Making sure your commercial building is safe on the outside means you can focus on what’s happening on the inside. Commercial roofing applies to many different industries. Businesses, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and government buildings all require unique planning, specialized installation, and specific application. 

What is a Commercial Roof? 

Comparing commercial roofing to residential roofing 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. One of the biggest differences between residential and commercial roofing is the materials available and the method of installation. 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 roofline can make a big difference in how your building functions. There are three main types of commercial roofing systems: flat, low, or pitched.

There are three major types of commercial roofing.

Flat Roofs – This is one of the most common types of commercial roofing for large commercial buildings. They are installed quickly and use less materials than some other shapes. Because they are one of the most budget-friendly roofs, they are commonly used for big, box stores, warehouses, and shopping centers. 

Low-Sloped Roofs – A low-slope roof is somewhere in between a flat roof 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 Roofs – A pitched roof is similar to a residential roof but creates a beautiful commercial building. A pitched roof provides 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 roof, you can choose the material that best suits your business needs and budget. 

Here are four types of commercial roofing materials.

  • Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing – This is a material that is sprayed onto the roof as a liquid and then expands to create a solid layer across the roof. Because there are no joints or seams, this method of commercial roofing is extremely durable and can last for over 50 years in any climate.
  • Single-Ply Membrane Roofing – 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 in commercial roofing because of its stellar track record. 
  • Shingles – Shingles, similar to residential roofing, can also be used in commercial roofing. 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.” Built-up roofing (BUR) uses a combination of bitumen and reinforced fabric to create layers of membrane. BUR 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’s both cost-effective and durable.

There are multiple types of commercial roofing materials.

  • Metal Roof – Metal roofs are surging in popularity for both residential and commercial roofing. Within the family of metal roofing, there are many varieties of materials and styles. including stainless steel, metal tiles, copper, aluminum, tin, etc. When a metal roof is used, a protective sealant layer is added to prevent rusting and sunlight damage. Metal roofing is beautiful to look at, but it also packs significant strong fire-resistant ratings and sustainability design, which makes it a strong and safe option for commercial buildings in Louisville
  • Green Roofing – This is a commercial roof that 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 costs of green roofs are more expensive, but the long-term maintenance can be drastically lower than other commercial options.
  • Thermoset EPDM Roof Membrane – Constructed from a single-ply rubber material, EPDM is known for performance and longevity. It is a popular option because of its design versatility, strong resistance to ultraviolet light and ozone, and simple installation. The material is tough, durable, waterproof, maintenance-free and has reflective properties to help lower cooling costs in the summer months.
  • Thermoplastic PVC & TPO Roof Membrane – This is a lightweight, reflective material that is great for weather resistance. These roofs 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 of Commercial Roof Repair 

As a business owner – a tiny problem in one seam of your roof hardly seems like a priority. Tiny issues that seem insignificant often go unnoticed. 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. This is a problem that should be remedied before it gets worse. 
  • 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 commercial roofing 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. This should be inspected by a contractor immediately. 
  • 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 commercial roof repair. 

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

  • Flimsy Flashing – The flashing around the chimney, at roof piercings, or when the roof changes levels are vulnerable areas that can be dislodged or lifted during storms. If you see gaps in the flashing, it’s time for a commercial roofing repair. 
  • Punctures – Punctures can be caused by falling debris, strong storms, or aging. Anytime you have a hole in the material, even a small one, it should be inspected before it gets worse. 
  • Ponding – Stagnant ponds of water on the roof can cause problems with both structure deterioration. Your roof should drain properly and eliminate standing water. If this is not happening, it requires an inspection and a commercial roof repair to remedy this situation. 

Ponding can cause severe water damage to your commercial roofing.

  • Broken Fasteners – Fasteners are a major cause of roof 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

There are some common signs your commercial roofing needs to be replaced.

