The Importance of Insulating Your Commercial Roof Properly

Skywalker Roofing Company
The Importance of Insulating Your Commercial Roof Properly
November 6
By Luke Wilson | Roof Maintenance, Roofing Contractors

The basic principles of commercial roofing vs. residential roofing are essentially the same. In both cases, your roof is designed to be an essential barrier between the contents of your building and the outside elements. Just like a residential roof, a commercial roof is intended to protect both people and property. But a commercial roof usually covers a larger facility with a lower roof pitch, so it typically also requires some different approaches in terms of both engineering and roofing materials.

What Is Commercial Roof Insulation?

Another thing that residential roofs and commercial roofs have in common is the fact that both need to be insulated. Why? A roof is more than just a layer of shingles, metal, or protective membrane. A roof is actually a system comprised of many layers and components, including roofing material, underlayment, flashing, vapor barrier, decking, and some sort of insulation. With a residential roof, the insulation can include batts and rolls, rigid board, reflective, and/or blown insulation. There are different types of commercial roof insulation as well, but in most cases, it’s comprised of a layer of material installed somewhere underneath the outer roofing membrane. This insulation is meant to serve as a thermal barrier between your commercial building and the outside weather elements. Having the right insulation in place can make a big difference in terms of keeping your internal building temperature more comfortable, and can also help to reduce your heating & air conditioning costs.

Commercial Roof Insulation Options

Just as is the case for residential roofing, when it comes to commercial roofing insulation, you’ve got options. There is actually a pretty wide variety of commercial roof insulation materials, which can vary greatly in terms of material type, R-value provided, and methods of installation. Some commonly-used types of rigid commercial roof insulation include:

1. Polyisocyanurate (ISO)

More commonly known as polyiso, PIR, or ISO, polyisocyanurate is manufactured as a rigid foam thermal insulation panel which typically features foil facing on both sides. ISO is one of the highest-rated rigid foam products (R6-6.5 per inch), but the R value of ISO also drops in colder conditions. For this reason, ISO is particularly well-suited to the Southeast and its warmer climate. ISO also happens to be the most popular type of above-deck insulation used for low-slope commercial roofs. Another advantage of ISO is that the outer foil layers help to keep the gases in, and they can also save you from needing to install any additional vapor barrier, should that be recommended for your particular roof.

2. Extruded Polystyrene (XPS)

XPS foam panels often come in blue, pink, or green, and usually go by a common name you’ll surely recognize – Styrofoam. XPS has an insulating rating of R5, but this number will also decrease over time due to off-gassing. A higher-end XPS foam can be a suitable insulation solution, but it should also be noted that some XPS foam boards have been observed to retain moisture in certain situations.

3. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

EPS foam insulation boards rate a little lower at an R4, but they’re also more permeable to air and moisture than XPS. This added breathability means that EPS dries out better and is much less likely to retain moisture. EPS also happens to be a bit cheaper than XPS, so you can achieve a similar level of insulating performance for the same money by simply using a thicker layer of EPS.

4. Mineral Wool

Mineral wool or rock wool insulating panels have an R4 rating, are unharmed by moisture, don’t serve as a vapor barrier, and are very fire-resistant. And if choosing an eco-friendly option is important to you, mineral wool is the only rigid board insulation option which isn’t petroleum-based. In batt form, mineral wool is also used as a preferred alternative to fiberglass, thanks to its higher R-value and general ease of installation.

Key Considerations with Commercial Roof Insulation

Commercial roof insulation is often installed just beneath the outer roof membrane as a vital member of your overall roof system. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating different commercial roof insulation options:

1. Weigh the R-Value

R-value is the measurement of how well an insulation material resists heat transfer. Essentially, the higher the R-value, the more effective the insulating material is. Also keep in mind the fact that any material’s R-value will usually degrade over time. In some cases, simply going with the highest available R-value isn’t always the best solution for your particular roof system. It’s important to keep the law of diminishing returns in mind, too. Sometimes, too much insulation can actually increase the level of stress on a roof membrane through the effects of thermal shock.

2. Factor in Durability & Impact Resistance

Durability matters in general, but durability is even more important when it comes to commercial roofing. Your roof can really take a beating from Mother Nature, so you want to know that’s it’s engineered to be able to stand strong and continue to protect your building, along with its contents. The durability of your external, watertight layer is certainly important, but so is the durability of your insulation layer. A good insulation solution should be property engineered to withstand impacts from things like hail, debris, and other objects which may fall on your roof.

3. Look for Fire Resistance

With any commercial building, obviously you want to look for material products which can help to minimize the possibility of fire threats. Fire-resistant roofing materials can play a crucial role in helping to prevent fires, as well as in limiting any fire-related damage. When designing a fire-resistant roof system, it’s typically recommended that the system in question meets a UL Class A fire-resistance rating or FM Class 1 rating.

Benefits of Commercial Roof Insulation

As mentioned above, a well-designed commercial roof system should feature some insulating components which help to maintain a comfortable temperature for your business or other commercial environments, as well as help it to achieve greater energy efficiency. What are some other desired effects that come from having the right insulation? Here are a few benefits worth noting:

  • Increased fire rating
  • Minimization of both carbon and ecological footprints
  • Better humidity control
  • Reduced presence of internal condensation
  • Minimization of the effects of decking expansion and contraction, thanks to maintaining a more consistent temperature
  • Better noise reduction and acoustical performance

Let Skywalker Roofing Take Care of All Your Commercial Roof Insulation Needs!

Home and business owners alike across North Carolina and southern Virginia have come to trust Skywalker Roofing not just for quality roofing services, but for quality insulation services, too. The team at Skywalker Roofing has been able to earn this level of trust through the quality of our workmanship, as well as through the personal attention we provide for every single customer and client. We’re happy to schedule a time to come out and do a FREE inspection of your property, after which we’ll sit down to objectively discuss all of our findings. Plus, we don’t just try to “sell” you, we actually take the time to listen to you, as well. We really come alongside to try and help you with whatever you need, and we’ll walk with you every step of the way.

If your business or commercial facility is located anywhere in the NC Piedmont Triad, Piedmont Triangle, Charlotte Metro/Lake Norman region, or Roanoke, VA areas, then Skywalker Roofing has you covered! Reach out to us today at +1 (336) 627-5596, and experience the Skywalker Roofing difference for yourself!

Luke Wilson

Luke Wilson

Owner - Skywalker Roofing

Luke Wilson started working on roofs with his dad when he was a teenager, and eventually launched Skywalker Roofing in 2003. Skywalker operates in 5 locations across NC & VA, and now includes windows, siding, and other exterior services. Luke also hosts the popular Roofing Mythbusters series on YouTube.

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