The Complete Guide to Commercial Roof Replacement

Every building has its backbone – and for businesses, it’s often the commercial roof that plays this pivotal role. Not only does it safeguard the structural integrity of the entire establishment, but it also shields assets and employees from the elements, contributing significantly to energy efficiency, aesthetics, and overall business operations.

But like all structural elements, commercial roofs aren’t eternal. Over time, wear and tear from environmental factors, design complexities, and material aging can lead to the need for replacements. Whether you’re a seasoned business owner familiar with roofing intricacies or just stepping into the world of commercial property ownership, understanding roof replacement is paramount.

This guide aims to shed light on commercial roof replacement, diving deep into its world, from the diverse materials that pave the path to the differences that set it apart from its residential counterpart. So, as you navigate the important decision of protecting your business from the top, let’s embark on this journey to ensure you’re informed every step of the way.


What is Commercial Roofing?

Commercial roof replacement guide: comparison of commercial and residential roof
Commercial Roof vs Residential Roof

At a glance, one might assume that roofing is universal, a shield atop any structure. But delve a bit deeper, and the intricacies of commercial roofing quickly come to the forefront, distinguishing it from the residential roofs we’re more familiar with.

Defining Commercial Roofing:

Commercial roofing pertains to the roofing solutions specifically designed for businesses and commercial structures. These roofs are often larger, flat or only slightly sloped, and require different materials and installation techniques compared to residential roofs.

Purpose and Functionality:

Beyond merely shielding a building from weather, commercial roofs play a role in temperature regulation, ensuring energy efficiency, and often accommodating heavy equipment such as HVAC systems or even green roofing systems with plant life.

Architectural Distinctions:

One of the striking differences between commercial and residential roofs is their design. Commercial structures often have flat or low-slope roofs, which require unique drainage solutions. This design allows for maximizing the usable space both on and below the roof.

Materials Matter:

While residential roofs might often be shingled, commercial roofs might use materials like modified bitumen, ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), or thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) – all of which cater to the specific demands of larger, flatter surfaces.

Installation and Maintenance:

Given their expanse and the specific challenges they present, commercial roofs require specialized installation techniques. They often take longer to install or replace due to their size and the intricacies involved. Furthermore, their maintenance is pivotal – a small leak can escalate quickly, impacting vast portions of the business operations below.

Cost Implications:

The investment in commercial roofing often surpasses residential roofing, not just because of the size but also due to the specialized materials and labor involved. However, with proper maintenance, the return on investment in terms of durability and energy savings can be significant.

Understanding the nuances of commercial roofing is the first step in recognizing its importance. As we navigate further, we’ll delve into the different materials that shape these roofs and the considerations every business owner must bear in mind when thinking about replacements.

Common Materials Used in
Commercial Roofing

Commercial roofing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. As we delve into the materials often chosen for these large-scale projects, you’ll notice the versatility and unique benefits each offers. Depending on factors like climate, budget, and specific building needs, one might be more apt for your structure than others.

TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin):

blog commercial roof guide commercial tpo roof
  • Overview: TPO is a single-ply roofing membrane that has gained immense popularity for its durability and energy efficiency.
  • Benefits: Resistant to UV rays, which can reduce cooling costs; flexible, which makes it resistant to tears, punctures, and impact damage; and it’s typically white, which can reflect sunlight and reduce heat buildup.
  • Lifespan: With proper installation and maintenance, TPO roofing can last 20-30 years.
  • Price: Generally costs between $4 to $14 per square foot installed.

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer):

blog commercial roof guide commercial epdm roof
  • Overview: Often referred to as rubber roofing, EPDM is a durable synthetic material that has been used for decades in commercial roofing.
  • Benefits: Superior durability and versatility; resistant to UV rays, temperature fluctuations, and hail damage; easy and cost-effective to install and maintain.
  • Lifespan: A well-maintained EPDM roof can last 20-25 years.
  • Price: Ranges from $4 to $14 per square foot installed.

Modified Bitumen:

blog commercial roof guide commercial modified bitumen roof
  • Overview: A descendant of asphalt roofing, modified bitumen is applied in layers, offering redundancy in the event of a breach.
  • Benefits: Offers superior flexibility in colder climates, and the layered installation provides multiple lines of defense against leaks.
  • Lifespan: Typically, modified bitumen roofs last 10-20 years.
  • Price: Typically priced between $10 to $15 per square foot.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR):

blog commercial roof guide commercial built up roof
  • Overview: Commonly known as tar-and-gravel roofs, BUR systems involve layering fabric and bitumen to create a resilient barrier.
  • Benefits: High durability, excellent waterproofing characteristics, and protection from UV rays and extreme weather conditions.
  • Lifespan: A well-installed BUR can last 15-30 years.
  • Price: Ranges from $4 to $10 per square foot, depending on the number of layers.

