What are the Six Most Common Commercial Roofing Materials?

In the United States, six of the most commonly used commercial roofing materials are metal, modified bitumen, single-ply membranes, built-up roofs (BURs), spray polyurethane foam (SPF), and green roofs. As expert Scottsdale roof repair and replacement services will tell you, other materials exist, but these are among the most popular. But what are they, how do they work, and how do you choose between them? Let’s dig into each in turn:


As perhaps the fastest-growing roofing material on the market, metal roofs are becoming ever more popular. Metal roofs can be constructed from aluminum, copper, zinc, steel, or a combination of these materials. Long-lasting and highly durable, they are an ideal choice for climates where severe weather is common. Furthermore, metal roofs are extremely lightweight and require less maintenance than other roofing materials.

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen roofs are constructed from asphalt and reinforced with various polymers. This material is well-suited to many commercial applications, as it is durable, low maintenance, and highly resistant to heat and fire. Modified bitumen also has excellent flexibility characteristics, making it an especially good choice in cold climates where other materials may crack or become brittle.

Single-Ply Membranes

Single-ply membranes are a popular choice for commercial roofs – they are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thermoplastic, or rubber and reinforced with fabric that provides extra strength and stability. Single-ply membranes are resistant to tears, punctures, UV rays, moisture, and extreme temperatures. They are easy to install, and they typically come with a long-term warranty from the manufacturer.

Built-Up Roofs (BURs)

Also known as tar and gravel roofs, built-up roofs (BURs) are constructed in layers of bitumen reinforced with fabric layers, topped off with an aggregate such as asphalt or gravel. BURs are an economical choice, as they can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance. However, they require a great deal of care and upkeep – leaks must be patched immediately and the roof should be inspected regularly.

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF)

Next up, we find spray polyurethane foam (SPF), which is applied in a liquid form and dries to form an insulating layer. SPF is lightweight, flexible, and extremely energy-efficient; it also offers superb protection against water, wind, fire, and UV rays. Normally, this material can last up to 50 years with proper maintenance.

Green Roofs

Finally, we arrive at green roofs – these are roofs that are covered with soil and vegetation, such as grasses, shrubs, or trees. Green roofs provide excellent insulation and can even reduce energy costs in some buildings; they also help to absorb rainfall and add a unique aesthetic appeal to the building. On the downside, green roofs require frequent maintenance due to the potential for water damage and root growth.

Ultimately, the choice of which material to use for your commercial roof is up to you and will depend on factors such as cost, energy efficiency, aesthetics, and maintenance requirements. Be sure to consult with a professional roofing contractor who can provide you with advice and guidance on which material best suits your particular situation.

For example, metal roofs are a great choice in climates with severe weather, while modified bitumen roofs might be the ideal material for cold climates. Single-ply membranes can provide a long-term solution to many commercial roofing applications, while built-up and spray polyurethane foam offer excellent insulation qualities. So long as you choose the right roof for you, you won’t go far wrong!

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