The angels for which Los Angeles is named may live forever in eternity but your commercial roof sure won’t.
While the city has expanded rapidly over the last 30 years or so, a lot of the commercial roofing still reflects the time that it was built. It’s not a bad idea to check the age of your building and compare that to the leading roofing method of the time to see if you’re in need of an upgrade.
But when it comes time to replace, repair or update the roof of your warehouse or other commercial structure, what is the best option?
While every roof is different, there are a few types that work in most situations.
Let’s run through the most common types of warehouse roofing and roofing materials out there.
There are some basic universal truths for a lot of roofs that start of their lives as a liquid:
- They are de facto custom-fitted roofing solutions because they can be painted on or around nearly any existing roofing structure or fixture.
- Liquid materials are also seamless and monolithic. That means it’s one big solid layer of stuff.
- Liquid materials fill in cracks, seams or other gaps in the roof, immediately upping the roof’s water resistance.
- They often don’t need to be reinforced with fabrics.
- They do need to be applied to an existing roof structure.
Here are a few types of roofing materials that fit in this category.
Acrylic coatings are similar to paints in that they can be delivered to the surface in similar ways—brushes, rollers, and sprayers. But they are chemically distinct. Acrylic coatings are good for low-slope roofs that have some positive flow with minor pooling. They also offer superior resistance to foot traffic, impacts, and dust erosion.
Silicone coatings are similar to acrylic coating systems but offer better water resistance to roofs that tend to have more pooling. They are much less likely to fail under standing water. However, they are less durable than acrylic under physical stress.
Both are problematic from the perspective of installation and labor. These are highly sensitive materials before they mature and most roofers charge premiums for their expertise. Also, weather conditions prohibit installation.
Warehouse Roofing Membranes
Single-ply membranes are pretty much self-explanatory. A material that’s similar to rubber is rolled out over a low-slope room and held on the roof by chemical adhesion, fasteners or with ballasts, or a combination of the three.
Three basic types of single-ply roofing membranes make up what you will most likely see and they all have complicated names and an easier acronym:
- Thermoplastic polyolefin = TPO
- Polyvinyl Chloride = PVC
- Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer = EPDM
Each of the membranes above has varying characteristics. One will do better at one thing than another. For example, TPO membranes have superior puncture and erosion resistance while PVC membranes have greater resistance to chemical exposure in industrial or polluted urban areas.
Another more common, more affordable option is rolled bitumen. It is not inaccurate to think of these as rolls of shingle-like material. It also uses similar fastening methods as the single-ply membranes. The big difference is that multiple overlapping layers are needed.
Built-up roof systems vary widely. But as the name suggests several layers and substances factor in. The more common materials are tar or other liquid polymers, fabric or fiberglass sheets, bitumen or other aggregates, and reflective top layers.
These are usually more affordable than other systems. However, they take a little bit more time to install and have more points of failure through multiple layers and seams.
Often, heat through blow torches or heated rubber-like substances during installation bring in an inherent fire risk during installation.
There is a reason asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing system in the U.S. It’s a flexible system in more ways than one.
It’s normally on the more affordable side. Many roofers have experience installing this system. It’s the most available material. It’s also the most easily customized and easily stratified in quality.
We consider three types of shingles—dimensional shingles, strip shingles, and premium shingles—on this web page.
There are two major downsides to this system: length of life and durability under stress. Many shingle roofs see sub-20-year lifetimes. Also, shingles have a bad habit of blowing off or otherwise compromising in bad weather.
Metal roofing is the most expensive option for commercial buildings and some kind of slope is a must to get the most out the possible lifespan of metal.
But the upside is that the metal roof will outlive almost everything else in the building. It’s not an exaggeration that some metal roofs will last 100 years or more.
It comes in three basic forms: sheets, tiles, and look-alikes. The look-a-like option just means the metal is designed to look like something else such as a cedar shake.
Also, don’t be surprised if your metal roofing installer is a little distressed. Prices for metals used in roofing are on the rise as China and the U.S. continue their trade war.
Steel roofing materials are the most common and most mid-grade price option. It is often coated or mixed with another material to increase some kind of resistance factor for specific uses. Galvanized steel has a zinc coating to increase corrosion resistance; galvalume steel is coated with aluminum to increase reflectivity and corrosion resistance, for example.
Aluminum roofing is a pricier option but more durable. Its price often restricts its use to smaller buildings or sections of commercial buildings. It is a lighter metal for lower-durability roofs or easier installation. It is also easier to work with and is more easily fitted to roof interruptions.
Zinc roofing is a must for high-stress environments, especially those with high chemical or saline water exposure such as cities, industrial areas or coastal areas. Zinc is also easy to fit roofing specifics. But it is also pricey. That’s why it is often used with other metals.
Now You Know, It’s Time to Go
The best time to fix that roof was yesterday. Every minute spent not fixing, updating or installing a roof is time spent without the full benefit of a building.