Your building is getting older. You’ve owned it for years, and you can tell it’s starting to deteriorate in certain areas, but you don’t want to have to tear it down and rebuild. You’ve already poured money into maintenance, repairs, and updates over the years. Is it worth keeping it running? What can you do to extend its lifespan further?
We’ll address these concerns today, focusing on how to tell if your building is deteriorating and what you can do to preserve it for as long as possible.
How Long Should I Expect My Commercial Building to Last?
There are so many variables involved when comparing one building with another. Some may not make it to 50 years, while others could last for well over 100. It all depends on the building materials used in construction, how well you’ve kept up on maintenance and repairs over the years, and how much more you’re willing to spend to extend its useful life.
RDH Building Science breaks down the typical stages of a commercial building’s life cycle. In a nutshell, as long as buildings are properly maintained, most buildings will only need a few repairs and updates before reaching about 15 to 30 years of age. Once you reach that point, you may have to invest in bigger maintenance projects like replacing your roof, boiler, sump pump, or plumbing system. However it's important to seriously evaluate your buildings structure and foundation to determine if your building is worth it.
The 30 to 50-year stage is when you will need to invest in larger, more expensive renovations to keep your building healthy and safe. In addition to the systems we just mentioned (which may need to be updated a second time), you might have to replace your building’s siding and alarm/security systems. Also consider redoing your sidewalks, parking lots, and roadways, as well as modernizing the interior by giving it a facelift.
What Are Some Warning Signs of Serious Issues?
Knowing when to update the right systems at the right time can extend the life of your building. On the other hand, failing to keep up with repairs and maintenance can cut its lifespan shorter than necessary.
If you have an asphalt roof, it should last around 20 years. If yours is reaching that age, it’s time to start shopping for a new one. Consider installing a steel roof if you want something that will last for the remaining life of your building. Steel roofs have a projected lifespan of 40–70 years.
Here are some clear signs that your roof could be deteriorating.
- It’s leaking.
- You find mold on your ceiling or in your attic.
- Shingles are starting to curl, crack, buckle, blister, or break off the roof.
- You find lots of granules in your gutters.
- Shingles are starting to lift.
- You notice bald spots on the roof.
- The roof is sagging.
- You find cracks in the roofing membrane.
- Moss is growing.
- The sheets show signs of rust, mold, or corrosion
- Water is leaking into your building
- Roofing panels are loose, displaced, or damaged
Call a professional roofing contractor you trust to inspect your roof for you if it’s getting old or you notice any of these signs.
Your siding, like your roof, protects you from the elements. It also prevents moisture from seeping into your walls and causing severe damage, as well as pest infestations. If your siding is damaged or it needs to be replaced call a siding contractor as soon as possible to prevent it from leading to a bigger disaster.
Here are some warning signs to watch out for. If you notice any of them, it’s time to repair or replace your siding.
- Holes or cracks
- Mold or mildew
- A spike in your heating or cooling bills
- Loose panels
- Severe fading
- Peeling, chipping, or cracking paint
- Insect damage
- Damage to your interior walls, such as peeling paint, moisture, or mold
- Siding shows signs of rust, including a red or brown coloring
- Panels are loose and pulling away from the building
- The steel material appears wavy or buckled
- The materials are dented
- Corrosion leaves dark spots
If your electrical system was installed in the 1960s or 1970s, it could still have aluminum wiring, which deteriorates more quickly than copper. Old wiring can cause overheating and be a fire hazard. It’s crucial to have your electrical system inspected regularly and updated if it’s unsafe or no longer up to code.
Electrical requirements can vary greatly, so it can be challenging to pinpoint a standard lifespan for commercial electrical systems. If you notice lights flickering, breakers trip repeatedly, or fuses blow, call your electrician as soon as possible to perform an inspection.
Foundation & Structural Issues
If your foundation is compromised, it may be too late to save your building. Cracks in your walls, window frames, or flooring and major plumbing issues can be indicative of serious structural problems in your building. Contact a professional to inspect your building immediately and suggest the best course of action. Depending on when you catch these types of issues, it may or may not be worth the investment to save your building.
If you notice water stains around plumbing pipes or on ceilings or walls, you might need a new plumbing system. Other warning signs could include water dripping from old fixtures, water discoloration, mold, a musty smell, strange sounds when you turn on the faucet, slow drainage, or low water pressure. Your building's pipes should have a long lifespan, but they still need to be monitored. PVC pipes typically need to be replaced every 25-40 years and other stronger materials need to be replaced every 70 years.
How Do I Prevent Further Deterioration?
If you haven’t already, sign up for a commercial maintenance plan for routine inspections and services. A maintenance plan can keep your building on track for a long, healthy life. Smaller issues can be addressed as they surface to avoid significant problems down the road. Your space will also remain safer for everyone who uses it.
Being proactive with preventive maintenance can save you time, money, energy, and major headaches—especially when you have an older building you’re trying to keep up.
Read our blog to learn more about commercial buildings and how to ensure yours lasts as long as possible.