Modified Bitumen Roofing: Everything You Need to Know

What is Modified Bitumen Roofing?

Modified bitumen roofing has been a reliable and popular type of commercial roofing in Virginia (and elsewhere) for decades. But what exactly is it? 

We like to think of modified bitumen as the next evolution of asphaltic roofing. Like other redundant roofing systems, modified bitumen roofing systems are made of multiple layers, more than single-ply roofs but fewer than other redundant roofing systems. 

Another redundant roofing system like Built-Up Roofing (or “BUR roofing”), for example, consists of five layers, including a weather layer (i.e flood coat and gravel, granule surfaced cap sheet, etc.). Here’s where modified bitumen’s superpower comes into play: they add plastic or rubber into their asphaltic mix, allowing the roof rolls/sheets to expand and contract more effectively. What that translates to is the same long warranty term with equal protection and fewer redundant layers…and of course fewer labor hours and less material equals lower cost of the project.  

That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Want to know more? Read on to learn anything and everything you’ve ever needed to know about modified bitumen roofing and how the best commercial roofing contractors tackle these projects.

What is Modified Bitumen material?

The biggest material difference in modified bitumen roofs is their additives (rubber or plastic) which gives it its unique abilities to move with the building (contraction/expansion) and adapt to changes in weather (hot/cold and freeze/thaw cycles).  

Modified membranes with a rubber additive are Styrene-butadiene-styrene or more commonly known as “SBS” whereas modified with a plastic additive is atactic polypropylene otherwise known as “APP”.  

These reinforced roofing rolls will include either a fiberglass mat or a polyester scrim, both of which have their own pros and cons but are generally seen as equals. Similarly, manufacturers will likely see them as equally eligible for 20 year warranties.

Modified Bitumen Roofs Have a Variety of Installation Methods

What most of our clients like and appreciate most about modified bitumen is its large variety of installation methods.

Other redundant roof types such as BUR roofing offer more restrictive options, usually limited to hot asphalt or cold applied installation options.

Modified bitumen roofing, on the other hand, can be installed in a variety of different ways, including hot asphalt applied, cold applied, torch applied, and self-adhered. Why is this advantageous? It means it’s more capable of accommodating a greater variety of building types and roof deckings.

If your building, for example, has a combustible deck type (i.e wood), we can easily avoid a more hazardous torch-applied method in favor of something safer. Likewise, for a more sensitive or conscious building type such as a hospital, it’s best to use the least hazardous or intrusive installation type, such as cold applied or self adhered.

Based on material, budget, or other factors, modified bitumen could very well be the ideal commercial roof type for you, and fortunately there’s an installation method that can accommodate just about any circumstance.

More Layers, More Protection

Like other redundant roof types, modified bitumen’s multiple layers of protection will lead to better waterproofing and durability. Compared to single ply roofs, modified bitumen roofs are less vulnerable to accidental punctures. 

Thanks to its versatility, modified bitumen is a great choice for just about every building type. Its durability makes it much more resilient to high foot traffic, so it’s an optimal choice for building types with a higher volume of roof-related maintenance or those with a lot of HVAC units or other hardware.

What’s the Catch?

It all seemed a little too good to be true, right? Well, quality comes at a price, and both its material and labor costs are considerably higher versus other roof types, especially single-ply roofs like TPO or PVC. TPO, by comparison, is far cheaper and provides similar lengths of warranty coverage to modified bitumen.  

It’s also significantly less customizable than single-ply roofs. All single-ply roofing systems benefit from a treasure trove of prefabricated accessories that make flashing detail and installation a breeze, allowing it to easily accommodate existing roof structures, obstructions, and units. 

Modified bitumen roofing, on the other hand, has little or no prefabricated accessories, making the installation process more demanding (and much harder to create pitch pockets or other roof details.) That’s why these complex commercial roofing installations are better suited for only the most qualified commercial roofing contractors. 

How About Repairs or Warranties?

The cost of commercial roof repairs always depends on the amount of material and number of required laborers. On the whole, repairs for modified bitumen are largely comparable to other roof types.

Assuming the building type is able to accommodate this installation method, Simpson Unlimited prefers torch-applied repairs. Why? These repairs create a strong bond over the new roof patch that cures almost immediately, whereas cold applied and self adhered options are temperature dependent.  

Warranties are also comparable to other major commercial roof types. Thanks to its long history in the field and record of success, manufacturer’s recognize it is a reliable, safe commercial roofing choice.

Quality comes at a price, and although it is a more expensive commercial roof system option compared to single-ply roofing system modified bitumen roofing is still considered one of the most durable, reliable, and go-to commercial roofing types on the market.

Think modified bitumen could be right for you? Give us a call to learn about our FREE commercial roof inspections and how we can provide the best commercial roofing contractor services in Virginia, Maryland, or DC!

BUR Roofs: Cost, Advantages, Repair, and More!

Built-up roofing, known more commonly as BUR, is widely considered the “original” roofing system. Having been around for over 100 years, it has been a reliable flat roof staple of the industry for as long as modern commercial roofing has been done!

BUR has a reputation as one of the strongest and most resilient roofing systems thanks to its redundant, multi-layered design. That means when taken care of properly, your roof lifespan has the potential to far outlast other single-ply roofing systems, but that comes at the cost of a more expensive (more material and labor) and invasive (think strong smell of hot asphalt) installation.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! In the blog below, we’ll take you through any and everything you need to know about BUR roofing systems and what makes them such a popular and time-tested option in the commercial roofing industry!

What is BUR Roofing?

BUR roofing is built-up roofing in the most literal sense: it’s installed directly on top of the building structure it’s covering by adding multiple layers of roofing. These resilient roofing systems are “redundant,” meaning they’re composed of multiple layers. Single-ply membrane roofs like TPO and EPDM, on the other hand, are only composed of one roofing material layer.

The first layer of a BUR roof will be some type of insulation, followed by 4-5 layers of fiberglass felt and hot asphalt on top of that (or sometimes a cold-processed adhesive). Last but not least a layer of surfacing at the top to protect your roofing system from wear and tear.

What Unique Advantages Does BUR Roofing Have Over Other Roofs?

For starters, BUR roofing systems traditionally have a longer lifespan than most other roofing systems. This of course is assuming you’re performing biannual roofing inspections and completing all routine maintenance and repairs in a timely fashion.

A well maintained BUR system can last around 30-40 years when properly maintained. That’s a huge upside compared to the 20-25 year average lifespan of many other major roofing systems.

A built-up roof requires less maintenance than other roof types, due to a high puncture resistance contributing to a lower probability of getting an emergency leak from an accidental puncture compared to other roofing systems. A commonly overlooked benefit of BUR roofing is its ability to maintain traction. If your roof has a lot of foot traffic, the gravel on a BUR system provides a great grip and resistance to heavy foot traffic.

Warranties for BUR roofing systems are relatively standard but, as always, are dependent on the manufacturer. Some specialty manufacturers offer a 35 year warranty while other generic manufacturers offer a standard 20 year warranty.

BUR roofs are more resilient to foot traffic and overall abuse, meaning they’re harder to damage than other single-ply membrane roofs. Thanks to its multiple layers, it’s harder to create accidental penetrations that result in costly leaks. That means less overall maintenance and fewer repair costs over its lifetime.

Common BUR Roofing “Surfacing” Layers

The most common “surfacing,” or the top-most layer of a commercial roofing system, for BUR roofs is called a “flood coat and gravel.” This involves the pouring of a hot adhesive that’s then topped with gravel to help bond it together. A flood coat and gravel layer is the most heavy-duty surfacing option but it’s also one of the more challenging surfaces to find leaks on.

Another BUR roofing surfacing option is “smooth built-up”, which means the top-ply layer is left bare and coated with aluminum or another roof coating that becomes your UV resistant topping layer.

How Much Do BUR Roofing Systems Cost?

BUR roofs are inherently more expensive than other major commercial roofing systems. Why? For one, BUR roof installations require special equipment, which can drive up the overall project costs. In addition to equipment and labor, BUR roof installations also require more raw material because of their multiple layers.

At first glance, built-up roofing material can seem relatively cost-effective at only around $40 for a roll that covers 300 sq ft. This may seem low compared to modified bitumen roofing material, which costs about $70 per roll and only covers around 100 sq ft.

The difference is that modified bitumen roofing systems only require 2 layers of material while BUR roofing systems require 5 layers. More material, more labor, and more equipment means a more expensive commercial roofing system.

