Commercial vs Residential Roofing: What Are the Differences?

By Karen L Edwards 06-14-2022
QUICK SHARE
Tag Icon

Every roof is different, and that's especially true when comparing commercial vs residential roofing, also known as low-slope vs steep-slope roofing. Many roofing contractors start out installing residential roofs because they have a low cost of entry. The process requires minimal specialized equipment—most roofers are able to start out with a truck, a ladder, a nail gun, a compressor, and safety gear.

You can earn a great living installing residential roofs. But as your business grows, you may consider installing larger commercial roofs that provide steady work over weeks or even months. Commercial roofing also brings more opportunities for regular service and maintenance, helping you develop relationships with customers. When it comes time to replace their roof, they'll know your company can get the job done.

If you're interested in expanding into commercial roofing, it's important to understand the differences between commercial and residential roofing, from crew size to specialized equipment to financial considerations.

Using Specialized Equipment

Although you can install shingles with a nail gun, the same can't be said for commercial roofing installations. For instance, if you plan to install a thermoplastic single-ply membrane such as GAF EverGuard® TPO, you'll need to invest in hot air welding equipment to weld the seams and handheld welders for the flashing details.

If the system is specified to be an adhered installation, the job may require a spray rig to apply the adhesive efficiently and effectively. In the case of an induction welded system, RhinoBond® induction welding equipment helps secure the membrane and insulation to the roof deck without penetrating the membrane. This equipment can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Identifying Crew Size and Experience

A residential roofing crew can range anywhere from four to six workers, who are typically able to reroof an average-sized home in one day. Commercial roofing crews need more people and more time. Depending on the size of the building and the roofing materials involved, commercial roofing replacements can take anywhere from several days to months.

You'll also want to be sure to ensure your crews are properly trained and certified by the manufacturer so that you can offer system warranties or guarantees to building owners for their new roofs.

Reviewing Safety Measures

Safety comes first on every roofing job, and the safety requirements on commercial roofing projects can vary greatly from those on a residential roof. Prepare a comprehensive safety plan for each commercial roof that includes identifying roof access points, establishing safety perimeter lines at the roof edge, locating and flagging potential hazards such as skylights, and reviewing the need for any special fall protection equipment such as weighted anchors or parapet clamps. OSHA safety requirements are readily available in their guide for protecting roofing workers available on www.osha.org.

Considering Financial Concerns

While a residential roofing project may have a short life cycle for installation and payment, a large commercial roofing project can take months to install—and potentially months to get paid following the installation. Many large companies pay on a 30-, 60-, or even 90-day payment system, and will often work retainage into the contract. Retainage refers to a percent of every payment that is withheld until substantial completion of the project- which could mean when most other trades on the job have finished their work as well. You'll need to be sure that your company is in a financial position to wait that length of time before receiving payment, and ensure you're capable of completing the job by any date indicated on the contract to avoid liquidated damages.

The sales life cycle for a large commercial roofing project can take a long time as well. You'll need a good salesperson who can find jobs, build relationships, and work closely with your estimating team to develop a solid bid.

Partnering with Your Manufacturer

Navigating the differences in commercial vs residential roofing can raise new questions for roofers. As you expand your business in a new direction, GAF is here to help you find success with a robust training library and expert videos that allow you to learn at your own pace. This support is available through the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence, which has a host of resources and training to fit your goals and the way you prefer to learn.

Get started by reaching out to your GAF territory manager, who can help you begin your journey in commercial roofing.

RhinoBond® is a registered trademark of OMG, Inc.

Don't miss another GAF RoofViews post!
LATEST UPDATES
As the winter season approaches, decorating your home with lights is a classic way to show your holiday spirit. However, there are right and wrong ways to go about this (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, anyone?)—and, depending on your roof, the correct ones may not always be easy to accomplish on your own. To help, here are five tips to simplify your annual holiday light installation so you can make your home merry and bright without damaging the roof — or yourself!
Architects strive to achieve a roof design that strikes a delicate balance between aesthetics and performance. Achieving high-performance means incorporating the code, warranty, and guarantee requirements that building owners must meet — among the most important factors of any construction project — into design vision. This isn't made any easier by the sheer number of roofing systems available. Even experienced architects can find it challenging to get familiar with all available components and positively identify which materials are going to deliver the ultimate protection for the building.
As Erasmo "Mitos" Fuentes — GAF CARE Team Training Lead and highly respected "Maestro" of the roofing world — will warn rookies, errors during installation can have consequences later on in the life of the roofing system. Many are minor, like small leaks. Others, though, can be much more serious, such as major (and potentially catastrophic) cracks.
A harsh storm can cause all kinds of damage to your home, especially its roof. While some roof problems are obviously visible, others aren't as simple to spot. Whether you can see them or not, fixing any issues that pop up in the aftermath of a storm helps keep your home safe from further harm. With strong storms come sharp winds, hail, and heavy rain that can damage shingles, gutters, flashing, and other areas.
About 82% of homes in the United States have outdoor living areas—many with low-slope roofs. That's nearly 6 million homes that could feature a self-adhered roofing system. Are you taking advantage of the opportunities that these porches, sheds, garages, and carports represent?
These days, sustainability is a common term in the construction and architectural industries, found in discussions in trade magazines, professional journals, as well as in sales and advertising materials. Despite this, even many professionals are not certain about what characterizes truly "sustainable" buildings or what practical steps they can take to make them a reality. In this article we provide an overview of some useful frameworks, as well as the major topics, for building owners to consider when developing a sustainable building strategy.
This blog contains information created by a variety of sources, including internal and third party writers. The opinions and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of GAF. The content is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute financial, accounting, tax or legal advice. GAF does not guarantee the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of the information. In no event shall GAF be held responsible or liable for errors or omissions in the content or for the results, damages or losses caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on the content.

Interested in sharing or republishing our content? We kindly ask you to adhere to our guidelines.