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Your Guide to Built-Up vs. Metal Commercial Roofing

Commercial properties have different roofing needs than residential properties because commercial roofs tend to be larger and are typically flat (as opposed to sloped). Two common options for commercial roofing are metal and built up roofing systems.

Built up roofing consists of many layers of asphalt and fabric membranes laid on top of each other. A layer of gravel sits on top that helps protect the asphalt from weather damage.

In contrast, metal roofing consists of a single layer of roofing material (metal). For commercial properties, metal roofing comes in large panels, which you can divide into two general categories – exposed fastener and standing seam.

Exposed fastener metal roofing panels have the screws that hold the panels in a place exposed to the elements. Standing seam metal roofs, instead, cover the edge where two metal panels meet.

Understanding the significant differences between metal and built up roofing makes it easier for you to figure out which is the best fit for your commercial property.

Pros and Cons of Installing a Built Up Roof (BUR)

Built up roofing’s first layer of fabric is often fastened to the structure of the roof itself, and then covered with alternating layers of asphalt membranes and more fabric. These layers “build up” a roof, with usually three to five layers used for a BUR system.

With this particular type of roofing system, there are no seams between layers, no fasteners, or other weak spots that typically fail.

Built up roofs also do not need a great deal of upkeep to stay in good condition. Normal weather conditions will not shift the top layer of gravel or rock, which protects the asphalt underneath from harm.

However, if a strong storm does remove the top layer, you need to replace it quickly. Direct sunlight can lead to blistering of the asphalt membrane, ultimately causing damage and leaks into the interior of your property.

One small downside is that built up roof installation does tend to take longer than other systems. (because of the multiple layers needed to complete the job).

Further, the weight of built-up roofing means that your roof needs the necessary structural support to hold it up. If your roof is too weak for built-up roofing, the installation cost will increase. Installing a built-up roof on a weak structure can lead to collapse or physical damage.

Pros and Cons of Installing a Metal Roof

Metal roofs can either have their fasteners exposed or covered by standing seams. Metal panels that have their fasteners exposed tend to be lighter, less expensive and larger, which can help reduce the installation time and keep costs low.

However, exposed fasteners on a metal roof can make leaks more common. While many roofing screws are galvanized or have a rubber cover, they can still rust or shift over time.

Standing seam roofing panels protect your fasteners and keep water away, making leaks much less likely. They also provide a cleaner appearance, with a sleek, modern look, and come in virtually any color, which can improve the curb appeal of your property.

However, standing seam metal panels are more expensive than their exposed fastener counterparts. They also take longer to install, which can increase labor costs.

Beyond those differences, both types of metal roofing offer distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to built-up roofing. Metal roofs that are reflective or painted in a light color can reflect sunlight, keeping your property cool throughout the summer and reducing energy bills.

You can also choose metal roofing that is made from recycled materials. (Aluminum and steel are among the most common recycled metals.) Choosing sustainably sourced roofing materials can be beneficial for your business, allowing you to reduce your ecological footprint.

Despite the large size of all types of metal roofing panels, the installation of a new roof is not something that professional roofers can install in a day. It’s better to schedule your metal roofing installation in advance. Pick a time of year when the weather is moderate so that the installation is relatively simple.

Metal roofing varies significantly in price. Your metal roof’s exact cost depends on the type of metal you use and the thickness or gauge that you choose. For example, copper is much more expensive than aluminum or steel.

Finally, you should consider the noise associated with metal roofing. Hail and rain can be quite loud on metal roofing, which can be distracting inside your commercial space – especially for offices. Sound can be buffered by adding extra insulation under your roof, but extra insulation will add to the overall cost.

Installing a New Roof on Your Commercial Property

For any questions or inquiries, you may have about installing a new metal or built up roof on your commercial property, feel free to contact us at any time. We have a long history of working in the commercial roofing industry and can help you choose the best type of roofing material for your property’s specific needs.