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7 Tips for Making Your Commercial Roof Stand the Test of Time

Posted by Marion McKnight on October 5, 2017

Commercial Roof

Roofing professionals will tell you that roof lifespans are typically based on averages. This is a function of location. But some materials will outperform others in any given place. The following guidelines are designed to help you make your roof perform to the very best of its potential, no matter where it may be.

Proper design

There can be no doubt that sizing structural members properly, carefully considering penetration details, and even choosing the right roof type at the beginning of a project can add many years of longevity to your roof.

Proper ventilation

Even commercial roofs need good ventilation. Allowing for a good air flow at the roof level not only helps your roof stay cooler in the summer and again warmer in the winter, ventilation also helps to prevent moisture and therefore mold from collecting in the roofing materials. Choosing the right HVAC engineer will help ensure that you are planning carefully for air flow and will also extend the life of your roofing materials past average lifespan.

Regular maintenance

We often take maintenance for granted but it is another aspect of caring for your roof that you cannot ignore. Almost all commercial roofs demand some degree of upkeep, accessibility, and organization to keep HVAC systems running smoothly. All roofs require the occasional repair. The better you plan, the easier your roof maintenance can be.

Picking the right material and method

These days there are many types of commercial roofs, and the vast array of choices can be confusing. Choosing the right roof is usually a question of carefully weighing location and climate, cost, and lifespan. Built up roofs (BUR) make good sense in flat applications, but they are more suitable for regions with very little rain. Today the complexity of these choices is significantly compounded by sustainability. One must consider the energy savings payback a particular roof system will provide over its lifetime and if there are any sustainability incentives that you many stand to gain.

Average Lifespan

Of course certain roof types will last longer because of the durability and the inherent quality of some materials. Many of these roof types, particularly the single ply membranes, are now available in more light reflective colors or laminates. Ask your supplier what your options are:

  • Metal roofs should be expected to last around 40 to 50 years
  • Spray foam roofs (SPF) can last 50 years or more
  • Green roofs can last anywhere from 30 to 50 years
  • Blue roofs are expected to last 35 years
  • Concrete tile roofs can last 50 years or more
  • Ethylene propylene diene monomer single ply membrane (EPDM), rubber roof used in low slope applications, can last 10 to 40 years
  • Poly vinyl chloride single ply membrane (PVC), most popular of the flat roof materials, can last 10 to 50 years
  • Thermoplastic polyolefin single ply membrane (TPO) can last 15 to 30 years or more
  • Modified bitumen (MOD BIT) roofs are expected to last 10 to 25 years
  • A 5-ply built up roof (BUR) should last 25 years, depending on the number of plys
  • Lightweight insulating concrete (or cellular) roof decks typically last 30 years or more

Embrace sustainability and energy saving initiatives

Some cities, counties, and jurisdictions offer very attractive green initiatives for building cool, green, or blue roofs, that coupled with the energy savings they provide can offset some of the upfront cost of going green.

Know the warranty

There are many types of roofing warranties, usually one for defects in the actual materials and another for workmanship. Make sure you are working with a reputable company that is going to take care of you over the long haul.

The roof design of any given commercial building is one of the most important investments an owner can make, almost as important as its foundation. In most locations, the quality and the maintenance of the roof construction can significantly alter energy savings or loss, not to mention the comfort of the building users. Consulting with experts and taking care to do all the research necessary upfront to plan for the lifespan of your roof will allow you to get the best value for your money.

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