Chapter 3: All About Commercial Roof Installation

It’s true that our skilled commercial roofers here at Heidler Roofing spend a great deal of time inspecting, caring for, and repairing commercial roofs of various types. However, we also install totally new roofing systems on buildings just being constructed, or as complete replacements on existing commercial structures like office buildings, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, and retail centers.

Today’s installment of our Ultimate Guide to Commercial Roofing ongoing post series covers what installing some of the most common commercial roofing systems entails. From the decision-making process of choosing the most appropriate materials and making our professional recommendation to our customer through actually building the roof, much time and craftsmanship are involved in making sure the job is done right with a strong and long-lasting roof as the result.

What is Involved in Installing the Most Popular Flat & Low-Slope Roofing Types?

A new commercial construction project is a carefully choreographed dance between multiple groups of subcontractors and workers who are responsible for building and installing different pieces of the puzzle that is a new building. Applying the chosen roofing system comes as the exterior of the building has been “framed out,” including the roof deck having been built.

Before construction has even begun, however, the roofing system to be installed is chosen by the proposed new building’s owners. This is ideally done in consultation with a commercial roofing contractor who deeply understands what type or types of roofing will be best based on the building’s architecture, the kind of business that will eventually be conducted inside its walls, local weather patterns and climate, energy efficiency needs, and the owner’s budget. 

Whether the roofing is being installed on a newly built roof deck, or as a replacement for a system that has reached the end of its life and has been cleared away, installation for the most popular roofing materials involves similar processes by type.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

As we talked about in our previous chapter of the commercial roofing guide, Built-up Roofing is an asphalt-based system that’s been in use for well over 100 years. It utilizes layers of different materials to achieve durability and waterproofness.

BUR is a continuous and semi-flexible membrane that consists of felt or fabric layers (called plies) alternated with layers of asphalt bonding materials and generally topped with gravel to reflect the sun’s heat and offer protection from damage, including foot traffic.

Installing a new BUR roof essentially requires four main steps:

  • Roofers often attach base sheets to the roof’s subsystem/roof deck using base sheet fasteners.
  • An asphalt bonding agent is spread across the surface of the roof via a hot application process, covering the base sheets.
  • Plies are laid with alternating layers of asphalt. (A little bit like a lasagna, but not nearly as delicious!)
  • A top layer of surfacing material like gravel/small stones (aka aggregate) is evenly spread across the surface of the roof to complete the installation.

Modified Bitumen (MB or “Mod Bit”)

Installing a Mod Bit roof is quite similar to a traditional BUR system in terms of steps, as these layered systems are closely related. MB is basically a more versatile version of BUR that incorporates petroleum-based bitumen between plies that gives a “rubberized” appearance and properties.

Some MB systems rely on self-adhesive “cold process” sheets that don’t require heating of the bonding materials. Additionally, MB does not as often require a top layer of surface material to be installed for the roof to be well-performing and durable enough for regular foot traffic.

Single-Ply Membranes – TPO, PVC, and EPDM/Thermoset materials

Whether thermoset or thermoplastic materials, single ply membrane systems are typically installed in just two similar steps. This is because most single-ply material comes in rolls. It must be rolled out and then adhered in some way—with tapes, glues, or in the case of thermoplastic PVC and TPO membranes, by the application of heat to weld seams.

Metal Roofing

In commercial installations, metal roofing tends to represent one of the most costly options because it involves high skill and often intense labor to install, but its longevity—sometimes up to 40 years—can’t be beaten.

Depending upon its configuration (vertical and horizontal sheets and panels are most common in commercial projects), the type of metal used—aluminum, steel, or even zinc or copper—and other factors, metal roofing might be installed with fasteners, which is time-consuming. Metal roofing is also not insulative, so applying separate insulation before installation is a major consideration that ads time and cost to a project.

If the commercial metal roof in question is also a specialty roof, which might involve detailed craftsmanship and unique skills like planishing, the installation may be especially complicated.

Installation Timeline and Cost Considerations

Because every commercial building is unique and every commercial roof is different, making general statements about how long it will take to install your particular roof, and perhaps more importantly, how much the project will cost, is nearly impossible. This is why the best commercial roofing contractors offer not just free basic estimates, but professionally written in-depth proposals that capture all the details we discuss with you (at no cost, of course).

With these types of project documents, you won’t just get a number. You’ll gain an understanding of the entire job from start to finish.

It’s true that some systems are considered more premium or “high tech” compared to others that have been around for decades, and this will affect cost. Not every roofing material will be appropriate for every application, of course, but you may have some options at different price points to consider. In any event, professional roofing contractors like us here at Heidler Roofing are well-acquainted with accommodating customers’ budget constraints, and we’re happy to work with you.

Getting Ready to Build a New Commercial Building? Planning for Roof Replacement?

Heidler Roofing is your strongest choice in the Mid-Atlantic region for commercial roofing installation. Get in touch with us today to schedule your free estimation experience and discuss your roofing needs with our skilled and knowledgeable team.