A split image showing different industrial roof types side-by-side.

Need to find the best material for your commercial flat roof but aren’t sure which to choose? While asphalt shingle roofs are the standard for residential buildings, there are many roofing options on the market for commercial properties; making sure you’ve got the right fit can be difficult.

The most common types of roofing solutions have their own strengths and weaknesses. You have to consider the weather, your available budget, and other factors unique to your business. While no one can tell you what roofing system is best for your building without seeing it first, we can help you out by going over the pros and cons of the most common industrial roof types, and give you some advice on picking the right one.

Major Types of Commercial Roofing Materials

Most commercial roofing systems use low-slope roofs or flat roofs, instead of steep-slope roofs. Flat roofs are a more cost-effective way to cover the large amount of space commercial properties require, but they don’t use the typical shingle roofs that residential properties do. Instead, they are typically covered with a roofing membrane of a specific material.

These are the six most common roofing materials used for commercial flat roofs and how they compare to one another.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

BUR roofs are the oldest option around. They’ve lasted so long on the market because they are incredibly reliable and cost-effective. However, there are some drawbacks to the material. They come in different varieties including tar, gravel, and ballasted systems.

Pros of BUR

      • Low price
      • Easy to install
      • Fire-resistant
      • UV-resistant
      • Low maintenance
      • High durability

Cons of BUR

      • Can crack in colder weather
      • Vulnerable to high winds
      • Heavier than other materials, requires extra support
      • Slower installation
      • Gravel can clog drainage systems, leading to mold and mildew
      • Lifespan is average – around 20-30 years
      • Locating leaks can be difficult

Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO)

TPO roofing is a single-ply membrane made of a blend of polymerized ethylene-propylene rubber and polypropylene. It’s been growing in popularity among commercial and industrial roofers lately. It’s the most environmentally friendly out of the synthetic polymer roofing options.

Pros of TPO

      • Its light color promotes energy efficiency
      • Resistant to chemical exposure
      • Resistant to ultraviolet radiation
      • Flexible enough to adapt to building movements and temperature fluctuations
      • Fast installation
      • Lightweight

Cons of TPO

      • Lifespan varies based on quality – typical lifespan is 15-30 years
      • Improper installation can cause seam damage
      • Less puncture resistant
      • Less resistant to foot traffic
      • Installation cost is slightly higher than other roofing materials

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)

EPDM roofing, also known as thermoset, is a single-ply roofing material made of synthetic rubber. This is applied to the roof substrate using adhesives, ballast, or mechanical fastening systems. Rubber roofing is not the prettiest of materials, but it is effective at withstanding severe weather conditions and is a recyclable, environmentally friendly option.

Pros of EPDM

      • Durable against sunlight, heat, cold, and hail
      • Easy, fast installation
      • Ballast roofs are cost-effective compared to other options
      • Fire-resistant
      • Resistant to UV rays
      • Eco-friendly

Cons of EPDM

      • Ballast methods of attaching have a cheaper installation cost, but mechanical fasteners or fully adhered systems can be more expensive
      • Easily punctured
      • Shrinks as it ages
      • Average lifespan typically lasts 20 years
      • Dark EPDM absorbs heat and increases cooling costs

Modified Bitumen Roofing

This roofing material combines the durability of asphalt shingles with performance-enhancing modifiers such as Atactic Polypropylene or Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene.

Pros of Modified Bitumen

      • Two-ply system gives greater thickness
      • High durability
      • Withstands foot traffic well
      • Easy to maneuver in tight spaces during installation
      • Provides good insulation, making it energy-efficient
      • Provides good waterproofing
      • Provides UV-Protection
      • Withstands severe cold

Cons of Modified Bitumen

      • Lifespan is on the lower end at 15-20 years
      • Vulnerable to standing water
      • Can absorb heat in the summer, making cooling and energy costs an issue
      • Higher cost than other commercial roofing options

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC roofing is made of a thermoplastic material. Its manufacturing process promotes durability but isn’t the most environmentally friendly. Like EPDM, it’s not the most attractive option either.

Pros of PVC

      • Reflective roof coating helps increase energy efficiency
      • Resistant to chemicals
      • Versatile application methods such as ballast, adhesives, or mechanical fasteners
      • Provides excellent waterproofing
      • Withstands weathering well
      • UV-resistant
      • Low maintenance

Cons of PVC

      • Cost can be more expensive than other types of commercial roofing systems
      • Vulnerable to punctures
      • Expands and contracts with temperature; requires careful installation
      • Damaging to the environment
      • Limited options in appearance
      • Average lifespan of around 20 years

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing systems are a popular choice among industrial building owners for several reasons. They’re durable, long-lasting, and come in a variety of styles.

Pros of Metal Roofs

      • Lightweight
      • Low maintenance
      • Recyclable and environmentally friendly
      • Durable
      • Lifespan is very long — can last more than 50 years
      • Energy efficient
      • Puncture-resistant
      • Fire-resistant

Cons of Metal Roofs

      • High cost of installation
      • Expands and contracts with temperature fluctuations
      • Appearance changes over time, though some commercial building owners love the look of the aging process
      • Prone to corrosion

Choosing the Right Commercial Roofing System

One of the most important things to consider when choosing your roof replacement is weather conditions. Different types of commercial roofing systems have different reactions to heat and cold.

Next, you want to consider your budget for a new roof. While metal roofs are more expensive than others, they last much longer and are very low maintenance. If you can invest in better quality now, you can save money down the line.

You also want to make sure that you consult with and contract experts within the roofing industry. Less professional roofers may recommend lower-quality materials or improperly install your roofing system. Improper installation can severely affect the longevity of materials, especially if they expand and contract with temperature changes the way that EPDM roofing membranes or metal roofs do.

Team Up With Reputable Commercial Roofing Contractors

If you want to get the best out of any of the industrial roof types on this list, you need the best team to install them. That’s where we come in. TEMA is committed to not only handling your new roof installation with the care it deserves but also helping you extend its lifespan. We offer 24-hour emergency repairs and cloud-based roof asset management so you can easily monitor the health of your roofing system.

Treat your new roof like the investment that it is; contact us today and put TEMA on your team.