Should You Replace or Re-Cover a Damaged or Aged Commercial Roof?

EPDM Roof System 101
July 14, 2016
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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)



  1. It’s interesting that sometimes replacing the roof is the most effective option. It makes sense that if a roof is too extensively damaged it could be good just to replace the whole thing. It’s something to remember for both residential and commercial roofing because trying to repair a roof that should be replaced would be very time-consuming.

    • pinkstontadd says:

      There is no doubt that completely replacing a roof is ALWAYS the best way to go; however, it is not always the most price conscious or wise for a company or homeowner. It is very important to make sure you have a certified, licensed, insured, bonded, etc. roofing contractor that will give you sound advice that you can trust with such a big decision as fixing or replacing a roof. Thanks for your input!

  2. You stated that problems can arise when a roof is installed wrong, designed incorrectly, or not properly maintained. I can imagine that in some places having a durable roof might be a priceless commodity. What type of maintenance is required for commercial roofs that might not be for residential roofs?

    • pinkstontadd says:

      Thank you for the question.. It is a very good one. Typically, commercial roofs are much more flat, so it is important to check to see if you have any ponding on the roof, or standing water. Standing water will deteriorate a roof much quicker and needs to be removed. That standing water could be caused by a majority of reasons, including clogged drains or gutters, displacement of insulation that cause drainage issues or lack of taper or slope in the roof system and/or frame of the building. Other maintenance includes checking the flashing or roof material around walls, mechanical units, vent pipes and exhaust fans and also checking all seams in the roof to make sure air pockets or pops have not happened over the course of the year and through the different thermal shocks from hot to cold weather and vice versa. Thanks again!

  3. This is some really good information about commercial roofing. I like that you talked about roofing coating. I just bought an older home and I want to make sure that my roof is in good shape. So, if coating my roof can prevent water damage, I am game for getting a new coating on my roof.

    • pinkstontadd says:

      Emily, thank you for taking the time to read some of our content and respond with some feedback. Unfortunately we do not do residential work, but we would be happy to recommend a trusted roofer if you are in the Northern Illinois Territory. Please call at (815) 756-9700. Preventative maintenance on your roof and maintaining a proactive approach is recommended for a long life span and high performance of your roof!


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  5. Mathias says:

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  6. Derek McDoogle says:

    My boss told me that there is water filtration coming from the roof of the office and he is concerned about getting the units damaged. I like how you mentioned that some problems on a roof can be minor and easily repaired, so they don’t warrant the expense of a replacement. I will recommend him to contact a professional roofing company so that they can repair or replace the roof as soon as possible.

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