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A Quick but Comprehensive Guide to Commercial Roofing (2019)

Everything you need to know about commercial roofing contractors and commercial roof types

commercial roofing
  1. What is Commercial Roofing?
  2. About Commercial Roof Replacement and Commercial Roof Repair
  3. What Are Commercial Roofing Contractors and Commercial Roofing Companies?
  4. Why You Should Work with Dedicated Commercial Roofing Contractors
  5. Commercial Roofing and Residential Roofing: The Similarities and Differences
  6. Types of Commercial Roofing Solutions
  7. Commercial Roof Types: Roofing Materials and Products
  8. Types of Commercial Roofing Systems: Flat Vs Sloped or Pitched
  9. Types of Commercial Roofing Systems: Other Key Considerations
  10. What Are Commercial Roofing Systems and How Are They Installed?
  11. Commercial Building Roof Repairs: Maintaining Commercial Roofing Systems
  12. Additional Factors to Consider with Your Commercial Roofing System
  13. Finding Local Commercial Roofing Companies

commercial roofing contractors

If you own a commercial building, then you already know that maintenance of the roof – as well as the rest of the building – can be complicated, to say the least.

The commercial roofing industry itself covers many different aspects and offers many different options for property owners.

Commercial roofing systems tend to be very different from residential roofing systems, and for good reason.

This is because the problems that commercial building owners face are unique as compared to residential owners, so the solutions for the commercial roofing industry must be addressed in a different manner.

What is Commercial Roofing?

Commercial roofing is an all-encompassing term for the industry that designs, constructs, installs, and manages commercial systems; it may also be referred to as corporate roofing or institutional roofing.

Commercial roofing companies include the manufacturers of the materials and architects of the commercial roofing systems as well the commercial roofers or companies that install, repair, and otherwise maintain commercial roofs.

There are a variety of materials commonly used for commercial roofing, ranging from sprayed polyurethane foam (SPF), concrete, metal, tar and gravel, asphalt, single ply materials like TVP, PVC, or EPDM, bitumen roofs, built-up roofs, and more.

Commercial or industrial roofing materials tend to be focused on durability and sturdiness as opposed to aesthetics, but of course that depends on the type of commercial property and its purpose as well as its location.

commercial roofing companies

About Commercial Roof Replacement and Commercial Roof Repair

When you own a commercial building and the roof is damaged, severely leaking, or even partially or completely torn off due to a major weather event like a tornado or hurricane, you may need to get the roof repaired or even replaced by professional commercial roofing contractors.

A commercial roofer can work with you – and your insurance company – to ensure that you make the right choice of commercial roofing system for your unique property and that it is properly maintained throughout its lifespan.

Before you begin researching the options and making decisions about a new roof for your commercial structure or structures, remember that your commercial building’s roof is an investment in your business – it’s literally the roof over your and your employee’s heads, after all.

roof commercial

Which is why it is so important to not only understand the various types of commercial roofing systems and what will work best for your property, but also to ensure that you work with a commercial roofing company or contractor that can install (and perhaps even more importantly, maintain) a high-quality roofing system.

Moreover, your roof is probably one of the largest, if not the largest, expenditures you may make for your commercial or business property, and you can likely expect to replace your roof at least once during the lifespan of the building’s existence, depending on how long you own the property and its current age and condition of the roof.

Commercial roofing systems tend to be more intricate, expansive, and expensive to install than residential systems as well, so you may want to put aside what you know about residential roofing and roof warranties (if anything) before you dive into the commercial roofing system decision making process.

commercial roofer

What Are Commercial Roofing Contractors and Commercial Roofing Companies?

Commercial roofing contractors are roofing contractors or roofing companies that have experience installing, repairing, and replacing various sorts of commercial roofing systems.

If you own a commercial property or multiple commercial properties, then you will want to ensure that your roofing contractors understand the specialized requirements of your building and therefore the type of roofing system that will best suit your needs.

Often, contractors that focus on commercial roofing offer a variety of services and work with a range of commercial roofing products; common services include roof replacement, roof overlays, flat roof repair, roof restoration, and roof maintenance and inspection programs.

A commercial roofing company can help you understand the various types of commercial roofing materials, the kinds of commercial roofing systems available, and the difference between roof restoration, roof overlays, and complete roof replacements, as well as more about the structure and components of your building’s potentially upgraded or brand new roof.

