Warehouse Roofing Materials Guide

Warehouse Roofing Materials Guide

The roof of a commercial warehouse needs to be long-lasting and robust. Choosing the right industrial roofing material is vital to protect the structure and the goods stored inside. Thankfully, there are many fantastic warehouse roofing materials available today. These have been designed to offer long-term protection, even against the harshest weather conditions. Below you’ll learn more about the different kinds of materials that are best for both pitched and flat roof warehouses.

Table of Contents

Pitched Roofing Materials

Felt Shingles

Also known as bitumen or asphalt shingles, felt roof shingles incorporate a bitumen-covered base with a protective top layer of ceramic granules. The base mat will either be constructed using fibreglass or organic material. Although both variations are suitable for smaller-scale warehouse roofing, there are a few differences between the two that need to be considered.

Benefits of Felt Shingles

  • Easy to Install & Replace

Thanks to their lightweight, easy to cut structure, asphalt shingles are pretty straightforward to install with only minimal preparation and no specialist equipment required. Installation is times are relatively quick, plus in some cases, you also have the option of layering the shingles on top of existing material to cut fitting times down even further.

If ever damaged, felt shingles can be easily swapped one shingle at a time without the need to tear down and re-install the entire structure.

  • Inexpensive

In comparison to most other warehouse roofing materials, felt shingles are one of the most affordable and cost-effective to buy and install. They are a budget-friendly, yet high-quality option that are perfect for minimising costs in industrial projects.

  • Choice of Styles & Colours

Available in a variety of styles and colours, felt shingles create a clean and professional-looking finish, coordinating stylishly with a multitude of buildings. There are also now  lighter colours such as white on the market, which are designed to reflect heat and keep the building below cooler in warm temperatures.

  • Fire Resistant

Many felt roof shingles offer great fire resistance, with some lasting up to two hours before catching fire. This protection is enhanced further when installed with a fire-resistant underlayment.

  • Low Maintenance

Felt roofing shingles are generally pretty low maintenance and require only occasional routine cleaning to maintain the condition of the roof structure. Most felt shingles are also thought to be resistant to algae which is often a root cause of damage in other roofing materials.

Drawbacks of Felt Shingles

  • Vulnerable to Weathering

In very harsh and stormy weather conditions, the protective layer of ceramic granules which coats the shingles can become dislodged, leaving the roof structure weakened and vulnerable to further damage. Extremely strong winds can even cause the shingles to detach completely, leaving gaps and holes for water to leak through. 

  • Shorter Lifespan

Felt shingles have a typical lifespan of around 20 years. Although practical for shorter term roofing installation on residential properties, this reduced longevity may not be suitable for industrial warehouses that require roofing protection for decades.

  • Restricted Installation Conditions

It is generally not recommended to install felt shingles in cold winter weather, especially when temperatures reach below freezing. This is because the shingles can be subject to damage in these very cold conditions. These installation restrictions put a limit on the appropriate times for installation which may cause delays and impracticalities during an industrial construction project.

  • Susceptible to Cracking

Due to their very lightweight structure, felt shingles are more susceptible to cracking and splitting, especially during extreme temperature fluctuations. Major temperature changes cause the shingles to expand and contract which in turn leads to cracking and damage.

Metal Roofing

There are a multitude of different metal materials suitable for warehouse roofing construction including steel, aluminium, and zinc. These materials are available as both metal roof sheets and metal roof tiles. Metal is commonly utilised throughout the industry for its impressive longevity, top durability, and industrial look.

Benefits of Metal Roofing

  • Very Long-lasting & Durable

When correctly installed, metal roofing can last anywhere from up to 40-50 years. During this time it provides robust and hard-wearing protection against high winds, heavy storms, deep snows, mildew, insects, and rot. This exceptional durability is what makes a metal roof so practical for industrial warehouses in need of a reliable, long-term roofing solution.

