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How To Compare The Lifespan Of These 6 Commercial Roofs

How To Compare The Lifespan Of These 6 Commercial Roofs

There’s a wide range of commercial roofing materials available today. Each material comes with a different lifespan, installation process, cost, maintenance needs, strengths, and weaknesses. If you need a new roof or have just started managing a building with a new-to-you roof, becoming familiar with the different commercial roofing materials will help you in future decision-making process.

1. Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Membrane

Built-up roofing (BUR) systems have been popular in North America for over 100 years. They’re your typical tar-and-gravel roof with a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. 

BUR is a flexible roof type composed of alternating layers of bitumen and fabrics known as roofing felts. The felts are reinforced with organic mats or glass-fiber mats to form a durable roofing membrane. The final layer consists of gravel or stone.

BUR is one of the most cost-effective, popular commercial roofing materials because it is customizable. It is known for superior fire resistance, puncture resistance, and UV resistance. It holds up well to foot traffic, depending on the stability of the underlying structure. 

Conversely, installing BUR is often labor-intensive, time-consuming, and emits hazardous fumes. It is also is heavy. The gravel makes it extremely difficult to find the source of a leak.

2. Modified Bitumen

This type of flat roofing material has a solid lifetime of about 20 years. Similar to BUR, modified bitumen is a multilayered roofing system. The installation process is easier than with BUR because the layers come prefabricated. Modified bitumen can be torch applied, cold-adhered, or self-adhered.

It can withstand fire, wind, UV ray damage, and water. The modified layers help protect against extreme weather, such as snowstorms, hurricanes, and hailstorms. The material also stands up well to a considerable amount of foot traffic.

Modified bitumen is low-maintenance roofing material. All it needs is regular maintenance to keep it repaired. It also involves some risk due to installation being a ‘torch down’ method.

3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is one of the most popular, time-tested single-ply roofing membranes in the market today. It can last for 15 to 30 years. The roofing material is made from two layers of Polyvinyl Chloride with a polyester reinforcement in between the layers. The bottom layer contains plasticizers for increased flexibility; the top layer contains additives to make the material UV stable.

PVC is durable, resistant, and flexible. It’s excellent at resisting:

  • Rooftop oils
  • Grease
  • Chemicals
  • Industrial byproducts

It’s easy to clean and highly reflective to combat UV rays. Strong gauge PVC roofing material can stand up to extreme weather. Regular inspections, correct drainage, and proactive repairs are critical to extending the life of your PVC roof. It isn’t as resistant to heat as the other materials and may shrink over time.

4. Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO)

This type of commercial roofing material has been known to last anywhere between 10 to 20 years. Regular maintenance and proactive repairs helps a TPO roof can last up to 30 years. The material is a popular option, thanks to its low price and high durability.

A TPO commercial roof is an entirely white single-ply membrane made from polypropylene-based materials. It is either mechanically attached or fully glued down. TPO membranes are available in different thicknesses.

TPO offers these many benefits:

  • Resistant to tears, UV rays, most chemicals
  • high temperature, wind, and fire tolerance
  • Can reflect UV rays to protect your building from excessive heat, lowering your energy bills.

Cleaning is a regular part of a TPO preventive maintenance plan. You’ll also need to develop a proactive inspection program and stay on top of repairs to extend the life of your TPO roof.

5. Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM)

EPDM is a synthetic, roll-based rubber roofing membrane. It offers a service life of 20 to 30 years, depending on the thickness of the material used. Also known as rubber roofing or thermoset roof membrane, EPDM consists of propylene, ethylene, slate dust, sawdust, and recycled tires, which combine to make a highly durable synthetic membrane. The seams are sealed with specialty tape or liquid adhesive. EPDM can be fully adhered or mechanically fastened.

The easy to install membrane is either white or black; it is lightweight and recyclable. The material has a fantastic ability to resist the sun’s damaging rays, air pollution, acids, and common solvents like alcohol.

Since the rubber is flexible, it is adaptive to structural movement and temperature fluctuations. The material can admirably stand up to heavier, intense conditions. EPDM may shrink over time due to sweltering temperatures, causing it to tear.

6. Ballasted EPDM

Ballasted EPDM roof systems have been known for their fast installation and sustainability since the 1960s. They have a life expectancy of close to 50 years. This commercial roof system has its components held in place by pavers, ballasted stones, or river-washed stones.

Sheets of insulation are loosely laid on the roof deck, with a fastener and plate installed at regular intercals to prevent excessive movement. The adjoining membrane sheets are then installed over the insulation and fastened with seam tape. 

Flashing and other detail work are completed according to the technical specifications. Finally, the entire roof is weighed down using ballast stone and/or pavers.

Ballasted EPDM is aesthetically pleasing, provides an excellent fire rating, and has fewer seams due to larger sheets of material. It offers superior weathering resistance since the ballast protects the membrane from the elements.

Ballasted EPDM adds weight to the building’s load, requiring reinforcement before installation. Making a visual inspection, finding leaks, or completing repairs can be time-consuming. 

Ultimately, the best roofing material for your commercial building will depend on your unique needs. Contact Division 7 Roofing in Columbus, Ohio, and its surrounding areas if you have any questions about choosing the right flat roof material. Our commercial roofing experts will take you through your options, install the most appropriate system for your property, and deliver quality work.