Since the dawn of humanity, people have required something to cover their heads and protect them from inclement weather, falling rocks, branches and so on. In fact, finding or building a shelter was one of the first skills gained by the first humans, and the most important component of any shelter is the roof, the part that protects the inhabitants from the elements. As humans advanced and their shelters became as much an art form as a necessity, both houses and their roofs began to change as well.
The evolution of roofing construction and design can be traced as far back as 3000 B.C. when the Chinese employed the use of clay roof tiles. On the other side of the world, the Egyptians were also utilizing similar materials in their roofing and design. The Greeks and Romans would go on to use slate and tile roofing in their construction methods. Over time, practical and aesthetic needs would shape how roofs were designed and built. Let’s look at the most common commercial roofing types in use today.
What to Look for in Commercial Roofing
Ask any roofer, engineering firm or construction company what the most important factors are in a commercial roof, and they will tell you durability, energy efficiency and cost. If properly installed and maintained, a quality commercial roof should provide 10 years of life at the very minimum and up to 50 at the maximum. The reason why there is such a big disparity is because climate and sub-roof conditions will impact durability. The typical climate in Utah, for instance, will vary greatly from the climate in the upper Midwest. Location will certainly play a part in the aesthetic appeal and staying power in a commercial rooftop.
In the 21st-century, the big buzzword in rooftop design and installation has been “efficiency.” In fact, many cities and municipalities, including those here in Utah, have added energy efficiency parameters to their permitting process. Obviously, efficiency should be a factor for business owners as well since a more energy-efficient roof will result in a lower utility bill in the long run.
And then your final consideration will likely be cost. This is a factor that will largely depend on the type of roof you want. While some systems cost less to install, you may wind up sacrificing durability or efficiency for the sake of saving a few dollars. Just make sure your application is appropriate for the type of roof you choose.
There are quite a few different roofing types. We will list them all here and then spend a bit going into greater detail on each variety:
- Metal roofing
- BUR membrane
- EPDM membrane
- Thermoplastic PVC and TPO membrane
- Silicon (spray-on)
Let’s dive into each type and have a look at the pros and cons of each kind.
1. Metal Roofing
This is probably the most common type of commercial roofing because it is highly durable and relatively inexpensive. Metal roofs are generally composed of galvanized steel, aluminum, tile sheets, copper or stainless steel (coated). Not only are metal roofs highly durable but they look good and have great fire ratings. They are more susceptible to corrosion, however.
2. BUR Membrane
Built-up roofing (BUR) membranes have a lifespan of around 20 years and are composed of alternating layers of tar and gravel. They are inexpensive and relatively easy to repair. As BUR rooftops age, however, they can be susceptible to leakage and breakdown.
3. EDPM Membrane
Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM) is a roll-based synthetic rubber. This type of roofing offers great weather resistance, is long-lasting, versatile and easy to install. On the downside, it is not the most aesthetically pleasing rooftop option and can easily be punctured.
4. Thermoplastic PVC and TPO Roof Membranes
TPO and PVC rooftops are very resistant to weather, UV rays and other adverse conditions. They are also lightweight, heat resistant and reflective. On the flip side, because of all these desirable properties, they can be more expensive. If you find options that seem too cheap to be true, they probably are.
5. Silicon (Spray-On)
Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) is a material that begins as a liquid spray that instantly expands into a foam, which hardens into a solid layer. This type of roofing is generally applied as a second layer and is more eco-friendly than other varieties. It is also long-lasting but has a limited installation window and must be regularly inspected.
There are also a couple of other varieties, such as shingles and green roofing. Shingles are most used on residential buildings because they don’t have a long lifespan. Green roof systems consist of a waterproof membrane covered by plants. Green roofs are definitely “on trend” right now, as they look good, can be installed with local incentives and give your business sustainability cred. They do require quite a bit of maintenance and upkeep, however.
Are you getting ready for new construction and evaluating your roofing options? Or perhaps you are an existing business ready to upgrade? You know where to go. The roofing experts here at McNeil Engineering have got you – pun intended – covered.