Commercial roofing – whether you need a warehouse, factory, manufacturing facility, an office building, or another type of industrial roof – is a specific subsection or category of the general roofing industry, so you’ll want to find a roofing company that specifically works on commercial properties.

commercial roof installation

Why You Should Work with Dedicated Commercial Roofing Contractors

Knowing all of this, naturally you’ll want to work with a company with comprehensive commercial roofing expertise and maintenance programs that help protect your commercial roofing system from obvious dangers as well as hidden problems that can have a negative effect on the integrity and overall performance of your roof over time.

Working with a commercial roofing contractor who can work with you on everything from repairs and restorations to roof overlays to complete roof tear offs and replacements – a full service commercial roofing company, if you will – can save you a lot of stress, trouble, and of course money over time.

Replacing a commercial roofing system can be done via a tear off (removal of the entire roof and installation of a new one) or a roof overlay.

Regardless of whether your new roofing system is for your office building, industrial building, or other commercial property, the need for a tear off and replacement vs a roof overlay depends on the type of roofing system that you currently have as well as the type of new roofing system that you wish to replace it with.

For instance, if you want to restore or add a new layer or coating to an existing roof using the same type of materials, you can often just get a roof overlay (which may have the advantage of allowing your business to keep running while the roofing company does their work).

On the other hand, if you want to change the type of roofing material or system that you have on your roof commercial property or if the roof has been severely damaged, you may need to have the roof replaced entirely and a new commercial roofing system installed.

Keep in mind that this may require you to pause or halt business operations for some time, or move your operations elsewhere if possible, since a complete commercial roof replacement can take 30 days or even longer depending on factors like the size of the property, the materials being used, the condition of the building, and the weather during the commercial roof replacement process.

commercial roof types

Commercial Roofing and Residential Roofing: The Similarities and Differences

Perhaps the biggest difference between commercial roofing systems and residential roofing systems is what materials are available and commonly used in each market. In addition, commercial roofs are more likely to be flat, low-sloped, or otherwise more utilitarian, while residential properties tend to have more design flourishes and details – but of course, every property is different!

For instance, residential roofing options are typically asphalt shingles, cedar or wood shingles or shakes, concrete or clay tile, or even slate, all depending on the style of the home, the climate, and the homeowner’s budget.

On the other hand, while asphalt shingles are also a common selection for commercial roofing systems, some more popular choices include but are definitely not limited to sprayed polyurethane foam, modified bitumen, restoration coatings, metal, concrete tile, built-up, tar and gravel, and single ply roofing membrane systems made of TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), or EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) rubber roofing.

Watch a 3.5 minute TPO roof installation video

As you can see, if you are deciding on a new roof or roof replacement for your commercial property, there are a lot of options to choose from.

All of this means that when you are researching commercial roofing products and contractors or roofing companies to install them, forget about what you may know from replacing or repairing your home or other residential property’s roofing system, since most of the requirements and options are rather dissimilar, and the way that commercial roofing systems are installed, replaced, repaired, maintained, and serviced is almost entirely different.

And it all starts with determining the right type of commercial roofing material for your building or group of buildings.

commercial roofing specialties

Types of Commercial Roofing Solutions

The type of commercial roofing system that you need depends on the property or properties that you have.

For instance, industrial properties like warehouses, factories, and similar sites may require the hardiest possible roof meant to protect heavy equipment and valuable stock inside from damage, and the look of the roofing system isn’t particularly important.

On the contrary, if you own an office building, restaurant, store or shopping complex, or similarly visible consumer-facing commercial properties, the appearance and style of the roof matters more. Either way, choosing what type of commercial roof that both possesses the look and feel that you desire – and the resilience and durability that you require – can be a confusing and even tricky task, so consulting with a roofing contractor with commercial roofing specialties in your area is essential in order to make sure that you get the most out of your investment.

Another way that commercial roofing systems are unlike residential roofing is how problems like leaks or hail damage are fixed.

For example, if you have a leak on your home’s roof, chances are that it just needs to be patched and maybe you need some new shingles or tiles.

On the contrary, with a commercial roof, you may need a specialized type of patch or you may need to hire roofing contractors to re-seal or reapply new coatings to your entire roof.

commercial roofing materials

Commercial Roof Types: Roofing Materials and Products

There are various types of commercial roofing systems available, and the best one for your needs depends on your existing building’s style and materials, your location and climate, budget, and the purpose of your commercial property.

roofing commercial

In fact, there are significantly more options for commercial roofing systems as opposed to residential roofing systems.