Metal Roofing:

blog commercial roof guide commercial metal roof
  • Overview: Metal roofs for commercial properties can be made of steel, aluminum, or even copper and come in a variety of styles and finishes.
  • Benefits: Highly durable, resistant to fire, wind, and hail, and can be designed to reflect the sun’s rays, thereby reducing cooling costs.
  • Lifespan: Metal roofing systems can have a life expectancy of 40-60 years, depending on the material and maintenance.
  • Price: Generally between $7 to $15 per square foot, depending on the metal type.

Green or Living Roofs:

blog commercial roof guide commercial green living roof
  • Overview: An innovative solution, these roofs are covered with vegetation and a growing medium, placed over a waterproofing membrane.
  • Benefits: Acts as an insulator, reducing heating and cooling costs; absorbs rainwater, which can reduce the risk of flooding; and provides a habitat for wildlife.
  • Lifespan: With proper care, green roofs can last upwards of 40 years.
  • Price: Typically starts from $15 to $30 per square foot, given the intricacy and specialized installation.

Selecting the right material for your commercial roof is a crucial decision that hinges on various factors, from budgetary considerations to the specific challenges posed by the local climate. Engaging with a roofing expert can guide the decision-making process, ensuring longevity and performance.

Signs Your Commercial Roof
Needs Replacement

Commercial roofs, like all infrastructure components, have a finite lifespan. Although regular maintenance can extend this lifespan, there comes a time when replacement becomes a more viable option than frequent repairs. Here’s how you can discern the telltale signs signaling the need for a roof replacement:

blog commercial roof guide problem old roof
  • Overview: Every roofing material has a general expected lifespan. If your roof is nearing or has surpassed this age, it’s time to consider a replacement.
  • Tip: Keep track of your roof’s installation date. For instance, if you have a TPO roof that’s been in place for over 25 years, it might be approaching the end of its life.
blog commercial roof guide problem water leak on ceiling
  • Overview: Leaks that recur despite repeated repairs signal deeper issues, often indicative of widespread membrane damage.
  • Tip: Look for water stains on interior ceilings or walls. Puddles or consistent wet spots in the attic or top floor can also be indicators.
blog commercial roof guide problem storm damaged roof
  • Overview: Hail, high winds, or fallen debris can cause extensive damage that might be beyond repair.
  • Tip: After a major storm, have your roof inspected for cracks, punctures, or torn flashing.
blog commercial roof guide problem ponding water roof
  • Overview: This is a common problem on flat roofs. Water that remains stagnant for over 48 hours can degrade roofing materials.
  • Tip: Install proper drainage systems or tapered insulation to direct water off the roof.
blog commercial roof guide problem blister roof
  • Overview: These form when air or moisture gets trapped under the roofing material. They can lead to cracks and leaks over time.
  • Tip: Blisters are often visible to the naked eye. A professional inspection can determine their severity.
  • Overview: If your heating or cooling costs are rising without a clear reason, it could be due to deteriorating roof insulation.
  • Tip: Monitor your monthly energy usage. A sudden spike often indicates insulation issues.
  • Overview: This includes shrinking, cracking, or erosion of the roofing membrane.
  • Tip: Regular inspections can catch these issues early on. Look for changes in the material’s texture or color.
blog commercial roof guide problem mold on roof
  • Overview: Persistent moisture can lead to mold growth, which poses health risks and indicates underlying water damage.
  • Tip: Look for a musty smell or visible mold growth inside the building. Dark streaks on the roof’s surface can also be indicative.
  • Overview: Sagging or warped areas suggest that the roof’s structural components might be damaged or rotting.
  • Tip: Structural issues can be dangerous. If you notice any sagging, it’s crucial to call a professional immediately.

Remember, while these signs can hint at the need for a roof replacement, a comprehensive inspection by a licensed commercial roofing professional will provide the most accurate assessment. Proactive inspections and timely interventions can save you from more costly repairs or even a premature roof replacement.