What BUR Roofing Installation Options Exist?

With many commercial roof systems, there are a variety of installation options to choose from based on your location, building type, or budget. For example, modified bitumen roofs offer hot asphalt, cold application, torch application, and self adhering installations, just to name a few.

With BUR roofs, however, majority of installations we perform are hot asphalt simply because very few manufacturers offer cold processed installation options.

How Are BUR Roofing Systems Repaired?

As with all roofing types, damages to your commercial roof should be taken care of as quickly as possible to prevent any additional damage or leaks. It’s equally important to ensure that all repairs should be conducted by a certified commercial roofing contractor.

Generally repairs on BUR system involve removing the topping layer (i.e gravel) to the plies, preparing, cleaning, and patch repairing with new modified bitumen membrane.

Google is full of tips and tricks for ways to complete roof repairs manually, but these shoddy DIY methods not only jeopardize the integrity of your roof and/or the validity of your manufacturer’s warranty, they also delay the inevitable: your commercial roofing system needs the expertise of a commercial roofing contractor.

BUR roofing systems are known to have more involved repairs, and additional labor almost always means additional project costs. Don’t let this deter you from picking up the phone when you notice an issue: no matter what repairs your BUR roof may need, the cost will always increase the more you delay!

Higher upfront costs could mean significantly lower overall costs over the course of 30+ years. Lucky for you, Simpson Unlimited has installed countless BUR roofing systems on every major building type across Virginia, Maryland, and DC, meaning you can rely on our expertise.

To hear more about BUR roofing systems, or if you’re thinking it might be the right roofing system for your building type, send us your details and we’ll get to work right away!

Commercial Roof Repairs 101: How to Save Time and Money!

Owning and managing a commercial roof is a lot like owning a car; while the initial purchase is the biggest expense, getting the most out of it requires routine maintenance, proactive care, and, inevitably, repairs.

Commercial roof repairs could be necessary for any number of reasons, but it almost always boils down to a leak. Whether that leak was caused by blocked drainage and ponding water, a puncture caused by another contractor, or unseen damage from a severe storm, most people don’t think about their roofs until it starts leaking. By then, the roof may have been leaking for days, weeks, or in some instances even months.

Because commercial roof repairs are inevitable, we want you to be prepared with all of the knowledge, insight, and wherewithal you need to understand everything there is to know about taking the best care of your commercial roofing system.

What are the most common commercial roof repairs?

9 out of 10 times we hear from building owners or managers about the need for roof repairs because they’ve just found a leak. Sometimes this is a result of them not being diligent about conducting their own roof walks to ensure there aren’t ponding water issues or any obvious issues with their roof. However, leaks can also be the sudden (and unfortunate) result of extreme weather. In any case, the common theme here is that these calls are almost always reactive as opposed to proactive.

Some roof repairs could be routine corrective issues like open seams and punctures, which are often considered normal wear and tear. In addition, other very common commercial roof issues and sources of leaks include:

  • Roof flashing failed
  • Curb flashing failed
  • Pipe penetrations
  • Pourable sealer pocket failed
  • Roof drain blockage
  • Failing sealant (often on exposed termination bars and pipe penetrations)

Many of these issues can be easily identified and often repaired on-site when your bi-annual inspections are conducted by a certified commercial roof contractor, which is why we lump them into the preventative maintenance category. If left unnoticed for too long, these are small repairs that have the potential to grow into very costly, time-consuming repairs by the time you recognize a leak.

Which commercial roof types are considered the lowest maintenance? Which ones are the highest maintenance?

Every single roof is unique and requires both a different approach to prep work and measures for repair. As much as it frustrates some people, there simply is not a one-size-fits-all approach to any commercial roofing task.

That said, there are certainly some trends as to which types of roof more often require repairs versus others.

Single-ply membrane roofs, for example, which include TPO, EPDM, and PVC, only offer one layer of protection, meaning they’re more susceptible to roof damage than multi-layered, redundant roof systems like modified bitumen or built-up roofing. Yes, single-ply membrane roofs are noticeably more cost effective to install and repair but you can expect those roofs to require more regular, albeit cheaper, repairs over the course of its lifetime.

Modified bitumen and built-up roofs, on the other hand, will generally create fewer issues over time but it’s repairs are, on-average, more intensive and costly than single-ply membrane roofs.

How can building owners or managers recognize when they need commercial roof repairs?

The most common (and least fortunate) way of finding out your roof needs repairs? An unexpected leak appears.

However if you’ve scheduled bi-annual inspections with a commercial roofing contractor, identifying roof repairs is never something you’ll have to worry about; the commercial roofing expert knows exactly what to look for and will bring any areas of concern to your immediate attention.

Do your future self a favor and trust in the pros!

How often do commercial roofs require repairs?

Again, commercial roofing is not a broad strokes, one-size-fits-all subject. It all depends on the age, location, condition, and type of roof and we address each repair on a case-by-case basis. The biggest takeaway is that people who maintain their roofs will have to endure fewer “surprises,” whereas reactive owners who wait for leaks are gambling with the devil.

Like cars, older roofs generally require more frequent repairs as the problems will increase with age. Proactive roof maintenance can squash a lot of these would-be headaches before they become really problematic and extend the lifespan of your commercial roof by years.

Reactive owners, in short, are paying more and getting less over the long run. Keep in mind that around 90% of the calculated cost for a leak investigation repair is just the labor required to identify the source of the leak. Repairs themselves are often straightforward, but because leaks can travel extensive distances within your building before you notice them, the investigative process can be time-consuming…and potentially costly.

Recently, we performed an inspection of a customer’s ballasted EPDM roofing system and found that most if not all of the pourable sealer pockets had deteriorated sealant. As a quick remedy, we recommended topping off with new sealant, however the customer politely declined. Fast forward 2 months, and we’re back on the same roof, this time for a leak investigation. The customer’s budget was spent discovering that the source of the leak was (you guessed it!) the pourable sealer pockets.

No matter what type of roof, repair, or work we’re discussing, 10 out of 10 times it’s cheaper to do things right the first time with a certified commercial roofing contractor.

Spend a little money now, save a lot of money later!

How do commercial roof repairs affect my manufacturer’s warranty?

For every major commercial roofing manufacturer who offers No-Dollar-Limit warranties to cover workmanship, labor, and materials, the biggest and most common exclusion is always a lack of preventative or basic roof maintenance. This isn’t a gambit to void building owners/managers of their warranties but rather draws a line saying that the manufacturer refuses to pay for major repairs that are a result of negligence.

If the drains of your roof are backed up, creating a ponding water issue that leads to roof seams opening up, that falls on the building owner’s shoulders. That doesn’t necessarily mean the warranty will be voided, however the manufacturer certainly won’t cover that specific repair.

Ultimately, the commercial roofing contractor conducting the inspection or repair will provide a full service report to the manufacturer, who will then determine whether the building owner is responsible for the repair. Although they are highly uncommon, there are also some manufacturers who will provide incentives to perform basic maintenance, meaning warranties could be extended if that maintenance is documented and reported.

Every warranty and scenario is unique, however, so be sure to check your own policies and manufacturer before assuming anything!

The moral of the story? Conducting basic maintenance on your commercial roof, including routine, wear-and-tear roof repairs, will save time and money in the long run and help maintain your existing warranties. Proactive maintenance, combined with swift repairs of any issues that do arise, will prevent “surprises” and greatly reduce the likelihood of emergency costs down the road.

Be in control of your time and budget and extend your commercial roof lifespan by years!

Ready to schedule your FREE roof inspection with Simpson Unlimited? Give us a call or drop us a line so we can start helping you today!

Everything You Need to Know About Commercial Roof Restorations in 2021

Good news, building owners and managers: your roof may have more life in it yet! By conducting major repairs or applying a tried-and-true liquid applied roofing system “coating” to your existing roofing system, you can prolong the life of your roof by 10, 15, or even 20 years before needing a full replacement, while keeping maintenance costs and safety hazards low.

Commercial roof restorations are one of the most economical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly options for roofs in need, and below we’ve outlined everything you need to know about their benefits, advantages, and compatible roofing systems.

How can building owners/managers save money by restoring their roofs?

The costs of commercial roofing projects almost always boil down to materials and labor. On the most basic level, roof restorations traditionally require less of each, meaning restorations are noticeably more cost-effective than roof replacements.

