A building is only as good as its roof. Did you know that up to 40% of all building-related problems are related to water intrusion and damage, often because of roofing failures? And despite big claims from roofing product manufacturers about how long their products last, many roofs have only lasted about half of their projected lifecycle. This leaves commercial building owners with empty promises and big expenses to repair or replace deteriorating roofing. But what commercial roofing material should you choose?
What to Consider When Choosing Commercial Roofing
Aesthetics, budget, and the potential for future growth are all important choices that factor into choosing a commercial roofing material. But making the right choice has a big impact on the performance of the entire building — so it goes a lot deeper than that.
Durability (Expected Lifespan)
Money is always an important factor when choosing building materials. There are two ways that roofs cost money: initial investment and maintenance. The average commercial building owner spends $127,500 in maintenance over the life of the building. Those costs can be reduced by choosing durable materials with a long lifespan.
Environmental Impact of Materials
Choosing eco-friendly materials hasn’t always been a major concern, but with ESG rising to the forefront in consumer and investing circles, a company’s environmental footprint is an important part of the brand image. The world is paying close attention to the details like building materials for offices and production plants. Environmentally friendly roofing materials are good for the planet and good for the company’s image (and ultimately their bottom line.)
No one commits to making a purchase with the intent of seeing a failure. But a roof is a big investment, and it is reasonable to know that the company will stand behind its product in the event of an untimely failure. Take a close look at the requirements of the warranty. Some companies make lofty claims of lifetime warranties only to pair it with a lengthy list of exclusions or activities that void coverage.
Commercial Roofing Materials
It can be hard to get a good comparison of different roofing materials unless you know what you are looking at. Let’s look at the common materials used for commercial roofs and see how they stack up against one another.
Modified bitumen is an asphalt-based roofing product that works best on flat or low-slope roofs. This roofing product is a good choice for high-traffic durability, which may seem odd for a roof. But it is not uncommon for people to treat a flat roof more like a second-story patio when there is access from a higher floor. It is also compatible with any asphalt-based product, which makes repairs simple and cost-effective.
Modified bitumen is effective but isn’t going to win any sustainability awards. Asphalt is made with petroleum, fossil fuel, and emits carbon dioxide into the environment when it heats up in the sun. It also absorbs a lot of heat which takes more energy sources to keep the building cool in warmer climates.
Build Up Roofs
Build-up roofs use layers of asphalt and ply to create a heavy-duty commercial roofing system. This is the traditional material for commercial roofing that has 100+ years of history as an effective, long-lasting roofing material. With build up roofs, there is little risk that the roof will fail. However, as an asphalt-based roof, there are lots of eyes looking for greener alternatives.
Metal roofs aren’t exactly new, but they are newer to the commercial building landscape. The trend of green buildings has brought metal roofing materials into the spotlight. They offer energy-efficient savings, a long lifespan, and pair well with other green technologies like solar panels.
Spray Foam Roofs
Spray foam is a polyurethane resin that is usually applied on top of an existing roof in order to repair or extend its life. A spray foam roof can be recoated as needed (typically 10 – 20 years) rather than having to remove it and send construction debris to the landfill. They are quick to install and work well in awkward or tight spaces. A lot of advancement has been made in the chemistry of spray foams over the last 50 years, so the products used today do have a low impact on global warming, but they are still chemicals.
Benefits of Metal Roof Materials
If you are looking to find a good balance between a cost-effective investment and being a good steward of the environment, a metal roof is an easy answer. These roofs last 50 – 70 years, come with lengthy warranties and have additional benefits like:
- Durable, anti-corrosive material that doesn’t rot.
- Good choice for green buildings due to the solar reflectivity and overall energy efficiency.
- Low maintenance alternative with self-healing coatings.
- Easier to install than traditional asphalt products.
- Non-combustible material improves the fire safety of the entire building.
The Takeaway on Commercial Roofing Materials
There are plenty of options ranging from traditional asphalt materials that have a long history of success to more modern metal panel materials that earn big points in eco-friendly circles. Choosing the right roofing material for your building takes a lot of consideration. What materials will be the best upfront choice in terms of installation and initial cost? And what materials will serve the building the best over the long haul in terms of maintenance needs and overall lifespan? Ultimately it is a personal choice — but one that can either help or hurt your cash flow, brand image, and property value.