Blue color roof

The Ultimate Guide to Commercial Roofing

If you own or manage a commercial building – a retail outlet, restaurant, distribution center/warehouse, or even a light manufacturing facility – you are also responsible for a commercial roofing system. This important structure may not always be top of mind, however.

When commercial roofs are performing as they should and protecting your business from extreme weather and the elements, they don’t typically command much attention from a building’s occupants, but unfortunately, your roof could have problems you don’t know about. Preventative maintenance (including regular, thorough inspections) is the answer to keeping your commercial roof from becoming a major frustration for your business operations.

Here at Heidler Roofing, we’re dedicated to installing the best commercial roofing systems, as well as keeping all types of commercial roofs protected over time so your business can thrive. We’re the most capable professional roofing contractor in the Mid-Atlantic region, and we want you to think of our name whenever you think of your flat or low-sloped commercial roof, whether your building is located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, or Washington, D.C.

For that reason, we’re starting a new post series here on the blog to show you everything you need to know about commercial roofing, from what types of roofing systems are best to how you can begin a career in the industry yourself. We invite you to stop back often to browse our newest post chapters as we roll them out in the coming months.

To begin, we’re diving into a few frequently asked questions about commercial roofing.

Common Commercial Roofing FAQs

Commercial building owners and managers, as well as others curious about our industry, have a lot of questions about the materials we use to build commercial roofs, the performance of various systems, and what different technical terms mean.

Curious about some of the questions we hear most often? We’ve got the answers you’re looking for.

How long should a commercial roof last?

As with most things in life, the short answer to this question is, “it depends.” It’s true that no two commercial roofs are exactly alike, even if they’re made from similar materials. This is because no two commercial buildings or businesses are identical, and the daily activities that take place in your unique business can affect your roof and its lifespan.

For example, if you run a busy restaurant, you likely discharge oil and fat residues from cooking through your ventilation system, which is often located on your building’s roof. If your roof is not made with a thermoplastic membrane material like TPO or PVC that is highly resistant to these substances, you could be damaging your roof – and shortening its lifespan – without even realizing it.

Different roofing materials have different average lifespans, usually between about 10 and 50 years. Typically, single-ply membrane systems (TPO and PVC mentioned above, as well as EPDM), which are some of the most popular for flat roof installations today, are made to last from between 15-30 years.

Additional factors affect your roof’s health and lifespan, too. These include the climate and weather conditions common to your location and whether your roof was installed correctly to begin with. Want to be sure that your roof has the longest possible life? Seasonal inspections and maintenance will be necessary.

What are commercial roofs made of?

As we already touched on, many flat commercial roofs today are made with single-ply membranes, which are highly durable and often feature energy-saving properties that older systems did not.

In addition to TPO, PVC, and EPDM membrane systems, your commercial building’s roof may also be made from:

  • BUR/asphalt – Built-up Roofing, commonly referred to as BUR, uses layers of different materials to achieve durability and waterproofness. BUR is a continuous and semi-flexible membrane that consists of felt or fabric plies alternated with layers of other materials like tar/bitumen and aggregate.
  • Metal – Steel and aluminum are the metals used most often in commercial roofing due to their cost-effectiveness, though these materials may be coated with compounds containing other metals, as well. This material is often considered the most environmentally friendly commercial roofing option.
  • Less-common materials – Though unlikely, your commercial roof may incorporate garden or green roof elements with plants that are intentionally grown on your roof, or you may have a combination of materials/systems. If your business is located in a historic building, you may even have a specialty roof.

How do I choose the best type of roof for my commercial building?

It’s important to remember that the type of roof your commercial building has matters, and it is possible to have the wrong type of roof for your particular business. (See our restaurant example above.)

An honest, professional commercial roofing contractor can help you determine whether your current roof is best serving your building and business’s needs.

While it’s not likely that you will decide to totally replace your building’s current roof simply because it isn’t an ideal type, skilled roofers can help you get the most wear and best performance out of the roof you have in place. This may involve making repairs or installing protective roof coatings, or it may just mean helping you stay alert for problems over time.

My commercial building’s roof is leaking, what should I do?

First, don’t panic – but don’t ignore the leak either. Small leaks can grow and cause extensive damage to both your building’s structure and contents surprisingly quickly. And when water has begun to actually leak into the interior of your building, the situation on the roof is often bad, as we discussed in our previous post about determining when it’s time to contact your roofing contractor.

Here at Heidler Roofing, our Leak Squad roofing response team has the tools and expertise to stop leaks in their tracks. At the first sign of a leak, it’s always best to call your professional roofing contractor.


Chapter 1: Commercial Roofing Careers

Learn more about what it takes to be a commercial roofer. For hardworking individuals who would rather be spending their days outside instead of sitting in a classroom or office, roofing can be a rewarding career. We’ll be taking a closer look at what becoming a commercial roofing expert entails.

Chapter 2: Commercial Roof Types: What to Know About Different Systems

As we’ve often discussed here on the blog, there’s more to commercial roofing materials and systems than just white or lighter colored roofs vs. black, non-reflective ones. A wide range of different materials and systems are available to choose from when installing a new commercial roof or refurbishing your existing roof.

Chapter 3: All About Commercial Roof Installation

Customers who are interested in installing new commercial roofs often have questions about the timeline, cost, and the work that actually goes into the installation. We’ll offer a closer look at what the process entails for various types of roofing.

Chapter 4: Preventative Maintenance and How it Helps Keep Your Roof in Shape

Another frequent topic we raise on the blog is the importance of preventative maintenance, including thorough roof inspections, for ensuring the longevity of your commercial building’s roof. Learn more about why maintenance matters.

Chapter 5: Is It Time for Replacement or Can Your Commercial Roof be Repaired?

We’ll discuss when it makes sense to tear a roof off and totally replace it versus making repairs to fix leaks and other problems. Roof restoration is sometimes an option for commercial roofs that require extensive repairs, a process that can consist of installing coatings or adding layers to BUR systems. Professional roofing contractors can help you weigh your options and balance cost and other concerns.

Need an Experienced Commercial Roofing Contractor Right Away?

If you have more questions about commercial roofing or need immediate help with stopping a leak in your building’s roof, Heidler Roofing is your strongest choice in the Mid-Atlantic region. Get in contact with us today and experience our legendary service.