But beyond the cost of the service itself, restorations provide a much longer service life for your existing roof, meaning you continue to save in the long run by paying for low-cost maintenance instead of expensive ongoing repairs or replacements.

“Roof restorations” generally fall into two buckets: 1) extensive repairs on roofs in run-down but salvageable condition where major repairs can add at least a few years of additional service life, and 2) liquid-applied roof coatings.

Most restorations fall into the second bucket, where liquid-applied roof coatings are installed on existing roofing systems, and often include new manufacturer’s warranties for up to 20 years.

Is my roof a good candidate for a restoration?

Liquid applied roofing systems are only as good as the roofs they’re being applied to.

One of the biggest factors in determining whether a roof can be restored or not is whether or not there’s been an extensive documented history of water intrusion in the existing roof system.

A roof with a bad history of leaks may not be not a good candidate because saturated insulation and decking will compromise the long term effectiveness of a liquid applied roofing system. Our roofing experts will test for this by taking either infrared scans or core samples that determine the moisture level of the underlying deck.

Assuming there’s no existing moisture trapped in the roofing system, singly-ply membrane roofs like TPO, EPDM, and PVC are ideal candidates for roof coatings (so long as they’re not ballasted). Smooth and granular modified bitumen, as well as smooth BUR, can also have roof coatings applied to prolong their lives.

Generally speaking, all roof types are eligible for roof restorations, however roof coatings cannot be applied to most built-up roofs, gravel roofs, or ballasted roof systems. The composition of built-up and gravel roofs is simply incompatible with liquid-applied roof coatings. Ballasted roofs, on the other hand, aren’t secured to the deck tightly enough for manufacturers to provide warranties, making it an unsustainable option for owners.

Roof coatings are also a great option for buildings with difficult roof access, simply because it’s easier to bring up primer and coatings to a limited-access roof rather than hauling and installing full-on roof rolls.

Because applying a roof coating is essentially providing a new roof system, your existing roof still needs to be in generally good condition in order to serve as a foundation for a roof coating and sustain itself for another 10-20 years.

What are the pros and cons of a commercial roof restoration vs a commercial roof replacement?

Compared to full roof replacements, roof restorations are less invasive, more economical, more environmentally-friendly, and more sustainable.

Smaller-scoped projects like roof restorations require fewer laborers and materials, so the work is less invasive and costs are lower. By preventing a full tear-off of material that’s then trucked off to a landfill, restorations preserve existing roof materials and remain more environmentally friendly. Not to mention, in many cases a restored roof with a liquid-applied roof coating can be sustainably maintained and recoated every 10-15 years, meaning you may never have to fully replace your roof again!

So, what’s the catch? Honestly, not much. Some of the products can be quite smelly and some less reputable roofing contractors get into trouble by not performing due diligence by ensuring a lack of moisture in the existing system.

How does a roof restoration affect my warranty?

The cost of the restorations themselves will nearly always be paid out of the owner’s pocket and not covered by the warranty of their existing roof system. That said, roof coatings are installed with their own warranties that replace your existing warranties. The standard warranty length for roof coatings is 10 years, but sometimes warranties can be as long as 20 or sometimes 25 years.

What else do I need to know about roof restorations?

Unless you have a history of commercial roofing experience, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to determine for yourself if your existing roof is a good candidate for a restoration. That’s why we encourage you to schedule an inspection with one of our experts to conduct a roof walk, provide a detailed and personalized report, and decide if this is the best option for you.

Roof coatings are more than just repairs; they are the installation of a brand new waterproofing system. A full restoration includes coating all major components of the roofing system (i.e field, flashing, penetrations, drain details, etc.) so it’s easier (and more accurate) to think of these as brand new roofs.

Although roof restorations are often cheaper than replacements, they aren’t always guaranteed money-savers. If your existing roof is extremely dirty and requires extensive time to clean and prep for a liquid-applied coating, it may be more cost-effective to replace the roof.

Like everything with commercial roofing, the best outcomes are determined on a case-by-case basis, so it’s best if one of our professionals takes a careful look and prescribes the best treatment.

Are there any other major benefits of commercial roof restorations?

Because roof restorations are less invasive, they’re also significantly safer. Conducting a full tear-off and installation with hot rubberized or asphalt BUR, for example, carries a host of additional hazards compared to restoring a roof with fabric and liquid.

There also may be tax advantages to roof restorations. When you replace a roof, it’s considered a capital expenditure, or something that you can write-off over time through tax amortization. We’re obviously not a CPA firm and strongly encourage you to confirm these details with your tax advisor!

However, restorations generally fall into the same bucket as roof maintenance, which can be written-off in full within the first tax year. Again please confirm with your CPA before making a decision.

There is no one-size-fits all solution for any commercial roofing need. That’s why we encourage any and everyone to schedule a FREE roof inspection with one of our professionals so that they can diagnose and prescribe sustainable solutions that are best for you and your existing roof and building.

Assuming you have a compatible roofing system and in sustainable condition, roof restorations could be a time saver and budget preserver that extends its lifetime for years to come.

Commercial Roofing vs Residential Roofing: What’s the Difference in Virginia?

A roof is just a roof, right? Something to cover your head and keep the tenants, assets, or whatever else is inside safe and dry? How different can a commercial roof be from a residential roof, other than the types of structures they’re built on?

The reality is that commercial roofs and residential roofs are wildly different from one another, beyond just their usage or size. Yes, one roof type is designed for commercially used buildings while the other is designed to stylishly cover your head at night, but the differences between them — from slope, materials, installations, and maintenance — run far deeper. There is no one-size-fits-all roof for any particular building type, so our comparison of commercial and residential roofs is more about highlighting trends than establishing back-and-white rules.

Strange as it may seem, there can in fact be commercial roofs on residential buildings. But unless they’re installed by certified commercial roofers, they’re likely not the most integrally sound or professionally installed commercial roof option. That, however, is only the tip of the roofing iceberg. Below, we dive into all of the major distinguishing factors of each roof type to better understand what defines them and how very different they are.

SLOPE: Low vs Steep

A commercial roof is any roof that’s installed on a structure built for commercial use, but more specifically, it tends to mean a “low slope” roof. They’re also commonly known as “flat roofs,” but that’s not completely accurate since they still require some small angle to efficiently shed water.

A residential roof, as you may have guessed, is the roofing system above your home designed for residential use. Residential roofing refers to the installation of roofing products on a customer’s home, garage, or other residential structure. These products are generally designed for “steep slope” applications and normally include shingles to aid in efficiently shedding water.

Sometimes a residential property can have both a steep-sloping section and a low-sloping section.


Residential roofing usually deals with steep-sloping structures while using shingles made of asphalt, slate, wood, or synthetic plastic. The shingles are further classified by being economy grade, architectural style, designer style, or heavy-weight. More recently, solar shingles have been popularized and are slowly making their way into the market as well.

Generally speaking, the materials for residential roofs are far more varied because they’re designed and constructed with aesthetics as a priority. Customers want a variety of material and color options to choose from. Residential roofs will be almost entirely based on the homeowner’s personal preferences regarding appearance, as well as durability, life expectancy, and required maintenance.

On the other hand, commercial roofing usually deals with low-sloping structures while using membrane rolls such as modified bitumen (asphalt), EPDM (rubber), or TPO (plastic). The roofing materials chosen for commercial buildings often have far less to do with aesthetics and more to do with the function of the building itself. If, for example, the roofing needs to be able to withstand the weight of heavy machinery and the heat from its discharge, then the material used needs to match those parameters.

And for every roofing rule, there seem to be some exceptions!

Built-up roofing, better known as BUR, as well as modified bitumen roofs are sometimes used on low-slope residential roofs. Proof that you can use any flat-roof material on any flat roof building and vice versa, whether the building is used for residential or commercial purposes. However, the usage of the building itself is ultimately the deciding factor and there are advantages and disadvantages for every roofing type.


Residential roofs are usually structured by A-frame trusses, plywood, decking, and shingles for the roof itself. There are accessories that fit between the plywood decking and the roofing shingles such as roofing felt, leak barrier, and drip edge. For the most part, residential roofs take a day or two to install using ladders and, depending on the slope, workers are usually strapped using ropes and fall-protection harnesses.

Commercial roofing installations are much larger and require significantly more planning, manpower, equipment, material, and expertise. Commercial work requires precise roofing services performed by skilled crews who have a deep knowledge and understanding of the products they sell and install. At most, residential roof installations only need to work around a chimney. Commercial roofers need to factor in external piping, drainage, HVAC units, satellites, airflow systems, and any number of other intrusions.

