A Beginner’s Guide to Industrial Roofing

There are several aspects of the roofing industry you absolutely must know before even thinking about replacing or repairing your business’s roof on your own. Undertaking a task of this magnitude for the first time can prove to be quite challenging, almost insurmountable, without familiarizing yourself with the common terms and processes of the industry beforehand. In addition to terms and processes, you should also consider a wide range of factors that can impact the integrity of your roof, as well as your wallet, such as your installation budget, future maintenance budget, as well as the climate in your area (which can have a major effect on the previous two factors), etc. Being aware of all aspects of the roofing industry will allow you to make informed and accurate decisions when purchasing materials, as well as properly installing your roof in accordance with the specifics of your area. The following guide should serve as a valuable information source for the basics of industrial roofing.

Basic Types of Industrial Roofing Material

There are a variety of roofing materials and processes that you can use to insulate and protect the top of your business’s building. These types of roofing systems vary in the way they are installed, their material compositions, and how they are secured to your building’s roof. There are three main types of roofing systems: built-up, EPDM, and torch-on.

Built-Up Roofing Systems

Built-up roofing, or BUR, is the most common type of roofing system. BUR systems consist of alternating layers of asphalt and “roofing felt” reinforcing materials that are “built-up” in multiple layers. These layers are commonly referred to as “ply”. After roofers build up the desired number of plies, they then cover the roof with a layer of gravel or other minerals, called a ballast, to secure the built-up layers. Ballasts also protect the roofing system from sun damage, and add an additional layer of insulation.

Multi-ply solutions like BUR provide excellent insulation for your roof but they are heavier than other types of single-ply roofing systems. BUR solutions may require you to reinforce your roof’s frame so it can bear the load of the various layers.

EPDM Systems

Ethylene propylene diene monomer, or EPDM, is a synthetic rubber roofing material used in low-sloping or flat industrial roofs. EPDM comes in premade sheets, or more commonly in rolls. EPDM roofing systems use overlapping single-ply layers of EPDM that a roofer secures in place with a bonding cement, ballasts, or mechanical fasteners. These rubber layers act as a water-tight seal for your roof.

EPDM systems are becoming more and more popular because they are lightweight and do not require heat to install. This makes them a natural choice amongst do-it-yourselfers. However, if you are considering installing an industrial roof by yourself, for the first time, you may want to have professionals install EPDM because it is prone to failing quickly when installed incorrectly.

Torch-On Systems

Torch-on systems use a light-weight rubber membrane that has been modified with special weatherized asphalt to improve its water-proofing benefits. Like EPDM systems, these systems also come in premade rolls. A roofer uses a torch to heat the entire surface of the membrane as he or she rolls it out and adheres it in place.

A roofer can apply these systems over an existing roof to reinforce it, or they can be applied as a new roofing system. These systems are able to expand in the heat, as well as contract in colder conditions, making it the perfect material for climates that consist of both extremes. This helps protect them from seasonal changes and keeps them from cracking and splitting.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Industrial Roofing Material

Material Durability & Required Maintenance

The durability of your roofing system depends on the type of material you use. EPDM systems commonly last for 20-30 years with little to no required maintenance. Built-up roofing systems hold up well after many years of use, but they require more maintenance than EPDM systems. Torch-on systems are known for their resiliency in extreme weather conditions.

Cost of Installation

EPDM systems cost more to install upfront than built-up or torch-on systems. Built-up systems are the cheapest initially, but tend to require more upkeep down the road. Balance your budget priorities between your short- and long-term goals when making your decision.

Material Colour

Choosing the right colour for your business’s roof comes down to the climate you live in. Businesses in colder climates often choose dark-coloured roofs because they absorb heat from the sun and help insulate your building. This keeps heat in and lowers heating costs.

In warmer climates, businesses opt for a light-coloured or highly reflective roof to keep heat away from their building, which leads to savings on the cost of cooling. Beyond these considerations, many businesses simply choose a roof that complements the look of the building.

Keep these factors in mind when you speak to your roofing contractor. Make a list of things that you feel are the most important for your business’s new roof and use your new knowledge of roofing terminology to communicate your business’s goals clearly. If you have not selected a roofing contractor yet, call your local roofing specialists to ask about their offerings and get a quote for service.