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While commercial roofing systems and residential roofs share the same primary function of protecting your property or residence from the elements, that’s where the similarities end. The most significant difference between commercial roofing systems and residential roofing is the slope of the roof which is determined by the size of the building. Because residences are smaller, they typically have a steep slope roof that is visible from the ground and uses materials such as architectural tile, asphalt shingles, and slate. Given the larger size of commercial buildings, commercial roofs tend to have flat or only slightly sloped roofs which are not visible from the ground. Commercial roofs come in a wide range of materials which are determined by the structure of the building and other factors like climatic conditions, e.g., intense heat, extreme cold, or if a surface needs to withstand high foot traffic.

Below are the most common commercial roofing systems:

Single Ply Roofing
These roof systems use TPO, PVC, and EPDM. They are incredibly flexible, robust,  materials preferred by many building owners because it resists peeling, cracking and other types of weathering. Their main characteristic is they are designed to be installed in a single layer. There are two main categories within the single-ply roofing industry – thermoplastic membranes and thermoset membranes.

TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin)
This material is most commonly used on low slope roofs in North America and includes reinforced roof sheets that feature heat-welded seams and are highly reflective. TPO is a single-ply membrane, typically composed of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber that has been polymerized together. TPO is part of the thermoplastic membrane category and comes in a variety of colors, although the most popular are white, grey and tan. The membrane can be installed using several different methods including mechanically attached, adhered, or ballasted.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
PVC roofing material is composed of two layers of PVC with a polyester reinforcement scrim in between. The top ply contains additives that make the membrane UV resistant. The bottom ply is typically darker and contains plasticizers for flexibility which helps make installation easier. Other benefits of a PVC membrane are longevity, durability and fire resistance. PVC is also weldable which means it can be welded to an adjoining sheet making it watertight. PVC sheets can be made to resemble a standing seam roof system by welding a pre-manufactured rib to the surface which creates a visually appealing aesthetic for a much lower price point. PVC membranes are also recyclable and can be reused in new sheets.

EPDM Roofing (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer)
What is EPDM roofing? The letters stand for “ethylene propylene diene monomer,” a tough-to-pronounce chemical compound that is known for its elasticity and toughness. EPDM roofing employs a material that has a fantastic ability to resist the constant bombardment of ultraviolet light and all the sun’s damaging rays. One of the most popular commercial roofing materials in current use, EPDM rubber roofing is doubly desirable because it combines low cost with resilient strength. An EPDM roofing membrane is a type of synthetic rubber composed of natural gas and oil. EPDM roofing material is used in low-slope commercial buildings all over the world.

Modified Bitumen Roofing Systems: A modified bitumen roof combines asphalt and a unique chemical polymer for flexibility and temperature resistance. It can be applied in multiple layers, several ways (self-adhesive sheets, hot-mopped asphalt, torch applied or cold-applied adhesives), in both hot and cold temperatures, making it a viable option for installation through all four seasons. The seams are melted together to form a secure bond.  They are rated against wind, fire, and hail which means they are resistant to damage during a storm.

Built-Up Roofing Systems
Among the oldest roofing systems available on the market, built-up roofing consists of 3-5 layers for enhanced protection, especially in extreme climatic conditions with wide ranges of low and high temperatures. Sometimes called BUR for short, built-up roofing has been around for more than 100 years.

Since 1977, Shencorp Inc. has specialized in commercial roofing and commercial protective roof coating services throughout Winchester, VA, Charlottesville, VA, Waynesboro, VA, Richmond, VA, Virginia Beach, VA, and other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region. In that time, we have become the leading choice for industrial and commercial roofing services like commercial protective roof coatings for customers throughout Virginia. Learn more about our roofing coats here.