The list includes…

  • Sprayed Polyurethane Foam – Sprayed polyurethane foam or SPF is a roofing material that starts as a liquid and turns into a foam. It is sprayed across and over a membrane to form a solid layer, usually over an existing roof for a roof overlay or roof coating.
  • Single Ply Roofing Membranes – Single ply roofing can be made of a number of different materials including TVP, PVC, and EDPM. This type of flat membrane roofing system is composed of flexible sheets of either thermoplastic materials or synthetic rubber.
  • Modified Bitumen – Modified bitumen (asphalt) or modified bituminous membrane roofing is an asphalt product that is designed to be applied in various ways in both hot and cold climates. This type of commercial roofing system is quickly becoming a popular alternative to built-up roofing systems.
  • Built-Up – Built-up roofing or BUR is often used on low slope roofs for roofing commercial purposes, and it is made up of alternating layers of bitumen or asphalt reinforced by layers of fabric and topped off with a layer of aggregate stone or gravel.
  • Concrete – Concrete slabs or concrete tile roofing is extremely resilient and can be quite effective for energy conservation and savings as well. Concrete roofing can also be made to mimic the look of various other types of roofing materials, such as shingles or shakes.
  • Metal – Also called metal retrofit roofing if the metal roof is replacing a flat roof with a low slope or steep sloped roof, commercial metal roofing systems are often used to help increase resistance to water, wind, and snow as well as to hide or cover mechanical structures such as HVACs or other equipment on the roof.
  • Asphalt Shingles – While asphalt shingles are typically more common for residential structures, they are also used for certain types of commercial properties as well, since they are fairly waterproof, relatively inexpensive, and available in a range of colors and styles to suit most properties.
  • Tar and Gravel – This hardy, durable type of roof is often used for flat or low slope roofing in various commercial and industrial applications. Tar and gravel roofing is quite durable and can last 20 to 25 years.
  • Restoration Coatings – Commercial roof restoration coatings are adhesive coatings (usually water-based emulsions) that can reinforce the strength of your existing roofing system and extend its life considerably.

commercial metal roofing

Due to the variety of options available for commercial roofing systems, commercial property owners and their stakeholders or decision makers have a lot of choices to make – which is why it is wise to work with a commercial roofing company who has experience in your area and with your type of building in order to make the best selection for your needs and goals.

types of commercial roofing systems

Types of Commercial Roofing Systems: Flat Vs Sloped or Pitched

Another factor to keep in mind is that commercial roofing systems also tend to be flat or low slope roofs, instead of the most steeply pitched roofs that are common for residential properties in many areas.

Generally, for commercial roofing you have three options:

  • Low Slope Roofs – These roofing systems have a pitch or rise of less than one foot.
  • Flat Roofs – Flat roofing systems are (nearly) completely flat.
  • Steep Slope Roofs – These roofs have a pitch or rise of more than 12 inches.

Low slope roofs are defined as roofs that have a pitch or rise of less than 12 inches total, so each foot of roof rises approximately 3 inches; anything more extreme than that is a steep slope roof.

Also, you should be aware that even a “flat” roof isn’t completely flat and will have some sort of incline, however slight.

And each type of commercial roofing system has some unique advantages.

Low sloped commercial roofs allow for water runoff, they are easier and safer for roofing company workers to repair, and they tend to be less costly than steep sloped roofs since the surface area is smaller, and it is relatively easy to add in air conditioners, vents, solar panels, surveillance systems, and any other extras you might need or want.

However, low sloped roofing systems may be compromised by the weight of heavy snow and ice, so keep your climate and building codes in mind.

Flat roofing systems tend to use the same materials as low sloped roofing systems, and there are some distinct advantages to a flat roof as well.

They tend to be fairly cost effective since they have the smallest surface area, they are often the cheapest to maintain, repair and install, and flat roofs are perhaps the simplest type of roof to add mechanical systems like HVAC systems, solar panels, satellite dishes, or other necessities.

commercial roofing solutions

Generally, single ply roofing systems like PVC, TVP, EDPM, tar and gravel, built-up roofing, or modified bitumen are used for both commercial flat roofing and low sloped commercial roofing systems.

A light colored flat or low sloped roof can also reflect light, helping to make your building more energy efficient.

One disadvantage of a flat roofing system is that they offer poor water drainage which may result in damage and problems resulting from standing water.

Steep sloped roofs are likely the least common options for commercial roofs, but they can be an option depending on the type of commercial building you have and the sort of business that you (or your tenants) operate.

Steeply pitched roofing systems do offer the advantage of greater water, snow, and ice runoff, which can reduce the need for commercial roof repairs and maintenance.

