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How to Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Roof

Building owners and managers face this question every year at budget time. A commercial roof replacement is one of the costliest CapEx items and unless there have been unsightly and unsanitary leaks, tenants won’t see the benefit.

A commercial roof will have an average lifespan of  +/- 15 years. However, with regular inspection, diligent maintenance, and attention to minor repairs, the life of the roof can be extended saving owners a great deal of money. Even if you do all those things, how do you know when to pull the trigger on the investment?

The first step in determining if it is time to replace your commercial roof would be to gather information. The more the better – history of repairs, costs, and current condition. A building’s maintenance crew can perform a visual inspection and check for signs like blisters on a modified bitumen or built-up roof (BUR). Other telltale signs are a torn or damaged membrane, ponding water, and interior leaks,

Next, find a trusted and experienced commercial roofing contractor for an honest assessment of the current condition and options for either repair, restoration or replacement. They can give you an estimate of the remaining life of the roof which will be very important in making the decision. They can also provide recommendations on different roofing system options based on your needs, the needs of the building, compliance, environmental conditions, desired warranty and desired budget.

When is a Repair a Viable Option?

Cost is often the biggest deterrent to pulling the trigger on making the investment in a new roof. However, a repair can make good financial sense under some of the following conditions:

  • The building is relatively new and still under warranty
  • There are no leaks or ponding water
  • No recent unusual circumstances (e.g. extreme weather, construction on the roof that could have caused damage, etc.)
  • Any damage found is isolated to one spot, or there is just partial damage due to a severe weather event
  • The underlying substrate assembly remains dry

A good rule of thumb for determining if it is time to replace your roof is to examine the historical inspection and repair records. If the frequency and cost of the repairs have been increasing, project those costs for the next 15 years and compare them to the cost of a new roof.

Additionally, you could consider conducting emergency and proactive repairs on the roof.  A full-service contractor can and will work with you to guarantee a leak-free environment for a finite amount of time.  This can result in performance predictability as well as budget predictability for a building owner or manager.

Signs It’s Time for a Replacement

On the other hand, there are a few conditions that would warrant NOT putting off the roof replacement another year. If your roof has the following issues, replacement could be a viable option:

  • Underlying substrate (insulation) is compromised or wet on more than 25% of the roof assembly (determined through infrared thermography moisture scan)
  • Cost of repairs exceeds 25% of replacement
  • You plan to remain in the building ten-years or longer
  • You desire to decrease annual OpEx
  • The current roof is older than 20 years

Future Expense Implications of a Repaired Roof vs. a New Roof

A new roof should still have a program of regular maintenance, but these costs will help protect the investment and ensure a full life. Generally, a new roof under normal circumstances will not need expensive repairs in the short-term.

You can expect the costs of repairs on an old roof, even with regular inspection, maintenance, and repair, to increase in cost and frequency.

Other Factors to Consider For a Roof Replacement

What are the building owner’s plans for the building? Whether it is a long-term hold, or a short-term investment will have an important bearing on the decision to repair or replace. If an owner plans to sell the building in a few years, it would be smart to invest in regular maintenance and repairs so that it can pass a due diligence inspection. The investment in a new roof would not be cost effective if a repair will do.

If the building asset is a long-term hold, it  may be better to invest in a new roof with all the latest technological advancements. It is a big investment, but it does pay off in the long term.

Is your commercial roof due for an inspection? Are you seeing tell-tale signs of roof damage? Contact us for a no-obligation consultation.


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