Choosing The Right Commercial Roof Type

Whether you are making updates to commercial buildings or have new builds in the works, the type of commercial roof you choose can have a big impact on long-term costs. Learn about the best types of commercial roofing materials and the pros & cons of each.

Commercial Roof Types: Comparison Between Flat or Sloped

While flat is the most common commercial roofing material, there is no such thing as a completely flat roof. All types of commercial roofs need to have a gradual slope in the middle or towards the edges to allow for drainage. Without this slope, it would be unrealistic to prevent and remove water and debris build up. When you choose a reliable commercial roofing contractor, they will know that flat roof materials should still be set up with a slight pitch.

Flat Commercial Roofing Systems

Flat roofs are by far the preferred type of roofs on commercial buildings because they are more cost-effective than a sloped roof. Additionally, the size of most commercial buildings would make a pitched roof dangerous or inefficient. Here are some more things to consider when choosing a flat type of roof on a commercial building:


  • Flat roofs are easier to install. Since there’s no steep slopes, there’s less risk and liability to commercial roofing contractors when installing flat roofing materials.
  • There’s less material, so flat roofs are less expensive to install. This is just one of the reasons flat types of roofs on commercial buildings are more cost-effective than a sloped roof.
  • Flat roofs allow for extra storage. Oftentimes, businesses will opt for commercial flat roof materials so they can store their HVAC system on top of the building instead of down below. Keeping these systems out of the way looks nicer for the business front and keeps maintenance and tuneups more discreet.


  • Flat commercial roofs have poor drainage. Like we mentioned, having a slope can help with water run-off and limiting excess water build-up. The pressure from pooled up water over time could lead to a roof leak if gone unnoticed.
  • Debris collection is much more likely on flat roofs. Not only is it harder to spot a miscellaneous item on a flat commercial roofing system, it’s unlikely the debris will fall off on its own, so debris will collect on the roof until it’s cleared.
  • Commercial flat roof materials require more maintenance. Not only will businesses with flat roof types need more maintenance because of water and debris clean-up, commercial roofing contractors will also need to perform maintenance checks to ensure the seals remain watertight to prevent leaks. In addition, some types of commercial roofing materials need to be reapplied to prolong the life of the roof.

Sloped Commercial Roofs

While even flat roofs have the faintest pitch, it’s extremely uncommon for commercial buildings to have a sloped roof similar to what is seen on residential properties. While homeowners prefer these types of roofs for curb appeal, businesses often opt out of sloped types of roofs on commercial buildings. Here’s a few factors to keep in mind when considering a pitched roof:

Pros: Sloped roofs have better drainage and less debris build-up than a flat roof, which means less need for maintenance visits.

Cons: Commercial roofing systems with slopes could be hazardous depending on the incline of the pitch. Even though you’ll need less maintenance, it can be more difficult for commercial roofing contractors to safely work on the roof, making it more expensive to perform routine maintenance.

Choosing Your Commercial Roofing Materials

When checking out various commercial roof types for comparison, many businesses pay close attention to the price differentiation of the various commercial roofing materials, but cost is just one factor to consider when making this large investment. Understanding the expected lifespan of a roof is important to ensure you’re getting the most out of your property investment and you’ll have protection for many years before requiring another roof replacement.

What is the best commercial roofing material?

We recommend investing in commercial roofing systems that are durable and can provide protection for an extended period of time, but there are many things that could determine what’s the best option for your business. Property investors should consider circumstances such as weather, elements, aesthetics, maintenance, if the roof needs to be accessible and more.

What are commercial roofs made of?

Depending on the commercial roof type, flat roofs can be made from rubber, asphalt, spray foam, metal and synthetic materials. Learn more about the various materials used for the different types of roofs on commercial buildings:

Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) Roofing

Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO): The most cost effective option is a single-ply TPO roofing material. This commercial roofing system has strong seams to avoid water leaks but is not as flexible as other materials and seams can wear out in excessive heat. These flat roofs will need to be replaced about every 10-20 years.

Built-Up Roofing Systems (BUR)

Built-Up Roofing Systems (BUR): One of the most common types of commercial roofs are BUR systems. They use alternating layers of reinforcing fabric and asphalt, then have a gravel or stone layer on top. This multiple layer system can provide additional protection for your commercial roof and typically this type of commercial roof will last between 15-20 years.

Modified Bitumen (MB) Roofing

Modified Bitumen (MB): This is an asphalt-based commercial roofing material made for flat and low-slope roofs. This type of commercial roof is quite durable due to its multiple layers and can withstand a wide variety of temperatures. MB roofs have a lifespan of approximately 20 years.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Roofing

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): PVC is a classic flat commercial roofing material with a vinyl membrane. It is UV-resistant and will last well over 25 years, but this type of roof is more expensive than other options.

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM): This option is made of synthetic rubber materials, and it is usually easy for commercial roofing contractors to apply but is not the most attractive type of commercial roof. EPDM is a great affordable option that will last approximately 25-30 years.

Metal Roofing

Metal: Whether you’re interested in a metal roof for a commercial or residential property, its durability depends on the thickness of the material. Thick and sturdy metals will be more expensive, but those types of roofs on commercial buildings can last over 50 years.

Spray Foam: Similar to metal roofs, this commercial roof type’s life expectancy is determined by the thickness of the foam. Spray foam commercial roofing systems can also last longer if recoating maintenance is performed. Spray foam roofing is energy efficient and easy to install, but requires specific weather conditions for installation, so it can be hard to find an ideal time. An investment in a spray foam commercial roof should last well over 50 years.

Our commercial roofing contractors recommend considering the longevity of your investment in mind as well as the cost of installation and maintenance when choosing the best commercial roof type for your properties. While some options may be cost effective initially, it’s important to consider how many years the roof will last and how frequently you’d like to replace your commercial roofing materials.

Reach Out to Our Local Commercial Roofing Contractors

Superstorm Restoration can help you choose the best commercial roofing material for your needs. Our commercial roofing experts in Des MoinesCedar Rapids, or Davenport can help you understand all the important factors to consider for your property and find the best commercial flat roofing materials for your needs. Contact us today to get in touch about protecting your property investment.