A Complete Guide to Different Types of Commercial Roofing Systems

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If you’re considering replacing or repairing your commercial roofing system, low-slope roofing is most likely what you have in mind.

Although commercial roofs usually look flat, they usually have a slight pitch of 2:12 or 4:12. Technically, any roof with a pitch below 3in per ft falls in the category of low-slope roofing.

Steep slope roofing, as seen on residential buildings, isn’t usually used for commercial purposes, unless it’s a design feature of a historic or small building. Truly flat roofs, tend to end up with ponding on their surface.

Now if you know you’re looking for a low-slope option, you need to consider which types of commercial roofing best suit your needs. Roofs last a long time, and the wrong decision could affect your bottom line for years to come.

Below you will find five different options of roofing to consider what would be best for your situation.

1. Built-Up Types of Commercial Roofing Systems

Built-up roofing is also known as BUR and is one of the most common types of commercial roofing.

It’s made by layering sheets of fiber-glass asphalt sheeting with alternate layers of bitumen. The heavy bitumen serves to hold everything in place.

BUR roofing systems are durable and can last up to 20 years. They’re also extremely fire-resistant.

On the downside, installing built-up roofs takes time, so there are usually high labor costs associated with these kinds of roofs.

2. Modified Bitumen Roofing Systems

This type of roof comprises sheets made of a mix of asphalt and a particular chemical polymer.

The end result consists of multiple layers that are either self-adhesive or affixed together with hot-mopped asphalt. Unfortunately, this hot type of installation can be a fire hazard, which is one of the few drawbacks of this type of roofing.

As a final touch, your contractor will melt the seals together to form a secure bond that can withstand hail, wind, and fire.

Modified bitumen roofing systems have a 20-year lifespan, longer if you practice basic maintenance.

3. Single-Ply Commercial Roofing Systems

Since they’re flexible and durable with a quick installation time, these types of roofs are becoming one of the most popular choices among building owners.

They’re created by placing a single layer of roofing material on an existing concrete roof deck. 

These are the three main types of single-ply industrial roof systems:

EPDM – Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer:

EPDM roofing has been around for about 60 years.

It’s made from rubber, which has an excellent reputation for durability, flexibility, and versatility. It’s possible to mold EPDM to fit any type of roof and it is also 100% recyclable.

The black color of this kind of roofing makes it a good choice in cold climates, especially if you want to keep your heating bills under control.

In warmer areas, you can easily convert EPDM roofs into cool roofs by applying a layer of heat-reflective material over the top of them. Nowadays, most commercial enterprises are choosing this option to reduce their summer cooling bills.

EPDM roofing systems do not come with insulation, so the building owner can install their preferred method of insulation. Unfortunately, this means extra costs. Apart from this aspect, it’s an affordable choice.

It’s difficult to set an EPDM roof alight. They’re impervious to hail and wind. Your contractor can paint them to match any architectural aesthetic.

An important thing to remember about EPDM roofing systems is that only an experienced contractor can bring you all the benefits associated with these roofs.

If they aren’t installed property at the outset, you’re in for years of repairs.

PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride:

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a lightweight and reflective material, which means all the benefits of a cool roof are part of the package. It’s also tough and durable.

It’s resistant to fire, UV light, wind, tears, punctures, and most chemicals. That makes it a good choice for restaurants and other businesses with ventilation systems that emit fat and oil fumes.

PVC is one of the more expensive commercial roofing options out there and you’ll need to remove any existing roof coating before it’s applied. This adds even more to the costs of installation.

What’s more, PVC only lasts for 10 years before it’s bound to need repairs. If it isn’t put in place by a professional installer, you’ll have to deal with extra costs from the outset.

TPO – Thermoplastic Polyolefin:

TPO roofing is the newest type of commercial roofing on the market and combines the best benefits of EPDM and PVC roofing.

Unlike PVC roofing materials, TPO is totally recyclable and eco-friendly and cost-effective.

Because it hasn’t been around for very long, no one really knows how long it should last. On the plus side, manufacturers are constantly making improvements to this type of roofing.

4. Metal Roofs

Metal roofing is another popular and effective option for both residential and commercial roofs. It’s available in a huge range of colors and materials like stainless steel, corrugated iron, or tin.

Metal is highly fire-resistant and unlikely to become punctured or torn during normal use.

Metal rusts easily unless it has a protective coating to limit sun and rain damage. This means additional costs. It also expands and contracts according to the air temperature which means the fasteners used to attach it to your roof deck may wear out.

Since it’s needed in large quantities for commercial roofing, the cost can be a prohibitive factor when installing this kind of roof.

5. Liquid Applied Roofing

Liquid applied roofing consists of resin and polyester and is usually poured on site. This means spraying the substance on in two separate coats.

While this is a convenient process, it’s also costly and time-consuming.

One of the major benefits of this roofing system is that it flows into every nook and cranny of your roof to create a seamless finish. This makes it totally waterproof and easy to repair too.

This kind of roof application is a job for highly skilled professionals, so make sure you search for an experienced and reputable contractor to do the job.

Making the Right Choice for Your Business

Unless you have experience with every kind of roofing there is, choosing the best commercial roofing for your building is an overwhelming decision. It’s an important one though and the wrong move will have lasting consequences. 

Get in touch and we’ll be happy to advise you on the best types of commercial roofing to suit your business and budget.