The lifespan of a commercial roof, in part, depends on the type of roof covering installed and the weather conditions it endures. While many commercial roofs can last 10-40 years, three major factors will determine the longevity of your roofing system. They include weather, style of roof, and roofing material.

The choice of roofing materials is often the major determinant of the lifespan of a commercial roof. Common roofing materials for flat roofs include PVC roofing systems, EPDM, TPO, Modified Bitumen, and Built-Up Roofing. Here is a quick look at the life expectancy of each of these roofing materials.

1. Built-Up Roofing

Built-up roofing (or BUR) is a common roofing system for commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. It works well on flat or low-sloped roofs and comprises multiple layers of bitumen and ply sheets.

The major components of a BUR system include Roof Deck, Vapor Retardant, Membrane, Insulation, and Surfacing Material. BUR roofs typically last about 20 to 30 years, but you can maximize the lifespan by regular inspection and repair, and keeping debris off the roof to prevent surface degradation.


  • Proven reliability
  • Multi-Layer Protection
  • Thermal Performance
  • Fire and Uplift Resistance
  • Excellent protection against water, inclement weather, and UV rays
  • Low maintenance costs throughout its lifetime
  • The gravel in BUR roofing makes it extremely resistant to normal foot traffic


  • The installation process is slow and labor-intensive because of the many layers and materials involved
  • BUR emits potentially hazardous fumes and vapors
  • The roofing assembly is extremely heavy
  • BUR is not flexible in cold temperatures and can be susceptible to damage

2. PVC Roofing

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) roofs come with a higher upfront installation cost, but their energy efficiency and fire redundancy make them highly cost-effective. This flat roofing system can endure up to 22-30 years, or more.

In the event of fire outbreaks, the PVC membranes self-extinguish, making them suited for buildings located in areas prone to wildfires.


  • Excellent resistance to chemicals
  • Strong and highly durable due to fiberglass reinforcement
  • Excellent seams that are heat welded
  • White color reflects sunlight to enhance energy efficiency
  • Lightweight and easy to install


  • Requires complete removal of the old roof to successfully install
  • The installation process is complex and requires experienced hands
  • Problems often crop up after 10 years, requiring regular maintenance and repairs
  • Susceptible to shattering and punctures in cold weather

3. TPO – Thermoplastic Polyolefin Roofing

TPO roofing systems offer impressive UV-resistance and handle heat pretty well. Overall, TPO is the most economical flat roofing material for commercial buildings.

TPO also saves you money in electricity bills due to its high energy efficiency. The life expectancy of TPO roofing is about 22 to 30 years.


  • Strong and durable due to fiberglass reinforcement
  • Excellent seams, heat welded
  • White color effectively reflects sunlight, enhancing energy efficiency
  • Superior puncture resistance
  • Energy Star rated
  • The smooth membrane remains clean for longer


  • Being a relatively new roofing material, TPO is still subject to pitfalls
  • Extreme heat can increase the risk of cracks in the material, busted seams, and leaks
  • Prone to crazing and deterioration

4. EPDM Rubber Roofing

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) is a popular membrane roofing system consisting of plastic and rubber formulations. It is a synthetic rubber sheet that is sometimes used as a pond liner.

EPDM roofing systems are composed of a layer of insulation board with a top layer of rubber. It is mostly loose-laid and held in place with ballast, such as masonry pavers or river rock. With proper maintenance, EPDM roofing systems typically last 22-35 years.


  • Repairs are relatively easy and inexpensive
  • The roofing material is lightweight, so the deck doesn’t need reinforcement
  • Leaks are very rare
  • EPDM roofs retain heat better


  • Roof penetrations, such as chimneys, pipes, and HVAC systems can make installation more difficult and costly
  • Roof penetrations can be an easy source of leaks if not properly flashed
  • Falling tree branches and heavy foot traffic can puncture the roofing membrane, causing leaks
  • Seams between membrane sheets are usually common areas for leaks

5. Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen roofing systems are lighter-weight alternatives to BUR. The installation process is also less messy and utilizes less heat, not to mention minimal smell as compared to BUR.

Modified bitumen is relatively flexible and comprises of an asphalt-based membrane with minimal top coatings. It comes as rolled sheets, topically 3-feet in width and up to 36 feet in length.


  • Good resistance to foot traffic, puncture, and tear
  • Can be applied through hot, asphalt, and adhesive methods
  • Flexible, making the installation easy
  • Excellent chemical resistance
  • Much simpler to install than BUR
  • Most BUR materials are recyclable


  • Some installation techniques utilize open flames, which calls for special skills and safety considerations
  • Generally less attractive than BUR topped with river rock or gravel
  • Overlapping joints must be correctly adhered to prevent leaks

Work with a Local Commercial Roofing Contractor

Regular maintenance and repairs can significantly prolong the life expectancy of your commercial roof regardless of the weather, roofing material, or style of roof. The quality of the installation will also determine how long your roofing system lasts.

Perfection Roofing has several years of experience installing, maintaining, repairing, and replacing commercial roofs in Tulsa. Contact us today to schedule a free inspection or to get a quote for any roofing service.