There comes a time in every commercial property manager’s life when they must choose a new roof for their building. If they’ve done any amount of research on commercial roofing systems, they’ll know that there are many factors to consider when making their decision:
- The cost of the material and installation
- The size and slope of the roof
- The intended uses of the roof
- The climate
- How long they want the roof to last
If you find yourself in this position, you might be overwhelmed by the abundance of choices available on the market. How do you make the best decision using the limited research time available to you?
Let this article jumpstart your research process. Here, we’ve listed nine of the most common commercial roof types along with their pros and cons.
1. Thermoset EPDM Roofing
EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer. You might have heard it referred to as thermoset roofing or as a rubber roof.
EPDM roofing material comes in massive rubber rolls, which your roofing contractor will unroll and lay out in rows on top of your roof. One of the most popular commercial roof types on the market right now, it has a reputation for being a very strong roofing material at a low price point. It also has an average lifespan of around 20 years.
- ✅Pros: EPDM roofing systems are very easy for most contractors to install, and they’re great for flat and low-slope roofs. It’s unlikely to crack or peel over time and is known for being acid resistant. If your roof does sustain damage, it will likely be easy to repair.
- ❌Cons: You cannot walk on EPDM roofing membrane, so it’s not suitable for roofs that receive foot traffic. If your roof is black, it will absorb heat, raising cooling costs for your building. The seams of this type of roofing are sealed using adhesives, which can leave opportunities for leaks to develop over time.
2. TPO Roofing
Thermoplastic Polyolefin, or TPO, roofing is a type of single-ply, thermoplastic membrane roof. It is made of reflective materials that usually come in the colors black, white, tan, or gray.
The seams of this type of material are heat-welded, so it’s very unlikely that your roof will spring a leak along the seams. It is also usually attached directly to the roof deck with adhesive to provide extra durability.
- ✅Pros: TPO is a hardy material that resists ultraviolet radiation and bacteria growth. It’s a great choice for low slope and flat roofs. It’s unlikely to crack, peel, or puncture.
- ❌Cons: You have to be careful about where you source your materials since some manufacturers will provide cheap but poorly made products. TPO is not fire-resistant, so it may not be the best choice for buildings in fire-prone climates. Since it’s basically a rubberized plastic, this material is not the most eco-friendly choice on this list.
3. PVC Roofing
PVC roofing is another single-ply membrane roofing option made from polyvinyl chloride. Even though it is a plastic-based product, it has lower petroleum content than both TPO and EPDM. You can expect a PVC roof to last 25-30 years.
- ✅Pros: PVC is a sturdy material that can withstand high temperatures and offers both wind and fire resistance. Because it’s white, it’s one of the go-to cool roof options for flat roofing systems. It’s also recyclable, so sheets at the end of their lifespan can be remade into new sheets of PVC roofing.
- ❌Cons: Just like with TPO, you need to source your PVC roofing carefully to ensure appropriate product quality. It’s also more expensive than both TPO and EPDM roofs. PVC roofs may be harder to repair than these other roofing types as well.
4. Modified Bitumen Roofing
If you want the best of both asphalt shingles and roofing membranes on your flat roof, then modified bitumen might be just the commercial roofing material for you. It’s made of asphalt mixed with polymerized rubber that is layered on the roof deck.
- ✅Pros: While other materials on this list require warm weather during installation, modified bitumen can be applied year-round. Because of the way the layers and seams are sealed, these roofs are also resistant to nearly all forms of storm damage. They also hold up well against foot traffic as compared to other flat roof types.
- ❌Cons: If installed improperly, you may end up with pooling water and subsequent premature aging of your roofing system. If water seeps under the top layer of the roof, you may also experience blistering or separation of the material along the seams.
5. Built-Up Roofing
A built-up roofing system is made from alternating layers of tar and gravel. This gives you a lot of control over your roof, as the number of layers you choose to install has a direct impact on both the durability and the cost of your roof. It’s a material with a long history of success; commercial buildings have been using built-up roofing for nearly a century.
- ✅Pros: Built-up roofing is known for being budget-friendly, and any necessary repairs will also likely be inexpensive. This roof type is walkable, and it reflects both heat and ultraviolet rays. It’s great for climates that experience both warm and cold temperatures.
- ❌Cons: The number of layers you can add to your roof is limited by how much weight your building’s foundation is able to carry. These roofs are also known for developing leaks as they age.
6. Metal Roofing
Suitable for all kinds of sloped roofs, metal is an incredibly attractive and durable roofing material to use on commercial buildings. You can choose from either standing seam or exposed fastener roofing options; exposed fastener is a much more common choice for industrial roofs.
There are several common kinds of metal used for metal roofing systems:
- Stainless steel
- Corrugated galvanized steel
- Copper or zinc
Various kinds of roof coatings are often applied to metal roofing systems to give them additional attributes. These coatings provide various benefits to the roof, like extra waterproofing, more durability, additional energy efficiency, and UV resistance.
- ✅Pros: Compared to the other materials on this list, metal roofs last a long time, sometimes for decades! They are usually pretty easy to install and repair. Metal is much more environmentally friendly than most other materials on this list, and it’s resistant to fire, hail, wind, and general storm damage.
- ❌Cons: Metal is much more costly than the other materials on this list. It’s also quite heavy, so you have to be sure that your structure can support the weight of metal roofing. Although the roofing material itself will last a long time, you’ll likely need to replace the fasteners at least once during the roof’s lifespan.
7. Shingle Roofing
Surprised to see shingles on this list? Some commercial buildings, like apartment buildings, religious centers, and educational institutions, have steeply-sloped roofs. For these, flat and built-up roofing systems won’t work.
Asphalt shingles come in a variety of styles, including 3-tab and architectural. They provide you with many choices of color and style combinations. You can expect an asphalt shingle roof to last 20-25 years.
- ✅Pros: Asphalt shingles are generally considered to be attractive. They’re very commonly used on all roofing types, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding a contractor who can install this material well.
- ❌Cons: Asphalt shingles are more susceptible to all kinds of damage—including fire, wind, and hail—than all other commercial roofing types on this list.
8. Green Roofing
Heat islands are becoming an ever-growing problem in urban areas, and green roofs are emerging as a popular solution to this problem. These roofs are made from living plants grown in soil that sits atop a waterproof membrane. They collect rainwater, lower the temperature of urban areas, improve air quality, and promote biodiversity.
- ✅Pros: When installed and maintained properly, green roofs can last 50 years or more. In addition to providing pleasant leisure space for tenants or employees, most green roofs are also cool roofs that will lower the overall cost of cooling for your building. Some areas have government initiatives that will offset the cost of roof installation.
- ❌Cons: Green roofs require more upkeep than other roofing systems. They must be monitored frequently to ensure adequate drainage of water.
Popular Commercial Roof Types: Make the Best Choice for You
No matter what the specific needs of your building are, there are commercial roof types out there suited to your needs. Assess your climate, the slope of your roof, and your project budget to help you make the best choice for your commercial property.
Once you know the kind of roof you’re looking for, let Trust Roofing help you with the installation. With decade-long labor warranties and experience with several flat roofing systems, we’ll provide superior protection to your Florida property using swift and affordable service. Send us a message to start today!