Should You Re-cover or Replace a Damaged Commercial Roof?

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Although most commercial roofing systems are designed for long-term performance, many can still develop problems during their lifespan. Problems can arise when a roof is installed wrong, designed incorrectly, or not properly maintained. When looking to fix a problem commercial roof, there are four options:  full replacement, re-cover, repair, or coat. It’s important to answer these questions first, which will guide you toward the choices below.

  • How bad is the roof and how much is damaged?
  • Does it have the proper amount of insulation?
  • Is the building occupied? How easy is it to tear off?
  • Is the owner looking for a long-term or short-term solution?
  • What is the building used for and where is it located?
  • Does the building generate moisture? If so, it may not have the right roof.

Here are the options and the benefits of each to help determine the best path to take.

Repair. Some problems on a roof can be minor and easily repaired, so they don’t warrant the expense of a replacement. Here are some reasons you may choose to repair a roof:

  • The membrane is basically in good shape and has not met its life expectation
  • The roof has good insulation
  • The owner wants to keep costs to a minimum


  • Less costly than a re-cover or replacement
  • Extends the life of the roof

Re-cover.  Not all damaged roofs need replacing. If the roof is fundamentally sound and has good installation, the most effective solution is to re-cover. In many cases, if a roof has only one membrane you can put another on top. However, keep in mind that a roof can only be re-covered once. Here are some reasons you may choose to re-cover a roof:

  • The roof has good insulation, but the membrane has met its life expectancy
  • The roof has not been re-covered prior


  • Cheaper than a full replacement
  • Less disruptive than a full tear-off
  • Less risk of a roof being exposed to the elements
  • New, extended warranties are available

Full replacement.  Sometimes a roof isn’t a good candidate for a re-cover if the damage is too extensive. If a roof has been re-covered once before, you need to replace it. Here are some reasons to replace a roof:

  • Repairs to the roof are extensive; as a rule of thumb, if 25% or more of the roof is damaged it’s best to replace
  • Insulation is not up to par or wet
  • Owner is looking for a long-term solution and wants to utilize the latest technologies


  • Is the best option if an owner plans on keeping the building for the long-term
  • Lower maintenance cost
  • Least likely to have problems
  • Energy savings

Coating. Many commercial roofs can be coated to extend their life. Here are some reasons to coat a roof:

  • Extra protection from leaks
  • Extends the life of the roof
  • Reflective coatings provide energy savings by reflecting heat and UV away from the building
  • Improves comfort inside the building by reflecting the sun’s rays away from the roof, keeping the roof and the building cooler
  • Improves aesthetics
  • Less disruptive than a tear-off
  • Cost effective … often less expensive than other options; rebates may be available and might be written off as an expense in year one (see an accountant)

There are 9 comments

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  1. Steve Johnson

    Nice article as according to above post actually commercial roofing is like long term investment some time its happen when it not fixes properly designed in a wrong way , or not properly taking care of all them .It can be damaged faster.

  2. Eric Blaise

    This article was a great read and actually reminded me of a few worries that were brought up in another article I read a while ago. the article made mention of how some people systematically put off roofing repairs hoping that the insurance company will foot it, or that the could fix it themselves and worry about it later if it happens again. The truth of the matter is, the long you put it off, the worse it will become. The average roof today is expected to last 20 to 25 years, if the roof is left unattended, it will barely pass the 5 year mark. If there is a minor leak, have it repaired as soon as possible before it causes other problems.

    Eric |

  3. Susan Hirst

    Thank you very much for all of this information. My commercial roofing has suffered quite a bit of damage due to a really bad storm, and I wasn’t sure if I needed to have it replaced, or not. The rule of thumb about replacing your roof if more than twenty-five percent of it is damaged was very helpful. It looks like I’m replacing my roof.

  4. greg

    I recently just got into flat roofing after hiring a man with 34 years experience. We have prefered to try to coat most roofs, but sometimes they just have to come off. Guess i’m lucky , about our 12th job, we found a church flat roof leaking like a funnel. it had 4 layers on it and felt like a water bed when you walked on it. We took a plug and discovered the 3rd layer had rocks on it and the 4 th layer, the guys had come in and put 1/2 plywood over the rocks and put on the 4th roof. Guys, don’t do shady things like this, be honest with the people, or walk away, now i have to go in and charge these guys extra 10,000 dollars to tear off all this extra stuff and the roof is only 7 yrs old ,but looks 15. Do it right or not at all.

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