Considerations Before Opting
for a Roof Replacement

Deciding to replace your commercial roof is a significant investment. Before making the commitment, consider these crucial factors to ensure you’re making the right decision:

Assessment of Current Roof Condition:

  • Overview: Before rushing to replace, have a thorough assessment by professionals to determine the extent of the damage. Some issues might be repairable without needing a full replacement.
  • Tip: Always get a second opinion. Different contractors might have varying recommendations.

Budget and Financing:

  • Overview: Understand the costs involved in the type of replacement you’re considering. Can you afford an outright payment or will you need financing options?
  • Tip: Some roofing contractors offer financing plans. Explore these options and compare interest rates.

Warranty Evaluation:

  • Overview: If your existing roof is still under warranty, you may be able to claim some costs or repairs.
  • Tip: Always keep a copy of your roofing warranty handy and be aware of its terms and conditions.

Material Selection:

  • Overview: With various materials available, think about longevity, energy efficiency, and price. The right choice can offer long-term savings.
  • Tip: While more expensive materials might have a higher upfront cost, they can offer savings in the long run due to durability and efficiency.

Environmental and Energy Considerations:

  • Overview: Modern roofing materials can be environmentally friendly and help reduce energy consumption.
  • Tip: Look for materials with ENERGY STAR ratings. They can help reduce energy costs.

Local Building Codes and Regulations:

  • Overview: Each region might have specific building codes and regulations related to commercial roofing. Ensure compliance to avoid penalties.
  • Tip: Consult with local authorities or your roofing contractor about any permits or specific requirements.

Roofing Contractor’s Expertise:

  • Overview: The quality of installation is just as important as the material. Ensure that your contractor has experience with commercial roofing and positive reviews.
  • Tip: Ask for references and review case studies from the contractor’s past projects.

Disruption to Business Operations:

  • Overview: Roof replacements can be disruptive. Understand the timeline and see how it aligns with your business operations.
  • Tip: Schedule replacements during your off-peak times or when you can manage some downtime.

Maintenance Commitment Post Replacement:

  • Overview: Even new roofs need maintenance. Familiarize yourself with the recommended care for your chosen material.
  • Tip: A maintenance plan can prolong the life of your roof and preempt major issues.


  • Overview: Consider how the new roof will accommodate future modifications, installations, or building expansions.
  • Tip: If you’re planning to install solar panels or rooftop HVAC systems in the future, discuss these plans with your contractor.

Alternative to Traditional Replacement: Liquid-Applied Roof Coating

blog commercial roof guide alternative liquid applied roof coating

1. What it is:

Liquid-Applied Roof Coating is a seamless membrane applied directly to an existing roofing system. It’s a liquid solution that, once cured, acts as a protective shield for the underlying roof, adding years to its lifespan. This method offers an innovative approach to roof rejuvenation without the need for an intensive replacement process.

Top down view of warehouse - before application Top down view of warehouse - after application

2. Benefits:

  • Extended Roof Life: One of the main advantages is the significant extension of your roof’s life. The coating acts as a barrier against environmental factors like UV rays, rain, and snow.
  • Cost Savings: Opting for a Liquid-Applied Roof Coating can avoid the expenses of a full roof replacement while still offering the benefits of a new roof.
  • Energy Efficiency: These coatings often reflect sunlight, leading to decreased indoor temperatures. As a result, buildings can experience a reduction in air-conditioning costs.
  • Minimal Disruption: Unlike traditional replacements, the application process is faster and doesn’t disrupt the daily operations of a business operating under the roof.
blog commercial roof guide coating energy saving

3. Best Scenarios to Use:

  • Roof in Good Structural Condition: This method is ideal when the underlying structure of the roof is sound, but the surface shows signs of wear or minor damages.
  • Budget Constraints: For businesses that might not have the budget for a full roof replacement but need a solution to extend the life of their current roof.
  • Eco-friendly Choice: With the emphasis on sustainability, liquid-applied roof coatings are an environmentally-friendly choice as they reduce the need for new roofing materials.

4. Comparison with Traditional Methods:

  • Time: Traditional roof replacements can take a significant amount of time, often several days to weeks depending on the size. Liquid-applied methods can be completed in a fraction of that time.
  • Material Waste: Traditional methods involve tearing off old roofing materials, leading to waste. The liquid-applied method rejuvenates the existing roof, minimizing waste.
  • Longevity: When properly applied, liquid coatings can prolong a roof’s lifespan by as much as 50 years, presenting a formidable alternative. We proudly provide a 50-Year material warranty along with a 20-Year labor warranty.