  • Lightweight

Despite its impressive durability, metal roofing is actually pretty lightweight which makes for far easier transportation, handling, and installation. This reduced weight also helps you minimise costs for engineering and the construction of the supporting structure.

  • Energy Efficient

As metal roofing reflects solar radiant heat as opposed to absorbing it, cooling costs can be reduced by up to 25% in the hot summer months. This means you save on energy bills whilst regulating temperature in the warehouse below for more comfortable working and storage conditions.

  • Fire Resistant

In the event of a fire or lightning strike, metal roofing provides excellent fire resistance with most metal roofing materials considered to be an Assembly-Rated Class A.

Metal roofing helps to minimise the spread and reduce damage, so is ideal for warehouses in wild-fire prone areas.

  • Eco-Friendly

Most metal roofing materials are constructed using anywhere from 25% up to 95% recycled content, making them highly sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Metal roofing also doesn’t contribute to landfill waste as it is 100% recyclable itself at the end of its lifespan.

Drawbacks of Metal Roofing

  • Expensive

Costing on average around two to three times more than asphalt shingles, metal roofing is pretty pricey. When used in large scale industrial warehouse projects, metal roof materials will add up to a considerable total cost but may be considered worthwhile in the long-run because of how long they last.

  • Noisy

Although some types are noisier than others, it’s no secret that metal roofs can get pretty loud when exposed to heavy rain or hailstorms. To minimise sound transmission, additional layers of sheathing or insulation can be installed, although this will entail a further cost to the project.

  • Prone to Denting

Although constructed to withstand years of harsh weathering and wear, metal roofing can be susceptible to denting if hit at heavy impact by large pieces of hail or debris. Some metals such as aluminium and copper are softer than others such as steel, which makes them more vulnerable to dents, even caused by simply walking across the roof surface.

  • Tricky to Repair

When installed in large sheets, metal roofing can be quite challenging to repair as full panels will need to be removed and replaced. Finding replacement sheets that perfectly match the shade of the existing roofing can also be pretty difficult as you will want to avoid having one section of the structure that looks different in colour to the rest.

Flat Roof Materials

EPDM

EPDM is a popular single-ply roofing material used on flat and low-slope industrial roof structures. Due to its excellent strength and durability, EPDM has quickly become the go-to flat roofing option for residential and commercial structures alike. What’s more, as it’s installed in a single sheet with no seams, it’s highly resistant to leaks.

Benefits of EPDM Roofing

Robust & Long-Lasting

Incredibly strong and highly weather resistant, EPDM offers an excellent standard of protection and strength for warehouse roofing. Constructed with durability in mind, EPDM can easily withstand harsh winds and heavy storms without breaking, splitting, or puncturing. It offers a long service life when correctly maintained with only very minimal repairs required during the total lifespan.

  • Resistant to Chemicals

Able to withstand frequent exposure to chemical compounds without damage, EPDM roofing is ideal for warehouses housing or releasing harsh chemicals. It can also withstand animal fat contaminants from grease vents so can also be used for industrial buildings that use grease and oil to produce food.

  • Resistant to Fire

As well as chemicals, EPDM material is also highly resistant to fire with most types meeting the requirements for a Class A fire rating. The structure incorporates specialist chemicals which allow the material to be self-extinguishing.

  • Resistant to UV Rays

EPDM is also resistant to UV radiation, protecting the roof structure from damage inflicted by heavy UV exposure. The light coloured surface reflects the sun rays which in turn reduces cooling costs and lessens the internal temperature of the warehouse below.

  • Eco-Friendly

The heat reflective properties of EPDM are great for lessening the ‘heat island’ effect which often occurs in built-up urban areas. It is also a recyclable material so won’t end up on landfill at the end of its lifespan.

Drawbacks of EPDM

  • Higher Costs

In comparison to other flat roof alternatives such as GRP or PVC, EPDM is the more expensive option. However, in relation to its lifespan, the initial price is generally worth it for the durability and protection EPDM membranes provide.