Most commercial roof types require dangerous industrial equipment and highly-trained contractors with specialized skill sets to perform the work safely, accurately, and to a very high standard. Issues like water drainage and equipment penetrations are more common, expensive, and time-consuming hazards compared to residential roofs. That’s why the installation of drainage points, gutters, and other water mitigators on commercial roofs is an essential part of their much more involved installation process.


Shingled steep-slope roofs are less prone to leaks thanks to their lack of seams. Their angular construction also means that ponding water issues common on commercial roofs are virtually never a hazard. Likewise, in the winter, steep-slope roofs excel at snow disposal compared to low-slope roofs, which often require that you hire someone to actively remove any snow. The common enemies of residential roofs are wind or “nail pops” that cause individual shingles to dislocate or break over time. These are considered the most common reasons shingled, steep slope roofs need repairs.

For economy-grade shingles you can expect the roof to last 10-15 years before needing maintenance. For architectural shingles and above, you can expect them to last 30-50 years before needing maintenance.

A commercial roof’s arch nemesis is ponding water, an ever-present threat due to its lower, “flat” slope and more numerous drainage points. Commercial roofs, overall, require a higher attention to detail and greater level of ongoing care, including routine maintenance to clear its drainage points, checking for penetrations caused by equipment or other contractors, and identifying leak vulnerabilities or standing water issues. Commercial roofs require routine maintenance and bi-annual inspections to ensure they operate at their best and keep their warranties in good standing. If maintained properly, they can often last for 30 or more years.

At the end of the day, the biggest differentiator between commercial and residential roofs boils down to this: if a shingled roof is poorly installed, chances are it still won’t leak. If a low slope roof is poorly installed, you can pretty much bet on it leaking.


Commercial roofing contractors and residential roofing contractors are very different people.

Put simply, there’s a higher bar of entry to be qualified as a commercial roofing contractor. The commercial roofing community is populated by a specialized labor force uniquely qualified to handle the more involved, high-risk, and large-scope work. Commercial building owners require more evidence of a contractor’s qualifications, insurance, training, criminal records, and drug testing. There are also fewer opportunities for corner-cutting and more protocols in place to ensure accountability, quality, and safety.

Residential roofs are traditionally lower-risk than commercial roofs, so it’s easier for a residential contractor to get away with being less reputable or qualified. It’s also the reason “Pete and a truck”-type contractors are almost always residential roofers. Residential roofers often don’t have the experience, equipment, or time management expertise to perform commercial roofing work to the highest possible standard.

And the same goes for commercial roofers trying to do residential work as well! At the end of the day, they are two very different worlds.


Aside from the work, commercial and residential roofs are also differentiated by the type of clients the respective contractor is working with.

Commercial roofers deal largely with private or public buildings owned by individuals with a long list of requirements and much more at stake than the dryness of their heads. They’ll be determined to review certifications, secure permits and licenses, cross-check contractors qualifications, and ensure their contractors are adhering to every OSHA protocol.

Residential roofers will deal with a completely different, often private, customer base. Naturally, residential contractors have different methods for selling their services and appealing to a completely different audience. After all, they’re communicating with an entirely separate demographic versus the private or public building owners or managers of larger commercial structures.

It might be easy to think of a roof as just a roof and that the only distinction between commercial and residential roofs are their size. But as you can see, there are a number of major differences between the two, including their usage, structure, material, installation, and contractors.

They share a common interest: covering your head. But beyond that, commercial roofing and residential roofing are two wildly different worlds with vastly different considerations, sizes, and requirements.

What is EPDM Roofing and How Much Does It Cost?

EPDM roofing, or more formally “Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer” roofing, is a type of single-ply roofing membrane that has remained a popular, time-tested staple of the commercial roofing industry since the 1960’s. EPDM is readily available and relatively straightforward to install, meaning less labor costs than other more complex roofing systems. Thanks to its traditional installation options and easy repairs/maintenance, it’s an economical roof option with lifespans that can exceed 30 years.

EPDM roofing is known colloquially as “rubber roofing,” thanks to its synthetic rubber composition, and comes with a host of cost-effective benefits that make it a top-choice for many commercial building owners. Having originated in the automobile industry and been widely used since, EPDM is considered the most time-tested single-ply membrane roof, sitting behind only TPO roofing in terms of popularity and prevalence.

What is EPDM Roofing?

EPDM roofing, or “rubber roofing,” is a thermoset single-ply membrane roof, meaning the entire roofing system is chemically bonded together with self-bonded adhesive or pressure sensitive seam tape. It’s made of a single-sheet of synthetic rubber material that is mechanically fastened, adhered, or ballasted with a river-rock top.

Unlike other single-ply membrane roofs like TPO roofing and PVC roofing, EPDM roofs are not typically reinforced with a polyester scrim, although depending on your building type and usage, the option is available. EPDM roofs have a wide-range of prefabricated accessories making any flashing detail a breeze. Additionally, roofs with a higher volume of equipment are less of an obstacle.

What are an EPDM Roof’s Biggest Advantages?

One of EPDM’s greatest strengths is its long documented service life. EPDM roofing technology has 50 years of field testing to support it, making it one of the most reliable commercial roofing systems available.

They are extremely flexible and provide a high level of waterproofing. They also offer a variety of installation options and insulation types, allowing building owners more autonomy and flexibility to determine an ideal roofing system for their timeline and budget.

EPDM roofs are highly weather-resistant and hold up very well to long-term heat aging and UV exposure. They also share the same prefabricated accessories as other single-ply roofing systems, allowing an easier installation with fewer steps to complete the details.

Ballasted EPDM roofs that are well-maintained, regularly inspected, and repaired by certified roofing contractors can last up to 30 years.

How Much Does EPDM Roofing Cost?

Like all roofing types, there are a number of factors that affect the overall cost of an EPDM roof installation, such as access to the roof, how congested the roof is, the number of existing penetrations, and whether a full tear-off of the existing roof type is required.

That said, typically 60 mil-sized EPDM membrane material is priced at roughly $0.55/square foot before labor. Comparatively, TPO roofing is priced around $0.50/sq ft and PVC roofing is around $0.70/sq ft. Like all single-ply roofing systems, EPDM benefits from being easy to install, repair, and maintain.

What Other Factors Affect the Cost of an EPDM Roof?

Labor is the biggest price determinate for roof replacement projects of any scale. The amount of required laborers, equipment, and time are all affected by the condition of the existing roof environment and how difficult it is to access. If a roof demands specialized equipment to safely access, additional equipment rentals and increased mobilization will have a noticeable effect on the overall cost.

One unique EPDM cost consideration is that a scrim reinforcement seen in other single-ply roofing membranes are traditionally not included EPDM roofing installations. While including a scrim in the installation would create an additional up-front cost, that additional layer of protection could save you repair costs and headaches down the line. Without any reinforcement, EPDM’s single-ply system is susceptible to more punctures and penetrations than other commercial roofing systems.

Because EPDM roofing material is normally composed of black rubber, another unique cost consideration is more costly white EPDM. Whereas black EPDM material costs around $0.55/sq foot, white EPDM is nearly twice that at around $0.90 – $1.00/sq ft. White EPDM, like other single-ply roofing systems composed of white materials, offers reflectivity and saves significant energy costs over time, especially if your building is prone to more hot-weather days.

How Are EPDM Roofs Installed?

EPDM roofing’s most common installation method is ballasted, however they can also be mechanically fastened or adhered. Ballasted EPDM roofs are held in place by large round stones or slabs, known as “river rock.”

Mechanically fastened EPDM roofs are screwed through the seams down to the structural deck with special plates and fasteners. This is considered a more cost-effective installation option, but there’s a catch: because of this method’s lack of wind uplift performance, your roof is more vulnerable to heavy wind damage, so mechanically fastened installations are not recommended for buildings exposed to stronger wind conditions.

Adhered roofs are chemically glued to maintain a smooth, flat surface and offer higher wind uplift performance, as well as a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

EPDM roof rolls can also arrive with pre-applied seam tape for self-adherence, making them relatively simple to install. It’s worth noting, however, that self-adhered EPDM is generally not as integrally sound as other adhered installation types.

How Are EPDM Roofs Repaired?