5. Price & Warranty:

Liquid-Applied Roof Coating frequently results in notable cost savings compared to complete roof replacements. Costs can fluctuate based on the roof’s dimensions, its current state, and the chosen coating type. Yet, given the elimination of old roof removal and the absence of new roofing materials, combined with long-term energy savings, it often emerges as a cost-effective alternative. Prices can start as low as $1.5 – $2 per square foot!

Massive Cost Saving – as low as

Silicone Coating


Per Square Foot


Traditional Roof


Per Square Foot

industry-leading warranty








For a precise & fast estimate suited to your building, our professional Alliance Roofing team is here to assist. Fill out a quick form or give us a call at (417) 543-9533.

Learn More about Roof Coating

The traditional Replacement Process:
What to Expect

blog commercial roof guide alternative roof coating process
Preping the roof for coating

Replacing a commercial roof is an intricate task. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process, so you know what to anticipate:

1. Initial Consultation and Inspection:

A roofing contractor starts by inspecting the current state of your roof, understanding your needs, and offering suitable solutions. It’s an ideal time to address all queries you might have about the process or material options.

2. Proposal and Estimate:

Based on the inspection, you’ll receive a detailed proposal, including the scope of work, material recommendations, and a cost estimate. Compare estimates from different contractors, but ensure you’re comparing like for like in terms of materials, warranties, and services.

3. Selection of Materials and Finalizing Contract:

Once you’ve settled on materials and have agreed upon the project details, you’ll enter into a contract. Always read the contract details thoroughly. Ensure all aspects, from material choices to labor guarantees, are clearly specified.

4. Preparation:

Before work begins, the contractor will ensure the site is ready. This may involve setting up scaffolding, removing equipment from the roof, or other preparatory tasks. Consider the safety measures being implemented, especially if your business will operate during the replacement.

5. Old Roof Removal:

Depending on its condition, the existing roof may need to be entirely removed before installation of the new one. Ask about disposal methods. Ideally, materials should be recycled or disposed of responsibly.

6. Surface Preparation:

Once the old roof is removed, the surface will be cleaned and prepped to ensure smooth installation of the new roof. A clean, well-prepped surface is crucial for the longevity of the new roof.

7. Installation of the New Roof:

Your chosen materials will be installed methodically. This can range from applying liquid coatings to placing large roof membranes. Regularly check-in for updates on the installation progress.

8. Quality Assurance and Inspection:

After installation, the contractor should inspect the new roof to ensure quality and that all specifications have been met. Some contractors might offer drone footage or a walk-through to show the completed work.

9. Cleanup and Final Handover:

Post-installation, the worksite will be cleaned, ensuring no debris or materials are left behind. The new roof is then officially handed over to you. Ensure that the cleanup is thorough, especially if there’s any risk of nails or sharp objects being left behind.

10. Warranty and Maintenance Guidelines:

You’ll receive details about the warranty for both materials and labor. Along with this, you’ll be given guidelines for maintaining your new roof. Set reminders for regular maintenance checks. This will help in prolonging the life of your roof and keeping it in prime condition.

Final Words

Making the decision to replace a commercial roof is significant and involves careful consideration of various factors. From understanding the nuances of commercial roofing to the selection of appropriate materials and knowing the ins and outs of the replacement process, each step is crucial.

Commercial roofing, as we’ve emphasized, has its unique characteristics that distinguish it from residential roofing, both in design and material selection. The initial outlay for a commercial roof replacement might appear daunting, but it’s pivotal to view this as a long-term investment. With the right materials, coupled with regular maintenance, a commercial roof can serve as a protective shield for your business for decades.

Experiencing signs of roof wear and tear or have a roof that’s lived beyond its expected lifespan? It might be time to think about a replacement. And this is where Alliance Roof Solutions & Coatings comes into play. We are a trusted and proven commercial roofing company, and we pride ourselves on being a valuable partner in ensuring your roofing needs are met with utmost professionalism and expertise.

In conclusion, while understanding the intricacies of commercial roofing is essential, so is selecting the right partner for the job. With Alliance Roof Solutions & Coatings by your side, you can be confident in the quality, durability, and longevity of your commercial roof. Always prioritize periodic inspections and maintenance. Being proactive in these areas not only extends the life of your roof but also instills peace of mind, knowing that your business’s primary protective layer is robust and reliable.

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