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How Long Will My New Commercial Roof Last?

It’s a common question: How long will flat roofs last? This simple question has at least two flaws in it, however. Commercial roofs are not truly flat; most are low-slope roofs, for proper drainage. Some are steep-slope, as with a Mom N Pop gift shop, for instance. And second, a commercial roof will last as long as you show the care it needs. When you stop caring, when you start neglecting your company’s roof, you can expect it to fail, quickly. 

Oh So Many Factors

Beware the commercial roofer who makes a blanket statement like, “All commercial roofs last around 20 years.” Some low-slope roofs do; some barely make the minimal benchmark; others far outlast anyone’s predictions. Many factors affect commercial roof life:

  • Commercial roof type — TPO, PVC, metal panel, heavy duty shingle, EPDM roofing; all have different lifespans
  • Maintenance historyA neglected roof is a short-lived roof
  • Prevailing winds — Wind can scour and scrape any commercial roof, shortening its life
  • Foot traffic — Allowing access to the roof to anybody in your building is a sure way to decrease the roof’s life; control foot traffic, compel workers to stay on footpaths, and you can eke out more life from the roofing material
  • Installation — The original installation could be of great quality or not-so-great quality; inferior installation shortens any roof
  • Repair history — Beyond routine inspections, cleaning, and maintenance, how well has your roof been repaired? Have small issues been allowed to spread, have roof leaks been improperly fixed, or have untrained hands had a go at repair work?

Basics

Many commercial roofs are made from three popular roofing materials: 

  1. Fiberglass-asphalt shingles — Not every commercial roof is a low-slope roof, and commercial-grade shingles may be the ideal solution for your restaurant, bakery, bookstore, or similar small business; shingles are also ideal for entryways to businesses, since a good quality commercial shingle can last 25 years with attentive maintenance
  2. EPDM — Ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (no wonder everyone calls it EPDM) is a tough-as-nails synthetic rubber roofing membrane that has a life expectancy of between 30 and 40 years; it is an ideal single-ply membrane that allows flexibility in installation with options for ballasting, mechanical fastening, or adhesives
  3. Metal — Commercial-grade metal panels lock together and are held in place with mechanical fasteners; with proper (but minimal) maintenance, the finish on these roofs can allow the metal to last 50 years, or even longer

Lost Years

A commercial roof can lose years off its expected, average lifespan for many reasons. Perhaps you inherited a building whose roof was largely ignored by the previous owners. They may not have spent a dime on regular maintenance or they may have suffered some weather emergency they could not afford to fix. 

As the current owner, you inherit those lost years. They cannot be regained. You can do a lot, though, to prevent further loss of your roof’s useful lifespan:

  • Pay attention to the weather — Rough weather takes a toll; follow any major storm (in any season) with a quick roof inspection and cleaning; remove debris, sweep the roof clean, and assess it for damage from branches, wind uplift, or snow and ice
  • Remove snow loads — Commercial roofs are engineered to withstand tremendous static loads, but every ounce you remove is a gift to the roof; never scrape the roof bare, but always contract for safe snow removal after any substantial storm
  • Discuss coatings — Roof coatings can extend the life of a roof and delay investment in a full roof replacement; discuss available coatings (sprayed or brushed on) with your commercial roofer

Your local, conscientious commercial roofer is your best asset in the struggle to stave off aging. Stay in touch with your contractor and listen carefully to the advice you are offered, including cautions against delaying decisions regarding roof leaks. 

Adding Years

You can add years of serviceable life to any commercial roof by following a few simple rules:

  1. Never defer maintenance — When budget time approaches, never rob from your roofing budget to pay other expenses; your roof protects the entirety of your business and without it, you have no business
  2. Invest in your roof — Annual inspections, routine maintenance, periodic cleaning, and prompt roof repairs will pay handsome returns on investment (ROI) when you average out the cost of the roof over its longer life
  3. Work with your commercial roofer — Trust your nearby commercial roofer for small and big jobs, always working together to plan roof succession; part of the strategy is to allow your roofer to perform the inspections, roof assets management, and repair work when each is needed

Connect with us today at Moore & Sons Roofing. We can work with you to develop strategies to extend the life of your existing commercial roof, plan for your next roof, and help that new roof outlast everyone’s predictions.