Like other single-ply membrane roofing systems, EPDM is relatively easy and less costly to repair.

EPDM roofing repairs involve the cleaning and priming of its membrane, installation of self-adhered flashing, and an exterior lap sealant to ensure it’s fully waterproofed. While the process sounds relatively straightforward, these repairs often require special equipment and experienced roofers, so only trust a certified roofing professional should conduct these repairs before attempting yourself or hiring a “Pete and a truck” contractor.

What Are an EPDM Roof’s Insulation Types?

EPDM shares a number of its qualities and advantages with TPO roofing roofing systems, such as their suite of prefabricated accessories and insulation types.

EPDM has 3 major types of insulation with various different determinants and R-values. An R-Value measures a material’s ability to resist thermal movement, so the more “insulating” the material is, the more effective it is at retaining heat, and the higher its R-value will be.

Polyisocyanurate, or polyiso, is the most popular insulation thanks to its high R-value per inch of insulation. Polyiso is usually a great fit for EPDM roofs, but because of its flammability, it may not be suitable for buildings with certain fire restrictions or combustible deck types such as wood (ex. Class A).

Expanded Polystyrene, or EPS, is more cost-effective and offers a higher R-value per dollar but is normally only recommended for tapered roofing systems.

Extruded Polystyrene, or XPS, is known for its blue, green, or pink colors. Its price to R-value ratio falls in the middle between polyiso and EPS.

Does EPDM Suite All Building Types?

Whether or not EPDM is suitable for your building is dependent on your building’s use and the amount of congestion or foot traffic your roof endures on a regular basis.

In traditional installations, EPDM roofing systems don’t include a layer of reinforcement, meaning its puncture resistance isn’t as strong as other building types. Similarly, EPDM roofs are discouraged for buildings with a lot of foot traffic. They don’t have an excellent chemical resistance either, so it’s a bad choice for restaurants where animal fats or grease can pile up and cause deterioration.

Do EPDM Roofs Have Any Disadvantages?

Compared to other single-ply roofing systems, EPDM roofs require more steps to install, which will increase labor costs to some degree. EPDM requires cleaning, priming, and taping to adhere its seams, as opposed to TPO roofing roofing or PVC roofing roofing which simply needs to be cleaned and heat welded.

Basic EPDM installations don’t include reinforced scrims, meaning lower puncture resistance and more prone to weather or accidental damage. Of course, reinforced EPDM is an option however it does come with additional material cost.

EPDM roofs also require more seam maintenance. Because of their chemically bonded natures, the seams will eventually become unadhered and will need to be repaired.

EPDM roofs are a trusted, time-tested, cost-effective piece of proven roofing technology. Thanks to their relatively easy installation, lower maintenance costs, energy efficiency, lower material costs, weather resistance, and impressive endurance (with proper care), it certainly has earned its place as one of the most common commercial roofing systems available.

If you’re ready to hear more about EPDM or learn whether it’s the right roofing system for your building type, send us your details and we’ll get to work right away.

What is TPO Roofing and How Much Does It Cost?

TPO roofing systems are the most common commercial roofing system available, making up roughly 40% of the commercial roofing market share. If you’ve ever passed by a commercial building with a bright white roof, then you’ve more than likely seen a TPO roof!

Thermoplastic polyolefin, or TPO, roofing is a single-ply membrane roofing system that originated in the automobile industry and is widely considered one of the most affordable, energy efficient, easy to repair, and common commercial roofing types today.

Below, we’ll take you through the most common TPO FAQs, as well as some of Simpson Unlimited’s own best practices so that you can understand everything there is to know about the most common commercial roofing system available.

What is TPO Roofing?

Like PVC and EPDM, TPO roofing is a single ply membrane roof, meaning it’s made of one single sheet of synthetic material reinforced with a polyester scrim that’s mechanically fastened, adhered, or ballasted using river rock over insulation to create one single layer of protection.

The seams of each TPO sheet are heat-welded together, making the roof monolithic. Compared to the other singly ply membrane roofing types, TPO is installed nearly identically to PVC, whereas the seams of EPDM roofs need to be cleaned, primed, and sealed using EPDM seam tape.

TPO is one of the cheapest commercial roofing systems available thanks to its lower material cost versus EPDM and PVC. All of these roofs are in the single-ply family so naturally one of the drawbacks is that your roof may be more vulnerable to membrane punctures that can lead to leaks.

How Much Does TPO Roofing Cost?

TPO is considered one of the cheapest commercial roofing options available.

TPO is generally about $0.50 per square foot for material, whereas EPDM and PVC usually cost around $0.55 and $0.77 respectively. With labor included, the price for TPO can be anywhere from $5 to $15 per square foot.

TPO roofs come with a large ensemble of prefabricated accessories, meaning they can accommodate most commercial buildings. Another one of TPO’s big price differentiators is its easier, more straightforward installation process that requires less labor.

What Factors Affect TPO Roofing Costs?

The biggest and most cost-affecting element of any roofing service or building restoration is the labor.

The number of roofers required to complete a job safety and within a predetermined time frame is always the biggest price determinate, as is access to the roof. If a roof is difficult to access and requires specialized equipment to safely reach, the equipment rental as well as the mobilization can both have a dramatic impact on overall costs.

Other roof-specific factors include whether or not special permits are required (this is of particular concern in DC), the number of penetrations, and whether or not the roof is wide open or congested with different HVAC units, anchors, or other obstructions.

The assembly of your roofing system is another critical component, since its condition will affect whether or not we’re tearing off the existing roof down to its structural deck or doing a more cost-effective overlay or roof recovery, where any areas of wet insulation have to be removed and replaced.

Knowing the deck type will also determine which attachment method (mechanically fastened or adhered) we will use for installation of the TPO membrane and insulation. Lastly, the type of insulation used and number of layers which have a direct effect on the material and labor cost of the project.

How is TPO Roofing Repaired?

TPO roofing repairs are relatively easy compared to other roofing systems.

Thanks to its heat-welded components, repairing typical punctures is often as easy as cleaning the TPO membrane and heat welding a new piece of TPO over the area. That said, TPO roofing repairs require special equipment (i.e hand welders) and experienced roofers to be done right which ensures you’re less likely to have a “Pete and a truck” roofer on your building performing service.

How is TPO Roofing Installed?

The two most common methods of TPO roof installation are mechanically fastened and adhered.

Mechanically fastened roofs are screwed through the seam and the insulation down to the structural deck with special barbed plates and #14 or #15 fasteners. This is a more cost effective method but doesn’t offer as much wind uplift performance. Rhinobond is another variation of a mechanically fastened system with unique, albeit more expensive, plates. Rhinobond is attached to the structure then induction-welded to the membrane once the membrane is in place.

Adhered roofs are chemically glued and maintain a smooth, flat surface flush with the insulation and substrate, offering a higher wind uplift performance and a more aesthetically pleasing look. Looks will cost you though since adhered is on average more expensive.

TPO roofs can also be ballasted, but this is an option we tend to avoid because of how challenging it can be to find leaks.

Each of these installation types offer a 20 year manufacturer’s warranty.

What Are the TPO Roofing Insulation Types?

There are 3 major types of TPO insulation, all different costs and R-values. The R-Value is the metric for the material’s ability to resist thermal movement. In short: the higher the R-value, the more “insulating” the material is and the more effective it is at retaining heat.

Polyisocyanurate, or polyiso, is the most common insulation type because it has the higher R-value per inch of insulation.In most cases polyiso is a great fit but because of its flammability, it may not be suitable for buildings with certain fire restrictions or combustible deck types such as wood (ex. Class A).

Expanded Polystyrene, or EPS, is a more cost-effective option that offers a higher R-value per dollar, but is usually only used on tapered roofs.

Extruded Polystyrene, or XPS, is defined by its blue, green, or pink color and falls in between polyiso and EPS for price and R-value.

What Are the Advantages of TPO Roofing?

Thanks to its heat-welded seam technology, TPO roofs are monolithic and have a much higher water resistance. The material is noticeably more cost effective than other roofing types, and it’s one of the least expensive roofs to install and maintain.

TPO also offers a host of various installation options and insulation types, allowing the building owner/manager more flexibility. Because it’s reinforced with a polyester scrim which allows for expansion and contraction, the roof is more weather resistant than many other roof types.

TPO roofs also look aesthetically pleasing and are energy efficient thanks to their heat and UV resistance, reflectivity (SRI), and emissivity.

