When Should You Resurface (Recover) a Commercial Flat Roof?

by | Feb 6, 2024 | Flat Roof Restorations, Planning and Budgeting

If you are a property manager or owner of a commercial flat-roof building, the decision about when to resurface, recover, or overlay your roof is crucial for its longevity and performance. To determine the optimal timing, you should consider the life cycle of your existing roof membrane.


Resurfacing, also known as a “recover” or an “flat roof overlay,” involves adding a new roof layer atop the existing one. The prime indicator that your roof needs resurfacing is when its membrane approaches the end of its expected life cycle.

Generally, most membranes have a lifespan ranging from 15 to 25 years. Waiting until the membrane starts to fail and you have water entering the building can lead to a degradation of the roof substrate, potentially harming the entire building. If you let it go too long, the roof will become saturated, the roof deck may become compromised, and you will be looking at a full tear-off and replacement with possible deck remediation.

Building Codes

Flat Roof Engineer Inspecting Work in Progress | getflatroofing.com
Building codes often allow for a second roof layer to be installed on the building. If your building has only one layer, resurfacing, recovering, or overlaying can be a great option. If your roof already has two layers, opting for a roof coating system, also known as a “restoration”, becomes your best choice.


It’s important to differentiate between a restoration and a resurface because they are sometimes confused with one another. A roof coating (restoration) involves applying a protective coating to restore the roof’s waterproofing properties and shield the membrane from UV light and degradation. A roof resurfacing (recovery or overlay) installs a totally new roof layer on top of the existing one.

The other key difference between a flat roof restoration and resurface is that a roof coating (restoration) cannot be applied over top of a wet substrate, emphasizing the importance of addressing issues before they escalate. Once you let the substrate get damaged, you have to remove it. Not only that, when you remove a roof down to the deck and the building is conditioned, you have to bring the roof system back up to insulation code. That can be expensive.

An Ounce of Prevention

Property Manager Managing Flat Roof Budget | getflatroofing.com
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When your roof reaches its 20th year, proactive budgeting for either a recovery (if feasible) or restoration is wise. Waiting until the roof deteriorates may render it irreparable, leading to costly and extensive repairs.

Do not let the roof “go” and then wonder why it can’t be brought back to life. Taking preventive measures now can save you unnecessary expenses in the future.

Expert Advice

Whether you’re a beginner, need advanced information about flat roofing topics, or a refresher,  this is where you can learn everything you need to know about commercial and industrial flat roofing.

Contact us for more information or pricing.




Jared Van Vranken is Vice President and lead estimator at Flat Roof Solutions in Malvern, PA. Jared has directed the installation, repair, recovery, and replacement of commercial flat roofs for more than a decade at Flat Roof Solutions. He guides clients in selecting the best roofing materials for their needs and budget.

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