Flat vs Pitched Roofs for Commercial Buildings

Flat vs Pitched Roofs for Commercial Buildings

Unlike most houses, commercial buildings may be covered by either a flat or a pitched roof. A pitched roof is the obvious choice for houses since it allows for the run-off of water and debris, but in many cases, a commercial building will be better off with a flat roof. 

If you’re currently building or remodeling a commercial building, you may need to choose whether to cover it with a flat or pitched roof. The information in this article can help you decide which is the right choice for your building.

Cost-Effectiveness of a Flat vs. a Pitched Roof

For the most part, commercial buildings have flat roofs because flat roofs are far more cost-effective. Flat roofs are easier to build and easier to design, especially across a large area of space. A pitched roof isn’t just expensive and more complicated. It can be unfeasible for very large warehouses, malls, and big-box stores. Pitched roofs have more components, need to be designed more rigorously, and otherwise require a lot more work. 

Utility of a Flat vs. a Pitched Roof

A flat roof will often have HVAC systems and other essential maintenance components on top. These systems will be protected and have easy stairwell access. Pitched roofs are more difficult to use for these purposes. A pitched roof is going to need to have different roofing material (such as shingles vs. gravel) and will not have anywhere for this type of equipment to sit. For many businesses, it’s preferable to have the HVAC systems coming from above. 

Maintenance of a Flat vs. a Pitched Roof

Challenges with a flat roof start to arise when it comes to issues such as snow. Snow can build on flat roofs easily. Drainage has to be carefully monitored so that water doesn’t build up. Thus, flat roofs introduce many long-term maintenance issues because debris, water, and other materials can build up on top of the roof. Pitched roofs are popular specifically because they allow for run-off (as well as create an air gap between the property and the outside elements and temperatures).

If properly maintained, however, flat roofs can last a long time and can easily protect buildings from the elements.

Roofing Materials for a Flat vs. a Pitched Roof

For flat roofs, many roofs are covered with a roll-out material that is then sealed and waterproofed. Flat roofs can be reroofed very quickly as these materials can also be rolled out over prior roofs. Roofs are often covered with gravel as well for additional protection. For pitched roofs, they are often roofed just the same as homes. They may have asphalt roofs, metal roofs, or other low-maintenance, long-lasting, and durable designs.

Flat roofs are going to cost less to reroof because the materials involved are more affordable and because the process itself is faster — there is less labor involved. Pitched roofs will likely cost more to reroof because of the materials and labor. Today, there are flat roofing materials that can last much longer than traditional asphalt shingles.

Special Considerations for Roofs

Depending on where someone lives, commercial spaces may take into consideration the color of their roofing in addition to whether it’s flat or pitched. Light colors are often used in areas where it’s very hot, whereas dark colors can be used in areas where it’s very cold. 

Many building owners today use flat roofs with solar panels. While solar panels can, of course, be used on pitched roofs as well, they are very effective on flat terrain. Solar panels can be used to run the building’s HVAC system and provide electricity for other purposes.

In fact, flat roofs are often considered to be the sustainable option today. In part, this is because flat roofs can also be used for things like roof-top gardens, or they can be used to install features like break areas for employees. So there are additional considerations when it comes to the functionality of flat roofs.

When choosing roofs, it’s important to remember that a flat roof can effectively become another floor.

Choosing Between a Flat Roof and a Pitched Roof

For the most part, commercial buildings are going to have flat roofs. After a certain size, it simply becomes very difficult to create a pitched roof for a structure. A flat roof can be installed and maintained economically, even if it does require more maintenance when it comes to bad weather.

But for smaller commercial spaces, a pitched roof may be better. A commercial space that’s about the size of a home could benefit from a pitched roof because of the lower weather maintenance requirements.

Are you still not sure what type of roof is best for your commercial structure? Contact the experts at Alpine Sheet Metal Systems to find out more. We specialize in crafting parts for metal roofs and installing many different kinds of commercial roofing materials throughout Dallas/Fort Worth. We’ll give you expert advice and get to work on your new commercial roofing.

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About Jeff Folsom

Jeff Folsom is the founder and president of Alpine Sheet Metal Systems, a key player in North Texas’s commercial construction sector, specializing in roofing and architectural design. He also leads Alpine Roofing Construction and Alpine Thermal Imaging Systems, expanding his influence across the U.S. Residing in Dallas, Jeff enjoys travel, auto racing, and boating in his free time.

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