Commercial Roofing Types: Pros and Cons

All commercial roofing types have their pros and cons. Allow this article to explain the most popular commercial roofing types so you can decide what roof is best for you.

Sentry Roofing installs and repairs flat, low-slope, metal retrofit and membrane commercial roofs. Our brands include Duro-LastFirestone and GAF.

Read below, as we explain each commercial roofing type, their materials and their pros and cons.

Commercial Flat Roofs: Pros & Cons

This is one of the most common commercial roofing types.

Commercial Flat Roofs Advantages

Flat roofs are typically cheaper to build compared to pitched or steep-sloped roofs. This is because they use less material due to fewer square feet needed to be covered.

Flat roofs also have easier and faster installation compared to other commercial roofing types, meaning a commercial building owner will save quite a bit in cost.

There are plenty of materials and membranes to pick from when it comes to a flat roof – rubber rolled roofing, EPDM, TPO, bitumen and modified bitumen.

There are also plenty of color choices when it comes to roofing membranes, although commercial building owners often choose white. White colors and their reflective properties reduce cooling costs.

With flat roofs, air conditioners can now move from the ground up to the roof. Flat roofs are also an easier surface for installing solar panels or satellite dishes compared to pitched roofs.

Maintenance and drain cleaning are also easier, because workmen have an easier time walking on these platforms, no matter the weather.

Commercial Flat Roofs Disadvantages

The biggest problem with flat roofs is their drainage.

Standing water degrades and breaks down the materials in the roof faster than normal. This means leaking can seep into the building much easier. By comparison, pitched roofs don’t deal with these kinds of drainage issues.

It is strongly recommended to hire an experienced commercial roofing contractor to do installations or repairs to avoid any roofing problems.

For us, our team know where to place the drains for our commercial roofing, and the right height so puddling doesn’t occur.

Commercial Low-Sloped Roofs: Pros & Cons

Low-sloped roofs are mainly found in industrial buildings, such as factories, warehouses and apartment buildings. At first glance, they seem flat. However, there is a slight pitch to these roofs.

Commercial Low-Sloped Roofs Advantages

A low-sloped roof’s pitch helps create water runoff. Its design directs water to the areas it needs to go to, including valleys, saddles or drains. They also have less roof area compared to high-pitched roofs. This makes low-sloped roofs cheaper, while using resources more valuably.

Low-sloped roofs also bring safer conditions to its roofers compared to high-pitched or steep slope roofs.

Roof installation, repair and replacement are also easier. With its slight pitch, low-sloped roofs have less standing water or puddling, so there’s now less of a chance a commercial building owner needs to call up repairmen to fix any water problems.

Air conditioners, solar panels and satellite dishes are also easier to install.

The same materials used for commercial flat roofs can also be used for commercial low-sloped roofs.

Commercial Low-Sloped Roofs Disadvantages

Heavy snowfall that doesn’t melt away fast enough adds weight to the roof. You also need to adhere to the building codes for a low-sloped roof in your area.

Commercial Pitched Roofs: Pros & Cons

Pitched roofs are more often used for residential roofing than commercial roofing. However, they are often used for commercial roofing.

Commercial Pitched Roofs Advantages

The strongest aspect of a commercial pitched roof is its large slope. With an increased slope, it creates a great runoff to get rid of water or snow.

The steeper the roof, the easier for rain or snow to fall off. This means there’s less of a chance for water to build up, meaning no leaks and no mold damage.

In short, a pitched commercial roof helps reduce repair and maintenance costs compared to flat commercial roofs.

Commercial Pitched Roofs Disadvantages

The weakest aspect of commercial pitched roofs is that they are more challenging to maintain and repair.

With a pitched roof, it is required to increase safety procedures on your roof. This means transferring materials and roof maneuvering is incredibly difficult. Such difficulties increase installation, repair and maintenance costs.

Commercial Metal Retrofit Roofing: Pros & Cons

Metal retrofit roofing is a simple and cost-effective way to re-roof older metal roofing with a new and improved membrane.

Commercial Metal Retrofit Roofing Advantages

Retrofitting’s main advantage is the cost. Retrofitting extends roof life, while being cheaper than regular metal roof replacements.

During the installation process, the original metal roof protects the commercial building’s interior. This means you can continue your usual day-to-day work while the roofers take care of the roof. So, your employees and inventory are protected, and your production isn’t interrupted.

Retrofitting is also eco-friendly. Because the roof isn’t being torn down, nor are any of the materials damaged or scrapped, landfill waste is considerably reduced.

By retrofitting, you take advantage of both reusing the current roof insulation and additional insulation from the membrane. Therefore, you’ll save energy and costs, while also regulating the building temperature.

Commercial Metal Retrofit Roofing Disadvantages

A metal retrofit extends a roof’s life for up to 20 years. But a complete metal roof installation can last from 30 to 60 years.

