Making sure your commercial building is safe on the outside means you can focus on what’s happening on the inside. Businesses, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and government buildings all require unique planning, specialized installation, and specific application to make sure their commercial roofing is able to stand against the test of time. 

Comparing commercial roofing to residential is like comparing a convertible to a semi-truck. Commercial roofing materials require different applications, installation, and maintenance that are specific to your building and your business.

Commercial buildings in Louisville, KY have a myriad of options to choose from depending on the size of the building, the climate, company preference, budget, and needs.

Types of Commercial Roofs

If you’re constructing a new commercial building, the slope of your roof can make a big difference in how your business functions.

There are three main types of commercial roofing systems: flat, low, or pitched:

  • Flat – This is one of the most common types of commercial roofing for large commercial buildings. They are installed quickly and use fewer materials than others. Because they are one of the most budget-friendly options, they are commonly used for big, box stores, warehouses, and shopping centers. 
  • Low-Sloped – A low-slope commercial roof is somewhere in between a flat and a steep pitch roof. They are likely to be found on apartments, and industrial buildings that appear flat, but they have a soft slope to them. Their slope makes them unique and sometimes requires strict building codes which must be adhered to. 
  • Pitched – A pitched roof is similar to residential, but creates a beautiful commercial building. They provide a more elegant look than flat or low-slopes. Pitched roofs are less common in commercial buildings simply because they are more expensive, but they are still used in many areas. 

Common Types of Commercial Roof Materials

Once you know the type of your commercial roofing, you can choose the material that best suits your business needs and budget. 

  • Spray Polyurethane Foam – This is a material that is sprayed as a liquid and then expands to create a solid layer across the roof. Because there are no joints or seams, this method is extremely durable and can last for over 50 years in any climate.
  • Single-Ply Membrane – Single-ply roofing is a sheet of rubber or other synthetic material that is either fastened or chemically adhered to the roof of your commercial building. This is one of the most commonly used materials because of its stellar track record of being a high-performance option for commercial buildings.
  • Shingles – Typically, shingles are used only for pitched roofs, as it is not designed for flat-roof applications. Shingles will typically last 20-30 years but can be prone to damage due to age or strong storms.
  • Built-Up Roofing (BUR) – These are commonly referred to as “tar-and-gravel roofs.” BUR uses a combination of bitumen and reinforced fabric to create layers of membrane. It is a flexible option because you can decide how many layers you’d like applied based on budget and desired strength. It’s one of the oldest systems of commercial roofing still in use today because it is both cost-effective and durable.

  • Metal – Metal is surging in popularity for both residential and commercial roofing.  It packs significantly strong fire-resistant ratings and sustainability design, which makes it a stronger, safer option for commercial buildings. To learn more, check out our blog post on metal roofing.
  • Green – This type of material is partially or completely covered with vegetation. They are also known as “living roofs.” Green roofs are the most versatile and by far the most sustainable. The initial cost is more expensive, but the long-term maintenance can be drastically lower than other commercial options.
  • Thermoset Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) Membrane – Constructed from a single-ply rubber material, EPDM is known for its performance and longevity. The material is tough, water-resistant, maintenance-free, and has reflective properties to help lower cooling costs in the summer months.
  • Thermoplastic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) & Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) Membrane – This is a lightweight, reflective material that is great for weather resistance. They are one of the fastest-growing commercial roofing materials because of their performance and installation advantages. They are popular for restaurants and other industrial buildings that may emit oils and/or fats because they are resistant to UV chemicals, bacteria growth, punctures, tears, and UV light.

Common Signs Your Commercial Roofing Needs to Be Repaired

As a business owner – a tiny problem in one seam of your roof hardly seems like a priority. However, we often see seemingly small problems that cause major issues for commercial buildings. When you notice any of these signs, your commercial roofing needs an inspection as soon as possible. 

