Understanding Different Types of Roofs

Understanding Different Types of Roofs

Commercial- and residential roofs have three core differences: roof design, choice of materials, and installation requirements. Here is how those differences change the approach to commercial- and residential roofing projects:

Roof Design

The most obvious difference between commercial and residential roofs is their design.


Commercial roofs are designed with either a very low slope or entirely flat. These types of roofs are often seen on warehouses, shops, restaurants, and factories. 


Commercial roofs also tend to be much larger than a typical residential roof. They are also much stronger because they often must bear heavy items, such as large HVAC blowers or industrial pipes. Their surface is often broken up with multiple openings for equipment, such as blower outlets, smokestacks, and skylights.


Residential roofs tend to have higher pitches than commercial roofs. They are also smaller than commercial roofs in most cases. The surface usually has nothing sitting directly on it. Roof openings are minimal, usually including chimneys, vent stacks, and skylights.

Roofing Materials

The materials used for both types of roofs vary based on the roof design, cost, and climate conditions. It’s important to hire a commercial roofer who can determine what materials should be used on a particular roof.


For residential properties, the most popular roofing material is asphalt shingles. They install easily and are one of the most cost-effective options on the market. Other residential roofing options include wood shakes, metal panels, slate, tile, and ceramic.


Usually, residential roof installation involves nailing plywood to wooden rafters, thus creating a roof deck. Then, the roofer applies a protective underlayment before installing the chosen roofing material, such as shingles, shakes, or tiles.


Commercial roofs, because they are flat or low-pitched, are poor candidates for typical residential roofing materials. Roofers often use materials such as modified bitumen, tar, gravel, single-ply coverings (PVC, TPO, EPDM), sprayed polyurethane foam, or other commercial roofing systems.


A commercial roof requires several layers, including insulation, decking, protective coating, and reflective coating. The exact mix depends upon the type of roofing being applied.


Commercial roofing materials are far more varied than residential materials. Because of this, it is critical for property owners and managers to hire a qualified and experienced commercial roofer for installation and repairs.

Roof Installation and Repair

Installation and repair requirements differ greatly between commercial and residential properties. For instance, installing a commercial roof can take months. This is due to the large size of commercial roofs and the several layers involved. A residential roof is much simpler to construct, usually requiring just a few days.


Repairs on commercial roofs are also major projects. For example, when water gets through the layers of a commercial roof, the entire roof must be assessed. Repairs may only involve patching one section of the roof but may also require reapplying layers over large sections of the roof. A little leak can end up costing big money.


With a residential roof, leaks tend to occur in isolated spots, such as where shingles or flashing became loose. The repairs can usually be completed in a few hours.


Commercial and residential roofers also have differing skillsets. Commercial roofers must understand the many material options and the proper way to repair and patch all of them. Residential roofers need less specialization. They usually work with asphalt shingle roofs, which require basic skills compared to a typical commercial roof.

The last thing you want to do is let your commercial or residential roof fall into disrepair. If you have a leak or need another type of repair, contact a roofing professional right away. The sooner a contractor jumps on repairs, the lower the final cost.

Carlton Building Services in Hampton Roads Virginia

Carlton Building Services specializes in medical facility renovation in Hampton Roads Virginia. The company also handles new builds, retail renovation, and commercial space remodeling in Hampton Roads. Our services come highly recommended. 

If you need general building contractor services in Hampton Roads, Virginia, contact Carlton Building Services today. We have a wide arrange of past project highlights that you can peruse prior to making a decision.

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.