Types of Commercial Roofs
Looking at location, it’s important to consider the type of roof that will best suit your commercial building. Each type has its pros and cons, and the decision-making process can be difficult due to the variety of options available. Factors like durability, energy efficiency, and cost are crucial in this process.
A well-installed and maintained commercial roof system can last anywhere from a decade to over 50 years, depending on factors like climate and sub-roof conditions. Energy efficiency has become increasingly important in recent years, with many cities adding energy efficiency parameters to their permit process. As a business owner, you should not overlook this aspect as it can result in significant savings in the long run. Lastly, while the overall cost of new or replacement roofing is an important consideration, you should ensure that you’re not sacrificing durability or efficiency to save upfront costs.
Guide to Commercial Roof Types
Discover the top seven materials used in commercial roofing and their unique features:
1. Metal Roofing
Metal roofing is a highly sought-after choice for commercial structures, thanks to its durability and impressive lifespan of 40 to 60 years. There’s a wide variety of metal roofing systems to choose from, some of which come with integrated solar or snow removal systems.
Commonly used metals in commercial roofing include:
- Corrugated galvanized steel
- Aluminum, zinc, and tin
- Tile sheets
- Coated or stainless steel
The allure of metal roofing lies in its appealing finish, robust fire resistance ratings, and superior strength. It’s also more sustainable compared to other alternatives.
Potential Drawback: Metal roofs can be prone to corrosion. To combat this, modern metal roofs often have protective surface layers to shield against exposure, moisture, pollution, and other environmental factors.
2. Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Membrane
Built-up roofing, with its lifespan of over 20 years with proper care, is created by alternating layers of tar and gravel. The number of layers directly impacts its durability and cost. Known for its affordability and ease of repair, BUR is among the oldest and most versatile roofing types.
This seamless roofing type withstands foot traffic well and relies on a stable understructure to bear the weight and vibrations of movement. It’s UV-resistant and can be coated to reflect heat.
Potential Drawback: Despite its benefits, BUR roofing has one of the shortest lifespans and identifying the source of a leak as the roof ages can be challenging.
3. Green Roof
Green roofs, with a lifespan ranging from 30 to 50 years, are composed of a robust waterproof membrane completely covered by green plants. These ecologically conscious designs improve air quality and often provide a serene green space for employees to unwind.
Benefits of green roofs include protection from the elements, potential utility and government incentives, and enhanced aesthetics. They often feature advanced water and drainage management systems, climate control, and sensor capabilities.
Potential Drawback: Green roofs necessitate ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
Please note that Spray-On Silicon, Thermoset EPDM Roof Membrane, Thermoplastic PVC & TPO Roof Membrane, and Shingle Roofing are also popular commercial roofing materials but have not been detailed in this guide.
4. Spray-On Roofing
Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) is an eco-friendly material that starts as a liquid spray, instantly expands into a foam, and hardens into a solid layer. This innovative roofing solution, which has been in use since the early 1960s, is applied over an existing roof.
An SPF roofing system provides waterproofing and insulation benefits. It’s suitable for any climate and can last up to 50 years with proper installation and maintenance.
Potential Drawback: The installation of SPF roofing is dependent on favorable weather conditions — no snow, ice, or water. Post-installation, it should be inspected once or twice a year.
5. Thermoset EPDM Membrane
Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM) is a durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane available in roll form. Also known as Thermoset roofing, EPDM offers robust resistance against sunlight and pollution. It’s long-lasting, versatile, and easy to install.
EPDM, available in white and black rolls, is highly resistant to many common solvents such as alcohol and acids, besides its resistance to sun and pollution.
Potential Drawback: Although highly functional, EPDM may not be the most aesthetically pleasing option. Moreover, it can be easily punctured by falling debris or foot traffic.
6. Thermoplastic PVC and TPO Roof Membranes
Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) and Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) roofing systems are designed to withstand adverse conditions. These roofing membranes resist damage from UV light, chemicals including fats and oils, and bacterial growth. They are lightweight, heat-reflective, and puncture-resistant.
Additional benefits include strong air-welded seams, fire-resistance, and high tolerance to extreme temperatures and high winds.
Potential Drawback: With the popularity of TPO, many small manufacturers have tried to create their own versions, leading to a drop in quality. It’s crucial to purchase this type of product from a reputable manufacturer to ensure quality and durability.
7. Shingle Roofing
Shingles, commonly seen on residential buildings, are also used on commercial properties, especially those with steep roof lines. They are available in a variety of materials, including asphalt, architectural, slate, plastic, and ceramic. Shingle roofing is versatile, relatively easy to install, and affordable.
Potential Drawback: The lifespan of shingles can be shorter than other commercial roofing types, depending on the brand used. They are also susceptible to mildew and moss if your building is located in a shaded area.
Choosing the Right Roof
When considering commercial roofing material options for a new build or a roof replacement, it’s crucial to consider what might be right for your specific needs.
Factors to consider include:
- Visibility of the roof
- Foot traffic on the roof
- Exposure to grease, acid, or chemicals
- Sun exposure
- Wind exposure
- Exposure to extreme temperatures
Different climates and different types of building usage should influence your choices. Consider the longevity of the roof and its annual maintenance cost. Also, take into account the energy costs of various types and colors of roofing materials. For example, a dark-colored roof may reduce heating bills in cold climates, while a white roof may limit strain on air conditioning in warm climates.
Consult an Expert
If you’re unsure about which commercial roof type is best for your property, consider consulting with an roofing expert. Experienced roofing professionals can guide you through the process, helping you to understand the pros and cons of each type of roof system, from EPDM and PVC to built-up coal tar, modified bitumen, and metal roofing. The goal is to address the three most important factors – budget, quality, and suitability for your structure.
Remember, choosing the right roofing system for your commercial property is an investment that can impact your building’s performance, energy efficiency, and long-term operating costs.