  • Moisture Problems – If your building feels more muggy than usual, that’s not a good sign. Moisture can infiltrate the building and cause water stains on ceilings and walls.
  • Climbing Energy Bills – Your roof provides insulation for your building to help maintain comfortable temperatures inside. If your energy bills are increasing, it could be because there’s a problem with your roofing that is causing your HVAC to work overtime. 
  • Bubbles – Bubbles in the roof typically mean that there is moisture underneath the material. When these bubbles burst, you’re left with an air pocket that can allow water to seep back in. 

Bubbles are a common sign that your commercial roofing is in need of a repair.

  • Sagging – Low spots or sagging in the roof often indicate a structural problem below the surface. 
  • Open Seams – Seams are the most vulnerable part of your roof. Anywhere you have a seam, it’s a spot for water to leak in. 
  • Clogged Drains – Ponding or clogged rooftop drains allow water to begin ponding and are both major signs that you need a repair. 

A clogged drain lets the business owner know it is time for a commercial roofing repair.

  • Flimsy Flashing – Flashing is the thin material that professionals install to redirect water from certain areas. This usually consists of where two roof slopes meet or where your chimney connects to your home. The flashing around the chimney, piercings, or when the roof changes levels are vulnerable areas that can be dislodged or lifted during storms.
  • Punctures – Punctures can be caused by falling debris, strong storms, or aging. They can also range in size depending on the extent of the damage. 
  • Ponding – Stagnant ponds of water on the roof can cause problems with both structure deterioration. Your roof should drain properly and eliminate standing water.

Ponding can cause severe water damage to your commercial roofing.

  • Broken Fasteners – Fasteners are used to fasten or screw a roofing component to the deck. They are a major cause of leaks. When your fastener is broken or loose, you have an open hole in the decking. Luckily, these are usually a quick fix, and you can continue to use your existing commercial roofing system. 

7 Signs Your Commercial Roof Needs to be Replaced

As a commercial building owner, you may be concerned about when it is more economical to replace your roof. You may want to seek advice from a contractor but unfortunately, not all commercial roofers are honest about whether to repair or replace.

Here are the signs you need a replacement:

  1. Damaged Membrane – Eventually, the membrane will be damaged due to age, winds, or storm damage. When this happens, you need to replace it. Left unattended, water will eventually seep into the roofing and the attic itself.
  2. Old Decking – Continuous moisture is usually the reason the deck gets damaged. The problem is not always easy to spot in the beginning and often goes unnoticed. However, when you begin to see wear and tear on your deck, it’s time for a replacement of both the deck and the membrane.
  3. Visible Water Infiltration – If there are visible watermarks or stains on your property’s walls and attic, these are indicators your commercial roofing is compromised and may be a symptom of decay.
  4. Poorly Insulated – The quality of your insulation is typically evidenced in your heating and cooling bills. If they stay steady, your building insulation is doing its job. When they begin to rise significantly, your property isn’t being insulated. The first place to check is the roof, where warm or cool air can quickly escape if it is aging or damaged.
  5. Aging  – The lifespan of commercial roofing is generally about 25 years – 50 years, depending on the type of material used. If you are past your warranty date, and the roof is nearing the end of its life, it’s time to consider a replacement.
  6. Broken Shingles – If you have shingles, any sign of splitting, cracked, broken, or buckling shingles are clear indications that a replacement is needed. 
  7. Blistering – Water trapped in the insulation will create blisters that slowly eat up the inside of your roof. Any sign of blistering is cause to call for an inspection.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Commercial Roof? 

If you need significant repairs, it’s always worth it to compare the costs of a full installation rather than making costly repairs to an old one.

The best way to do that is to ask a professional contractor for a full inspection. This service allows you to truly understand any immediate, or secondary issues with your current roof and plan for repairs or replacement.

Typically, if you have repairs that cost more than 50% of the price of a new one, it’s worth it to plan for new commercial roofing rather than repair the one you have. 

Benefits of Installing a New Commercial Roof

Installing a new commercial roof can be daunting. However, it’s an investment that will always pay off in the long run.

Let’s look at how new installations add value to your commercial property:

There are many benefits to installing new commercial roofing.

