By John Walker
When it comes to modern commercial roofing repair, today’s contractor professionals and building owners have options. Gone are the days where the only solution to damage and leaks was a full tear-off and replacement—today, restoration methods have evolved to help commercial roofs regain their full performance potential at a fraction of the cost.
With the right high-performance products and by following established best practices, restoration can be an ideal solution for all parties involved. If you haven’t yet investigated whether restoration might be right for your next project, here’s everything you need to know:
Many of today’s bituminous roofs are ideal for repair and restoration. Original waterproofing bitumen are easily bonded to new modified repair mastics and coating materials. Additionally, standardized repair procedures have been perfected and can be expected to help extend a roof’s life for many years.
However, replacement is still a necessity in certain situations, depending on the overall condition of the roof. For example, many building codes and standards state any roof that is more than 20% saturated must be fully torn off and replaced.
To determine if your roof is a good candidate for restoration, you should perform an analysis on the state of the roof to determine the condition of the structural deck, insulation, and the membrane. Nondestructive and visual testing can be performed to give you a good idea of the state of the roof, and you can look for a few telltale signs of common damage:
- Ponding water could indicate structural sagging in the deck.
- A soft area underfoot is an indicator of saturated insulation.
- Rusted, rotted, or cracked decking can sometimes be seen from the inside of the building and may help locate the worst areas of deck deterioration.
- A splitting membrane may be visible to the naked eye for experienced professionals.
More thorough examination can include peel adhesion testing to determine the viability of coating solutions; core cutting, which can validate the visual moisture survey; and wind uplift testing to determine the state of the membrane. By deploying these methods, you should be able to determine if your roof is a good candidate for restoration.
A good roof restoration process involves a few fundamental steps to execute properly:
- Start by removing any debris and cleaning the roof to prepare for the rest of the project. A clean roof will be far easier to restore.
- Next, depending on the condition of the roof, a primer is applied to ensure good adhesion for patching, stain blocking, and rust inhibition. Be sure to choose a high-quality primer to ensure the best results.
- Patching is then performed to make sure all parts of the roof system are water-tight. Once again, high-quality products for the patching process are a requirement for a job done right.
- Finally, protective coatings can be applied to ensure long-lasting performance. A variety of protective coatings are available, and should be selected based on the needs of the specific roof.
This all means that a restoration project can be undertaken with the purchase of a few high-performance products, a far more cost effective solution than replacing the roof entirely. And the job can be performed without any invasive procedures or removing significant portions of the existing roof, meaning business can generally go on as usual within the structure. On average, a restoration project costs about $200 per square foot. Comparatively, a re-roof generally costs about $600 per square foot.
Restorations Vs. Recovering and the Importance of Maintenance
Another option professionals may explore is the recover, which generally involves leaving the existing membrane and insulation in place and installing a new layer of insulation board and membrane over it. This technique is comparatively cost-effective to a restoration, and can be an attractive option for that reason.
But recover projects are inherently risky for a few reasons. Think of it this way: Recovering is essentially laying down a new roof system on top of a poorly-performing one. The trouble is the poorly-performing system will still perform poorly. If any leaks do occur in the future, finding them beneath the new system is next to impossible for the average contractor. And if any leaks occur to the new system, they are more difficult to detect, given that water will accumulate between the new cover and the old system before any water reaches the building’s interior. By the time this happens, the entire system will likely require a full tear-off.
Restoration eliminates these potential issues by leaving the existing system intact, allowing for easier maintenance and inspection throughout its life. Following regular, sound maintenance practices can help dramatically reduce the likelihood of failure and has been consistently proven to extend roof lifetimes.
The Right Choice for Busy Professionals
One of the most significant benefits of a restoration project is that it can be completed relatively quickly.
A successful restoration project involves working with the right supplier of high performance coatings and mastics. Modern formulations can help ensure a job well done and deliver outstanding performance that building owners can trust. Additionally, the right supplier may be able to help your team follow established best practices, leading to more successful projects and satisfied customers.
Walker is field systems coordinator for APOC, an ICP Building Solutions Group company. At Joliet Junior College, he earned certifications in roof repair, boiler maintenance, and basic building electrical systems. He has been a casino maintenance supervisor and owned and operated a residential home maintenance and remodeling company. Walker served as an independent sales rep for a national coatings company, then as a site supervisor for roofing contractors overseeing the installation of more than one million square feet of cool roof coatings. He has been a member of the APOC Technical Team for over 10 years.