They also have a wide array of prefabricated and custom accessories for wider roof compatibility and easier installation.

It’s no wonder TPO roofs are so common. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to install, have a host of prefabricated accessories, and are energy efficient, so what’s not to love?

If you’re ready to start your next roofing project, send us your details below so we can get to work!

Masonry Restorations: What Do They Cost and Why?

Masonry restoration is an umbrella term for any building service performed on the stone, brick, clay, or concrete exterior of a building. It’s a highly specialized skill that often requires a separate contractor but is one of Simpson Unlimited’s many unique turnkey building envelope services.

Below, we’ve outlined all of the major considerations, FAQ’s, and details around masonry restoration and the services we offer throughout Maryland, Virginia, and DC so you feel more informed and confident to commit to a building restoration of your own.

What is masonry restoration?

Masonry restoration is the upkeep and repair of different forms of masonry (stone, brick, clay, pre-cast concrete, etc.) on commercial and residential properties (learn more about our masonry restoration services here). Masonry restoration is a broad service bucket that includes various services for the upkeep of a building’s façade, including caulking replacement, concrete repair, window glazing, thru-wall flashing, masonry coatings, and above/below grade waterproofing.

Masonry repairs are often brought to our attention by a customer request, where a general contractor, building envelope consultant, property manager, or owner’s representative will request a site visit to provide recommendations. Even outside of customer requests, if Simpson is performing roof repairs or other forms of building maintenance and notice façade issues, we’ll always bring it to the customer’s attention.

The scope of work for a masonry restoration job is determined by a number of project-specific variables but will be outlined during the initial site inspection.

How do I know I need masonry restoration services?

Either the building is experiencing leaks through the façade or damage is visible with the naked eye. In either example, gaps in the vertical or horizontal caulk joints and/or cracked bricks or mortar may be visible.

When one of our masonry restoration experts inspects your building façade, they’ll be looking for deteriorated sealant that has separated from the façade, cracked mortar, damaged concrete, masonry coating that’s bubbling or peeling off, stains on the concrete, and anything that may pose a water intrusion threat throughout the façade.

Cosmetic and aesthetic reasons are also (and more often than not) why people reach out about masonry restoration. If you believe your building is in need of an aesthetic touch-up, learn more about our offers and book an inspection here.

What services are often involved in masonry restoration projects?

“Façade restoration” may be a more fitting term for the broad spectrum of work that masonry restoration often involves. The most common include:

Thru-wall flashing above window heads. This requires that the masonry façade above the window head is removed to expose the back-up wall. Once exposed, a new waterproofing membrane is installed at the back up wall, and the previously removed masonry is re-installed.

Above/below grade waterproofing. This requires excavation of soil and repairs or replacement of the existing foundation waterproofing system.

Masonry/Concrete Coatings. This requires either brick, concrete, mortar, precast, and/or sealants to be replaced prior to installing new masonry coatings.

Masonry/Concrete Repairs. This is the removal of existing mortar and installation of new mortar (“tuck pointing”), brick or CMU replacement, limestone repair, precast repairs, concrete repairs/replacement (partial and full depth), granite/precast panel repairs/replacement, concrete/precast crack injections.

We also regularly perform expansion joints, control joint, and window/door perimeter caulking replacement and window glazing (metal to glass).

How long does a masonry restoration take and what will it cost?

The timeframe and cost for any masonry restoration project depends on the scope of work. Small projects can last from one day to two weeks while larger projects can last 4 or more months.

Considering the fact that a large portion of masonry restoration involves working at great heights in difficult to reach areas, the use of bosums chairs, swing stages, pipe scaffolding, mechanical boom lifts, etc. all present wildly different timelines and cost. Determining safe access to the work area for our crews is the first major consideration we take into account when providing a scope of work.

Other variables that can affect the cost and timeline include contract requirements, weather conditions, availability of required materials, and other pre-construction requirements for the project, such as submittals or mock-ups of materials. Generally as part of the pre-construction process, the owner may require that a mock up is reviewed and approved prior to project commencement.

Once the materials have been approved, installation would then follow at all prepared areas per manufacturer requirements and/or best practices.

Should I be aware of noise, odor, or other intrusive masonry restoration factors?

Unless a project requires demolition work, like wall flashing or general brick/CMU block replacement, masonry restoration traditionally doesn’t generate much if any noise. Noise disruption is discussed early in the bidding process to determine approved hours to perform the work, though after hours or weekend work often incurs a higher cost.

In terms of our on-site footprint, we require little to no space on most small projects but larger projects may require extensive equipment, mobilization, and setup. Most projects require 2 or 3 masons but our largest projects can require up to 10. As always, however, these details will be discussed and determined well in advance.

Low-odor products are used as often as possible to eliminate the issue of offensive fumes on any masonry restoration project. Compared to many other building restoration services, masonry is relatively unintrusive.

What else should I be aware of before committing to a masonry restoration project?

One factor to understand is that because of the age of buildings in need of repair, no one can be certain what the substrate behind the masonry façade is. We may open up a section of a wall prepared for CMU or concrete but find wood or drywall instead. We’re always prepared for any outcome, but it’s a variable that could affect the overall cost and duration of the project. .

Another important element to keep in mind is that finding an exact material match for existing masonry, especially in old and historic buildings, is often a challenge. This is most common an issue in brick/masonry facades. To prevent surprises and ensure we stay aligned with our clients, we always make sure to provide a multitude of comparable options to our clients and ensure they’ve approved mockups of the material replacements before anyone steps foot on site. More often than not, they can’t even tell the difference!

Not all masonry restoration contractors are created equally so it’s important to ask for references and photos of past work to ensure you’re working with a reputable contractor. Masonry presentations are often the best indicators for a quality contractor, which is why Simpson Unlimited goes above and beyond to detail, discuss, and determine every minor and major element of your project before we begin work.

Like all building and roofing services, it’s important to keep ongoing maintenance in mind as well. Building façades are relatively low-maintenance so should require little to no work (outside of cleaning), but you should be mindful of caulking and sealant joints. Urethane, silicone, and brick and mortar need to be maintained every 5, 10, and 15 years respectively.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to masonry restoration, but when done well, our customers are always surprised by how impressive the final product is. We really do make old buildings look new.

There’s a reason nearly all of our masonry restoration jobs come from word-of-mouth: our work speaks for itself. Simpson Unlimited is a member of the Sealant Waterproofing & Restoration Institute and the International Concrete Repair Institute so you can trust we have the most certified, experienced, and respected masons in the industry.

Learn more about Simpson Unlimited’s masonry restoration services here and schedule a FREE Consultation with us today to find out how we can make your building look brand new!

What Does a Commercial Roof Inspection Cost and Why Are They Important?

Commercial roof inspections shouldn’t be a mystery. We’re going to take you through the most common questions about commercial roof inspections we offer throughout Virginia, Maryland, and DC, and all of the details, costs, and preparation they require.

One of a building owner’s worst nightmares is finding out that your building requires an emergency roof replacement and you don’t have the funding to support the project. Maybe the single-best action you can proactively take is a planned approach to your commercial roof maintenance by scheduling bi-annual roof inspections with a certified commercial roofing contractor, along with conducting your own routine basic maintenance. You don’t want to be “that guy” caught off guard with the burden of an unplanned major building expense.

Would you buy a brand new car and expect it to run 100,000 miles without a bit of routine maintenance? Maybe you could get away with that, but to really get the most out of a new or used vehicle, routine maintenance is required. Standard maintenance on any car includes tire rotations, oil changes, fluid refills, tire replacements, brake replacements, regular checkups, and a lot of gas in between. Commercial roofs are much the same, and to get your roof to 100,000+ miles, they need to be inspected, maintained, and cared for.

What sort of preliminary work is conducted before a contractor arrives on-site?

Before one of our commercial roofing contractors ever arrives on-site, they’ll conduct extensive pre-inspection homework to learn everything they can about your commercial roof’s history and composition.

They’ll take a hard look at historical satellite imagery to get an understanding of its history, identify potential ponding water, see how the roof has aged, and determine whether it’s undergone any major replacements or changes. They’ll also bring along the satellite imagery to the inspection itself so the engineer can mark any specific areas of concern. The more we know stepping foot on your roof, the better.

To get as much information as possible, they will also cross reference your building addresses with all major roof system manufacturers. This will help determine your warranty’s standing and scope of coverage and better inform you of any roof manufacturer recommendations to keep your warranty in good standing, in addition to any recommendations we may provide in your roof inspection report.

