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5 Commercial Roof Types (Pros & Cons)

Posted By: Jake Hofer

Commercial roofs are the unsung heroes of buildings, silently protecting businesses, warehouses, and industrial facilities from the elements. While often overlooked, the type of roof on a commercial structure plays a crucial role in its:

  • Functionality
  • Longevity
  • Energy efficiency

In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of commercial roof types, exploring their unique characteristics, signs that it’s time for a replacement, different types available, factors to consider when choosing the right one, installation costs, and how to find a qualified roofing contractor.

What Makes a Commercial Roof Unique

white roof

Commercial roofs differ from residential roofs in several key ways. Firstly, they typically cover larger surface areas and must withstand heavier loads due to equipment such as HVAC systems, vents, and other utilities commonly found on commercial buildings.

Additionally, commercial roofs often have flat or low-slope designs, contrasting with the pitched roofs typical of residential homes. This difference requires specialized materials and installation techniques to ensure proper drainage and prevent water pooling, which can lead to leaks and structural damage.

Signs That You Need to Replace Your Commercial Roof

Knowing when it’s time to replace your commercial roof is essential for maintaining the integrity of your building and avoiding costly repairs. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Age: Most commercial roofs have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years, depending on the material used. If your roof is approaching or exceeding this age range, it’s likely time for a replacement.
  • Leaks: Persistent leaks, even after repairs, indicate underlying issues with your roof’s integrity and may necessitate replacement.
  • Visible Damage: Cracks, blisters, punctures, and other visible damage can compromise the waterproofing of your roof and indicate the need for replacement.
  • Increased Energy Costs: A poorly performing roof can lead to higher energy bills due to heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.
  • Sagging or Ponding Water: Any signs of sagging or areas where water consistently pools indicate structural issues that may require a new roof.

5 Different Commercial Roof Types

BUR roofing

Commercial roofs come in various types, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most common:

1) Built-Up Roofing (BUR):

Built-up roofing consists of multiple layers of bitumen (asphalt or coal tar) alternated with reinforcing fabrics such as fiberglass or polyester.

✅ Pros:

  • Provides excellent waterproofing and UV protection,
  • Long lifespan
  • Relatively low maintenance

❌ Cons:

  • Heavyweight may require additional structural support
  • Installation can be labor-intensive
  • Odors during installation

2) Single-Ply Membrane Roofing:

Single-ply membranes are large sheets of synthetic rubber or plastic that are mechanically fastened, adhered, or ballasted to the roof substrate.

✅ Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Flexible
  • Easy to install
  • Resistant to UV rays and chemicals
  • Typically lower cost compared to other options

❌ Cons:

  • Vulnerable to punctures
  • May require more frequent repairs
  • Shorter lifespan compared to some other options

3) Metal Roofing:

Metal roofs are typically made of steel, aluminum, or copper and come in various forms, including standing seam, corrugated panels, and metal shingles.

✅ Pros:

  • Durable
  • Long-lasting
  • Resistant to fire
  • Insects, and rot
  • Recyclable, reflective surface reduces energy costs

❌ Cons:

  • Higher initial cost
  • Expansion and contraction can lead to noise issues
  • May require periodic maintenance to prevent rust

4) Modified Bitumen Roofing

Modified bitumen roofing is similar to BUR but incorporates polymer-modified bitumen sheets that are either torch-applied, cold-applied, or self-adhered.

✅ Pros:

  • Excellent durability
  • Flexibility
  • Weather resistance
  • Easy to repair
  • Compatible with a variety of insulation types

❌ Cons:

  • Limited lifespan compared to some other options
  • Potential for seams to become vulnerable over time

5) Green Roofing:

Green roofs, also known as vegetative or living roofs, consist of a waterproof membrane, drainage system, growing medium, and vegetation.

✅ Pros:

  • Provides natural insulation
  • Reduces stormwater runoff
  • Improves air quality
  • Extends roof lifespan
  • Adds aesthetic value

❌ Cons:

  • High initial cost
  • Requires specialized expertise for installation and maintenance
  • Increased structural load

How to Choose the Right Type for You

Choosing the right commercial roof type involves considering several factors, including budget, climate, building usage, maintenance requirements, and aesthetic preferences. Here are some steps to help you make an informed decision:

  • Assess Your Needs: Consider factors such as climate, building size, usage, and budgetary constraints to narrow down your options.
  • Evaluate Longevity: Determine the expected lifespan of each roofing type and weigh it against your long-term goals and budget.
  • Consider Energy Efficiency: Look for roofing materials and designs that offer good insulation and reflectivity to reduce energy costs.
  • Research Local Regulations: Ensure that your chosen roofing system complies with local building codes and regulations.
  • Consult with Professionals: Seek guidance from experienced roofing contractors or consultants who can provide tailored recommendations based on your specific requirements.

The Cost to Install a New Commercial Roof

The cost of installing a new commercial roof varies depending on several factors, including the type of roofing material, roof size, complexity of installation, location, and contractor rates. Here’s a general overview of the costs associated with each type of commercial roofing:

  • Built-Up Roofing (BUR): $5 to $10 per square foot
  • Single-Ply Membrane Roofing: $3 to $8 per square foot
  • Metal Roofing: $7 to $12 per square foot
  • Modified Bitumen Roofing: $4 to $8 per square foot
  • Green Roofing: $10 to $25+ per square foot

It’s essential to obtain detailed quotes from reputable roofing contractors to get an accurate estimate for your specific project.

How to Find a Qualified Commercial Roofing Contractor

Finding a qualified commercial roofing contractor is crucial for ensuring the success of your roofing project. Here are some tips to help you find the right contractor:

  • Research: Look for contractors with experience in commercial roofing and a solid reputation in your area. Check online reviews, ask for referrals from other businesses, and verify credentials and licenses.
  • Get Multiple Quotes: Obtain detailed quotes from several contractors, comparing prices, warranties, and proposed materials and methods.
  • Ask Questions: Interview potential contractors to gauge their expertise, communication skills, and willingness to address your concerns.
  • Check References: Request references from past clients and follow up to inquire about their experience working with the contractor.
  • Review Contracts Carefully: Ensure that the contract includes all relevant details, such as project timeline, payment terms, warranties, and insurance coverage.

Learn More About Types of Commercial Roofing

Investing in the right commercial roof is essential for protecting your building, assets, and occupants. By understanding the unique characteristics of different commercial roof types, recognizing signs that indicate the need for replacement, and following best practices for selecting a contractor, you can ensure that your roofing project is a success.

Whether you opt for traditional options like built-up roofing or embrace innovative solutions like green roofing, the key is to choose a system that meets your specific needs and budget while providing long-lasting performance and peace of mind. Contact Built Right Roofing to learn more about different roofing systems for your home!

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