8 Most Popular Types of Commercial Roofing Systems (Pros & Cons)

The purpose of commercial roofing systems is, of course, to protect your structure from the elements. But they also need to be functional, affordable, low-maintenance, and provide you with the security that your business will be safe and sound for years to come. And that all comes down to the system you choose, which can be easier said than done!

Is it time to repair or replace your commercial roof?

Before taking the plunge on a commercial roofing system, you’ll want to consider:

  • Installation and repair costs 💰
  • Level of maintenance required 🔨
  • What works for your type of building 🏢
  • The local climate ⛈️
  • The amount of foot traffic 👣
  • And more ➕

Not all roofs are created equal. So today we’ll go over the most popular types of commercial roofing systems, plus their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision as to which one is best for your specific needs.

What Is a Commercial Roofing System?

commercial roofing systems the difference from residential homes

Most commercial roofs are flat or low-sloped roofs meaning they don’t have a steep peak like residential roofs. However, their purpose remains the same— to keep water and wind out and to keep inside dry and well-insulated.

Low-Sloped Roofs

The term “flat roof” is a bit misleading because a 100% flat roof would be very inefficient and potentially dangerous for a building. While they may look flat to the naked eye, they actually have a very low slope in order for water to run off as necessary.

Depending on the roof material, low-slope roofs typically have a minimum slope of one-fourth inch vertical to twelve inches horizontal, a.k.a ¼:12 or 2%. This means that the roof slopes one-quarter inch for every 12 inches of length. A roof could be considered low-slope up to 3:12 or 25%.

Steep-Sloped Roofs

Most residential homes are equipped with roofs ranging from a 4:12 to 9:12 slope or 25 to 48 degrees. The lower sloped roofs (4-6 inches per foot) are much more acceptable for walking and carrying out jobs on them. Steeper slopes than that are rare and become much more difficult to install and maintain. So keeping in that 4-6 range is ideal, and anything below that would be considered a low-slope roof.

Common Types of Commercial Roofing Systems (Pros and Cons)

There are many types of commercial roofing systems to choose from depending on your needs and budget. They are all pretty similar, but their makeup and installation techniques can vary. We’ll go deeper into the pros and cons of these popular roofing systems, including metal and asphalt shingles, which can be used on multi-residential buildings or smaller single-story commercial structures.

1) Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing is a type of low-sloped roof system made up of multiple alternating layers of asphalt, reinforcing fabric, and often gravel as the top layer. The main benefit to BUR is its durability and cost-effectiveness. It’s also great for commercial buildings that have a lot of foot traffic on the roof for maintenance teams or other purposes.

Aerial view of BUR commercial roofing system

✅Pros of BUR:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install and repair
  • Great for high-traffic roofs
  • Last 20-30 years
  • Low-maintenance

🚫Cons of BUR:

  • Not super aesthetically pleasing
  • The gravel layer can be susceptible to high winds
  • Can require a lot of labor and materials for installation

2) Single Ply Membrane

Single-ply membranes are very commonly used on commercial rooftops and are lightweight, making them great for buildings that cannot withstand the weight of heavier materials. Single-ply membranes are the ultimate protective shield for any commercial building. These rubber and synthetic sheets can be applied through ballasting or chemical adhesives, ensuring that your facility is safe against all types of damage. EPDM and TPO are the most common types of single-ply membranes.

✅Pros of Single Ply:

  • Very lightweight
  • Flexible materials
  • Easy to install

🚫Cons of Single Ply:

  • It can be easily punctured by debris or heavy foot traffic
  • Difficult to install around roof penetrations (skylights, pipe boots, etc)


Closeup of EPDM commercial roof system in fall.

EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) roofing is a single-ply membrane that has become very popular in recent years due to its affordability, flexibility, and resistance to UV radiation as well as thermal shock. The main benefit of EPDM is its watertight seal which helps prevent leaks and moisture damage.

✅Pros of EPDM:

  • Very affordable
  • UV and fire resistance
  • Energy-efficient
  • Lasts 20+ years

🚫Cons of EPDM:

  • High upfront installation costs
  • Susceptible to shrinkage due to temperature shifts
  • Not as aesthetically pleasing as other types

4) TPO

TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) is another single-ply membrane commercial roofing system. It works by welding the seams together with heat, which creates a watertight bond. TPO roofs are known for their energy efficiency and durability, as they can last up to 30 years.

✅Pros of TPO:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Highly durable (up to 30 years)
  • Easy to install and repair
  • More affordable than other rubber roofs
  • UV and fire-resistant

🚫Cons of TPO:

  • High upfront costs
  • Vulnerable to heat damage in higher temperatures
  • It can be difficult to install due to its non-porous surface and lack of flexibility
  • The seams are susceptible to leakage

5) PVC



PVC roofing (polyvinyl chloride) is a solid, very long-lasting flat roof material. With a minimum breaking strength of 200 pounds per inch, PVC roofing can withstand just about any damage, including micro-movements from high winds on tall buildings.

