What is Commercial Roofing?

B. Turner

Commercial roofing is a building material used to protect and seal the top of commercial structures. It covers structural framing and prevents rain and other precipitation from entering the building. Commercial roofing generally has a relatively flat slope, as opposed to residential roofing, which is typically steeply sloped. There are a variety of materials used to create commercial roofing systems, and has its own benefits and drawbacks that should be considered.

Asphalt shingles are one of the cheapest and most effective shingles.
Asphalt shingles are one of the cheapest and most effective shingles.

Traditionally, many commercial roofs were constructed using shingles, which are overlapping sections of material laid in rows to help improve runoff. Shingles can be made from a number of materials, including wood, slate, clay, or asphalt. Asphalt shingles are covered with a bituminous coating and are one of the cheapest and most effective shingle options, though they require a great deal of maintenance, and don't last as long as other materials.

Metal roofing is a more economical choice for roofing.
Metal roofing is a more economical choice for roofing.

Shingles made from clay or ceramic tiles are popular in areas with a warmer climate, as these materials help to repel sunlight and keep the building cool. They are fairly expensive, but typically last for many years and offer a distinctive style. Wood shingles made from cedar or pine are used for mainly for their appearance, and are typically expensive and subject to mold and insect damage. Slate shingles are made from thin layers of rock, and are one of the most costly shingle materials available. They are very strong and durable, and may last well over 100 years upon installation.

For a more reliable and economical choice for commercial roofing systems, consider metal roofing. Metal roofing is very lightweight, allowing simple and cost-effective support structures to be used. It is also known for its flexibility, and can be curved or bent as needed on oddly shaped structures. This material is quick and easy to install, and can last up to 50 years. It is made from steel, aluminum, copper, or metal alloys, and helps keep the building occupants cool by reflecting sunlight and heat.

One of the most effective types of commercial roofing is the membrane roofing system. These roofs are made of sheets of rubber or Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) that are bonded at the seams. Installers use a heat welder to form these bonds, effectively creating a single sheet of material that is impenetrable to leaks. This type of roofing is incredibly lightweight and durable, and often reflects sunlight due to its light-colored finish. Though it is a relatively new product, it is among the most affordable types of commercial roofing, and is quickly becoming one of the most popular products on the industry.

Improperly installed roofing can lead to water leakage and mold.
Improperly installed roofing can lead to water leakage and mold.

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Discussion Comments


I have heard that some of the commercial roofing systems can be used just as well on houses, and they are better in most cases. I like the sounds of the membrane roofing system that was mentioned in the last paragraph of this article.


@Animandel - I was vacationing in Florida and one of the features of the houses that stood out the most for me was the roofs. Many of the roofs had the clay tiles and they looked so good that I decided I had to have these on my house.

At the time, I was told that the clay would be better suited for the warm climate, but I thought I could get away with them where I lived at the time since we did not have really harsh winters. Yes, it got cold, but only for short periods usually.

I was told the clay should last me 50 years easily and probably longer. I thought they would be the last covering the roof on that house would require. Unfortunately, we had a couple of really cold winters and a good bit of snow and ice. Also, as it turned out, frost can be hard on the clay tiles. Anyway, I wouldn't recommend clay tiles unless you live in an area with very mild winters.


I have seen the clay tile shingles, and I think they are beautiful, much more attractive then asphalt shingles or commercial metal roofing. The reason I never even considered buying the clay tiles is because I have heard that they are so expensive. I want my roof to look nice, but the bottom line is that it needs to keep me dry and protected from the elements.

However, after reading this article and learning that the clay shingles can last as long as 100 years, I wounder whether they might be a good investment over the long haul. The asphalt shingles we have on our roof are advertised to last between 20 and 30 years. By the time you replace the asphalt shingles three or four times you could have paid for the clay tiles.

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