Most Pennsylvania homeowners remember when Calvary Fellowship Church’s roof collapsed in 2016. The five feet of snow on the roof became too much for it to bear, and the roof was destroyed. Thankfully, no one was hurt!

Or in more recent news, in June of 2020 high winds ripped the roofs of an apartment building in Philadelphia. The disaster left 14 families homeless, and the debris caused damage to another nearby apartment building.

But why am I bringing up these terrible tragedies now? 

From spotting signs of damage, to guides on choosing colors and materials, we’ve covered a lot in these Martin Roofing and Siding resources on how homeowners can protect their homes. I like to think our guides for homeowners don’t just inspire Schuylkill county dwellers in creating their perfect home- but also help a lot of people avoid dangerous exterior situations. 

The same information we provide for homeowners? Is just as important- if not more so- for commercial building owners.

When you own a commercial property you’re taking responsibility for the wellbeing of others. Whether that’s a house of worship or an apartment complex, people are counting on you to give them a safe place to be together. Which is why today I want to help you out- by giving you a bird’s eye view of how to keep the roof on your commercial property strong. 

But first- why does it matter?

Why Your Commercial Property’s Roof is So Important 

As a small business owner, I know how easy it is to overlook non-emergencies. 

In Sean Covey’s amazing time management book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of his brilliant insights is how to give priority to what in your business. 

Sean uses this matrix of categorizing tasks:

While the book may be more about work/life balance than running a business, I’ve found this matrix of “important” vs “urgent” to be very helpful as we grow at Martin. 

What does this have to do with your work as a commercial property owner? 

Well, if we were to put “roofing” in one of these boxes for you as a business owner…where would it fall? 

If you have a roof that’s not actively causing damage to your retails spaces or rentals, successful property owners know your roof should be in Quadrant 2: Important, but not Urgent. 

Unfortunately, for most busy business owners- their roof is stuck in low-priority Quadrant 4….until, all of the sudden, a major emergency pushes it into Quadrant 1: Crisis.

No one wants a crisis on their hands, especially not a crisis that puts people’s lives and livelihoods at risk. 

My goal today is for you to walk away from this article with the knowledge you need to 

  • Keep Your Property Safe From A Roofing Crisis
  • And Know The BEST Material to Use On Your Commercial Property when it is time to replace your roof. 

Spotting damage is the first step to preventing disasters. Let’s look first at preventative commercial roof maintenance, what you can do yourself to keep your roof healthy- before we dive into roofing replacements and repairs.

Ready? Read on.

When to Repair… and When to Replace

First, let’s take a look at what signs of wear you should be looking for on your roof. 

Rubber roof on a commercial building

As with all roofs, signs of wear vary with each material. 

Many commercial roofs use ethylene propylene diene monomer, (EPDM) also known as rubber roofing. Rubber roofing is typically installed on flat roofs, and signs of wear for this material differ from asphalt shingles. 

If your building has a rubber roof, here’s how you can check it’s health yourself:

  • First, check the edge of the roof. This area is called the flashing. If it’s bent or has come unsealed, it means your roof’s integrity is compromised. The flashing keeps water out of your roof and attic, and must be properly sealed in order to protect it. 

If your flashing isn’t intact- you’ll need to call a professional.

  • Next, check your seams. Take a look at where the rubber material meets together. If you see signs that your roofing has started to separate, call a roofing company to help before water damage begins.

And finally, my biggest tip for evaluating EPDM…

  • Visit your roof after a rainstorm. At least once a year, check your roof an hour or two after it rains. Flat roofs often have drainage problems. Small leaks can wear away the substrate, causing low areas that are easy to miss when dry. 

If you climb onto your roof after a rain storm and see pooling areas of water or uneven drying- it may be time to have a roofing professional visit and evaluate your roof. 

If your commercial roof is asphalt, check for loose or missing shingles. Oftentimes, you can replace missing shingles. But if your asphalt roof is 20 years or older? It’s time for a replacement.