That said, if repairs do need to take place, steeper roofing systems may be more difficult for your roofing contractors to perform and therefore more expensive to fix.

commercial flat roofing

Types of Commercial Roofing Systems: Other Key Considerations

One more thing to note is that installing a low sloped or flat roof means that not only will your roof be less visible from the outside (at least on the ground), but that you’ll want to choose different types of materials to avoid storm damage and water intrusion that can lead to leaks, mold, mildew, compromised structural integrity, and even damage to your stock, equipment, or anything else that you have inside your commercial building.

Furthermore, you want to ensure that the type of roofing system that you choose will help protect the structural integrity of your building from any harm that may result from any equipment issues or failures that occur inside the building.

If you own an office building or something similar then this may not be as much of an issue, but a factory or manufacturing facility, or restaurant may require some additional consideration

And of course, commercial roofing systems generally tend to be more focused on durability, reliability, and utility as opposed to aesthetics and increasing the property value with a visually pleasing appearance, in most cases (think warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and similar structures).

However, for commercial buildings in more consumer-facing or public areas (think of an office building roof or restaurants or shops in more densely populated areas), the look of the roof matters more and may require an investment in style as well as utility.

types of commercial roofing

What Are Commercial Roofing Systems and How Are They Installed?

The systems or options for commercial roofing can be very different from the types of options available for residential roofing, and for good reason.

Watch a 4 minute installation video of a TPO commercial roofing system

In addition to the various types of commercial roofing materials described above, the installation process can be quite complicated and differ from residential roofing as well.

To start with, commercial roofing systems often take much longer than residential roofing to install or replace. Generally, commercial roofing systems can take up to a month or even longer to install, depending on the size of the property, the type of roofing system being installed, whether or not it’s brand new or a replacement roof, and any weather conditions that might affect the roofing work in progress.

In addition, commercial roofing systems are typically more difficult to install, since installing or replacing a commercial roof can involve multiple days of waiting for materials to cure, settle, for the glue between layers to dry or set, and other activities that require waiting time.

commercial roofing repair

Commercial Building Roof Repairs: Maintaining Commercial Roofing Systems

With all that said, leaks in commercial roofing systems may be indicative of some of the same problems as leaks in residential roofs – there may be a bigger problem that necessitates a total roof replacement, or perhaps the flashings simply need to be replaced and the leak patched over.

Ideally, the commercial roofing contractors that you choose to work with should be able to perform roof inspection and provide you with the next steps towards repairing, replacing, or re-coating your roof.

The types of repairs your commercial roofing system requires depends on the materials or products that it is made of, the damage that’s been done, and the age and condition of your roof prior to the damage or leaks occurring.

Often, repairs to your commercial roof can be successful; however, if your roof is older or sufficiently damaged (say, due to a major weather event like a hail storm, wind storm, hurricane, or tornado), you may want to consider a complete replacement for your roof.

commercial roofing systems

If your commercial roofing system isn’t irreparably damaged and on the newer side another possible solution is roof restoration. Combined with ongoing maintenance and regular roof inspections, a roof restoration is designed to refresh or update your commercial roofing system before any damage becomes worse or it wears out prematurely.

A comprehensive maintenance program for your commercial roof can save you thousands of dollars – and a lot of frustration and stress – by allowing for roof restoration or even a roof overlay if the problems are caught early on, before the entire roof needs to be torn off and replaced.

commercial roof replacement

Additional Factors to Consider with Your Commercial Roofing System

You may also want to consider the possibility of installing solar panels on your commercial roof to help power your operations and provide some green or eco-friendly energy to your business.

Ask your commercial roofing contractors about their capabilities with solar panels and other green energy solutions if you think they might apply to your particular roofing situation.

Other add-ons to your new commercial roofing systems include new HVAC systems (a commercial roofing company should be able to work in conjunction with an HVAC contractor or company in order to make sure everything fits together), skylights, plumbing systems, satellite dishes, antennas, surveillance cameras and other specialized security equipment, decking overlays, customized masonry work, and more.

Essentially, the various types of commercial roofing systems are susceptible to a greater variety of potential problems and therefore will likely need different kinds of repairs if there is any damage, leaks, or other issues in the future, so you will need to keep that in mind when you are choosing a commercial roofing system and the contractor or commercial roofing company to install it.

commercial roofers

Finding Local Commercial Roofing Companies

Determining the best commercial roofing company for your needs can be complex, especially because replacing or installing a commercial roof is an expensive process to begin with.

You can start with getting recommendations from fellow property owners (always verify by checking out their reviews and testimonials online of course), or you cant start with a Google search with this query “commercial roofing contractors near me.”

Make sure to check the top results reviews and ask for a free estimate, warranty, and how their commercial roofing process works.

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