The Most Common Types of Commercial Roofing Systems



Commercial property can be an excellent real estate investment, as long as you keep it in good shape for the businesses renting from you. That means making sure your commercial roofing is in tip-top shape and continually protecting the people and assets inside. Whether your property needs a new roof installed by a commercial roofing company or just some simple repairs, it helps to be aware of the various types of roofing available. There are the four main types of commercial roofing, and each has unique advantages and disadvantages.

Membrane-Style Roofing

Membrane-style roofing is a popular option across various climate zones due to its seamless nature. The flat, single-ply membrane is free of penetrations when installed correctly. As a result, moisture cannot access the building interior or destroy the insulation. If a leak does occur, membrane-style roofing tends to be much easier to repair, compared to asphalt or built-up roofing.


Membrane-style roofing includes three subcategories. Thermoset roofs are made from a single-ply synthetic rubber called ethylene propylene diene terpolymer, or EPDM. The material is highly durable against puncturing, sunlight, and ozone, yet maintains enough flexibility in the cold months to resist cracking and freeze damage. Meanwhile, resistance to bacteria, heat, and chemicals makes thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) well-suited to restaurants, which are prone to oil exposure in the ventilation system. TPO and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) both reflect sunlight well, which can help slash energy costs, and offer superior seam strength, preventing tears and holes.

Built-Up Roofing

One of the oldest yet most resilient forms of commercial roofing, built-up roofing (BUR) is a low-slope system constructed using multiple layers of ply sheets and asphalt. Because the number of layers can be adjusted, flexibility is its most attractive trait. This type of roof can be uniquely tailored to your specific goals, such as keeping costs down or achieving even higher levels of durability. As a result, built-up roofing can be extremely resistant to dangerous weather conditions such as high winds, hail or heavy rain.

Modified Bitumen

A modernized version of the centuries-old built-up roofing system, modified bitumen roofing is made from a combination of asphalt and rubber or plastic polymers. Fiberglass is then used to strengthen the thin, waterproof membrane to achieve a balance between rigidity and flexibility. Though modified bitumen is yet another type of low-slope or flat roofing, it differs from the others in that it uses a two-layer (or multi-ply) system. The resulting system thus offers superior waterproofing, tear-resistance, UV resistance, and protection from harsh weather conditions. Additionally, it is relatively easy to install, repair and maintain when compared to other systems.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is often made from stainless steel, stone-coated steel, aluminum, copper, tin, and other aggregates. Not only does the metal look quite stylish, but it is also one of the longest lasting roofing systems, reaching up to 70 years of age. Because metal is recyclable, ideal for solar panel installation, and highly reflective (which reduces heating and cooling costs), it is considered an environmentally-friendly choice. However, the main downside to metal roofing is its relatively higher cost, clocking in at $120 to $900 per 100-foot square of material.

In Conclusion

A commercial property with a well-functioning roof provides a safe environment for the business operations within, while keeping liabilities to a minimum. Thus, roofing upkeep is one of the most crucial aspects of commercial property management. With the right knowledge, facility managers can make more informed decisions about which type of roofing best suits their needs and budget.