In general, if your roof is…

  • Cracked or blistered
  • Has standing water 
  • Letting water inside your building

You need to get on the schedule of a qualified roofing company before deep damages happen. When it comes to roofing, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure!

If you know your commercial property needs a new roof, but are considering a change in materials- let me show you some options.

America’s Favorite Roof: Asphalt Shingles

Commercial asphalt roofing

Asphalt shingles are installed on over 80% of homes, and have been a popular choice since the early 1900’s. But what began as residential has become a very popular choice for commercial properties, too- especially churches, duplexes, or properties designed to have a more “welcome home” look.

If you’ve read our residential roofing guide, you know the advantages of asphalt shingles. They:

  • Last 30-50 years
  • Are budget friendly- costing $5-$8 per square foot
  • And are the easiest roofing material to install

The great news- all of these benefits apply to using asphalt shingles on a commercial property. 

The downside? Commercial properties aren’t immune from their disadvantages either.

Asphalt is cheap and easy to work with- but it’s not known for durability. Unlike homeowners, who have a single property to look after, commercial property owners have a lot more on their plate. 

If you live in an area with harsh weather, be aware that asphalt is highly susceptible to mold and harsh sunlight can wear down it’s adhesive properties. That might no be a make or break for a homeowner, but if you don’t have time to check in on your roof or are managing multiple businesses- there are other materials to choose from. 

The good news? Working with an experienced contractor can increase an asphalt roof’s lifespan. Here at Martin, we only install GAF manufactured shingles because of their exceptional durability and protection. 

Plus, America’s most popular roofing material makes new strides towards added durability every day. When installed on commercial properties, architectural shingles are the way to go! 

Most Popular for Commercial: Rubber Roofing 

White rubber roofing

We haven’t talked much about rubber roofing on our blog! I’m excited to dive into it a little today. Why? Because this style is one of the most popular choices for commercial use. In fact, it’s almost exclusively used on commercial buildings. 

Invented in 1962, it became popular in the 70’s as asphalt prices rose. But it’s low cost isn’t the only reason it’s stuck around! 

Today, rubber roofing is known for: 

  • Fire resistance- it’s actually known to slow the spread of fire
  • When correctly installed it can last up to 40 years!
  • White rubber roofs reflect UV rays, making them energy efficient and lowering your cooling costs

Rubber roofing is the commercial equivalent of asphalt shingles on residentials. But what are some of the drawbacks of this style? 

Rubber roofing is installed as one continuous piece and requires special tools for the job. It’s not something every contractor has experience with. If not sealed correctly- and believe me, we’ve seen plenty of bad installations- the roof can’t do its job. 

The flashing must also be sealed correctly. Weak points in the flashing allow water inside- potentially costing you thousands in interior repairs. 

To get the full benefits of this popular style your contractors have to know what they’re doing!

Interested in installing rubber? Our team is experienced with the installation process and would love to help with your project! When done right, rubber is incredibly durable and a great fit for commercial use.

Asphalt vs Rubber? 

Apartment buildings

Both materials are known for their easy maintenance and low costs, but which is the better choice for your commercial building? 

Let’s take a look at your roof’s slope.

Rubber is best for flat roof installation. Flat roofs are difficult to protect from water damage, and can lead to major drainage problems. Water that can’t drain from a roof begins to seep into the underlayment, allowing water into your home. (This is also the main cause of ice dams!) 

But because rubber roofs are continuous, there aren’t any seams or weak points for water to seep in. That means EPDM works fantastic if your roof doesn’t have a slope!

But if your commercial building is sloped? Asphalt is the way to go. 

Still not sure which is right? Our team can help! We don’t just install roofs- we work with you to choose the best material for your building. When you work with Martin, we’re there for you every step of the way. 

Not in love with either style? Don’t worry! Let’s take a look at my personal favorite roofing material: 

The King of Commercial Roofing Durability: Metal

Metal commercial roof

In the past, we’ve discussed how well metal roofs fare on homes. Today, we’re returning to this material’s roots as the top choice for commercial buildings. 

