The 5 Types of Commercial Roofing Systems & Materials

For your commercial premises, you want a durable solution to ensure that you are not constantly performing repairs. Frequent repairs may end up being more costly than getting a higher quality roof and might also cause disruptions in the workplace, thereby affecting productivity.

A good roof should require little maintenance while creating a conducive internal environment. There are several types of systems, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. The ideal one depends on your building, your unique needs, and your budget.

Here are the five most common types of commercial systems.

1. Thermoplastic Polyolefin Roofing Material (TPO)

TPOs are some of the most popular systems in use today. The thermoplastic polyolefin roof consists of a smooth, single-ply, rubber polymer membrane. TPO membranes are either glued to each other or heat-welded to form a fused seam. Heat-welded membranes can be up to six times stronger than their glued counterparts.

TPO membranes come in different thickness levels, with some even having a fleece backing to allow for installation over coarse surfaces. Modern TPO roofing systems feature impressive durability, with most roofing system providers giving warranties of up to 35 years.

Benefits of TPO

Thanks to their white color, commercial TPO roofing is reflective, thus helping to keep the building cool during summer. This reduces your energy usage, thereby resulting in a significantly lower energy bill.

The flexible nature of TPO membranes makes them ideal for most roof types. TPO systems are also extremely durable and eco-friendly.

Drawbacks of TPO

These roofs only have a single-ply membrane making them vulnerable to punctures from rooftop activities.

Fortunately, most modern TPO systems have thicker membranes, but be sure to consider membrane thickness when looking to install a TPO roof.

2. Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM)

EPDMs are low-slope, durable commercial roofs that were quite popular in past decades. They are made of a synthetic rubber membrane that is a blend of two compounds: ethylene and propylene.

To install, EPDM membranes can be attached mechanically, glued together, or ballasted. Ballasting involves using coarse materials such as gravel. The seams are then sealed with a specialty tape or liquid adhesive.

EPDM systems usually come with a warranty between 10 and 30 years. This coverage depends on the thickness of the materials, installation technique, as well as the roofing provider.

Benefits of EPDM

EPDM roofs are very durable. With proper installation and maintenance, they can last for up to 30 years. Additionally, these membranes are resistant to damage from hail, thermal shock, and UV radiation.

What’s more, their flexible design allows them to be adaptable to the roof’s underlying structure. EPDM membranes are also recyclable.

Drawbacks of EPDM

Even though EPDM systems are durable, they require specific conditions for correct installation. For example, to seal the seams properly, the conditions should be clean and dry or leak.

Additionally, the membranes cannot come into contact with asphalt or its products, as the subsequent chemical reactions can compromise the seals’ strength.

Also, black EPDM systems might not be ideal for warmer climates, as they have a high heat-absorbing capacity.

3. Polyvinyl Chloride Roofing (PVC)

PVC systems are single-ply roofs that have been in use for over 50 years. To install, PVC membranes can be attached to each other through gluing, heat welding, or mechanical fastening.

Despite being flexible, PVC membranes are quite durable. Additionally, unlike most other single-ply roofing systems, PVC roofs are resistant to greases, oils, rooftop chemicals, and other industrial byproducts.

These roofs come with a warranty that ranges between 5 and 30 years.

Benefits of PVC

PVC roofing materials are excellent for commercial premises with grease traps on the roof, such as restaurants. These roofs are resistant to fire, as well as fungi and bacteria.

Additionally, due to their reflective nature, they significantly reduce the amount of heat penetrating the building.

Drawbacks of PVC

Unfortunately, PVC membranes tend to shrink with time, thus increasing their susceptibility to damage from rooftop activities. Additionally, they do not mix well with asphalt or its byproducts, meaning that you will need to remove any asphalt products on your roof when looking to install a PVC system.

4. Commercial Metal Roofing

Metal roofs are made from a variety of metals, such as zinc, aluminum, stainless steel, copper, or galvanized steel. They can consist of one metal exclusively, or an alloy of various metals.

Metal roofs typically have excellent insulating properties in addition to being durable. Most of them also spot eye-catching designs. Nonetheless, the design of a commercial metal roof depends on the slope of the underlying roof structure.

Metal systems usually have a coating to protect them from the effects of the elements, as well as corrosion. They come with a warranty of between 5 and 30 years. Warranties differ based on the installation process, materials used, as well as the contractor.

Benefits of Metal

With proper installation and maintenance, metal roofs can last for up to 50 years. Additionally, they require minimal maintenance, meaning their life-cycle costs are quite low.

Moreover, since they are made from recycled materials, metal roofs are environmentally friendly. Additionally, they come in a wide array of designs and finishes.

Drawbacks of Metal

Metal roofs are quite sensitive during the installation process and are highly susceptible to damage during that time. Additionally, they are vulnerable to temperature variations; fluctuations can cause bending of the sheets.

Moreover, if the roof has an exposed fastener system, there is a possibility of leaking. Another issue with metal roofs is that they can be slippery, thereby posing a potential health hazard during maintenance.

5. Asphalt Roofing

For years, asphalt roofs have been some of the most popular roofing systems due to their durability. These systems are best applied to structures with a low-slope.

Asphalt roofs are made up of several layers, which include a few reinforcement layers, a protective surface layer, and a weatherproof layer.

These commercial roofing systems can be classified into two categories:

Modified Bitumen Systems

These consists of a modified polymer that strengthens the system. This polymer can be applied in both single-ply and multi-ply asphalt systems.

Built-Up Roofing

These types of asphalt roofs have multiple layers, such as a vapor retarder, a membrane, surfacing material, and an insulation layer.

Benefits of Asphalt

Asphalt roofs are renowned for their exceptional performance and durability. Additionally, they are fire and UV resistant and easy to maintain.

Built-up asphalt systems offer excellent water-resistance and insulation capabilities, while modified bitumen systems are stronger in addition to being more flexible. They also work well across all climates.

Drawbacks of Asphalt

While asphalt roofs are great, they are not without their downside. First, they can be tricky to install.

The roof surface must be covered with hot asphalt whose temperatures can average about 400 degrees. The installation crew has to get that hot asphalt to the roof and install it before it cools. This can raise the total costs exponentially.

Asphalt systems usually come with a warranty of between 10 and 25 years.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a roof for your commercial property should not be a rush decision. You must do proper research to be able to make an informed decision. Roofs are significant investments and, therefore, you want to be sure that what you pick will serve you for a long time.

If you aren’t sure about what is best, it might be good to consult a roofing contractor. Such a professional will evaluate your structure to help you determine the ideal roofing system for your needs. Make sure you know which types of questions to ask a roofer when getting a quote.

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