A detailed guide for Edmonton Commercial Roofing Systems

Are you trying to decide what type of flat roof is best for your business? Wondering how long your roof will last and how much it will cost to replace it?  How much to repair?

Commercial roofs are a considerable investment for any location-based business. Business owners need to know their flat roof’s longevity, how much it will cost to repair, and what type of roofing best suits their structure.

Edmonton’s warm summers and cold winters take their toll on your commercial roof. What type of commercial roof will last the longest at the best price?

This guide will help you understand;

  • What types of roof are available
  • How long your roof will last
  • What kind of maintenance and repairs can you expect
  • What factors can affect the longevity of your roof

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    What is a Commercial Flat Roof?

    Flat roofs are the most common type of commercial roofing systems in Edmonton. They typically have a very slight slope to allow the water to run off and avoid pooling. There are a few types of flat roofs that roofers use in Edmonton. 

    Types of Flat Roof:

    • SBS Modified Bitumen
    • Built-up Roof (BUR)
    • PVC Membrane
    • TPO Membrane
    • EPDM Membrane
    • Metal Roofing systems

    SBS Modified Bitumen

    SBS-modified bitumen is the most common roofing material used in Edmonton.  Almost all of the commercial buildings you will see use this method.  It is composed of a base layer of a sheet of fibreglass or composite covered in bitumen. A cap sheet is laid over the bitumen with a  rock granule coating.  Adhering this system to your roof is simple when completed by a professional commercial roofer. Self-adhesive and cold adhesive are natural properties of the material. Primarily just a torch is used to make the bitumen liquid, which is incredibly sticky.


    • Low cost compared with other materials
    • SBS has fire-resistance that exceeds building code.
    • Temperature resistant. It expands and contracts with climate change, which is vital in Edmonton. This temperature resistance is the number 1 reason it is the dominant roofing system locally.
    • Low maintenance compared to other roofing systems.
    • Strong seal. It tends to be very waterproof.


    • Difficult installation. Requires significant labour
    • Fire resistance needs to be maintained periodically
    • Fumes during installation
    • Not as durable as some of the other solutions. Not recommended for heavy traffic
    • Lifespan can be less if not adequately maintained. But with proper maintenance can last 30 years.

    Built-up Roof (BUR)

    commercial flat roof with gravel

    A built-up roof or BUR roof is also known as a tar and gravel roof. As the name implies, it is made from tar, layers of fabric and topped with rocks.


    • Strong seal. There are no seams, and the roof acts as a single large shingle.
    • Long lifespan. These roof systems can last over 30 years.
    • Fire resistance is above code.
    • BUR is low maintenance and resistant to foot traffic.
    • Easy to repair but challenging to locate the source of a leak.


    • Less popular. SBS roofs replace BUR roofs frequently in Edmonton.
    • Low energy efficiency, which matters in Edmontons winters
    • Very heavy. Your structure will need to support all that weight, then add snow. It can be too much.
    • Slow installation. It takes a long time to apply all that tar, which costs more.
    • Any moisture in the roof can cause mould, and this system is more vulnerable than others.
    • Fumes during installation.
    • Not as cost-efficient as other roofing systems.
    PVC Membrane
    commercial flat roof

    PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a highly durable plastic that can create a robust roofing system. It is mechanically or bonded to your roof and requires a heat welder to join the seams. It is a fantastic roofing system, except for one fatal flaw in Edmonton.


    • PVC can come in a variety of colours and looks very clean.
    • Its fire resistance grade is the highest of all the roofing options due to fire-retardant chemicals in the PVC.
    • PVC durability is one of the highest of all the roofing systems—30 years plus. It is hail and wind resistant as well as puncture-resistant.
    • PVC’s rating is over 300 lbs per square inch. You could play football on it and not leave a scratch.
    • It is significantly lighter per square foot than the other roofing options. PVC’s price is competitive even with SBS modified bitumen.


