Commercial roofing is a much more complicated industry than many of us are aware.  Though there are 2 standard types of commercial roof – low slope and steep slope – there are actually a wide range of materials utilized in commercial roofing.  We’ll consider these two main types of commercial roof, if only to help organize the discussion.  But, before we start, let’s define low slope and steep slope roofs.

First, low slope roofs are those that require weatherproof or waterproof membranes as they feature slopes at 14° or less.  On the other hand, steep slope roofs allow for water-shedding as their slopes are greater than 14°.  As such, these types of roofs are often constructed from different materials.  Let’s have a closer look.

Low Slope Roofs

A low slope commercial roof is usually constructed from one of four different types of material:

  1. Metal panels
  2. Single-ply membranes
  3. Built-up roof membranes
  4. Spray polyurethane foam-based roofs

Metal panels are highly versatile.  They are an excellent option for commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings because they’re durable and relatively cost effective. 

Single-ply membrane roofing refers to pre-manufactured sheet membranes that are either thermoplastic or thermoset.  These sheets vary in thickness and are secured to a roof system to provide protection against inclement weather.  Often referred to as “rubber roofing,” these systems are flexible and durable.

Built-up roof membranes have been utilized in roofing for more than a century and are commonly known as tar and gravel roofs.  They are composed of alternating layers of bitumen and fabric for reinforcement to create a protective roofing membrane.  These roofs are affordable, durable, and relatively easy to maintain.

Finally, spray polyurethane foam-based roofs can be used on new commercial roofs or installed over an existing roof.  These systems can replace most roofing systems and feature a spray-on foam that seals and protects your commercial roof. 

Steep Slope Roofs

Now that we have a better idea about roofing materials for commercial low slope roofs, let’s turn our attention to steep slope roofs.  There are 5 common types of materials for these kinds of commercial roof:

  1. Asphalt shingles
  2. Metal roofing
  3. Wood shakes and shingles
  4. Slate
  5. Clay or concrete tiles

Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of residential roofing system in North America, but they’re also excellent applications for steep slope commercial roofs.  They’re affordable and easy to maintain while also providing lasting protection.

Metal roofing is adequate for both steel and low slope commercial roofs.  Though more expensive than other types of roofing systems, commercial metal roofs hold up well to all kinds of weather.  Not only are they flexible with respect to their effectiveness in different climates, they are also highly durable.

Wood shakes and shingles are an attractive roofing option even for commercial properties.  If aesthetic is important, these are definitely an excellent options.  But wood shakes and shingles are durable as well.  They withstand severe storms and high winds, and they’re also energy efficient.

Slate roofing for commercial steep slope roofs are regarded as high quality, long lasting systems.  As a natural stone product, they’re aesthetically pleasing but also highly fire resistant and environmentally friendly.  However, slate roofs tend to be quite heavy and costly.

Finally, clay or concrete roofing systems are also stylish and durable.  They tend to be heavier than other roofing systems, and they’re also quite expensive.  That being said, they also are a great choice for all climates, and they’re fire resistant too!

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