Roof Repair or Roof Replacement: What Is Your Best Option?

There are several options when it comes to the care of your roof. But once it’s suffered through years of weather and, possibly, lack of maintenance there comes a point when you have to decide – roof repair or roof replacement. There is also a middle road – roof restoration.

That day may be the next rainy day. You’re busy at work when your desk phone rings. You see that it is the maintenance manager for your facility. You answer with a bit of hesitation since it has been raining outside throughout the morning.

Just as you suspected, he’s calling to let you know that the roof is leaking again. This time the leaks are in a different spot. You are not sure if it is good news that the leaks have moved. At least the contractor was able to repair the last series of problems.

roof leak repair

But you know that the leaks are occurring on a more regular basis. The questions start to run through your head. Should you continue to repair the roof? When should you start to shop for a new roof system? Is there anything that can be done preventative to help stretch the life of the roof system out?

What are your roofing options?

Your roof system is typically out of sight, out of mind. It normally falls in the column “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But eventually, the roof system breaks and leaks start to happen. As the frequency of leaks increases, building owners begin to explore the options that they have for addressing their roof systems.

Most building owners have three primary options available to them when it comes to their roof systems. These options are:

Roof Repair

Roof Restoration

Roof Replacement

Aged roof needs replacement
Can your roof be repaired or restored or does it need replacement?

The factors that can determine which option should be considered include:

How the roof system drains and the presence of ponding water

Age of the roof system

How the roof system has been maintained over it’s life

Damages suffered during weather and storm events

Moisture infiltration into the roof system from leaks

Option 1 – Roof Repairs

Roof leaks happen. As buildings age so do the roof systems. The environment where the building is located has an effect on the roof system as well. Wind pressures work on the points of attachment. Rainfall erodes the surface of the roof system over time. Ultraviolet rays from the sun breakdown roof membranes.

New roof systems are engineered to resist these environmental factors. Roofing manufacturers offer product and systems warranties that guarantee their products and roof assemblies will stand up to these environmental factors.

TPO Roof System
TPO and PVC roofing can have a longer use life due to it's UV resistance.

Does this mean that the roof will never leak? Not at all. It just means that the manufacturer will stand behind their roof system design and repair the roof system as per their warranty.

As issues occur, the roof system must be repaired.

Repairs are typically targeted at addressing active problems on the roof system. Professional roofing contractors and roof consultants can identify the source or sources of roof leaks and recommend repairs to address those issues.

Repairs are the first step in maintaining your roof system in a functional capacity.

Option 2 – Roof Restoration

After the roof system is installed it has an initial performance period. But as the roof system ages the rate of deterioration begins to accelerate. Think of it on a similar basis to buying a new car. The moment you drive it off the lot it begins to lose value. But it does not start to deteriorate until after owning it for a few years.

Just like your car, your roof requires maintenance. The better maintained the roof system is the longer the initial performance period lasts. But eventually it gets to a point where it’s performance starts to drop. Weather patterns begin to have a long-term impact on the overall roof system.

Granule loss on modified roof
Close up image of granule loss on modified roof.

Typically the roof system begins to exhibit problems that are beyond simple repairs. But does this mean that you need to replace the roof system? In a lot of situations, especially where the roof system has been maintained well, the building owner has the option to restore the roof system instead of going right to replacement.

Issues that develop as a roof system ages include:

Granule loss on modified roof membranes

Membrane thinning due to erosion

Flashing deterioration at penetrations

Roof restoration allows building owners the option to restore the existing roof system instead of complete replacement. Certain problems such as membranes that are thinning due to erosion cannot be simply repaired. In these situations, a new wear surface would need to be installed. This can be accomplished by applying a coating to the surface of the roof which will add back thickness that may have been lost over the life of the roof system.

Roof restoration can be a great option between roof repair or roof replacement to allow for a longer time before the eventual need of total replacement of the roof system.

Would you immediately replace your car if the transmission failed? At a minimum, you most likely would consider the cost to rebuild the transmission and compare it to the cost of a new car. Before a roof is replaced, it pays to look at the possibility of restoring the existing roof and how those costs would compare to a roof replacement.

Option 3 – Roof Replacement

What do you do when repairs are no longer working and the window to restore the roof has closed? The final option is roof replacement.

The option to replace the existing roof looks different for each situation. Different factors need to be considered about the existing roof system including:

How many layers of roof systems are on the building? Building codes typically only allow a maximum of 2 roof systems on any building.

How old is the existing roof? If the existing roof has exceeded its design life by a significant amount it may be a more practical choice to replace the roof system.

Has the existing roof already been restored in the past? Certain restoration systems may have a single application limit and as a result the only option is replacement.

The option of replacing the roof system may be the best option available to the building owner. If the building owner is looking to improve the insulation value in the roof system, the only option most likely available to the building owner is a roof replacement.

Roof Replacement Option

Active Roof Maintenance

As was said earlier, roof systems have a tendency to fall under the “out of sight, out of mind” category. But, in order to be able to have the opportunity to decide between roof repair or roof replacement, it is best that the roof systems be reviewed on a regular basis.

An active maintenance program is a great tool for building owners who are looking to stay ahead of these decisions. A professional roofing contractor or consultant can implement a roof management program and provide feedback on the status of the roof system. Building owners can then make the decision to repair, restore or replace on a consistent basis. Without an active program, the building owner may miss the opportunity to implement these options and may be forced to complete the most expensive option by default.

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