    • PVC roofing systems require a smooth, clean surface. Existing roofing systems must get removed entirely to install PVC.
    • Offgassing of PVC releases toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans.
    • Vulnerable to cold weather. This vulnerability is why you won’t see any roofs of this type in Edmonton.  Extremely cold weather makes PVC brittle. Edmonton has its share of mind-numbingly cold days.
    TPO Membrane
    flat roof materials

    TPO membrane roofing systems have become more prevalent than EPDM or PVC in recent years.  Thermoplastic polyolefin layers, fibreglass filler, and Ethylene propylene rubber make up the roofing system’s material.  It is installed either with mechanical attachments (screws and plates), ballasted like a BUR roofing system, or adhered with tar or foam.  The seams are heat welded together.

    On paper, TPO is one of the very best roofing systems for Edmonton. However, it is also one of the newest roofing systems out there and doesn’t have the most common penetration or track record.


    • Very UV resistant, and comes in a white colour option. White will help keep your structure cool in the summer months.
    • Durable and strong as heck. This roofing system is one of the most durable, resistant to impact or puncture.
    • Low maintenance. It is so durable you rarely need to repair it.
    • Long life expectancy. It can easily last 30 years.
    • The flexibility of TPO makes it quickly wrap around vents, pipes of flashing.
    • Extremely lightweight. It weighs only 0.40 lbs per square foot—way lighter than other roofing systems, especially BUR.


    • Inconsistency of product. Because TPO is so new, around 30 years, some brands do not produce a uniform quality product.
    • TPO has a higher cost than other low slope roof materials. Again because it is so new, it costs more.
    • The fire resistance of TPO is not as excellent as other roofing systems. A fire retardant layer underneath the TPO improves its fire resistance.
    • Repairs of TPO require special equipment such as a heat welder, which makes them more costly.
    EPDM Membrane
    laying new roof

    EPDM rubber roofing has the technical-sounding name of Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer. It is like the rubber you find on your car door. Again this polymer is installed using mechanical attachments, ballasted or special glue or tape.  It is laid out on your roof and rolled out; it does not require a heat welder to join the seams.  Complicated structure tops use this roofing system to go around significant obstacles. It is used in Edmonton, just less common than SBS-modified bitumen.


    • Lightweight material makes this roofing system weigh less than others.
    • EPDM can last more than 20 years and is more elastic than other polymer materials.
    • High fire-resistant rating. The material has fire retardant properties infused.
    • Wind, impact and temperature resistant.
    • Should this roofing system need repair, it is cheap and easy.


    • EPDM corrodes when it comes into contact with petroleum-based products.
    • It doesn’t look terrific unless you like the inner tube tire look on your building.
    • Complicated installation requires an expert to do; otherwise, you will have many leaks.
    • The seams don’t hold up as well as one would like. Other options have better seams.
    Metal Roofing Systems
    commercial flat roof

    Some commercial buildings in Edmonton use Metal roofing systems.  Galvalume zinc-coated materials are the most common ones used on commercial structures. Metal roofs can have a variety of shapes or styles depending on your building’s aesthetic. Exposed metal fasteners keep your roofing system in your building.


    • The lifespan of a high-quality metal roof can be over 40 years!
    • The durability of a metal roof is extreme. A metal roof can withstand hail, high winds, and impact.
    • The fire resistance of a metal roof greatly exceeds the building code.
    • Metal roofing systems have an excellent aesthetic curb appeal depending on the style chosen.


    • The most expensive roofing system per square foot is undoubtedly metal roofing.
    • Fasteners are vulnerable to the elements and can rust.
    • Repairs are expensive and require a professional to complete.
    pros and cons


    Many quality roofing systems exist which will work in Edmonton’s harsh climate.  Each type of roofing system has the qualities that define it.  SBS modified bitumen is the most popular for a few simple reasons.  It is cost-efficient, can withstand our climate, and lasts a long time. Consult experienced commercial roofing professionals to get expert advice on which roofing system is best for your structure.