  • Less Practical in Cold Temperatures

The bottom line is EPDM does not work well in very cold conditions. At too low of a temperature, EPDM becomes weak and brittle, cracking easily when walked on. If the warehouse is located in an area exposed to a high amount of very chilly weather, EPDM probably won’t be the most practical option.

Built-Up Roofing

Built-up roofing incorporates multiple layers of bitumen sheet which are bonded together by use of adhesive or hot bitumen. The bitumen layers are applied one on top of the other, with the final layer added as crushed rocks or gravel. Most modern roofing structures also incorporate a rigid insulation layer with the sheets above reinforced with fibreglass or organic matts.

Benefits of Built-Up Roofing

  • Long Lifespan

With a built-up roof typically lasting around 5 years per layer, you can easily reach a lifespan of around 20-30 years. This is ideal for industrial warehouses in need of long-term durability and protection.

  • Impact Resistant

Providing fantastic impact resistance, built-up roofs help to protect the roofing structure from falling debris, heavy hail and pecking birds. Everyday wear is minimised which means less yearly damage and less repairs.

  • Installable in all Conditions

When cold applied, built-up roofs can be installed all year round with no dependence on temperature. As cold applied bitumen acts more as an adhesive, heat isn’t required to secure which means that cold, winter temperatures are suitable for the laying process.

  • UV Resistant

Built-up roofing systems are highly resistance to UV radiation, with the aggregate layer creating a protective barrier for the underlayers below.  

  • Fire Resistant

Although not fireproof, built-up roofs do provide a practical level of fire resistance. Any sparks or ash that may fall onto roof in the event of a fire, will land on the aggregate layer which shields the layers below and minimises the risk of the roof catching ablaze.

  • Low Maintenance & Easily Repairable

One of the biggest advantages to built-up roofing is just how easy it is to maintain. Once installed, you can pretty much leave the roof to do its job, bar a few minor repairs and the addition of extra gravel when needed. If repairs are required, most are easy to fix, simply by cutting away the damaged membrane layers and replacing as needed.

  • Traction

The top layer of gravel incorporated into the built-up system provides enhanced grip and traction, even in cold, icy weather. This makes it far easier and safe to move across the roof surface for maintenance or repairs.

Drawbacks of Built-Up Roofing

  • Hard to Spot Leakages

Whilst repairs are generally pretty straightforward, spotting them in the first place can be a little tricker. As there are no seams incorporated into the built-up system, you will need to remove the gravel layer to check the tar-layer beneath for possible structural issues. This can make simply checking for damages, a pretty time-consuming and sometimes costly process.

  • Heavy Roof

Whilst tar and gravel is not as heavy, built-up systems incorporating ballast can be significantly heavier dependant on the volume of rocks installed. This means additional structural support may be required to hold the weight, inducing further costs into the roofing budget.

  • Difficult to Install

Not only do built-up roofs take a long time to install, but the process can also be dangerous if carried out by an unexperienced roofer. As bitumen heats up, it produces hazardous fumes which should not be inhaled by anyone working on the roof.

  • Wind

During very strong windstorms, rocks and gravel may be blown from the roof and carried to other parts of the buildings or nearby structures, causing damage.

  • More at Risk of Mould

A fundamental element of flat roofing systems is adequate drainage. This helps to minimise moisture build-up and therefore reduce the risk of mould. Sometimes loose gravel can clog up the drainage system, holding the moisture and making the roof more at risk of moulding.

To Conclude

There are many viable warehouse roofing materials on the market today. We hope our blog has given you an insight into the pros and cons of some of the most popular options. If you’re on the hunt to roof or clad your own warehouse, why not take a look at our range of industrial roofing materials?

For any extra help in finding the right products for the job, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly customer service team who will be more than happy to help. Simply give them a call on 01295 565565, email [email protected], or leave a message in the handy live chat.