Rethinking a Re-Roof

— By Tom Dawson —

How to save on roof-related costs during a remodel.


Remodeling a building tends to be costly, but there is a chance businesses can bypass a major — and often assumed — “necessary” cost. The purpose of this article is to educate and share some good news: businesses may be able to avoid the need for a new roof during an upcoming remodel. Often when a building is undergoing a major remodel, the general contractor’s default position is that the roof must always be replaced. Not knowing there could be an alternative, many organizations prematurely install a new roof when the previous roof’s lifespan could have been prolonged. By educating themselves on the true condition of their roof and their alternative options, businesses can be informed and diligent to guarantee they come in under or on budget for their remodel.

Step One


  • Decide if a new roof is needed or not.

Determining if a new roof is needed or not may seem like a complicated, nuanced question. Facilities professionals can start this decision process by asking the following: Has the roof been leaking lately? When was the roof last inspected? Does my roof have a warranty? When does the organization plan on selling this location?

Tom Dawson, RoofingSource

If the roof has not been leaking recently, there is no pressing rush to replace it.

Roofs that are at the end of their lifespan typically have many recurring leaks that cannot be remedied. If the roof does not leak when there is significant rain, the roof membrane is most likely in decent condition and has remaining life in it. Ensuring there is an up-to-date inspection report is integral because there is more to the roof than if it leaks. A trained professional can analyze the roof deeper by performing a core cut or infrared scan to see “under the membrane.” This allows businesses to understand if there is moisture buildup or other risks that don’t meet the eye. Another factor that is important to consider is how long the organization will have responsibility for the roof. Some organizations know the end date of their occupancy or that they are planning to sell the building in the upcoming years. These are questions that may require time and consulting other parties. Therefore, it is encouraged to begin gathering this important information as soon as possible.

Step Two


  • Get a second opinion.

Considering general contractors are typically compensated by a percentage of the total job cost, they insist that a new roof is almost always needed. Due to how they are paid, they may give the wrong recommendation and replace a roof that could have been saved. It is wise to get a second opinion from another contractor, ideally a certified roofing contractor. There is no harm in having another set of eyes on the roof. A useful resource to find a certified roofing contractor is on the “Find a Contractor” tool on the National Roofing Contractors Association website at One can search for a certified contractor by their geographical location and other preferences. Make sure to consult a contractor who does not only focus on large roof projects but instead, select a contractor who also performs preventative maintenance, smaller repairs or restorations. By working with this type of holistic roofing partner, one can help ensure they are providing the best advice and not just recommending the highest ticket item.

Step Three


  • Evaluate options outside a new roof.

There are more choices than ever before when it comes to alternative restorative options. Over the past few years, the technology of coatings has changed dramatically. Now businesses can restore their roof with acrylic, silicone and asphalt coatings and significantly prolong the life of their roof. Coatings have proven to be a very cost-effective option versus a full roof replacement.

Step Four (a)


  • (If a new roof is required):

Complete the re-roof outside of the remodel’s timeframe. If the building does in fact require a new roof and it is not urgent due to safety concerns, consider pushing the project’s completion date outside of the remodel timeframe. Timing is everything when it comes to a new roof. In many cases, there is usually an unnecessary 5% to 10% upcharge when a new roof is installed during the remodel project. If possible, try to delay installing the new roof until after the project is done. Additionally, if the roof is installed outside of the remodel, it will reduce the chance of damage occurring on the roof from third-party vendors, like HVAC technicians or signage and light installers, that might need to install or change things out on the roof. A new roof installation is ideal to perform in mild weather and best to avoid completing in the winter with extreme cold. This inclement weather can impact the bonding of adhesives, sealants and welds. Also, businesses can avoid weather delays and increased labor charges from reducing the chance of having contractors work in rain or snow.

Step Four (b)


  • (If a new roof is not required):

Extend its life with repairs & maintenance. If the building does not require a new roof immediately, businesses should continue to maximize the roof’s lifespan with minor repairs and preventative maintenance. It is rare that a whole roof needs to be replaced. Typically a roof presents a certain isolated section that has recurring issues. A skilled roofing contractor can help identify and repair these problem areas instead of needing to redo the membrane of the building’s entire footprint.

Before completing any repairs, businesses should take necessary precautions to keep the warranty valid. The repair must be “like-to-like.” That means the same membrane is used on top of the same membrane. For example, if a PVC roof is being repaired, the repairs must be done with PVC and not roof cement. Also, it is important to note that the repair must be performed by a contractor who is certified by the manufacturer. If the contractor is not certified by your roofing manufacturer, you most likely will void your material warranty.

Considering a new roofing membrane is a large investment, it is crucial to take a step back and first determine if a new roof is truly necessary. Depending on the condition and needs of the organization, businesses can maximize their remodel budgets and get the most out of the original roof with proper planning and taking simple systemic steps.





— Tom Dawson is director of operations & sales at Chicago-based RoofingSource, the go-to roofing partner for the nation’s leading brands. RoofCare, RoofingSource’s flagship program, provides a leak-free guarantee at a fixed-price. For more information, email [email protected].



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