Comparing Different Commercial Roofing Systems: A Guide for Business Owners

As a business owner, the integrity and durability of your commercial property’s roof are paramount. A well-chosen roofing system not only protects your investment but also contributes to energy efficiency and aesthetic appeal. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore and compare various commercial roofing systems to help you make an informed decision. Of course every building and situation is different so it is best to speak to a professional roofing contractor who can provide insights specific to your situation. 

1. Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Systems

Overview: Built-Up Roofing, commonly known as BUR, is one of the oldest and most reliable commercial roofing systems. It is composed of multiple layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabrics that create a finished membrane.

Pros:

  • Durability: BUR systems are known for their longevity and resistance to foot traffic.
  • Seamless Protection: The continuous solid surface does not require seams, providing a robust barrier against water.

Cons:

  • Installation Time: The installation process can be time-consuming.
  • Weight: BUR systems are heavy and might require additional structural support.

2. Metal Roofing

Overview: Metal roofing is a popular choice for commercial buildings due to its durability and versatility. Common materials include steel, aluminum, and copper.

Pros:

  • Longevity: Metal roofs can last up to 40 years or more.
  • Energy Efficiency: They reflect solar radiant heat, which can reduce cooling costs.
  • Aesthetic Variety: Available in various styles and colors.

Cons:

  • Cost: Metal roofing can be more expensive than other options.
  • Noise: They can be noisier during rain or hail.

3. Thermoset (EPDM) Roof Membrane

Overview: Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) is a durable rubber roofing membrane known for its cost-effectiveness and simplicity.

Pros:

  • Durability: Resistant to ultraviolet light and ozone.
  • Flexible: Performs well in cold temperatures and can handle thermal shock.
  • Low Maintenance: Requires less maintenance than some other systems.

Cons:

  • Aesthetics: Typically only available in black or white, limiting design options.
  • Installation Sensitivity: Improper installation can lead to leaks.

4. Thermoplastic (PVC & TPO) Roof Membranes

Overview: Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) roofing systems are lightweight and highly reflective.

Pros:

  • Energy Efficiency: Reflective surfaces lead to reduced cooling costs.
  • Chemical Resistance: PVC, in particular, is resistant to chemical exposure.
  • Seam Strength: Hot-air welded seams are typically stronger than the material itself.

Cons:

  • Cost: They can be more expensive than other single-ply membranes.
  • Longevity Concerns: Some TPO roofs have been known to have a shorter lifespan.

5. Green Roofing

Overview: Green roofs are part of an eco-friendly approach, covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane.

Pros:

  • Environmental Benefits: Reduces heat island effect, provides insulation, and supports biodiversity.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Offers a visually pleasing and usable space.
  • Stormwater Management: Absorbs and manages rainwater.

Cons:

  • Maintenance: Requires regular maintenance and irrigation.
  • Structural Requirements: Needs a robust structural support system.

6. Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) Roofing

Overview: SPF roofing is created by mixing and spraying a liquid component that expands into a foam, creating a solid layer across an existing roof.

Pros:

  • Insulation: Provides excellent thermal, air, and moisture barriers.
  • Flexibility: Can be applied to various substrate shapes and types.
  • Renewable: Can be recoated periodically to extend its lifespan.

Cons:

  • Application Sensitivity: Requires precise weather conditions for application.
  • Regular Maintenance: Needs to be inspected and maintained more often than some other options.

7. Modified Bitumen Roofing

Overview: Modified bitumen roofing is an evolution of asphalt roofing. It is made from asphalt and a variety of rubber modifiers and solvents.

Pros:

  • Durability: High tensile strength reduces the risk of tears and punctures.
  • Flexible: Adapts to temperature changes and building movements.
  • Ease of Maintenance: Easy to repair and maintain.

Cons:

  • Heat Absorption: Can absorb more heat compared to reflective materials.
  • Installation Process: Installation typically involves open flames, which could be a hazard.

Conclusion

Choosing the right commercial roofing system depends on various factors including climate, building structure, budget, and specific business needs. Remember, the right roof is not just about protection; it’s an investment in the longevity and efficiency of your business property.