear "hotter" due to retained heat. The roof should be scanned at dusk for optimal results.
- Electronic Leak Detection (ELD): This test requires a conductive material, such as Detec TruGround Conductive Primer, to be applied to the substrate below the membrane. Water is applied to the roof surface, and then scanned using a high-voltage or low-voltage ELD device. If leaks are present, the water will create electrical connections to the grounded roof deck, allowing the device to pinpoint their locations.
- Nuclear Resonance Imaging: This is an alternative to ELD when a conductive material is not present. A robot sends radio impulses into the roof to detect water. The impulses can penetrate up to 2.5 inches and are effective in assessing one layer of roofing.
Weigh the Options
After conducting a thorough assessment of the existing roofing system, contractors should use the gathered data to determine whether the roof can be restored or if it needs to be replaced. If the roof is found to be unsound or if pervasive leaks are discovered, then replacement is the best option. However, if leaks are small and their locations are known, they can be repaired and the roof can be restored.
The building owner's insurance company often makes the final decision on repairs. Insurers prefer replacement because it removes subjectivity and they know that the new roof will be up to code and covered under warranty. However, if the restoration comes with a satisfactory warranty and the work can be completed at a fraction of the cost of replacing the roof, then insurers will approve a restoration.
Modern roofing technology has made it possible for roof coatings and single-ply membranes to come with strong warranties. No Dollar Limit (NDL) system warranties of up to 20 years are available for coating commercial buildings, and NDLs of up to 30 years are available for TPO and EPDM, and up to 20 years for PVC and modified bitumen when recovering a commercial roof. It is important that contractors recognize when a roof restoration is not feasible and replacement is necessary. In cases where immediate action is required to protect the building and its contents, but a delay in replacing the roof is expected, temporary solutions such as heat-shrink systems and traditional tarps and sandbags can be employed to buy the necessary time.
Choosing the Right Commercial Roof Restoration Technique
Once the decision to restore the roof is made, contractors should consider whether coating or recovering is the best option. Factors to consider include:
- Is the entire roof in need of restoration or just a portion of it? If only a part of the roof is problematic, installing new single-ply membrane on that area can solve the issue at a lower cost
- If coating is chosen, how close to "near-new" condition will the roof be? If the existing membrane has deteriorated greatly, recovering may be a better option.
- Fluid-applied roofing systems are considered a maintenance system rather than a new membrane or roof, so the quality, durability, and performance of the underlying and existing roofing system must be of a quality and performance that can be maintained and extended, rather than needing to be replaced or repaired.
When considering a roof restoration, contractors should check local building codes for any restrictions on the method of restoration. For example, some hurricane-prone areas may permit coating, but not recovering, and some communities may prohibit a roof from being recovered a second time due to the added weight of a new membrane. Coatings are usually allowed as they are about 1/10th the weight of a new membrane.
As building owners are becoming more aware of the benefits of restoring existing roofs, such as cost-effectiveness, less disruption and environmental impact, rather than replacing them. To assist clients in taking advantage of the benefits of roof restoration, a contractor's initial step is to conduct an investigation to determine if the roof is a suitable candidate for restoration and, if so, whether coating or recovering is the best option.
Trust GoTech Roofing in Washington DC and Northern Virginia
Founded by Julian Stevens over a decade ago, GoTech Roofing has established itself as the number 1 provider of flat roofing services in Northern Virginia. We provide roof repair and roof replacement services with a real focus on customer satisfaction. We are a Washington DC and Virginia Class A Contractor and fully insured with Workman's Compensation and Liability Insurance. GoTech Roofing provides each and every client with an incomparable flat roofing experience through our outstanding customer service and exceptional quality. We understand that each flat roof is unique and will treat it as such. Having worked 10 years providing multi-million dollar contracting services for the Federal Government, Julian took a look at the antiquated roofing construction process and knew there was a better way. He built GoTech Roofing utilizing Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software fully integrated with Microsoft Project Professional software to create a Proprietary Customer Service-Oriented Roofing Process that starts with your first communication with us all the way to when we shake hands when the job is done. With our GoTech Proprietary Customer Service-Oriented Roofing Process you can skip the headaches, schedule delays, lack of contractor communication, cost increases, and nonsense – we handle every flat roofing project detail from start to finish in a written scheduled process you will receive on day one.