Home Home Improvement What are most commercial roofs made of?

What are most commercial roofs made of?

What are most commercial roofs made of?

Businesses are usually bigger than residential buildings, and the construction needs of commercial roofing reflects that.

Just to clear up any confusion anyone may have coming into this article.

Roofing services provide for both residential homes and commercial businesses. Commercial roofs are different to the types of roofs you’d see driving through the neighbourhood.

If you look on your roof, a chimney, solar panels or TV antenna may be the only things there other than the local wildlife. The supermarket down the road, however, is usually quite bigger than the average suburban house and its needs match that increase in size.

To answer the question posed in the title, we will first look at what most commercial roofs are.

Considerations in commercial roofing design

It is very important to consider a number of things in any construction job. Commercial roofing is relied upon to safely contain the product used within the building. This can mean significant strain on the roof.

The comparative scale of a business to a home is not the only difference between their roofs. Commercial roofs are subjected to many forces and elements that require different construction techniques and considerations to account for it.

Services will also need to consider the various systems which a roof must accommodate. These systems can be anything from ventilation, smokestacks, piping and ducting, and even heat regulation. Larger buildings require significant planning in terms of the overall structure and that extends to the commercial roofing.

The stresses placed on these buildings may fluctuate with specific usage. As such, multiple options are provided by roofing services.

Commercial roofing materials

Certain roofing materials better suit the needs of certain commercial buildings. The technology around, and our understanding of, roofing products evolves to meet the standards set in the industry. It’s expected that an understanding of the materials used in a build must be achieved prior to construction.

Roofers can be expected to use a number of specific materials. Down below, we will briefly look into a few common ones.

Metal Roofing

Metals are flexible and versatile in various applications. Utilising metal sheeting or panels is a durable and long-lasting solution to buildings depending on the installation. Typically, this is a lightweight and cost efficient option.

Often viewed as one of the safest choices in roof construction, metal roofing provides great protection against strong weather. This durability extends the resilience of the material against fire, making it highly popular in fire prone areas. 

In extreme temperature conditions, however, metal suffers from expanding and contracting. This can cause strain on the structure of a building and should be adequately accounted for.

Some common types of metal roofing:

  • Zinc
  • Aluminium
  • Copper
  • Galvanised steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Colorbond steel

EPDM Thermoset Roofing

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer) is a synthetic rubber membrane. Ideal for flat profile or low slope roofing, it is both durable and insulating. A primary selling point for the material is the long-term cost savings on temperature control.

It is waterproof and offers protection against solvents and general moisture, however, it is also soft and easy to puncture. This can be a concern if personnel need access to the roof on a consistent basis.

Thermoplastic PVC and TPO Roofing

PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) and TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) are similar to EPDM roofing in application and usage. The same benefits seen in the EPDM roofing are present in both PVC and TPO, but thermoplastic roofing is also puncture resistant.

Thermoplastic roofing is ideal for businesses which vent oils, chemicals or even bacteria. It is cheap and reliable, giving it the popularity it sees in hospitality and medical buildings.

Built-Up Roofing

Another type of membrane roofing, built-up roofing (BUR) uses layering of tar and gravel to produce an inexpensive roofing solution. It is durable specifically in terms of foot traffic and relies on the stability of the understructure to adequately sustain any movement.

BUR is one of the oldest commercial roofing solutions and has one of the shortest lifespans. As it ages, it can present issues regarding repairability and leaks.

Modified Bitumen Roofing

Similar to BUR, modified bitumen is another flat profile or low slope ideal solution. It provides durable tensile strength, meaning that its flexibility accounts for heavy foot traffic applications.

It is largely seen as the replacement for BUR systems, as it does not have the major flaws from that system. Its durability, strong waterproofing, energy efficiency and ease of maintenance provide its appeal. 

What is the most common commercial roof?

Certain roofing materials offer specific advantages for the different needs of businesses. Given the information discussed previously, it may become obvious that there isn’t a perfect all-around solution. Commercial roofing has various options which appeal the most to certain industries and thus are ‘commonly’ used.

However, to provide a satisfying answer to the question in the title, we will identify what materials are most common in general.

Metal roofing

Widely available, versatile in its use, and reliable in various qualities, metal is one of the most popular choices for a number of industries. Its ease of installation and low weight make transporting this material an alluring sale point.

It is difficult to pinpoint specific industries which contribute the most to metal roofing sales. It is a popular choice generally and sees usage in various buildings. A notable example would be storage warehouses. Common to almost every industrial area, storage warehouses take advantage of the low maintenance, low cost, and highly reliable material.

So, to provide a direct answer to the question: most commercial roofing is made of metal.

Thermoplastic roofing

Thermoplastic roofing solutions such as PVC and TPO also deserve a mention. Thermoplastics are an extremely popular roofing choice due to their reliable ability to contain oils and chemicals.

As this is a widely desired attribute, the material is also very popular in various commercial applications. It is cost efficient, removing the barrier of cost from utilising its benefits. This results in a widely used material which is most used in all situations where its benefits are necessary.

Factors on roofing choices

By now it is apparent that roofing materials are used differently and preferred in different industries. The properties in certain materials are considered and what is deemed as most important will likely win over an engineer. 

The ‘ideal’ use cases mentioned for some of the materials in the list provided show that there are different materials that can be used to respond to specific needs. These needs usually remain consistent and thus certain materials can often monopolise an industry.

The same can be said about the flaws of certain materials. Businesses may be put-off or unable to use a material due to a specific trait it possesses. 

Another factor not yet discussed in this article is design. Architectural considerations are placed in the aesthetic qualities of a chosen roofing material. It is important in some cases to achieve a balance between functionality and visual appeal. This depends on the type and location of a business.


Ultimately, modern construction utilises a range of materials. All the options available for consideration can appeal to specific use cases. This means that even though a material may be the ‘most popular’, it is not necessarily the best for everything. The choices made on the construction of a building should be up to the context of its construction.

Metal and thermoplastic roofing solutions are the major contributors to the commercial roofs chosen today. Their traits cover the widest range of use cases and are responsible for protecting the lives and products of which they protect and contain.

If you found this article informative or have an opinion you wish to share, we encourage you to share it with someone and comment about your thoughts.


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