Commercial Roofing FAQs: Replace or Recover your Roof?

Kathleen Maxwell


When your commercial roof starts leaking, it’s time to consider whether you need to replace or recover your roof. In this installment of our commercial roofing FAQ series, we look at the differences between roof replacement and roof recovery and give commercial building owners some helpful questions to ask their commercial roofing contractors.

Q: What is a roof replacement?

A: A commercial roof replacement requires a contractor to demolish the entire existing roof(s) down to the deck. Roofers pull off the membrane and underlying materials down to the roof deck before constructing a new roof in its place. In some cases, roof deck replacements may be required if it is rotted or rusted. Because a roof replacement requires demolition, construction, and the purchase of new materials, it is the most expensive option for commercial building owners. All commercial roofs will eventually need replacement as wear and tear will degrade all roofing materials over time.

Q: What is a roof recovery?

A: Roof recovery (or restoration) is a stopgap solution that can extend the life of a commercial roof without requiring a complete replacement. There are different types of roof recoveries, but most involve putting a new roof membrane over the top of an existing roof system. For a roof with leaks, the new membrane will make it watertight again and typically qualifies for a 20-year warranty.

Q: When is it possible to recover a commercial roof?

A: Not all roofs are eligible for recovery. Only roofs that still have intact decks, dry insulation, and have maintained their structural integrity can be recovered properly. Trying to put a new roof membrane on a compromised roofing surface will only lead to disaster. Roof recoveries are most likely to be successful when a roofing contractor intervenes very soon after a leak starts, when it may be possible to prevent moisture intrusion into the roof’s structural elements. Roofs with many or longstanding leaks will likely need to be replaced.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a roof recovery?

A: Roof recoveries are significantly more affordable than a roof replacement. It requires fewer materials, and therefore, less labor from roofing contractors. Many roof recoveries can also be done without a business needing to close. Most roof recoveries greatly extend the commercial roof’s life as a whole. Still, a roof recovery is not a replacement. Recovery may not allow building owners to make significant changes or improvements to their buildings.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a roof replacement?

A: Roof replacements are expensive, time-consuming, and usually more disruptive to business. Despite these downsides, roof replacements are often unavoidable. If the structural integrity of a roof deck is compromised, a roof replacement is the only way to ensure the building remains functional. Choosing a roof replacement is also a way to upgrade your roof with new materials, like better insulation or a new design.

Q: Won’t I eventually need to replace my roof anyway?

A: Eventually, yes. Depending on local codes, buildings may only be allowed 1-2 roof systems on a particular building. This depends on how much weight the existing structure can hold.

If you’re ready to find out if your roof is eligible for recovery or replacement, contact Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal today. Our team is experienced in both roof replacement and recovery, and we are here to help you.

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