If you have a work order history with Simpson, then rest assured we can provide you with sound recommendations based on the most up-to-date information of your commercial roof and building envelope history. If that’s not available or you’re a first-time customer, our estimator will speak to the building engineer directly to learn as much as possible about the history of your building.

How much does a roof inspection cost?

No two commercial roofs (or roof inspections) are the same so the scope of an inspection can be broad depending on the square footage, access, number of roofs, roofing system type, and customer needs.

Traditionally our basic commercial roof inspections are free of charge or inclusive in other roofing services. These involve a walkthrough with one of our roofing experts who will create an inspection and photo report that compile general takeaways, recommendations, and costs to complete.

A more comprehensive walkthrough would include a service crew who conducts on-site repairs, quick fixes, and basic maintenance, such as cleaning leaf debris, trash, minor repairs, and small punctures. It’s the same level of detailed inspection as any walkthrough but comes with a squad of commercial roofing professionals ready to button up your roof on-site.

If you’re considering a roof replacement and need a core sample taken or have an irregular roof composition that will incur additional on-site repairs, those elements may add to the scope and cost of your inspection. But we’ll have all of these details defined before anyone arrives on-site.

No matter what the scope, all of our inspections are incredibly detailed and carefully documented, and will each include a detailed photo report.

What will the commercial roofing contractor inspect?

Once they’ve arrived on-site, discussed any questions or concerns with the building engineer, and established safe access to the roof, our estimator will inspect every major component of your commercial roofing system. This includes the field of roof, flashing details, penetrations, roof drains, metal flashing components (ie. coping cap), and other critical components that are related to the integrity of the roof, such as brick/masonry and HVAC units. (See a detailed list of all our commercial roofing repair and maintenance services here)

The seams, flashing, roof penetrations, and roof drains are considered the most vulnerable areas of a commercial roof, so those will be given extra attention.

Part of our preliminary discussions with the engineer is determining whether there have been any recent leaks so we can prioritize our focus and attention to those specific areas. If there are any reported leaks or signs of water damage on the inside of the building, we’ll do an interior walkthrough as well.

Our estimators are able to identify areas of concern on the building envelope as well, though this obviously depends on the size of the building. A 10-story building can’t include a thorough building envelope inspection without a swing stage, but assuming your building is 1-2 stories, they’ll inspect the building facade from the ground level to identify any obvious issues, like control joints with deteriorated sealant.

What sorts of issues will you be looking for on the commercial roof itself? Where exactly will you look for them? There are two main categories of maintenance our roofing experts will be looking for during their inspection: preventative and corrective. (Learn more about our preventative maintenance services here) Preventative items are usually small issues that could become big issues if neglected. This includes replacing sealant at pourable sealer pockets, pipe penetrations, and exposed termination bar and will also encompass basic preventative measures like cleaning roof drains, thru wall scuppers, and gutters to ensure the commercial roof has free and clear drainage points. Corrective items are issues that have or will cause immediate problems for the building owner, such as roof leaks caused by open seams, punctures in the roofing membrane, or past repairs or roofing modifications that were improperly done. Rain or other recent weather events will often dictate the most immediate problems and inform the commercial roof contractor what to look for. Corrective issues are often the reason inspections are scheduled in the first place, but if you’re following all of your preventative maintenance protocols, those can usually be altogether avoided.

Commercial Roof Replacements: Everything You Need to Know

Commercial roof replacements are huge projects with a wide array of factors that can influence the cost, project timeline, and how invasive or noninvasive the project will be. Some factors include the height of the building, access, whether the project requires a full replacement or an overlay, and the type of new roof to be installed. Just as important are the weather conditions and time of year it’s being replaced.

We’ll take you through Simpson’s battle-tested process of the roof inspection, estimating, planning, scheduling, and budgeting, and all of the major variables and considerations to keep in mind as you determine how and when to replace your commercial roof. (Learn more about Simpson Unlimited’s roof replacements and schedule an inspection here)

Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits” all approach to commercial roof replacements, however a professional and experienced commercial roofing contractor should always conduct a thorough in-person assessment of the existing roof to review all existing conditions (i.e access, height of the building, etc.), as well as take core samples to provide customers with multiple options for the project’s scope.

Using a 3-part plan, they’ll build a timeline of your commercial roof replacement that details every aspect of their roofing services — from design to mobilization to crew size to footprint to closeout — all while taking into account the building type, the customer’s needs, and the building occupants’ comfort.

But there’s a lot of other supplemental information to take into account before committing to a commercial roof replacement, which we’ve outlined in detail below. Warranties, commercial roof types, and more are explained to give you a better understanding of everything the involved process entails.

What are the biggest factors I need to consider when replacing my commercial roof?

There are a bevy of factors and variables to consider when defining the scope and timeline of any commercial roof replacement.

For example, does the existing roof need to be replaced? Is there equipment currently on the roof that will need to be removed? The building height and access to the roof, as well as weather conditions and time of year (ie. temperature), will all have an impact on a commercial roof replacement’s timeline.

Other considerations include the number of layers, types of layers, and overall depth of the removal/replacement. Overburden, like pavers, furniture, or gravel, can add to the project scope. And, most importantly, the type of commercial roofing system being installed, whether it’s an asphalt roofing system or single-ply, traditional assembly or inverted, and the type of attachment method used for the insulation and membrane.

Given all the potential variables, Simpson puts together a 3-part plan for their customers that includes the following breakdowns:

Safety Plan: Outlining fall protection, personal protection, occupant protection, and public protection across the entire commercial roof replacement project.

Staging Plan: Outlining access of employees to the roof, the location of roofing equipment, and the staging areas for toilets, chutes, dumpsters, cranes, or other large on-site elements.

Phasing Plan: A working document that outlines the anticipated daily work area for coordination with building management and occupants. This will also detail the days and times that have the greatest impact on building users, such as when the roof is being actively removed overhead or drilling of concrete for mechanical anchors is taking place.

Lastly, the best commercial roofing system has a lot to do with the type of building being worked on, as well as the type of equipment within. A roof replacement over a hospital, for example, will be handled much differently from an everyday shopping center.

How long does a commercial roof replacement typically take and what does it involve?

Project timelines are one of the biggest considerations in any major project. Though it will vary largely by building type and scope (in addition to all of the factors we outlined above), the general timeline and process for any commercial roof replacement looks roughly like this:

Site Visit (1 week): Within a week, our contractors will visit your site to do a thorough walkthrough and roof inspection to examine the conditions, take a number of core samples, and communicate our findings to the customer.

Proposal (1-2 weeks): We’ll develop and build a formal proposal customized to your commercial roofing system and taking into account all of its unique complexities.

Approval & Permitting (1-3 weeks): Once the proposal is agreed upon and executed, we’ll obtain all necessary permits required for the project and hold a preconstruction meeting with the customer to discuss the details of the project and coordinate all of its logistics.

Commencement (1-2 weeks): Within a couple of weeks, and dependent on the weather conditions, roofing services will begin in line with the customer’s desired schedule mutually agreed upon.

The number of crew members for a commercial roof replacement varies, but generally speaking the roofing crew consists of roughly 8 members, as well as an on-site Foreman, Superintendent, and Project Manager to actively supervise the site. Third-party independent Safety Contractors will audit the job site intermittently to conduct randomized inspections and provide safety reports.

Inevitably, there will be a level of noise that’s disruptive. But those days will be limited to specific times when actual overhead work is being done, and there are a number of measures to reduce noise disruption, including performing those noisier tasks earlier in the morning, later in the evening, on the weekends, or whenever we can be flexible with the customer. Like every element of our roofing services, the timing will be based on the customer’s preference.

What should I know about a commercial roof replacement before I commit to the service?

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding commercial roofing replacements, as well as a number of questions we’re repeatedly asked by potential customers, which we’ve listed below:

We always replace what’s being removed. In other words, everything we take off of the roof is replaced that very same day. We never take out more than we can replace in a day so the roof remains waterproofed at all times.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Sadly, there’s no perfect roof or universal roof type. The best commercial roof replacements are custom-designed to fit the building, the occupants, and the owner’s budgetary considerations.

It’s a big project. The scope of a commercial roof replacement is quite large and requires an extensive mobilization, a vast setup with a large footprint, and an array of utilities like equipment, protection, dumpsters, toilets, etc. for a large-scale multi-week job.

