The Complete Guide to Commercial Roofing: Types, Materials, and Installation

Commercial roofing is about so much more than just protecting a building from the elements; it’s about ensuring that the interior remains safe and functional. Whether you’re securing a warehouse filled with valuable inventory or controlling the climate of a state-of-the-art lab, the right commercial roof can make all the difference.

Because commercial roofing plays such a critical role in day-to-day business operations, it can be devastating when fierce winds and storms wreak havoc on it. To help you navigate the complexities of commercial roofing and find the right roof restoration contractor, BluSky is here to guide you. Learn about the types of commercial roofs, common materials, and the installation process in our latest blog!

What is Commercial Roofing?

Though they offer the same protection from poor weather conditions, commercial roofs differ slightly from residential ones in the types of materials they’re made of. While commercial roofs are usually made of modified bitumen, concrete, metal, and thermoplastic polyolefin, residential roofs are more typically constructed from asphalt shingles or clay.

Another distinction between residential and commercial roofing is that commercial roofs are usually flat, whereas most homes are sloped. This flat design offers many benefits, including easier installation and the ability to store HVAC units. However, one of the most significant benefits of commercial roofs is that they are much more cost-effective than residential roofs. Simply put: with a commercial roof, you get more bang for your buck.

Types of Commercial Roofs

There are nearly 20 types of commercial roofs; however, only a handful are commonly used by most industries. These include:

  • Thermoplastic Polyolefin
  • Metal
  • Modified Bitumen
  • Built-up Roofing
  • EPDM

Here’s a brief overview of each type of commercial roofing, so you can determine which material is the right fit for you and your facility’s needs.

Thermoplastic Polyolefin

A type of single-ply membrane, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roofs are ideal for businesses that want to keep up with a modern aesthetic, while also keeping their interiors cool. This is because they are made with a white membrane that doesn’t just protect against water leaks but reflects heat instead of absorbing heat like other materials such as asphalt.

In addition to being heat resistant, TPO roofs are also known for combating bacterial growth such as mold. Mold resistance is beneficial if you operate out of warm climates that also get a lot of rain, like Florida.


aerial view of commercial building

Of all the commercial roofing types on this list, metal reigns supreme for being extremely fire-resistant. Plus, they offer a lot of options, including but not limited to lead, stainless steel, galvanized steel, and copper.

Each of these materials has its own advantages, such as stainless steel being attractive, corrosion-resistant, and durable, whereas copper is low-maintenance and energy efficient, saving you money on monthly energy bills.

Modified Bitumen

A modified bitumen commercial roof is a wonderful option if your business is located in an area that experiences extremely cold climates, such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, or anywhere in the New England region of the country. The reason why is that modified bitumen is designed to handle cool temperatures with ease, so as a property owner, you don’t have to worry about cold-weather breakage.

In addition to cold resistance, modified bitumen roofs are pretty resistant to water leaks and hail. Plus, they have a long shelf-life of about 20 years.

Built-up Roofing

Built-up roofing has been around for over 100 years, so it’s known for its durability in the commercial roofing industry, as well as its ability to promote an efficient draining system.

Built-up roofing, also commonly referred to as BUR, is a type of commercial roof in which layers of asphalt are alternately attached to ply sheets and then topped with gravel. With regular upkeep, these roofs are meant to last for up to 30 years, making them quite an investment.

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer

Ethylene propylene diene monomer, or EPDM, is another type of single-ply membrane. Like thermoplastic polyolefin, it is sun and heat-resistant, so it’s ideal for commercial properties that want to keep their interiors cool, like warehouses, labs, and factories. And since these types of commercial buildings usually have low slopes, which EPDM is designed for, they are a perfect fit!

Another reason why business owners opt for EPDM roofs is because of its cost-effective materials. These types of roofs are made from synthetic rubber, so it’s much cheaper to produce.

Which Type of Commercial Roof is the Most Popular?

