Why Are Commercial Roofs So Expensive?

Why Are Commercial Roofs So Expensive?

A commercial roofing system is a costly undertaking. But as commercial roofs begin to reach the end of their lifespan and torrential weather conditions cause massive damages, the number of commercial roofs installed slowly increases after a dip in the early 2020s.

Predicting how much a high-quality commercial roof might cost is complicated, as many moving pieces can affect it. Some elements, like the price of materials, could change monthly depending on the supply chain and other economic factors.

Before you purchase a new commercial roof, you must understand all the pieces that make up an estimated cost and what everything means.

What Affects the Price of a Commercial Roof?

The pricing of a commercial roof is influenced by a myriad of factors that change constantly depending on location, supply chain, and seasonality. 

Among these factors, the choice of material stands out as a primary cost determinant. While not a factor in the price, the longevity and durability of each material type play a crucial role in the decision-making process, as they directly affect the long-term value and potential return on investment.

Another critical component in the pricing equation is the roof’s size and complexity, including accessibility and the need for specialized labor. 

Larger roofs require more materials and person-hours, increasing the total cost. 

However, other aspects of a roofing project unexpectedly inflate budgets. This includes HVAC systems, skylights, and other installations that make the project more unwieldy.

Also, expect the physical dimensions of the roof, the specific materials chosen, the project’s timing and duration, and the intricacies introduced by the building’s design and location to all affect the price of your commercial roof. 

Consulting with experienced roofing professionals helps explain and outline a more accurate financial and operational roadmap for your project.

The Cost of Materials

High-quality materials cost more initially, but they last longer and should require less repair over time. 

A reputable roofing contractor will use the best materials available to install your commercial roofing system. Cutting corners costs more in the long run.

In general, the overall cost of materials has increased, and this has only been compounded by trucking issues, making it more challenging to get the needed materials on job sites. 

In addition, recent government-imposed tariffs have begun to impact the cost of sheet metal and other roofing products. These costs all get passed on to the consumer.

One material in particular has seen a significant cost increase in recent years. 

A 2015 code change raised the requirement for roof insulation LTTR-value, which measures the roof’s ability to retain the internal temperature of a building and keep external temperatures at bay over a specific time. 

The higher the required LTTR value, the more insulation is necessary for a roof to remain code-compliant. 

When the minimum LTTR value was raised with the 2015 code change, the required insulation increased, resulting in additional costs for the building owner. 

Projects starting at $5 or $6 per foot increased to $8 to $10 per foot, if not more. 

In some cases, the increase in insulation and the resulting additional inches to the roof surface require changes to an existing rooftop as well: contractors sometimes need to raise the roof perimeter by blocking or raising mechanical units, particularly on older buildings. 

These efforts, of course, add further cost.

Size and Scope

The roof’s overall size and the roofing project’s complexity (including tear-off, installation, and additional structural considerations) will directly impact the total cost. 

Larger roofs require more materials and labor, increasing the price accordingly.

Roofing companies also must consider a project’s subtler aspects when putting together an estimate. 

This includes roofs with multiple penetrations for HVAC systems, skylights, or other installations requiring additional craftsmanship and materials to ensure proper sealing and waterproofing. The more complex and advanced the installation, the more time and cost will be added to your estimate.

If your commercial roof is extra tall or obstructed, the need for specialized equipment and additional safety measures will increase the price of your project.

During the estimate process, a commercial roofing expert should provide a detailed assessment to help identify these costs upfront rather than in the middle of your project.

Roofing Equipment

Turning all those materials into a functional roofing system requires quite a bit of expensive equipment. 

A typical commercial roofing replacement project might require using $500,000 worth of equipment, all of which must be moved from site to site. Add in the fact that roofing equipment takes on a lot of wear and tear over time, so it must be maintained, repaired, and replaced. All of this is part of the contractor’s overhead.

For instance, advanced welding equipment for thermoplastic membranes like PVC or TPO ensures stronger, more durable seams. However, the technology and skill required to operate these machines efficiently add to the labor and overhead costs. 

Similarly, deploying cranes or other heavy machinery to lift materials to a high or inaccessible roof significantly increases project costs due to rental fees, the need for specialized operators, and the time involved in setting up and using the equipment safely and effectively.

Of course, more advanced equipment might be more expensive, but it also saves you time. It’s a cost-benefit analysis that you’ll have to figure out with the assistance of your commercial roofing professional team.


A commercial roofing project requires a lot of labor by a team of skilled roofers, all of whom must be compensated for their time. 

Those who work for a high-quality roofing company receive safety and skills-based training throughout the year. 

These costs add up, but a skilled and safety-minded team ultimately costs less than an untrained, careless team when you factor in the expense of mistakes and improper technique.

You want your commercial roof to last as long as possible, which means you pay for what you get.


Any reputable roofing company will be insured, but that also goes into the pricing of your project.

Because of the risks involved with commercial roofing, insurance for roofers is costly. 

If the company you hire does not carry insurance, you could be liable for any accidents on your property. 

A contractor with minimal insurance on a commercial roofing job can quickly get into trouble. Some clients require roofing contractors to carry large insurance umbrellas—this helps them identify the more professional operations.

You may not see these costs directly on any estimate, but they’re built into the overall pricing of your commercial roofing project.

An Economical Approach

A fair and reputable roofing contractor will always keep costs—and the customer—in mind. They will:

  • Do quite a bit of long-range planning to ensure that the materials needed for each project are on site and on time.
  • Budget for equipment maintenance and upgrades each year.
  • Try to manage insurance costs while maintaining the best protection possible.
  • Put the right people on the right job for optimal crew performance.
  • Get creative with project schedules by evaluating a roof, making recommendations, and possibly providing customers with two- five- or ten-year plans to minimize immediate costs for manageable budgeting.

Trust Ridgeworth Roofing with Your Next Commercial Roof Project

Ridgeworth Roofing has been a fixture in the Chicagoland commercial roofing industry for over 50 years. We’ve worked with happy clients all over the area, inspecting, replacing, and maintaining commercial roofs

If you need commercial roofing experience, contact Ridgeworth Roofing. Our 50 years of experience will help us guide you in making the right decisions for your building.