When planning to make an upgrade or replacement to a commercial space, one of the most important questions to consider is the lifespan of a commercial roof. With a wide range of materials and climates to consider, the answer may not be an easy one. Fortunately, this article outlines the expected life expectancy of a commercial roof, as well as factors that will influence the life of the roof. Additionally, readers will find answers to frequently asked questions about commercial roofing. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the lifetime of a commercial roof and the different factors that affect it.

Types of Commercial Roofs

Built-up Roof (BUR)

A type of commercial roof also known as a built-up roof (BUR) consists of layers of felt and asphalt that are hot-mopped and layered in multiple overlapping layers with a hot asphalt sealant. The base layers are reinforced with layers of felt, which are then covered with asphalt, a waterproof coating and then either a gravel-like material or a layer of mineral granules for protection. Built-up roofs tend to have a life expectancy of 10-20 years.

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Modified Bitumen Roof

Modified bitumen roofing is similar to built-up roofing system but it is modified with either styrene-butadiene-styrene (SBS) or atactic polypropylene (APP) rubber. It is a relatively new type of roof that has gained popularity in recent years due to its cost efficiency, durable nature, and ease of installation. Modified bitumen roofs can range in lifespan from 15-30 years depending on the conditions they are exposed to.

PVC Roof

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) roofs utilize a single-ply membrane that is constructed of PVC and is heat applied, mechanically fastened, or adhered to the roof deck. This type of roof is highly resistant to weather, chemical exposure, and punctures, making them one of the longer lasting roof types with a life expectancy of 20-30 years.

Metal Roof

Metal roofs are becoming increasingly popular due to their lightweight structure and durability. These roofs are made from steel, aluminum, copper, or other metals and can be engineered in many shapes and designs. With proper care and maintenance, metal roofs can last upwards of 40-50 years.

Spray Foam Roof

Spray foam roofing is one of the most recent innovations in the roofing industry. This type of roof utilizes a mixture of plastics that are applied as a liquid, but quickly expand and harden on the roof. Spray foam roofs are extremely strong and lightweight, making them a great option for commercial spaces. These roofs can last up to 35 years when properly installed and maintained.

Factors Affecting Commercial Roof Life

Sun Exposure

The amount of sun exposure that a roof receives can play an important role in determining its life expectancy. Sunlight can cause roofs to fade and can cause materials to weaken and deteriorate over time. If possible, shading a roof can help to protect it from direct sunlight and help extend its life.

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Climate Conditions

Extreme cold and heat can both contribute to weakening and deterioration of the roof. In cold climates, snow and ice can accumulate on the roof and cause damage, while rain and humidity can also cause damage to a roof. In warmer climates, extreme heat can cause materials to expand and contract, leading to cracking and weakening of the roof. It is important to pick a roof that is designed to withstand the climate in which it will be used.

Weight of Materials

The weight of the material used on the roof is important, as it can have an effect on the structure’s ability to hold up to wind and other elements. For example, a metal roof may be able to withstand higher wind speeds than a PVC roof.


Regular maintenance is key to prolonging the life of a commercial roof. Regular inspections can help to catch minor repairs before they become major issues and can help to prevent water damage. Additionally, making sure the roof is regularly cleaned and the gutters and downspouts are in good condition can help to extend the life of a commercial roof.

People Also Ask

How much does a commercial roof cost?

A commercial roof can cost anywhere from $3-14 per square foot depending on the materials used and the size of the roof.

What is the most common roofing material used?

The most common roofing material used is asphalt shingles, which are relatively affordable and easy to install.

What is the most durable commercial roof?

Metal roofs are generally considered to be the most durable commercial roofing option, with a life expectancy of 40-50 years.

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What happens if a commercial roof is not maintained?

Without proper maintenance and repairs, commercial roofs can quickly become damaged and worn, leading to costly repairs or an early replacement.

Do commercial roofs need to be inspected?

Yes, it is important to have a commercial roof inspected at least once a year to catch any potential issues and ensure it is still functioning properly.

Final Words

With the right roofing material, regular maintenance, and proper inspections, you can make sure that your commercial roof lasts for as long as possible. The life expectancy of a commercial roof will depend on the materials used and the climate it is exposed to. It is important to choose a roof that is designed to withstand the environment it will be exposed to and to keep up with regular inspections and maintenance. By keeping these factors in mind, you can make sure that your commercial roof lasts its full life expectancy.