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This post originally appeared on SimonCRE Insights Blog and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.

Roofing is important in commercial real estate because it protects your business from the elements and can help save money by reducing energy costs. Geographical location and climate determine the best type of roof for your business.

Let’s take a look at the types of roofs used in commercial development and the materials best suited to their environment.

Pitched Roofs

Pitched roofs or steep-slope roofs are similar to residential construction and are considered by many to be more aesthetically pleasing. They can provide added space for roof storage to house HVAC equipment, and their steep slopes prevent rain and snow from collecting.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are made up of several layers. The base supports weather resistance and is covered with asphalt followed by a surface material that provides UV and fire protection. Asphalt shingles could be prone to damage in high winds by causing uplift pressure in the corners of the roofline.

Clay Tile

Clay roof tiles are made from baked molded clay, making them eco-friendly and recyclable. Their properties allow them to be thermal resistant and fireproof, which makes them perfect for hot climates. Installing clay tiles can be more expensive than other materials, however, they are resistant to strong winds exceeding 150 mph due to their arched shape and weight.

Concrete Tile

Concrete tiles are known as the budget-friendly alternative to clay and have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years and are generally low maintenance. Unlike clay tile, concrete is more porous and can be more vulnerable to high moisture absorption. It’s lighter in weight and resistant to rot and insects. Its interlocking technology makes it durable against the elements, but the underlayment beneath the tile will need to be replaced about every 20 years.

Fiber-cement Shingles

Fiber-cement shingles are used as a substitute for wood shingles and shakes. They are non-combustible and have proven to be flame and heat-resistant. Fiber-cement shingles can hold up in extreme temperatures and are durable against wind and hail, but cannot fluctuate between dramatic climate changes due to their porous wood siding being prone to shrinkage. They require frequent cleaning and painting, making them more high maintenance than other roofing materials.

Slate Tile

Slate tiles come in variations ranging from standard, standard smooth, and graduated/ textural that consists of naturally occurring material that is essentially non-absorbent. Standard slate tile has a rough surface and is uniform in length. Standard smooth is a variant of standard slate with a smooth surface. Graduated/textural has varying lengths and thicknesses and is rougher than standard slate tile. It is known to withstand harsh winters, heavy snow, and layers of ice. Slate tile promotes insulation and has a lifespan of about 100 years.

Metal Covering

Metal coverings are one of the most durable and low-maintenance roofing materials that can survive in hot, cold, and wet climates. The material creates a thermal barrier in the heat and can last against sun damage. Metal won’t crack, curl or disintegrate and can cut cooling costs by about 20%. In the winter, metal roofing can provide insulation. Its smooth, lightweight properties help glide off ice and snow and prevent icicles from forming. Metal also has water-shedding capabilities, making it a popular choice in coastal climates.

Low Slope and Flat Roofs

Low slope and flat roofs are similar in the sense that they both use the same materials. They are most popular in places like Nevada, southern California, and Arizona. Low slope roofs require a pitch below 2:12. Flat roofs do well in hotter climates because they reduce energy waste, cooling costs, and have heat reflective properties. Flat roof installation takes less time, air conditioners can be maneuvered around easier, workmen can walk across the roof, and fewer materials are needed for construction.

Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO)

TPO is a plastic roofing material that allows seams to be welded together for durability. It’s energy-efficient and has heat-reflective properties. TPO can stand up to UV rays, bacteria, debris, dirt, and algae, which makes it great for high-temperature climates. Its membrane also allows it to withstand punctures and tears. On average, TPO roofing is considered less expensive per square foot and installation is fairly simple due to having fewer seams.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is known as a single-ply roofing system used as an alternative to gravel and tar. It’s great for high temperatures and can withstand a larger range of chemicals. PVC is durable in weather fluctuations, is heat reflective, and wind-resistant. Restaurant kitchens often choose PVC because of its high chemical and fire resistance.

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) a.k.a Rubber

EPDM is composed of recycled tires, slate and sawdust, and is known to stand up against nearly any chemical, making it extremely durable. It can withstand decades of hot and cold cycles, is resistant to hail punctures and fire damage. EPDM is typically black, but can be covered in a coat of white acrylic paint to help reflect the heat. Regular repairs are needed for upkeep, but overall, EPDM has a lifespan of about 50 years. Some of the negative impacts of choosing EPDM roofing are that UV rays have been known to disintegrate adhesive seams and the material can be susceptible to shrinkage especially as it ages.

Built-up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing uses tar and gravel and is composed of several layers of reinforced felt or scrim adhered with hot liquid asphalt, then covered in pea gravel for UV protection. BUR roofing is known to be fireproof, waterproof, and hail-proof, with low-maintenance requirements. Downsides to having a built-up roof are its installation process, which involves hazardous fumes and its susceptibility to cracks, undulations, blisters, and open joints.

Modified Bitumen (MB)

Modified Bitumen is similar to BUR because it requires the same torch-application installation method. Bitumen is an asphalt product that is combined with rubber or plastic, then reinforced with fiberglass. It costs less than rubber or plastic membranes and is waterproof. Bitumen roofing is unlikely to develop cracks and can last over 20 years. Although MB is available in 1-, 2-, or 3-ply material, experts say 1-ply lacks durability and is prone to material breakdown. The 2- and 3-ply materials are considered some of the most expensive products in flat roofing systems. Modified bitumen can also break down from premature damage if the roof gathers standing water after rainstorms.

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF)

Spray Polyurethane is a roof coating that is sprayed on as a liquid and expands to a foam, producing a solid layer about 1.5 inches thick. This roofing material can be used in any climate because of the foam’s ability to expand and contract with outside temperatures. Its properties are energy-efficient and help to create a moisture barrier and insulate the building’s controlled temperature. This roofing material does not require joints or seams, and it can be used to fill gaps, cracks, and even out surfaces to reduce water pooling. SPF can only be applied when there is no ice, frost, surface moisture, or visible dampness on the roof. Windy conditions also carry a risk of overspray onto surrounding buildings and vehicles during application.

The type of roof and materials you choose to work with is important because they impact the energy costs and longevity of your business. No roofing solution is perfect, but it’s important to choose a combination that works best with your roof’s year-round climate because it plays an important role in the overall cost of commercial development. Roof expenses are one of the major costs that impact the development process.

Click here to learn more about the importance of roof scans during commercial building inspections.



Vice President of Construction

Jared Atkisson joined SimonCRE in 2015 as Vice President of Construction, where he oversees all of SimonCRE’s new construction projects, expansions, and remodels. Jared has especially abundant past experience in restaurant ground-up construction.

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