Types of Commercial Roofs and How Long They Last

A commercial roofing company offers many roofing systems in order to cater to the diversity of its customers’ needs. But like any product, roofs do not last forever. Timely inspection and maintenance, however, can substantially prolong your roof’s life. Each kind of roofing material has its own longevity which further depends on the temperature and climate of your commercial building’s roof. The most common types of commercial roofing materials are TPO, EPDM, PVC, Mod Bit, BUR, and tar and gravel. It is a good idea to be familiar with each roof type and its lifespan before having one installed.

Different commercial roofing systems

Types of Roofs and Their Lifespans

  1. TPO: Thermoplastic Polyolefin is one of the most popular commercial roofing systems and can last 30 years. Initially, TPO roofs lasted 10 to 20 years, but continuous improvements have increased that. Some of the newer and heavier versions of TPO last up to 35 years. This commercial roof type consists of a single-ply membrane with polymer and filler blend. TPO roofing is a blend of polypropylene, polyethylene, block copolymer polypropylene (BCPP), rubber and some type of reinforcing filler. This type of roofing is typically found in large warehouses, shopping malls and office buildings. If well maintained by experienced TPO technicians, it will last its maximum lifespan.
  2. EPDM: Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) lasts 30 years if properly maintained. It is specifically designed to resist hail and thermal shocks. This type of roof’s rubber membrane is the key to its longevity. Since rubber expands and contracts, it is subject to fewer damages than other types of roof and will last longer when maintained regularly. Industrial grade synthetic rubber shows less degeneration than other rubbers, therefore it is often installed in large commercial buildings.
  3. PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) roofing can last 35 years. It is the original heat-welded, single-ply roofing system and has been on the market since the 1960s. PVC is durable, flexible and resists chemicals, oils, grease, fungi, fire, and other forms of industrial debris. Strong gauge PVC can endure extreme weather and is used to ensure minimum wear and tear. The top ply is usually UV protected; therefore, you can count on it, especially for commercial uses.
  4. Mod Bit: Modified Bitumen is a type of “torch down roofing” system and lasts up to 15 years. It is an older roofing material made with a mixture of asphalt and fillers that leaves a rubber-like finish. Since its installation involves a blow torch, installing it involves some risk. Roofs on commercial buildings make use of their space to keep HVAC machines and other vents. Not a single inch of the roof is left uncovered with the blow torch method. Although it has a shorter lifespan than other roofing types, its affordability makes it popular.
  5. Tar & Gravel: This type of roofing mixes gravel and tar to create a rock-solid material. These roofs are UV protected by several layers of hot asphalt and washed rock. However, gradual degeneration is to be expected. This traditional roofing system is strong and works best for commercial roofs where less maintenance is involved.
  6. BUR: Most built-up roofs (BUR) involve bitumen material (asphalt or other reinforcing material) on the bottom and ply sheet and one or more materials on top. The bitumen can be poured hot or cold depending on the type of material you choose. The longevity of the BUR roofing system depends on the base material and the number of ply membranes being used. BUR roofing has water-resistant attributes and can withstand extreme weather conditions, making it ideal for industrial and commercial uses. If you opt for section replacement, only the damaged area is replaced and not the entire roof.

Extending the Life of Your Commercial Roof

Despite the given lifespan of a commercial roofing system, you should always take proper care of it to extend its longevity. Since commercial roofing maintenance dates are not always recorded, it is best to hire a commercial roofing company to provide annual inspection, maintenance, installation and repair services.

Commercial roof maintenance should be based on the roof’s age. Sometimes an annual inspection is enough; at times, quarterly repairs are required. Different roof types have different lifespans. But no matter what, in order to extend the life of the roof, you will have to maintain it well.


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