9 Types of Commercial Roofs

Flat roof on commercial building in Twin Cities.

Choosing the best roofing system for your commercial building is step 1 in maintaining its longevity and durability. However, given the many available materials, it takes time to determine which option is right for your property.

Price will always factor into the equation, but the type of material you choose—and how often you have a professional inspect and repair it—will help you save big in the long run.

So, which types of commercial roofing are the best?

From tried-and-true choices like Built-Up Roofs (BUR) and Modified Bitumen (MB) to innovative and eco-friendly solutions, such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Solar Panels, and Green Roofs, each material has its unique advantages and disadvantages that will impact your final decision.

In this article, we'll examine the pros and cons of 9 popular commercial roofing options to help you decide.

Types of Commercial Roofing 101

Before we begin, let's review the different shapes of roofing systems. Whether you're constructing a new building or contemplating a roof replacement, you must consider the angle of the roof, which typically falls into one of two categories:

  1. Low-Slope Roofs: Also referred to as flat roofs, low-slope roofs often cover warehouses, big-box chain stores, and shopping centers.
  2. Steep-Slope Roofs: Used more commonly for single and multi-family homes than commercial properties, steep-slope (or pitched) roofs have slopes of 3:12 or greater.

Next, let's look at your commercial roofing material options.

PVC Roofing

PVC roofing is one of the most popular single-ply roofing materials on the market—and for good reasons, too. Made from polyvinyl chloride, PVC is durable, chemical, fire, wind, and UV-resistant. It's also highly energy-efficient, and its membrane can be recycled and reused to create new sheets.

As a professional installer of Duro-Last® roofing systems, we can't talk enough about the benefits of using PVC. The one downside, however, is its cost, but with regular maintenance and inspection, PVC roofs can last more than 30 years, making them an overall smart investment!

Pros:

  • Long-lasting & durable
  • Chemical-resistant
  • Sustainable with Duro-Last®
  • UV, chemical, and weather-resistant

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Can be slippery
  • Labor intensive installation

Metal Roofing

Made from various metals, including steel, aluminum, and copper, metal roofing offers a sleek, modern look that can enhance the overall appearance of your commercial property—not to mention, it can increase its strength!

DID YOU KNOW that metal roofs can last up to 50 years or more with proper maintenance? They're also highly resistant to fire, pests, and rot.

As with PVC, metal roofs can be more expensive upfront than other options. However, their long lifespan can offset the initial investment. Another factor to consider is noise quality during heavy rain or hail—although insulation and underlayment can help reduce sounds from metal roofs.

Pros:

  • Longevity
  • Durability
  • Aesthetic appeal

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Susceptible to dents
  • Prone to scratches

Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Roofing

BUR is a traditional roofing system that consists of multiple asphalt and bitumen layers, alternating with reinforcing fabric layers, such as fiberglass or felt.

The layers are then topped with gravel or a reflective coating to protect against UV rays.

BUR roofing is known for its durability, and thanks to its multiple layers of asphalt and bitumen, it provides excellent protection against leaks and extreme weather conditions.

Pros:

  • Longevity
  • Durability

Cons:

  • Labor-intensive
  • Heavy, requiring a strong structural support system
  • Higher maintenance

Modified Bitumen Roofing

Durable and flexible, Modified Bitumen roofing combines asphalt and rubber modifiers to create a reinforced membrane. Typically installed in multiple layers, this material protects against leaks and weathering.

It also can expand and contract with temperature changes to prevent cracking.

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Flexibility
  • Highly resistant to punctures or tears

Cons:

  • Expensive upfront
  • Less energy-efficient
  • Higher maintenance

TPO Roofing

TPO roofing is popular for commercial properties due to its energy efficiency and durability. Like PVC, TPO consists of a single-ply membrane. It's made from a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber and is known for its white or light-colored surface that reflects sunlight and reduces cooling costs.

Pros:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Chemicals resistant
  • Cost-effective

Cons:

  • Less puncture-resistant than PVC
  • Shorter lifespan than PVC
  • Prone to damage from falling debris or foot traffic

Learn more about PVC vs. TPO.

Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM) Roofing

EPDM roofing is known for its black or dark-colored surface, which is made from ethylene, propylene, and a small amount of diene monomer, consisting of a synthetic rubber membrane that helps absorb sunlight and provide additional insulation.

It's also relatively inexpensive compared to other roofing options, making it a great choice for budget-conscious businesses.

Pros:

  • Versatile
  • Cost-effective

Cons:

  • Less puncture-resistant
  • Shorter lifespan than other materials
  • Prone to damage from falling debris or foot traffic

Asphalt Roofing

Asphalt roofing is typically more common among residential roofing systems; however, smaller commercial properties can still benefit.

Popular for its affordability and durability, asphalt shingles are applied to a roof in overlapping layers, creating a protective barrier against the elements, including strong winds and heavy rain. They are also fire-resistant, providing additional protection for your commercial property.

Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Versatile in   
  • Aesthetic appeal

Cons:

  • Shorter lifespan (15 to 30 years)
  • Prone to damage from hail or falling debris
  • Only works on steep slope roofs

Green Roofing

Green roofing, also known as living roofs or eco-roofs, helps reduce the urban heat island effect by absorbing and reflecting sunlight, reducing the demand for air conditioning.

Consisting of a layer of vegetation that is planted on top of a waterproofing membrane, Green Roofs provide numerous benefits, including improved air quality, reduced stormwater runoff, and enhanced insulation.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Release oxygen
  • Reduce stormwater runoff

Cons:

  • Expensive (additional materials and installation requirements)
  • Very high maintenance (pruning and fertilizing),
  • Requires additional structural support due to the added weight of the vegetation and soil.

Solar Roofing

Photovoltaic (PV) Solar panel roofing is a cutting-edge, energy-efficient option for commercial properties. By installing panels onto your roof's surface, you can harness the sun's power to generate electricity, reduce energy costs, and decrease carbon emissions.

Pros:

  • Generate clean and renewable energy
  • Become your own power provider
  • Reduces carbon emissions

Cons:

  • Very expensive (materials & installation)
  • High maintenance
  • Effectiveness greatly depends on the location of your building, shading, and orientation.

All types of commercial roofing systems have their unique characteristics and benefits, ranging from affordability and durability to energy efficiency and sustainability. By considering cost, lifespan, maintenance requirements, and environmental impact, you can make an informed decision that suits your company's needs.

So, which is right for you?

Whether you opt for traditional options like asphalt and metal roofing or more modern choices like PVC and TPO, it's important to work with a reputable contractor with experience installing and maintaining the type of roofing you choose.

Need Help Deciding?

At All Elements, Inc., you receive valuable insights and guidance to ensure your commercial property is protected and enhanced for years.

If you need help deciding on the best roofing system for your commercial property or your current roof requires repairs, we can help! Contact us today for questions or to request a quote.

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