Metal roofs have been popular in America since 1775. In fact, the material has been used around the world since Medieval times. 

Why choose metal for your commercial building? Three reasons: 


#1: Metal has the longest lifespan. Metal roofs can last up to 70 years! That means you’ll only need to install this roofing material once in your lifetime. 


#2: It’s the most durable material. Water resistant? Check. Fire resistant? Absolutely! And newer metal roofing is even dent resistant! 


#3: It’s only a moderate price bump. The added durability and longer lifespan can add up in upfront costs- but not as high as you might think. On average, metal roofing costs $6-$13 a square foot. Plus, much like asphalt, most roofing contractors have experience with the installation process. 


The only reason I wouldn’t recommend metal for commercial roofing? If you plan to sell the building in the next ten years. The pay off for metal roofing is long term- and if you’re selling soon? Asphalt or rubber works just as well for a lower upfront investment. 


Interested in learning more about metal roofs? You can read more about the different styles and other benefits here. 


“How Do I Choose a Roofing Bid For My Commercial Building?”

Congratulations- You choose a material for your new roof! 


But one of the hardest parts of the process for most? Choosing the right contractor. 


We know your struggle! Often, we hire specialists to assist in big ground-up builds- and we only work with the best. Our executive assistant, Holly, can tell you all about the struggles of finding the right contractor, and how crucial it is to vet your contractor before securing a contract.


So how do you choose a roofing contractor for your commercial build? 


Here’s are three steps to guarantee you’re always working with the best.


#1: Get Multiple Project Bids

The shingles on your apartment complex were damaged in last night’s storm. You knew they were getting bad, but looking at the bare spots on your roof? The roof needs to be replaced as soon as possible. 


Or maybe your church’s attic is showing signs of water damage. Costumes from christmas pageants now need tossed- and leftover VBS curriculums are soggy and ruined. 


My point? No one replaces their commercial roof for fun. It’s a response to a problem with your current roof’s structure. 


You’re in a rush! But don’t let the rain pressure you into an emotional, reactionary decision. 


But the best thing you can do when hiring out the job? Be patient. Get multiple quotes. Replacing a commercial roof is a huge task and you want to work with someone who you can trust. 


Comparing bids is a great place to start- but price isn’t everything. If something seems too good to be true? It probably is. If one of your bids is drastically cheaper than others, this means you risk the contractors cutting corners to save time or sliding in extra costs once the project gets going. 


This doesn’t mean you should choose the highest quote, either. By comparing multiple quotes, you’ll have an idea of the cost range and are better equipped to make the right decision.


#2: Research Your Contractors

In the past, referrals were word of mouth only. There wasn’t an option to google companies before working with them and no way to check reviews. But in the age of the internet? Important information is just a click away!


So grab your laptop, and start searching! Check if your contractor has:

  • Up to date insurance and licensing
  • Experience working with your chosen material
  • Excellent reviews

Make sure to check their website, as well as the Better Business Bureau. The more information, the better! 

Martin Carpentry review

You aren’t just focusing on the cost. You’re choosing a professional, who respects you and your project. 

#3 Read Through Your Contract

Yes, read the whole thing. And not just that, but ask your contractor to clarify anything you’re unsure about. 

A new roof is a huge installation, and a costly one, too. You should always work with someone you trust. If you’re unsure about your contractors based on the contract? It’s okay to choose someone else. 

Working with a contractor requires a level of trust, and you should establish that before beginning the process. A great contractor is happy to answer any questions throughout any stage of the process. 

Ready to Replace Your Commercial Roof? 

Replacing your roof can be an overwhelming task. But the good news is that you’re never alone! Our team is happy to answer any questions you may have, and offer professional advice and suggestions. 

Have an idea of what you’d like, but haven’t decided on a material yet? Our visualization software lets you see your new roof before the installation has even begun. You never have to make an uneducated guess. We’re here to help every step of the way. 

Spring is just around the corner, and we’d love to get you on our schedule once the snow and cold clears. Give Vern a call at 570-345-0436 and start the conversation on your new commercial roof.