  • Damaged Roof 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.
  • Considerable Wear and Tear on the Deck – 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.
  • 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 commercial roof decay.
  • Your Property Isn’t Well Insulated Anymore – 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 the roof is aging or damaged.
  • Your Commercial Roofing is Old  – The lifespan of a commercial roof 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 commercial roof replacement.
  • Broken Shingles – If you have a shingle roof, any sign of splitting, cracked, broken, or buckling shingles are clear indications that a replacement is needed. 
  • 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 a commercial roof inspection.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Commercial Roof? 

If you have significant repairs, it’s always worth it to compare the costs of a full installation rather than making costly repairs to an old roof. 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 roof, it’s worth it to plan for a new commercial roof rather than repair the one you have. 

Benefits of Installing a New Commercial Roof

There are many benefits to installing new commercial roofing.

  • Improves the Safety of Your Building – An unsafe roof is a lawsuit waiting to happen. When you invest in a new roof, you protect yourself from liability while taking advantage of new materials and innovative construction techniques to keep your people and your building safe.
  • Increase Your Building’s Storm Resistance – New materials and installation techniques in the market today make commercial buildings more storm-resistant than ever. When you invest in a new commercial roof, it will likely last longer than the roof you had before.
  • Benefit From New Depreciation Rules – Depreciation for roofs may now be immediately expensed on tax forms up to $1,000,000 making your new roof a significant tax deduction.
  • Increase Energy Efficiency and Sustainability – New roofs and 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 Building Roofs 

Anytime you suspect your commercial roof may be a liability, it’s time to call for an inspection. Commercial roofing contractors often offer inspections free of charge and will share their findings with you. Any commercial roof 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 of the roof 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. 

  •       The average cost for built-up bituminous flat roof replacement: $3.50-$6.50 per square foot. 
  •       The average cost for asphalt shingle roof replacement: $3.50-$7 per square foot. 
  •       The average cost for barrel tile roof replacement: $6.50-$20 per square foot. 
  •       The average cost for metal roof replacement is $7-$12 per square foot.

6 Factors That Determine the Cost of Commercial Roofs

There are several factors that contribute to the cost of your commercial roof. This is why web estimates or calculators are unreliable. There are six main factors that all contribute to your commercial roof 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 roof 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. Number of Disciplines Required – if your job requires additional professionals (i.e., a structural engineer or construction professionals), the higher the cost.
  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 Roof Repair Costs

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 roofing contractor can give you a heads up on possible future issues. Before your roof installation, perform a hazardous material survey, property assessment, and plan for 5%-15% wiggle room in budget for contingencies. 
  • Gather Accurate Requirements – When consulting with an architect or engineer on a new commercial roofing 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 commercial roofing 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 line HVAC, plumbing, and electric. 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 commercial roofing project. Choose a cross-disciplinary team with significant experience and real-time knowledge of the current construction market 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 roofing company to work on your commercial roof replacement or repair, you should feel comfortable and confident in the contractor and the company 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 large team means you have all of the disciplines required to get the job done correctly. 
  • Professionalism – A commercial roofing team is prepared to adapt to new situations, implement safety procedures, answer questions, and ensure your project is handled well.
  • They Follow Your City’s Building Code – It is the responsibility of any commercial roofing contractor to stay up to date on the latest building codes and requirements to ensure your project is completed properly. 
  • 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. 
  • Know That All Contractors Are Licensed – Hiring an unlicensed contractor is a recipe for disaster. A commercial roofing contractor should hold all necessary licensing, insurance, and training to complete the job you’re hiring them for. 
  • They Keep You Up to Date on the Progress of the Project – Paying a contractor and then being left in the dark is a headache and can be a huge scam. Your commercial roofing contractor should ensure a constant line of communication throughout the project timeline.
  • You Get a 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 better materials, better workmanship, and a better roof.

FAQs About Commercial Roofs

Most of the commercial roofs today are low-slope metal roofs. The most common type of commercial metal roof 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 Roofing 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 roofing 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!