Warranties can be complex. “System Warranties” (ie. “Labor and Material Warranties”) cover the materials installed and the quality of workmanship. But manufacturer warranties are not created equal and a lot of building owners are surprised when they learn that oftentimes their roof leaks aren’t covered. Similarly, “No Dollar Limit” warranties do not have coverage limited to the cost of the initial roof replacement/installation.

What’s not covered? Accidental punctures by rooftop HVAC servicing, occupants on the roof, satellite dish installations, standing water from drainage point blockage, and a host of other variables that could be avoided during bi-annual inspections and standard preventative maintenance. You’ll also be liable for any damage, punctures, abuse, or service by unqualified roofing companies, or wind damage above the stated coverage in the warranty, which is generally 55 MPH unless you have a roof system with enhanced wind speed warranty coverage. In addition, there are many details on a roof that are deemed “owner maintenance,” which include sealant at pipe penetrations, exposed termination bar, and pourable sealer pockets.

No ‘roof overs’ for soaked roofs. If your existing commercial roofing system is more than 25% saturated, then a “roof over” will not be an option and your hand will be forced to do a full replacement for warranty coverage. Depending on the level of saturation, it may also damage your structural decking, which is another immense cost.

Waiting for a leak means it’s already too late. Waiting until there’s a noticeable disruption in your roof can damage your relationship with your tenants and jeopardize the building’s overall integrity. Preventative maintenance, on the other hand, can save you a significant amount of money and prolong your commercial roof’s lifespan by years, often past its warranty period.

Why can’t I just waterproof or reseal leaks and punctures myself? Not only are leak sources difficult and complex to identify, but store-bought materials that are incompatible with your commercial roofing system can do significant harm to its integrity. No matter how much you pride yourself in your DIY abilities, these industry-grade and manufacturer compatible materials can’t be found at your local store.

What are other major considerations, curveballs, or elements involved in a commercial roof replacement?

Like our above list of common questions and misconceptions, we also want to detail all of the potential curveballs or potentially unforeseen elements that can affect a commercial roof replacement’s timeline, scope, or budget.

Budget determines design. How we determine the scope and design of a commercial roof replacement is dictated by the customer’s predetermined budget. The customer’s desired length of roof system warranty coverage is an important factor as well since a 10-15 year old roofing system will have a different design from a 20+ year old roofing system.

Drainage by design. The proposal introduced early in the process will outline all design elements, including industry-standard drainage to ensure it fits your building’s existing drainage system. If it doesn’t meet today’s requirements or best practices, Simpson will augment their replacement system to ensure it works properly.

Energy (and cost) conservation by design. Commercial roof replacements must be designed to meet the current energy code for the jurisdiction that the building is located in. Proper energy design can greatly aid in reducing energy costs for the building owner.

No change orders unless required. Most people don’t expect change orders because most contractors do not appraise their customers of potential contingencies before the commercial roof replacement operation begins. Simpson makes a point of being completely transparent and making the customer aware of potential variables before project commencement.

You can’t overlay a wet roof. If more than 25% of the existing roof is saturated, it’s more cost-effective to do a full tear-off. Similarly, if there are two roofs, they’ll need to be torn down to their decking.

Maintenance is (always) key. Your new commercial roof needs to be serviced and inspected just as much as your old roof. It’s in your best interest to protect your investment!

How do I know if my commercial roof needs to be replaced?

Most often, a commercial roof replacement is part of a building’s long-term plan and mandated by the building owner. But outside of a general timeline, knowing exactly when to replace your roof depends greatly on the condition of the roof itself and the type of commercial roofing system you have installed.

Your roof’s age is an important consideration, not only because of the warranty period (most roofs today offer a standard 20-year warranty, whereas 20 years ago warranties lasted for only 10-15 years) but because of its history of leaks or repairs. Any repairs or replacements we conduct are sized to budget, and typically repairs are designed to last roughly 2-5 years.

Any commercial roof with long term, chronic leak issues should be considered for replacement or major repairs at a minimum. But without a commercial roofing professional, it’s impossible to determine how much a building leak is caused by the roof itself.

Choosing the right time to replace your roof is a balancing act. Generally speaking, it’s best to follow a 2-5 year maintenance plan following any repairs to allow yourself time to budget for a replacement. Most customers are reactive and won’t do anything until there’s a visible leak, but maintenance is always cheaper to start sooner.

Below is a breakdown of the most common commercial roofing types we deal with and the recurring issues we face for each:

Modified bitumen gets killed by the sun. The sun is any commercial roof’s worst enemy but that’s especially true for modified bitumen roofing systems. Granules on the top ply protect the asphalt from long term heat aging/UV’s, but when granule loss occurs, it’s only a matter of time before the roof begins to break down.

EPDM is worn down similar to a tire. Like tire treads, you can read the wear of an EPDM roof based on its cosmetics. As a single ply roof, it telegraphs problems differently than others. Bridging/tenting is a common issue, because the EPDM shrinks over time, pulls the flashing, and creates tears or holes. EPDM roofing systems are chemically bonded together at the seams, so generally speaking, open seams are a clear red flag and a sign the roof might need to be replaced.

TPO/PVC roofs need to be replaced when you see the scrim, feel the bitterness, or see the seams open up. A weathering layer on top of these roofing systems erodes roughly 1mm each year. Once the scrim is exposed, it can no longer be waterproofed and needs to be replaced. Like EPDM, TPO and PVC are single-ply, so installations are quicker and easier than multi-layered roofs like BUR and Modified Bitumen.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR) systems are the hardest to read. BUR roofing systems very clearly show their repair histories.

Metal roofs are very expensive to replace. That’s why more often than not we’ll conduct extensive coating or retrofitting repairs to metal roofs, rather than a full replacement.

How does Simpson Unlimited uniquely handle commercial roof replacements?

When we’re approached by a potential customer about conducting a commercial roof replacement, rarely do they have a firm understanding of what they’re actually asking for.

First and foremost, Simpson offers absolute pricing transparency. If there are discrepancies about the price during the bidding process, we’ll ask to compare our project scope to the scopes of the other bidders. Chances are the cheaper jobs offer a smaller scope of work, or it could simply boil down to the cheaper contractor being smaller (or less reputable) or maybe more desperate for work.

We strongly suggest that all potential customers interview their commercial roofing contractors and hold their bidders accountable. Ask why they have the best solution for your commercial roofing system. Ask for references and copies of manufacturer certification letters. Thanks to our long track record, Simpson understands all of the unforeseen conditions beforehand and will bring them to the owner’s attention to outline any and all contingencies that need to be considered.

Simpson prides itself in minimizing change orders as much as humanly possible. That’s why we make 5-6 core cuts on our initial walkthrough to make informed recommendations to the owner. Every once in a while, rotted or rusted decking, buried conduits, or deep rot or water intrusion won’t be found until later in the process. But much more often, change orders arise when owners decide to add scope to their project because they’re happy with the work we’ve completed thus far.

We also pride ourselves in matching the final product to the initial presentation; what we show you beforehand is exactly what you’ll get. We ensure all of our commercial roofs are properly sloped. We’re also certified with virtually every major commercial roofing manufacturer and are required to maintain those certifications, so you can enjoy the peace of mind of working with an industry-approved standard-bearer.

One last word to the wise — don’t replace your commercial roof unless you can also afford the coverage and maintenance. Otherwise, it’s a lost investment. There’s no greater or more costly waste than replacing your roof and failing to maintain it.

Most manufacturers require some level of basic proactive roof maintenance to maintain their warranties, and that maintenance can prolong your roof’s lifespan by years.

Your commercial roofing system is a unique beast, and there’s a lot of information to keep in mind before, during, and after the process to ensure the longest possible lifespan for your roof, the comfort and peace of mind of your building tenants, and the short and long term costs for you as the building owner or engineer.

A majority of that responsibility rests on your commercial roofing contractor’s shoulders. As long as they’re certified, reputable, safe, and transparent, all you need to ensure is that you have the proper amount budgeted for regular maintenance and the diligence to follow through on bi-annual inspections to maintain your warranties.

Otherwise, the biggest to-do is finding a commercial roofing contractor you trust.

And hopefully, Simpson Unlimited’s 25+ years of standard-setting experience and proven track record establish us as the only call you need to make.

In need of a commercial roof inspection, repair, or maintenance? Click below to learn more about our services and schedule a free commercial roof inspection today!