The Definitive Warehouse Roofing Guide [2023]

The city of Los Angeles may live forever, but your commercial roof sure won’t.

While the city has expanded rapidly over the last 30 years or so, a lot of the commercial roofing still reflects the time that it was built. It’s not a bad idea to check the age of your building, and compare that to the leading roofing method of the time, to see if you’re in need of an upgrade.

But when it comes time to replace, repair or update the roof of your warehouse or other commercial roofing structure, what is the best option?
While every roof is different, there are a few types that work in most situations.

Let’s run through the most common types of warehouse roofing and roofing materials out there.

Liquid-Applied Roofing

There are some basic, universal truths for a lot of roofs that start their lives as a liquid:

  • They are de facto custom-fitted roofing solutions because they can be painted on or around nearly any existing roofing structure or fixture.
  • Liquid materials are also seamless and monolithic. That means it’s one big solid layer of stuff.
  • Liquid materials fill in cracks, seams, or other gaps in the roof, immediately upping the roof’s water resistance.
  • They often don’t need to be reinforced with fabrics.
  • They do need to be applied to an existing roof structure.

Here are a few types of roofing materials that fit in this category.

Acrylic roof coatings are similar to paints, in that they can be delivered to the surface in similar ways—brushes, rollers, and sprayers. But they are chemically distinct. Acrylic coatings are good for low-slope roofs that have some positive flow with minor pooling. They also offer superior resistance to foot traffic, impacts, and dust erosion.

Silicone roof coatings are similar to acrylic coating systems but offer better water resistance to roofs that tend to have more pooling. They are much less likely to fail under standing water. However, they are less durable than acrylic under physical stress.

Both are problematic from the perspective of installation and labor.  It’s importnat to note that weather conditions prohibit installation.

 Warehouse Roofing Membranes

Single-Ply Roofing

Single-ply membranes are pretty much self-explanatory. A material that’s similar to rubber is rolled out over a low-slope roof and held on to the roof by chemical adhesion, fasteners or with ballasts, or a combination of the three.

Three basic types of single-ply roofing membranes make up what you will most likely see, they all have complicated names and an easier acronym:

  • Thermoplastic polyolefin = TPO
  • Polyvinyl Chloride = PVC
  • Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer = EPDM

Each of the membranes above have varying characteristics. One will do better at one thing than another. For example, TPO membranes have superior puncture and erosion resistance, while PVC membranes have greater resistance to chemical exposure in industrial or polluted urban areas. It’s important to note that no matter which single-ply system you choose, these types of warehouse roofing systems are the most expensive roofing option.  But for the most part, they are strong and durable commercial roofing systems that should last you for many years, albeit if it is installed correctly. 

Additionally, you should know that you could combine these types of roofing membranes with a fluid-applied roofing system to turn your warehouse roof into a cool roof for even more added benefits.

 Multi-layer Membranes

Another more common, more affordable option is Modified bitumen. It is not inaccurate to think of these as rolls of shingle-like material. It also uses similar fastening methods as single-ply membranes. The big difference is that multiple overlapping layers are needed.

Its multi-layers give it the advantage to withstand penetrations better than single-ply roofing systems. The big drawback of modified bitumen warehouse roofing is that the life expectancy is relatively short compared to the other warehouse roofing options. However, this can be somewhat rectified by applying a cool roof coating and thus extending the life of the modified bitumen roof.

 Built-up roof systems

Built-up roofing systems vary widely. But as the name suggests several layers and substances factor in. The more common materials are tar or other liquid polymers, fabric or fiberglass sheets, bitumen or other aggregates, and reflective top layers.

These are usually more affordable than other systems. However, they take a little bit more time to install and have more points of failure through multiple layers and seams.

Often, heat through blow torches or heated rubber-like substances during installation bring an inherent fire risk during installation.

 Asphalt Shingles 

There is a reason asphalt shingles are the most popular roofing system in the U.S. It’s a flexible system in more ways than one.

It’s normally on the more affordable side. Many roofers have experience installing this system. It’s the most available material. It’s also the most easily customized and easily stratified in quality.

We consider three types of shingles—dimensional shingles, strip shingles, and premium shingles—on this web page.

There are two major downsides to this system: length of life and durability under stress. Many shingle roofs see sub-20-year lifetimes. Also, shingles have a bad habit of blowing off or otherwise compromising in bad weather.

 Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is the most expensive option for commercial buildings, and some kind of slope is a must to get the most out of the possible lifespan of metal.

But the upside is that the metal roof will outlive almost everything else in the building.

It’s not an exaggeration that some metal roofs will last 100 years or more.

It comes in three basic forms: sheets, tiles, and look-alikes. The look-a-like option just means the metal is designed to look like something else, such as wood.

Also, don’t be surprised if your metal roofing installer is a little distressed. Prices for metals used in roofing are on the rise as China and the U.S. continue their trade war.

 Steel roofing materials are the most common and most mid-grade price option. It is often coated or mixed with another material to increase the resistance factor for specific uses. For example, galvanized steel, has a zinc coating to increase corrosion resistance; galvalume steel is coated with aluminum to increase reflectivity and corrosion resistance.

Aluminum roofing is a pricier option but more durable. Its price often restricts its use to smaller buildings or sections of commercial buildings. It is a lighter metal for lower-durability roofs or easier installation. It is also easier to work with and more easily fitted to roof interruptions.

 Zinc roofing is a must for high-stress environments, especially those with high chemical or saline water exposure such as cities, industrial areas or coastal areas. Zinc is also easy to fit to roofing specifics. But it is also pricey. That’s why it is often used with other metals.


When it’s time for your warehouse roof to be replaced or restored it can get overwhelming and confusing, especially when you’re receiving multiple bids for all types of warehouse roofing systems, and different commercial roofing contractors all claiming that their bid is the best. For that reason, I hope this guide helps you understand the different warehouse systems that are out there, and the commercial roofing terminology that is used so that you are well informed when your next warehouse roofing project comes along.

In Los Angeles? 

If you need a commercial roofing contractor in Los Angeles or Orange County, be sure to check us out. We’ve been serving Los Angeles and Orange County with their warehouse roofing needs for 30 years! With over 10k completed commercial roofing projects and over 30 million buildings restored, you can rest assured that your warehouse roof is in good hands with Central Roofing Company.

Central Roofing Company
555 W 182nd St
Gardena, CA 90248

Ph: 310-527-6770

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