Commercial Roofing Guide
Our Commercial Roofing Guide gives you a brief overview of the various flat roof systems, such as PVC, TPO and EPDM. We show the advantages and disadvantages of each, the life expectancy of each, the average cost to install and repair each one, and more.
If you're new to commercial roofing it might be a little overwhelming choosing the right system or material. Some roofing systems are less expensive than others. Some last longer than others. Some are better in certain situations than others.
Below you'll find answers to the following questions:
What is a commercial roof, also known as a flat roof?
How is a commercial roof different from a residential roof?
Why have a flat roof?
How much does a commercial roof cost?
What are the commercial roof material types?
The life expectancy of the various commercial roof material types.
What are the pros and cons of PVC, TPO and EPDM?
Which roofing system is best?
What is a commercial roof?
A commercial roof, also known as a flat roof, is not just a roof for a commercial building. Commercial roofs are often differentiated from residential roofs due to the fact that they have to perform different functions. For example, a commercial roof not only has to protect a building from the weather, but also often support heavy equipment such as large air conditioning units. For this reason, commercial roofs are often made differently and use different materials.
Commercial roofs are often significantly larger than residential roofs and creating a highly sloped roof for a large commercial building is impractical from a construction standpoint.
Commercial roofs often have to support heavy equipment such as large air conditioning units. It's much easier to install an air conditioning unit on a flat roof than a highly sloped roof.
Commercial buildings are often constructed with flat roofs instead of highly sloped roofs because flat roofs are cheaper to build.
1. Costs Less
As mentioned above, flat roof frameworks and decks are less expensive to build compared to traditional residential high-sloped roof frameworks.
2. Low Profile
If you want your building to have a lower profile. Maybe there's a height limitation in your city or you need your commercial building to stay below power lines.
3. Low Slope
If you need your building to have a lower slope, for example, if you need to install heavy equipment on it.
Contrary to the name, a flat roof is not actually flat. They are called 'flat' because they are significantly less sloped than traditional residential roofs. In other words, they just look flat. If you place a really long level on a flat roof, you'll see that the pitch or angle is often between 2º (.25/12) and 10º (2/12). By comparison, most common roof pitch angles for houses is between 18º and 36º.
Who uses a flat roof?
Most of the time, commercial building owners use a flat roof. However, it is not uncommon to have a flat roof on non-commercial buildings. We have installed them on new garages and home additions.
The cost to install a commercial roof depends upon the insulation and recovery board underneath the membrane.
The cost to replace a commercial roof also depends upon the condition of the existing roof, if the existing insulation and recovery board needs to be replaced, among other things. So, for our price comparison, let's leave all that aside.
Let's assume you have a 2500 square foot commercial building.
To install just the single-ply roofing membrane, here are some averages:
EPDM: $5.50/sf ($15,000)
TPO: $7.00/sf ($16,000)
PVC: $8.50/sf ($20,000)
What is PVC roofing?
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. It is a basically a type of plastic that holds-up very well to even extreme weather. Most restaurants choose a PVC roof because it is resistant to animal fat and grease. Read more about PVC roofing.
A PVC roof can last 20 years or more when installed correctly using today's modern technology. TPO, 25 years. EPDM, 30 years.
When a roof fails, it is often because it wasn't installed properly. When properly installed, the seems are actually stronger than the membrane itself.
What is TPO roofing?
TPO stands for thermoplastic polyolefin. It is the most affordable of the flat roofing options. It is a reflective roofing membrane made from polyprophylene and ethylene-propylene rubber polymerized together. Read more about TPO roofing.
What are the cons of a TPO roof?
The only disadvantage of a TPO roof is that it's still a relatively new product. Not all TPO roofs are created equal. Some TPO manufacturers are better than others. After extensive research, we've found that Mule Hide, Versigo and Genflex make a great TPO roofing material.
What is EPDM roofing?
EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer. EPDM is also known in the industry as a rubber roof. It is an extremely durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane most commonly used on low-slope commercial buildings. Learn more about EPDM roofing.
Which flat roof system is best depends upon your needs and your budget.
Most like TPO because it's white and reflects heat. Even more, TPO has fabric embedded within the membrane for added strength.
PVC is good for restaurants because it's resistant to greases and animal fats.
EPDM is cheaper than TPO which is good for savings.
Choose PVC if you own a restaurant as it's resistant to grease and animal fats.
If you want lower utility bills, again choose PVC as it's the most reflective.
Because it's fire resistant, PVC wins, again.
If cost is the determining factor, choose either TPO or EPDM.