Of course, remember that a complete installation causes a major cost increase, so it’s usually cheaper to just retrofit.

Commercial Roof PVC Membrane Materials: Pros & Cons

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most popular membrane roofing materials. Sentry Roofing uses premium Duro-Last PVC membranes.

Commercial Roof PVC Membrane Advantages

The biggest advantage of PVC is its durability, its longevity, and its fire-retardant properties.

When placed under fire, TPO and EPDM membranes burn, spread and melt, while a Duro-Last PVC membrane self-extinguishes its flames.

In short, you’re left with more roofing membrane remaining and less to replace or repair.

PVC also has strong resistance towards moisture, wind and chemicals and is both tear and puncture resistant.

Because of its light-colored membrane sheets and its thicker insulation, PVC is also an energy efficient membrane. Try to reduce the spending on your heating and cooling bills and avoid any heat island effect if you live in a hotter area.

Commercial Roof PVC Membrane Disadvantages

PVC’s one and only problem is its higher upfront cost compared to membranes like TPO and EPDM.

But considering CVC’s durability, fire resistance, warranty, longevity and energy efficiency, the price isn’t a huge deal-breaker.

Commercial TPO Membrane Materials: Pros & Cons

The membrane Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) has only been used recently in commercial roofing. First used as a commercial roofing membrane in 1986, this is a more affordable alternative compared to PVC.

Commercial TPO Membrane Advantages

Today, TPO is one of the most used single-ply roofing materials. Sales have grown at double-digit rates each year.

Many commercial building owners pick TPO thanks to its cheaper upfront cost compared to other materials.

TPO is often compared with PVC and EPDM because of their similar properties.

TPO membranes are both durable and flexible, so custom edge-to-edge fabrication is simpler, cheaper and more efficient than similar membranes. Its flexibility also means the material can easily stretch and adapt, molding the material into any building design or creating a unique roof design.

It’s also eco-friendly, so it’s a perfect option for companies that want to be greener.

The membrane also helps push water off any roof. TPO is lightweight, so there’s less stress on the commercial building’s structure compared to metal roofing.

TPO also has a light color that helps reflect heat away from the building. Colors include white, tan, gray, green, red and blue. TPO uses a hot-air gun for sealing its seams.

Commercial TPO Membrane Disadvantages

The big issue with TPO is that it’s only been used recently. It hasn’t been used for commercial roofing as long as materials like PVC or EPDM.

Because of the material being so recent, many are unsure about its longevity.

Commercial EPDM Membrane Materials: Pros & Cons

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene methylene. This durable and dark-colored synthetic rubber membrane is mainly used for flat or low-sloped roofs.

Commercial EPDM Membrane Materials Advantages

Most EPDM roofs come in black, but it’s also available in white, and can reflect the heat of the sun off the rooftop.

Thanks to its rubber properties, EPDM can also stretch and form-fit on just about any roof.

EPDM has also been used for over 60 years and has a great history when it comes to commercial roofing.

Due to its darker color, EPDM is best in cooler climates, as its rubber is great for weather protection. Adhesives or seam tape is used to close seams.

EPDM does not have its own insulation, so a building’s owner has plenty of insulation options to use.

Commercial EPDM Membrane Materials Disadvantages

Hot weather means EPDM can shrink. This results in tears that leads to water getting under the membrane. However, adhesives help degrade UV sunlight, so water can flow under the membrane.

In order to have the membrane last longer, you need proper installation, maintenance and repair.

Summary of Commercial Roofing Types and Materials

  • Flat Roofs – Cost effective, and easy to install. Materials include rubber rolls, EPDM, PVC, TPO, bitumen, and modified bitumen. But it’s more likely to have standing water or degrading material.
  • Low Sloped Roofs – Has better chances to get rid of standing water, meaning it’s less likely to call up maintenance. Safer and cheaper than pitched roofs while often using the same materials. But heavy snow can weigh down on the roof and could cause major damage.
  • Pitched Roofs – Best with ridding standing water or snow. However, it’s dangerous to set up and maintenance and repair is very expensive.
  • Metal Retrofit Roofs – Simple, thrifty way to re-roof. Reuses the current roof structure and insulation, meaning it’s good for the environment and helps the roof stay structurally sound. Also extends a roof’s life further.
  • PVC Membrane Roofs – The longest-used and most popular roofing material. Duro-Last PVC roofs are more durable, and fire and puncture resistant compared to most membranes.
  • TPO Membrane Roofs – Its light color helps reflect heat. Comes in multiple colors. A hot-air gun seals its seams. However, TPO can easily be punctured or shrink.
  • EPDM Membrane Roofs – Its roofs are darker, making it great in cooler climates. Its rubber material is also very durable and provides great weather protection. Adhesives or seam tape seals the seams. However, it’s prone to deal with holes and shrinkage.

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