Of this list, single-ply membranes such as EDPM and thermoplastic polyolefin are the most common types of commercial roofing in the United States. This is because they are cost-effective, durable, and easy to install so businesses don’t have to experience a ton of downtime.

Materials Used in Commercial Roofing

Like residential roofs, commercial roofs have a lot of moving parts. As such, there are a ton of materials used in commercial roofing, both in terms of the material of the roof itself and how it is attached to the building.

Here’s a list of the most common materials and tools used in commercial roofing:

  • Thermoplastic polyolefin
  • Ethylene propylene diene monomer
  • Asphalt
  • Metal
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Insulation
  • Tar paper
  • Spray foam
  • Tin
  • Stainless steel
  • Roofing hammer
  • Nail guns
  • Steam rollers
  • Ladders
  • Caulking gun
  • Weld probes

Keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are still so many supplies used in the construction and installation of commercial roofs, signifying the importance of hiring an experienced commercial roof contractor. Not only do they have the skill and knowledge of how to use these items, but they have them handy so you don’t have to buy them yourself.

How Are Commercial Roofs Installed?

gentleman walking on top of commercial building roof

There are several steps to installing a commercial roof. While we won’t cover each of them at length, here’s a brief overview of the most basic steps in the commercial roofing installation process:

Developing a Plan

The first step in installing a commercial roof is to assess the need and develop a plan. After all, there are a lot of moving parts to installing a commercial roof.

During this first stage, your contractor will inspect your existing roof to determine if a new one can be installed without prior repairs. If so, they will work with you to figure out the best type and material of roof based on your specific needs. From there, they will then obtain the necessary permits to get the job started.

Preparing for Installation

Once the permits are filed and in hand, your contractor will then prepare for the next step: the installation. This, yet again, requires another inspection, as well as prepping the area so it’s safe and free of any debris.

Installing the Roof

Next, your contractors will install your new commercial roof. This process may vary depending on the type of commercial roof you’re getting. Once the roof is in place, they will make sure it’s secure by welding or fastening it.

Adding the Details and Checking Out Their Work

inspector inspecting new roof on commercial building

After the roof is installed, any little details that need to be tended to such as vents and HVAC units will be addressed, while flashing will be installed to prevent water leaks.

Before your contractors say goodbye, they will perform a quality assurance check on the roof to confirm everything is in place, sturdy, and safe.

How Long Does it Take to Install a Commercial Roof?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer for how long it will take to install a commercial roof. The process is dependent on many factors, not limited to the size of your roof, the type of roof being installed, and the current weather conditions. If it’s during your state’s rainy season, this may not be the best time to move forward with commercial roof installation for one big reason: it’s dangerous!

Another factor often overlooked, but worth mentioning, is whether or not your building is or will be occupied while the commercial roof is being installed. Though it’s possible for some homeowners to remain inside while their roof contractor is at work, commercial businesses don’t always have that same luxury because of the liability it poses. If, let’s say an employee or patron is inside or walking around the property and injured, you could be held liable for their medical bills and damages. It’s better to err on the side of caution and shut down operations while your new roof is being installed; however, that requires a lot of planning.

Our team will give you the best estimate for how long your commercial roof installation process will take so you can plan for any potential business interruptions.

Let BluSky Help You with All Your Commercial Roofing Needs

With a commitment to excellence and extensive commercial roofing knowledge, BluSky is who you can turn to for quality.

Contact us today at 800-266-5677 to obtain a commercial roofing quote. One call to us is all it takes to start enjoying your new commercial roof. We invite you to check out our testimonials for a behind-the-scenes look at what our clients have to say about our commercial roofing installation services.

Candace Johnson

Corporate Marketing Manager

Candace is a veteran marketer, who specializes in bringing out the best in companies. Responsibilities for BluSky include content creation and editing, brand management and consistency, website management, public relations writing, advertising, and social media management. Candace lives just south of Chicago with her husband Eric and three children.

Candace Johnson

Corporate Marketing Manager
Candace Johnson headshot