How does Commercial Roofing Differ From Residential Roofing?

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Phil Puccio

When considering a roof replacement for a commercial building, you may be wondering why the roof is different from that of your home. Commercial roof systems differ from residential roof systems depending on the roof pitch and the main use of the building. A skilled roofer is familiar with the many different types of commercial roofing systems and which ones to use for specific commercial purposes.

Most condos and some shop fronts have regular asphalt shingle roofs that are standard for pitched roofs of at least 4:12. This term means a pitch of 4:12 The roof rises 4 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal space. Most roofersAsphalt shingle manufacturers recommend a pitch of 4:12 or more. On roofs between 2:12 and 4:12, manufacturer and industry guidelines require or recommend a special pad or other material under the shingles. Roofs with a slight pitch between 2:12 and flat cannot be shingled, so other types of commercially available roofing materials must be used.

Asphalt shingles on a commercial roof system are installed and maintained like on residential roofs. For condominiums and similar commercial pitched roofs, roofers have to estimate the span of the roof and calculate the numbers for the roof system differently. For example, an ice and water shield 9 feet wide should be installed instead of 6 feet wide, as ice is more likely to form on these larger roofs than on a single family home roof. The ventilation figures should also be calculated differently. In most condominiums there is usually enough inlet at the lower reveal, but a smaller section of the ridge ventilation should be used, as larger roofs have significantly more drafts.

Flat and flat commercial roofs are commonly used in shopping malls, large stores, and restaurants. Unlike most residential roofs, building codes require that the commercial roof system on flat roofs contain a 3½-inch sheet of foam insulation. The roofing material is glued to the foam board, which is placed over the base layer. Some of the most common types of commercial roofing materials for commercial flat roofs and flat commercial roofs are:

  • Rolled asphalt roof Often used on buildings with flat roofs, it is made from the same materials used to make asphalt shingles. As one of the cheaper roof types, asphalt rolled roof is relatively easy to install, but is also not energy efficient. Unfortunately, rolled asphalt roofs have a very short lifespan compared to other types of roofs, typically only lasting around 10 years. Since this type of roofing product is rolled out and then taped at the seams, leaks and other problems often occur at the junctions of the rolls, increasing the need for maintenance and repairs.
  • Roof covering made of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), Commonly known as rubber roofing, it is one of the most affordable roofing materials on the market. Relatively easy to assemble and very light, a high-quality EPDM roof is not easily damaged by UV rays and can have a life expectancy of up to 20 years. Unfortunately, because an EPDM roof is black, it absorbs much of the sunlight and heat from outside, which can put a strain on a building’s air conditioning system. Although not easily scratched or chafed, EPDM roofs are prone to punctures, which means that a hailstorm or a falling branch can tear a hole in your roof. In addition, it is important to note that adhesives are used to glue the seams of an EPDM roof. If an EPDM roof does not fully adhere or comes off, water can get under the membrane. This makes the leak difficult to find and also allows a leak to do much more damage to the underlying structure before it can be discovered.
  • TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) roof is one of the lower cost types of commercial roofing material and is sometimes less expensive than EPDM. The installation of TPO is a heat welding system that literally fuses the plastics together in the membrane. This creates a more reliable joint between the seams and essentially a single sheet roofing system. Because TPO is white and reflects the sun, it will help reduce heat build-up in your building and reduce the load on your AC system. Like EPDM, TPO is light, resistant to corrosion and breakage, not susceptible to algae growth or mold and does not have to be washed with high pressure. One of the disadvantages of TPO is that it varies in quality and thickness depending on the manufacturer. The top layer of TPO roofing material is laminated, making it prone to shrinkage, cracking, crazing and deterioration. TPO rolls are usually also available in narrow widths, which leads to a lot of seams during installation, which can potentially weaken the roofing system and lead to future problems. In addition, TPO itself is not fire resistant and can be dangerous if the right retarders are not built into the roofing system.
  • Roof covering made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) consists of two layers of PVC roofing material with a polyester reinforcement between the layers and contains additives that make the material UV-stable and flexible. When installing for PVC roofs, heat welding is used at a lower temperature than TPO to create a permanent bond between the individual roofing sheets and to hold the seams securely together. Like EPDM and TPO, PVC is light and also very durable. The lifespan of commercial PVC roofs is comparatively long as they is particularly resistant to moisture, fire, wind and chemicals. Most importantly, PVC does not absorb or be weakened by oils and greases, making it the membrane of choice for restaurants and other buildings with grease traps on the roof. The downside of PVC: It’s a more expensive option than commercial TPO or EPDM roofing. Over time, PVC can shrink, which can lift corners, pull seams, and cause leaks. In very cold weather, an older PVC roof is prone to splinters and holes, and PVC roofs can also be difficult to repair. In general, PVC and TPO are usually compared a lot as they are both heat welded and have similar properties.
  • SPF (spray polyurethane foam) roofing is made from a plastic that is applied in liquid form to a roof terrace and turns into a solid state in seconds and expands to up to 30 times its original size when dry. The SPF acts as an insulating layer and its reflective top layer helps builders save on both electricity and heating costs. A good multi-layer SPF system (e.g. spray foam covered with layers of a high quality acrylic roof coating) has excellent tensile strength and durability. SPF can be used to correct stagnant water or to channel water into drains more effectively by simply spraying more spray foam into areas that need to be built up. With proper maintenance and regular roofing, an SPF roof can last 40 years or more. Since SPF roofs are the product of a chemical reaction between two liquid compounds, it must be carefully calibrated or the resulting spray foam won’t last long. A roofer must be specially trained to use this type of roofing material and may require additional time to master the techniques used to apply that particular system. SPF roofs can also be difficult and expensive to remove, which can be required if improperly maintained.

Hear Kelly Shepard describe the different types of commercial canopies All Weather Tite installs in Florida:

For more information on commercial roofing systems and materials, contact All Weather Tite Roofing in Port Charlotte, Florida 33981. All Weather Tite Roofing’s experts, serving the greater Port Charlotte, Florida area, will evaluate your commercial roof and give you the best recommendation for a commercial roof system that fits your budget. All Weather Tite Roofing adheres to all COVID-19 protocols such as wearing a mask, keeping 6 feet away from others in your home, frequent hand washing, and wearing identifiable clothing for employees. Contact All Weather Tite Roofing today at 941-889-9085 for a professional roof repair service on your home or commercial building.

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