Life Expectancy of Commercial Roof Types & Materials

February 5, 2021

Life Expectancy of Commercial Roof Types and Materials

Most of the time, when professional roofing blogs write about the life expectancy of roofs, they cover the life expectancy of a new home roof. While this is important to know — and we’ve covered the topic multiple times in our blog — we know that the question “How long does a roof last?” is not restricted to the residential realm. It’s also important to have a commercial roof for your brick-and-mortar business that you know will stand the test of time.

The life expectancy of commercial roofs can be tricky to gauge because they often use vastly different roofing materials than residential roofs. Flat roofs are more common in commercial properties, which means less fiberglass asphalt shingles and more membrane or metal. Like a new home roof, however, the roofing material you choose plays a big role in the lifespan of the roof. In today’s blog, we’ll break down a helpful guide to the life expectancy of different commercial roof types and materials.

Different Types of Commercial Roofs & Materials

When you look at the roofs of commercial buildings, you’ll often find them to be vastly different from the residential roofs that surround you. For one thing, most commercial roofs are flatter than a new home roof, whether completely flat . The materials used are also often different, though there is some overlap, such as metal roofing. Some of the most common types of commercial roofing materials you’ll find include:

  • Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Membrane. A BUR roof is so named because it’s made up of multiple layers or “piles.” Typically, there is steel decking followed by a water barrier followed by layers of insulation followed by the roofing membrane and finally the gravel surface. However, the number of layers can vary depending on the manufacturer and the cost of the roof. All of these layers are held together with tar. This is a complex roofing system and one of the most common when it comes to commercial roofs.
  • Metal Roofing. Metal is often used when commercial roofs have something of a slope, though there are some instances of flat metal roofs. These are an attractive option because they’re durable, sustainable, and fire resistant. There are also so many different kinds of metal roofs, such as: copper, aluminium, stainless steel, lead, tin, metal tile, corrugated galvanized steel, zinc, stone or silicone-coated steel. Metal tends to be a pricy, but long-lasting option.
  • Modified Bitumen. This is another type of layered roof. It includes five layers of asphalt and roof reinforcing fabric — usually polyester or fiberglass, with a top coat of asphalt. This is a strong roofing material and perfect if there’s likely to be a considerable amount of foot traffic on your roof.
  • Thermoplastic Membrane/Polyvinyl Chloride Membrane (TPO). These are lightweight commercial roofs that are easy to install but stand up against the elements impressively. These roofs are UV resistant, impact resistant, fire and wind resistant, and resist damage from most chemicals through ventilation systems. This makes it a common option for restaurants as so many oils make their way through the ventilation system over the course of the work day.
  • Thermoset Membrane/EPDM. This membrane roof is made up of single ply rubber, so it’s hardy, comfortable, and durable. It’s main benefit is resistance to UV light and ozone, but it is also appealing for its reflective surface that can help to boost energy efficiency for your business by allowing less light through the roof.

In addition to the different roofing materials available, there are also different shapes of roofs. While flat may be the most common, low sloped roofs might occur in particularly wet climates. There are even pitched commercial roofs, which allow for better water runoff and snow runoff, though this might not be necessary in a climate like Houston. Still, the shape of your roof can impact its life expectancy.

Life Expectancy of Different Commercial Roofs

When looking up the life expectancy of various commercial roofs, you’re most likely to see these estimates tied to the roofing materials. Keep in mind that these are just estimates and can be affected by things like your climate, the maintenance done on the roof, and the roofer that you choose to use. That said, the life expectancy of the roofing materials listed above include:

  • BUR Membrane – 20-30 years
  • Metal Roofing – 30-45 years
  • Modified Bitumen – 20 years
  • TPO Roofing – 20-30 years
  • EPDM Roofing – 20-35 years

Despite these estimates, a well-cared for and well-made commercial roof can last even longer, up to 50 years. They may have a shorter lifespan than a residential roof of an equivalent model, such as residential metal roofs and commercial metal roofs. This is because commercial roofs often deal with heavier use in their time. Flat roofs may be more susceptible to water and storm damage due to their lack of slope, though they do tend to have moisture barriers built in. However, pitched roofs can be more difficult to maintain, and this can impact lifespan, as well.

The Help of a Licensed Roofer

Even commercial roofing customers can be susceptible to a fly-by-night roofer, especially in Houston. The problem is that there’s no required accountability for roofers in Texas. No licenses, no registration, no certifications. It can be hard to know which roofers are legitimate, and a bad roofer can certainly have a negative impact on the lifespan of your roof.

Fortunately, there’s also voluntary RCAT licensing. The Roofing Contractors Association of Texas offers licenses to roofers who have shown themselves to be legitimate, insured, and financially stable. Houston Roofing has gone above and beyond to get the trust of our customers by renewing our RCAT licensing with annual training. We do this so that when you choose us for your commercial roofer, you’ll know that you’re hiring trusted experts to do the job.

Are you in the market for a new commercial roof that will truly last? Contact Houston Roofing today for more information or to get started with a free estimate.

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