Understanding Different Types of Commercial Roofing Systems

Has your commercial roof seen better days? Looking to install roofing on a newly built commercial building? If so, you have a number of options to choose from. 

Looking to understand the pros and cons of each? Then read on. We’re going to review the many commercial roofing systems that are available to you. 


The first roofing materials we’ll discuss is EPDM or ethylene propylene diene monomer. More commonly called rubber roofing, it offers decent durability at a reasonable price. Generally speaking, it lasts for around 20 years. 

That said, EPDM comes with a variety of downsides. For one, it’s dark black. As such, it absorbs heat, vastly reducing the energy efficiency of its corresponding building. 

For two, it’s vulnerable to puncturing. Hale and blunt objects can cause it to tear. And while it can be fairly easily repaired, it might allow water to seep through before a repair has been made. 

While it’s easy to install, it’s not always installed correctly. And if it’s not installed correctly, it can allow water seep through its seams and cause damage. 

So, while it’s cheap to buy, it’s also a bit risky to use. It might end up saving you money, but it could also end up costing you money. 


Another commercial roofing system to consider is SPF or spray polyurethane foam. One of the most durable commercial roofing materials in existence, it’s capable of lasting for up to 40 years. It’s applied as a liquid, but then expands and ends as a solid. 

SPF is exceedingly energy-efficient. A white substance, it reflects heat, taking a great deal of stress off of its corresponding air conditioner. 

It’s also tough as nails, expanding and shrinking through weather changes with little to no trouble. As such, it requires only scarce amounts of maintenance. 

As you might expect, SPF is expensive. Not to mention, it’s difficult to install. As such, if you’re going to use it, you need to find a reputable installer. 


Up next is TPO or thermoplastic polyolefin. While it’s energy-efficient, cheap to purchase and easy to install, it comes with a number of downsides as well.  

Its biggest downside has to be its durability. Highly vulnerable to weather changes, it tends to shrink and crack early in its use. As such, it generally gives in at around 15 years. 

Another downside to TPO is that it’s vulnerable to fire. Should its corresponding building catch on fire, it could exacerbate the problem, leading to a fast-moving and destructive flame. 

In truth, manufacturers still have a bit of work to do with developing TPO. As of right now, its manufacture is inconsistent, leading to the problems reviewed above and more. Install it at your own risk. 


A layered roofing material, PVC consists of two sheets of PVC that encompass a sheet of polyester. PVC or polyvinyl chloride is a highly durable material that’s resistant to water, fire, and physical trauma. As such, it makes for great commercial roofing material. 

That said, it does come with some problems. Its biggest problem is that, if met with physical trauma, it can be expensive to repair. Plus, weather changes can cause it to shrink, thus causing leaks to form in it over time. 

While it’s highly energy-efficient, it’s also expensive. As such, any of its benefits come at a steep price. 

In the end, PVC is high-risk, high-reward roofing material. If it doesn’t suffer damage, it will serve you well for decades. If it does suffer damage, it will cost substantial amounts of money to repair. 

It is important to note, though, that many forms of PVC roofing will come with substantial commercial roofing warranties. If these warranties work in your favor, it’s worth a go. 

Acrylic Roofing

Next up is acrylic roofing, a material that’s applied in coats. Durable, low-maintenance, and moderately priced, it’s a solid option for all of those who have flat roofs. 

In truth, there aren’t many issues with acrylic roofing. Not only does it last for a long time, but it also provides protection against fire and heat. As such, it takes a great deal of strain off of its corresponding air conditioner. 

That said, it is vulnerable to pooling water. So, if you’re going to install it, you need to make sure that your roof’s drainage system is sufficient. If water is allowed to sit on top of it for prolonged periods of time, it will start to crack and thin out. 

Asphalt Rolled Roofing

The last commercial roofing system we’ll discuss is asphalt rolled roofing. This is a form of roofing that’s established by rolling asphalt on top of a roofing structure. Easy and cheap to implement, it’s a solid option for those who are on a budget. 

Unfortunately, however, asphalt rolled roofing comes with a variety of downsides. For one, it lacks durability. At most, it will last for around 10 years. 

Another one of its problems is its lack of energy efficiency. Because it’s black, it attracts heat, forcing its corresponding air conditioner to work much harder than it would have to with other types of roofing. 

The last downside we’ll discuss is its high need for maintenance. Rain, sunlight, shifting temperatures, and physical trauma can cause it to incur damage easily. As such, it needs to be repaired frequently. 

There are Plenty of Commercial Roofing Systems to Choose From 

And there they are, the different commercial roofing systems that are available to you. As you can see, they come with a wide variety of pros, a wide variety of cons, and are available at a wide variety of prices. As such, before choosing one, you need to give the decision a great deal of thought. 

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Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.