✅Pros of PVC:

  • Lasts 20+ years
  • Strong fire and chemical resistance

🚫Cons of PVC:

  • Prone to damage and fractures in cold weather
  • Cannot be laid over any existing roofing materials (requires full removal)

6) Green Roofs

Green roofs are a less common roofing system as they require a lot of maintenance and don’t work with all types of buildings. However, green roofs are a great sustainable option if you want to go a natural route for water absorption, a rooftop garden, or have a rooftop patio or BBQ area in apartment buildings. Green roofs are made of layers of soil and plants, often succulents, such as sedums or wildflowers— non-invasive plants that can sustain themselves on their own.

✅Pros of Green Roofs:

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Reduces heat island effect
  • Creates habitats for wildlife

🚫Cons of Green Roofs:

  • High upfront cost to install and maintain
  • Requires regular maintenance (watering, weeding, etc)
  • Can require a lot of labor and materials for installation
  • Very heavy, so not suitable for all buildings
  • Susceptible to high winds and water damage if not properly maintained.

7) Metal

Aerial view of large commercial roofing system made of metal materials.

Metal roofs are a great option for commercial buildings as they have a long lifespan, require little maintenance, and are relatively lightweight. Metal roofs can be made from standing seam metal, corrugated galvanized steel panels, composite shingles or aluminum sheets. While they aren’t intended for flat roofs, they are ideal for warehouses, barns, strip malls, sheds, aircraft hangers, fitness centers, and more.

✅Pros of Metal Roofs:

  • Long lasting up to 50 years
  • Lightweight
  • Highly durable
  • Many color and style options
  • Low-maintenance

🚫Cons of Metal Roofs:

  • High upfront installation costs
  • Can be noisy during rain or hail storms
  • Susceptible to corrosion and rust in certain climates

8) Asphalt Shingles

For good measure, we want to include asphalt shingles in this list— the most popular residential roofing material in the United States. But for commercial structures such as multi-family units, apartment buildings, or small businesses, asphalt shingles are an incredibly popular option. Asphalt shingles are affordable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing.

✅Pros of Shingles:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install and repair
  • Wide variety of colors and styles are available

🚫Cons of Shingles:

  • Not as durable as other materials (lasts 10-20 years)
  • Susceptible to water damage, mold, algae growth, and wear over time
  • Vulnerable to high winds and storms

4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Commercial Roofing System


commercial roofing systems determining cost https://monarchroofing.biz/wp-content/uploads/commercial-roofing-systems-determining-cost.jpeg

As you can see, the options seem nearly endless. But when it comes to choosing the right material for your business or commercial flat roof, you want to consider a few key things first.

Cost 💲

Commercial roofs can be very costly, depending on the material, size, and installation of the roofing system. Here are the average costs to install each type of commercial roof type:

  1. Built-Up Roofing: $5.50-$9 per square foot
  2. Single-Ply Membrane: $3.50-$8 per square foot
  3. EPDM: $4-$10 per square foot
  4. TPO: $4-$10 per square foot
  5. PVC: $4.50-$6 per square foot
  6. Green Roof: $12-$20 per square foot
  7. Metal: $5-$10 per square foot
  8. Asphalt Shingles: $2.50-$5 per square foot

Lifespan ⏳

You also want to ensure your roof is going to last a long time without you having to replace it too soon, as that can be a big disruptor to businesses. The average lifespan of commercial roofs can vary, but it’s very important to regularly maintain and repair your roof as well to ensure it lasts.

  1. Built-Up Roofing: 20-30 years
  2. Single-Ply Membrane: 25-40 years
  3. EPDM: 25-30 years
  4. TPO: 20-30 years
  5. PVC: 25-30 years
  6. Green Roof: 30-50 years
  7. Metal: 40-70 years
  8. Asphalt Shingles: 15-25 years

Style 🏡

The style of a commercial roof can also be an important factor in your decision-making process. Depending on the look you want for your building, certain materials might work better than others. If you want something more aesthetic, choose metal, asphalt shingle, green, or BUR roof. The others will be fine and should be relatively hidden on the low slope roof.

Durability 🛡️

Lastly, you’ll want to consider the durability of the roofing material. Commercial roofs take a beating from all sorts of elements—sun, wind, rain, and hail. Make sure to choose a material that can withstand these weather conditions for years to come.

Built-up roofing (BUR), single-ply membrane, EPDM, TPO, and PVC all have excellent durability. Metal roofs are also very strong but can be prone to rust and corrosion in certain climates. Asphalt shingles are the least durable of the bunch, but they can still last for up to 25 years with regular maintenance.

Once you’ve weighed your options and considered all these factors, you should be well-equipped to make the right decision for your business’s commercial roofing system. With the right materials, style, and maintenance, you can have a beautiful and durable roof that will last for years to come. We can help!

Work With Your Local Commercial Roofing Experts— Monarch Roofing

When you’re ready to get started on your next commercial roofing project, contact the team at Monarch Roofing. We have years of experience in installing and repairing all types of commercial roofs, from built-up roofing to asphalt shingles.

Our team is dedicated to providing quality service with a personal touch. We understand that each commercial roof is unique and requires special care. That’s why we take the time to listen to your needs and provide tailored solutions that meet all of your commercial roofing requirements.

Whether you need a new flat roof installed or an existing one repaired, Monarch Roofing is here for you every step of the way. Contact us to get started today!

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