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I have the pleasure of meeting commercial building owners who are experiencing roof leaks on their building or other storm damage and they contact Foothills Roofing and Exteriors for a quote to replace their roof.

A commercial roof replacement job can be very lucrative for a roofing company. Commercial roofing in general is a lucrative business, however, it can also be very technical and capital intensive…one big mistake has the potential to literally drive a roofing business to bankruptcy.

I have personally taken the lead on numerous commercial roof replacement jobs and I have first hand experience on how a commercial roof replacement can quickly turn into a financial nightmare for both the contractor and the building owner. 

Tearing a roof off of a building is an extremely intrusive process to the building itself and to the business that the roof is supposed to protect.  Depending on the project, it can literally take weeks to tear a roof off of a building and then dispose of it in a safe and cost effective manner. This aspect of a roof replacement can literally disrupt the business’s ability to operate and cause financial hardship and loss of income to the business and its employees.  

Sometimes a roofing company can still do the job without the business being interrupted or stopped, but a commercial roof replacement is loud with banging hammers on the roof, dirty due to the dust and debris that is unsettled after years of gathering soot and debris. All of this can make customers and employees feel very uncomfortable. A business can actually lose customers causing a big loss when considering the lifetime value of a customer.

Another major aspect of a commercial roof replacement is the high cost of materials and labor for such a roofing job. Commercial roofing jobs range from small, medium, large to extra large. The price range can vary greatly but for the purpose of this article let’s put the average commercial roofing job at $150,000.

There are several reasons that a commercial roofing job can get very expensive quickly and there can also be unforeseen costs that arise once the job starts and those costs can be substantial. One reason for the high cost is due to the fact that older buildings did not have to adhere to modern building codes. Modern building codes can be complicated and city officials have a reputation for being difficult and strict when enforcing building codes to roofing contractors. Older roofs often have outdated HVAC units and outdated electrical that must be updated when replacing the commercial roof. There are also insulation requirements that must be adhered to causing the cost to increase dramatically if a tapered insulation system will be required for a commercial roof replacement. 

To protect and prepare a building owner, jurisdictions will often perform a pre-roof inspection with the city official and the licensed commercial roofing contractor.  During these pre-roof inspections the city official can let the contractor and owner know if HVAC and electrical units will need to be upgraded and any other requirements they will plan to enforce. This provides some risk mitigation to a building owner at the very least. 

Depending on what the city official says during the commercial pre-roof inspection, a commercial roofing job that was going to cost $150,000 can quickly spike to $250,000 if the HVAC and electrical must be replaced in order to meet modern building codes. In addition to this problem, a city inspector may contest the insulation value you are proposing and scrutinize the material specifications to ensure that the material meets their requirements. They may question the substrate and the compatibility of the proposed material with the existing substrate and could even call to replace the substrate completely.

I think you can start to see how a commercial roof replacement can be extremely problematic to a building owner and can turn into a large capital investment that was not planned or desired in any way. I would even venture to say that a commercial roof replacement can be a nightmare to all parties involved. 

So what is a building owner to do?  It can be extremely frustrating when dealing with roof leak after roof leak and roof repair after roof repair.  In addition to dealing with a leaking roof, a building owner or property manager has to deal with aggressive commercial roofing contractors looking to sell them a lucrative commercial roofing job telling them that the only solution is to replace the roof.

As a roofing contractor who has first hand experience with this scenario and has taken the lead on selling a job like this as well as project managing it, I have dreaded commercial roof replacements. A commercial roofing job is very complicated and requires expertise in multiple aspects such as code requirements, material specifications, OSHA safety guidelines, and a high capital requirement accompanied by an equally high amount of risk and liability. 

I started to wonder if there is another way. The last commercial roofing job resulted in a very positive way financially but the one before that resulted in a net loss due to mistakes that were made by myself and my team. It’s not fun waking up every day to a sense of dread that this commercial roofing job could go south and a lot of money could be lost.

One solution that I’ve offered to commercial building owners in the past was to do a commercial roof coating job instead of a commercial roof replacement. When I started Foothills Roofing and Exteriors years ago, one of the first certifications that my company attained was with Gaco Roof Coatings.  My team and I sat in a classroom and learned about the product and then we went out and actually sold our first commercial roof coating job soon after. I distinctly remember that job because the owner was selling the building and he needed to fix the roof leaks in order to sell. He was told a roof replacement was the only way to go and it was going to cost over $80,000. We proposed a Gaco roof coating solution and it was going to cost $30,000 and even came with a ten year workmanship warranty and a ten year manufacturer warranty. This job only took four days as opposed to three weeks and his business was not interrupted at all and the buyer was satisfied with getting a ten year warranty. 

I’ve continued to offer this solution to more building owners and it’s now gotten to the point where I decline to offer a bid or quote for a commercial roof replacement even when requested and instead offer a complimentary commercial roof coating quote.

There are instances when a roof is in extremely bad shape and is not a good candidate for roof coating solution. Often those roofs are older tar and gravel built up roofs. These roofs also have pea gravel or river rock protecting the tar from the sun and we cannot coat such a roof, however, we can remove the rock, clean the roof thoroughly, perform some repairs, and then apply a Gaco spray foam roofing material the roof and then coat that spray foam.

A Gaco Spray Foam combined with a Gaco 100% silicone roof coating is the perfect cost effective solution to an older tar and gravel built up roof. Together with spray foam we can still offer ten, fifteen, and twenty year warranties for this kind of job and the cost is still dramatically lower than a roof replacement. 

In the rare instance that a commercial roof is too far gone to be repaired, spray foamed, and coated, then yes start looking at a roof replacement and we have excellent commercial roofing partners that we can refer you to for that.  We still do replacements on small and medium sized commercial roofs that are more straightforward.

But if you want a solution to your roofing problem that is both cost effective and high quality then fill out a contact form on our website and let’s talk about your roof.