  • Safety – An unsafe roof is a lawsuit waiting to happen. When you invest in a new one, you protect yourself from liability while taking advantage of new materials and innovative construction techniques to keep your people and your building safe.
  • Storm Resistance – New materials and installation techniques in the market today make commercial buildings more storm-resistant than ever. When you invest in new commercial roofing, it will likely last longer than the one you had before.
  • New Depreciation Rules – Depreciation for roofs may now be immediately expensed on tax forms, making your new roof a significant tax deduction.
  • Energy Efficiency – New materials will provide significantly increased energy efficiency. This means you’ll see a drop in your HVAC utility bills and more comfortable temperatures inside the building.

Roof Inspection Checklist for Commercial Buildings 

Anytime you think there is a problem with your commercial roof, it’s always a good idea to call for an inspection.

Any inspection should include the following areas: 

There are a few things to keep in mind when getting your commercial roofing inspected.

  • Inspect for Ponding Water – Evidence of ponding may include slow draining lines, color changes, stains, or areas that are blocked. 
  • Look at the Flashing – Check the stacks, walls, and curbs for cracks or crevices that may allow water to seep in. 
  • Check for Any Cracks or Tears – Signs of cuts or tears should be inspected before they cause further damage. 
  • Inspect Terminations in Parapet Walls – Terminations should be properly sealed and checked for any sign of failure or cracking. 
  • Check the Edge Detail – The edges often get the most wear, so they should be secured tightly and sealed properly.
  • Inspect Surfaces – The surface should be inspected for shifting, expanding, or lifting due to wind or storm damage. 
  • Check the Gutters – Gutters should be clear of debris or buildup and allow water to flow freely. 
  • Look at Your Downspouts – On the ground, downspouts should be working properly and not damaged or crushed. 

How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Commercial Roof?

The roof is typically one of the most expensive elements of a commercial building.

The cost is 40% materials and 60% labor. The labor market is usually determined by your geographic location. The cost of materials varies between different material types. 

Here is the average cost for a commercial roofing replacement per square foot:

  • Spray Polyurethane Foam – $1.65 – $2.25
  • Single-Ply Membrane – $3.50 and $7.50
  • BUR –  $2.50 to $4.00
  • Metal – $5 to $14.00
  • Green – $10 to $25
  • EPDM Membrane – $3.25 and $14.75
  • PVC Membrane – $6.50 to $8.00
  • TPO Membrane – $3.50 to $14.00

6 Factors That Determine the Cost of Commercial Roofs

There are several factors that contribute to the cost of your commercial roofing repair or replacement. This is why web estimates or calculators are unreliable.

Here are six main factors that all contribute to your  estimate:

1. Location – Geographic location may be the largest determining factor in your estimate. Different areas of the country have different costs for both labor and materials. Additionally, if your building is particularly difficult to access, it can add to the costs of your estimate. 

2. Building Use – A restaurant has different needs than a warehouse. The building use changes the materials, equipment, and structural needs of a commercial roof. Buildings that are temperature controlled or intended to serve the public are typically more expensive than warehouse facilities.

3. Building Codes – Energy, environmental, and handicap accessibility building codes can add to the cost of commercial roofing. Because building codes and local ordinances are constantly changing, a new one may sometimes mean additional renovation to meet current applicable codes.

4. Historic District Compliance – If your building is sited in a historic district, you may have additional requirements and regulatory approvals.

5. Large Team Required – if your project requires additional professionals (i.e., a structural engineer or construction professionals), the cost will likely be higher.

6. Current Market Factors – The cost of labor and materials are constantly changing, sometimes even on a weekly or daily basis. The cost of your project can change drastically depending on the timeline. 

How to Control the Cost of a Roof Replacement

While some of the costs for commercial roof replacement are out of your control, there are other factors you can adjust. 

