Commercial roofs are the unsung heroes of buildings, protecting them from the elements year-round. However, choosing the right commercial roof type can be a daunting task.

With a myriad of materials available, each with its own set of pros and cons, it’s crucial to understand the options before making a decision. In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • The different types of commercial roof types
  • The cost implications of replacing a commercial roof
  • When it’s time for a replacement
  • Insights on choosing the right roof type
  • Essential questions to ask your contractor

Understanding 5 Different Commercial Roofing Materials

The strength of your roofing system depends on the materials that you choose. Here are some of the most popular roofing materials on the market.

1) Built-Up Roofing (BUR):

BUR consists of multiple layers of bitumen alternated with reinforcing fabrics, typically fiberglass, and surfaced with a top layer of gravel or mineral granules.

✅ Pros:

  • Proven durability and longevity
  • Provides excellent waterproofing
  • Can withstand foot traffic and punctures

❌ Cons:

  • Requires professional installation
  • Heavy, may require additional structural support
  • Maintenance can be challenging due to multiple layers

2) Single-Ply Membrane:

Single-ply membranes are sheets of rubber or other synthetic materials that are chemically adhered, mechanically fastened, or ballasted to the roof substrate.

✅ Pros:

  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Suitable for various roof shapes
  • Easy and quick to install
  • Resistant to UV rays and chemicals

❌ Cons:

  • Prone to punctures from sharp objects
  • Lifespan may be shorter compared to other materials
  • Vulnerable to seams and flashing failures

3) Metal Roofing:

Metal roofs can be constructed from various materials such as steel, aluminum, or copper, and are available in different styles including standing seam, corrugated, and metal shingles.

✅ Pros:

  • Exceptional longevity, often lasting 50+ years
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Energy-efficient, reflecting sunlight to reduce cooling costs


  • Initial cost can be higher than other options
  • Prone to denting from hail or heavy objects
  • Expansion and contraction can lead to noise in extreme temperatures

4) Modified Bitumen:

Modified bitumen roofs are asphalt-based membranes modified with polymers or other materials to enhance performance.

✅ Pros:

  • Offers excellent flexibility and elasticity
  • Resistant to UV radiation and extreme temperatures
  • Easy to repair and maintain

❌ Cons:

  • Installation requires skilled labor
  • Vulnerable to punctures from foot traffic or sharp objects
  • Lifespan may be shorter compared to some other materials

5) Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO):

TPO roofs are single-ply membranes composed of a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber polymerized together.

✅ Pros:

  • Highly resistant to UV rays, chemicals, and punctures
  • Energy-efficient, reflecting sunlight to reduce cooling costs
  • Seam strength reduces the risk of leaks

❌ Cons:

  • Limited color options compared to other materials
  • Susceptible to punctures during installation if not handled properly
  • Quality of installation is crucial for longevity

Cost to Replace Your Commercial Roof

The cost of replacing a commercial roof can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the size of the roof, the type of material chosen, the complexity of the installation, and any additional structural work required. On average, the cost per square foot for commercial roof replacement ranges from $5 to $15, with metal roofing typically at the higher end of the spectrum due to its durability and longevity.

When to Replace Your Commercial Roof

Knowing when it’s time to replace your commercial roof is essential for preventing costly damage to the building’s interior and structure. Signs that indicate the need for replacement include:

  • Persistent leaks or water damage.
  • Visible signs of wear and tear, such as cracked or blistered membranes.
  • Excessive granule loss on asphalt shingles.
  • Sagging or uneven areas indicating structural issues.
  • Age of the roof nearing the end of its expected lifespan.

How to Choose the Right Commercial Roof Type for You

Selecting the appropriate commercial roof type requires careful consideration of several factors:

  • Climate: Choose a material that can withstand the local climate conditions, such as high winds, extreme temperatures, or heavy rainfall.
  • Budget: Balance the upfront cost of materials and installation with long-term maintenance and durability.
  • Energy Efficiency: Opt for energy-efficient materials that can help reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • Building Use: Consider the intended use of the building and any specific requirements, such as rooftop equipment or foot traffic.
  • Aesthetics: Select a roof type and color that complements the building’s architecture and enhances curb appeal.

Important Questions to Ask Your Contractor

When hiring a contractor to replace your commercial roof, be sure to ask the following questions to ensure you make an informed decision:

  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • Can you provide references from past commercial roofing projects?
  • What warranties do you offer on both materials and workmanship?
  • Will you conduct a thorough inspection of the existing roof before providing a quote?
  • How long will the installation process take, and what disruptions can be expected?
  • Do you have experience working with the chosen roofing material?
  • Will you handle permits and compliance with local building codes?

Let Us Care for Your Commercial Roofing System

Choosing the right commercial roof type is a significant investment that requires careful consideration of various factors, including materials, costs, and contractor expertise. By understanding the options available, assessing your specific needs, and asking the right questions, you can ensure a successful roof replacement project that protects your building for years to come.

Whether you opt for the durability of metal roofing, the flexibility of single-ply membranes, or the time-tested reliability of built-up roofing, a well-chosen commercial roof will provide peace of mind and safeguard your investment in your property. Contact Indy Roofing today to learn about the options for your commercial building!

Aaron Christy

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