  • Plan Ahead – If you know your commercial roof is getting near the end of its life, start to plan for a replacement before it becomes an emergency. Waiting too long can cause additional costs, stress, and panic. 
  • Prevent Surprises – Always keep up on inspections so your contractor can give you a heads up on possible future issues. Before your installation, perform a hazardous material survey, property assessment, and plan for 5%-15% wiggle room in the budget for contingencies. 
  • Gather Accurate Requirements – When consulting with an architect or engineer on a new project, discuss all aspects of the project including who uses the space, how they use technology, how the occupants interact, anticipated growth, and current challenges to ensure your new roof will meet all necessary requirements. 
  • Utilize As-Built Drawings – Blueprints show how the building was planned, as-built drawings provide a clear view of how the building was actually constructed, and therefore, can be more helpful in planning and estimating for your new commercial roof. 
  • Choose the Right Materials Based on Use – if you’re not sure what materials to use on your new commercial roof, enlist the advice of a trusted contractor. Choosing the right materials may save on upfront costs and increase the lifespan of the building. 
  • Account for the Life Cycle of Building Systems – When you replace a commercial roof, consider other building systems like HVAC, plumbing, and electricity. Understanding the status of these systems can help you know which ones may need to be replaced at the same time. 
  • Hire the Right Renovation Partners – You need a partner on your side to walk you through all aspects of your project. Choose a team with significant experience and real-time knowledge of the current construction costs in your area. A construction partner you trust can minimize surprises, reduce downtime and provide an accurate estimate of costs.

Benefits of Hiring a Professional Contractor

When choosing a company to work on your commercial roof repair, you should feel confident in the contractor he or she represents. Professionalism, experience, and quality workmanship are just a few of the benefits you receive by working with the best contractors in the business. 

There are multiple benefits to getting your commercial roofing repaired or replaced by a professional.

  • Expertise – You need access to the right experts for the job. A knowledgeable team means you have all of the disciplines required to get the job done correctly.
  • Professionalism – A professional team is prepared to adapt to new situations, implement safety procedures, and answer any questions you may have.
  • Materials Advice – You know your business, and we know ours. Get advice on the best materials, the latest technology, and how you can utilize a new commercial roof to save your company money and protect your business. 
  • The Warranty – Working with a professional contractor gives you access to both premiere materials and the best manufacturer’s warranties. 
  • Licensed Contractors – Hiring an unlicensed contractor is a recipe for disaster. A contractor should hold all necessary licensing, insurance, and training to complete the job you’re hiring them for. 
  • Keeps You Up to Date – Paying a contractor and then being left in the dark is a headache and can be a huge scam. Your contractor should ensure a constant line of communication throughout the project timeline.
  • Free, Written Estimate – Know what you’re getting before you sign any contract. Professional contractors will provide a thorough inspection and a full estimate in writing before you commit. 
  • Quality Service – The level of service a contractor offers is usually a reflection of their industry knowledge. Keep this in mind as you choose a contractor, select one who can walk you through each step, answer questions easily, and provide multiple solutions to any given problem.  
  • Experience – Look for a contractor that has been in the business long enough to handle anything thrown at them. The longer a company has been in business, means expert knowledge, better workmanship, and a better roof.


The most common material used for commercial roofing is corrugated galvanized steel.

When installed correctly and maintained properly, the average commercial roof can last anywhere from 10 to 40 years. The life expectancy varies significantly based on the materials used and the quality of the initial installation.

  • Built-Up Roof (BUR)
  • Metal Panel Systems
  • Polymer-Modified Bitumen Sheet Membranes
  • Single-Ply Membranes
  • Spray Polyurethane Foam-Based (SPF) Systems

Get Advice from the Experts

Replacing your commercial roof requires a significant investment of both time and resources. Making sure you know the right questions, choose the right partner, and select the best materials can be daunting for even the most experienced business owners. 

Abrams installs the best commercial roofing available to keep your structure safe and sound. We are locally owned and operated with a reputation for using superior materials and quality craftsmanship you can count on. The contractors at Abrams take pride in their high level of training and expertise. Their roofs stand the test of time, backed by the best warranties in the business. For more information or additional questions, contact Abrams Roofing & Sheet Metal today!