The roof of your commercial building is essential, as obvious as that might sound. It keeps the elements off your head, sure, but it also keeps your product, equipment, and employees safe and protected. Without the roof, you would be in serious trouble and so would your business.
But the insulation on your roof plays an even more integral part. In this guide, you will not only learn the importance of that commercial roof insulation, but the role it plays, the types there are, and more. Consider this your commercial roof insulation guide, providing you with all that you need to know on the subject.
What is Commercial Roof Insulation?
Before we can begin, it is important to know what commercial roof insulation is and what it does. Putting it simply, commercial roof insulation is a layer of material that is installed under the membrane of the roof itself.
This layer is meant to create a thermal barrier between the inside of the building and the elements that it has to deal with outside. Commercial roof insulation plays a very critical role when it comes to reducing heating and cooling costs for not only your commercial building but in residential properties as well.
Ultimately, the goal is to limit the amount of thermal transfer between outdoor and indoor temperatures. Commercial roof insulation can be more of a substantial concern when it comes to areas that have extreme climate fluctuation. This can be either in hot or cold scenarios as both can have a substantial impact on your roof.
The more that you invest in the maintenance of your building temperature, the more that you need to think about installing the right kind of commercial roof insulation. Finding the right R-value the first time around is essential to the life of the commercial roof insulation and it can provide substantial energy savings in the process.
Without the proper commercial roof insulation, your building could struggle to regulate its temperature in an efficient manner. When this happens, your HVAC will go into overdrive to make certain the building stays at the proper temperature. That means far more costly HVAC bills, leaving you frustrated and paying far more than you need to.
Different Types of Commercial Roof Insulation
There are quite a few commercial roof insulation materials out there. They will range in material type, installation methods, R-value, and who manufactures them. Generally speaking, a skilled contractor should be able to recommend the best type of commercial roof insulation for the project that you have tasked them with.
Here is a brief overview of the different types of roofing insulation types out there:
- Polyisocyanurate (Polyiso)
- Extruded Polystyrene (XPS)
- Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)
- Mineral Wool
- Spray Foam
Each has its own unique set of benefits and detriments and it is important that you know what values to look for out of commercial roof insulation before making your decision. Again, a contractor worth their salt will work with you to decide which insulation best suits your needs before the installation process.
Performance Aspects of Commercial Roof Insulation
Since the roof insulation materials are installed right below the roofing membrane, the installation of the insulation all depends on the current roofing system being implemented and what the manufacturer recommends.
Insulation can be composed of a variety of materials and can range from things like rigid boards to liquid applied foam as well as insulating concrete. Simply put there is a litany of materials out there and each offers its own distinct benefits, so understanding the differences beforehand can be very important.
Here are a few key considerations when evaluating your insulation choices:
Insulation R-Value (Thermal Resistance)
R-Value is the measurement of just how well a layer of insulation is able to resist the flow of heat. The R-value of commercial roof insulation will take into account all the layers in the complete roof system. The insulation layer, meanwhile, will contribute the most R-value to your building. When comparing R-values, the higher the R-value – the more effective the material. Keep in mind that a material’s R-value will degrade over time as the material ages.
The thing to remember is that you may not always want to invest in a high R-value roof system. It is essential to consider what kind of R-value is appropriate for the environment and building as not every building is created the same.
R-value generally follows the law of diminishing returns; after certain thinness, you will no longer be getting the same level of benefit from any additional layers of insulation. Additionally, too much insulation could lead to increased stress on a roof membrane through the effects of things like a thermal shock.
Impact Resistance and Insulation Durability
Durability is one of the most crucial parts of commercial roofing and outdoor materials on the whole. Mother nature can throw some very harsh conditions our way. The goal here is that you want all of your roof elements to be able to withstand and protect your commercial building.
Your roof membrane should be able to serve as the watertight layer and all-important first line of defense in impact resistance when protecting your building. Next up is the insulation layer itself. Insulation plays a role in the impact resistance of the roofing system. It must also be able to withstand the impact conditions that can occur on in the rooftop environment.
Impact resistance for commercial roof insulation is still something of ongoing development within the industry. This is due to a result of more recent performance standards. Proper insulation selection and system design are absolutely essential to a roof system’s impact performance on debris, hail, and any other objects that may fall on your roof.
Insulation Fire Resistance
Fire-resistant roofing materials can also play an absolutely crucial role in preventing fires and limiting the damage that they can cause. Proper fire testing and certification is important if you want your roof to be protective, safe, and long-lasting. When selecting a fire-resistant roof system, it’s usually recommended that the system in question has a UL Class A fire-resistance rating or FM Class 1 rating.
Fire resistance is something that often flies under the radar when considering the right roofing insulation. But it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety and protection of your commercial roof insulation.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to your fire resistance rating because it can be what saves your building in the event of a fire. When your building suffers severe damage, you don’t want to be wondering if you should have taken the more pricy but also more reliable option.
Ask your contractor to explain the fire resistance ratings, what they mean, how they apply to your current roofing system, and whether they think it is a proper fit for your current roofing system.
Protecting Your Commercial Roof Insulation
No matter how effective the insulating material, it is absolutely crucial to keep it dry. If additional moisture is able to make its way to your roof insulation, the material can become saturated and will no longer do the job it is meant to.
This saturated material holds in water and is then made to be far less effective. Wet insulation that is holding water can also transfer that additional moisture across your roof system. This can result in leaks elsewhere in your building. These leaks can be a serious issue as excess moisture can lead to things like structural damage, portions of the roof being rendered damaged and ineffective, and so much more.
Commercial roof insulation that has water damage will also provide a lower R-value and can affect the uplift performance of a roof system. This is particularly dangerous in any high-wind area as those winds can cause profound damage to the roof, the structure, and otherwise.
When the design requires, making use of a vapor barrier to limit moisture drive into the system from the building interior. From the exterior, the use of a durable, high-performance membrane can help protect your investment and keep insulation dry, maximizing its useful life.
It cannot be overstated how important it is to keep that excess and unwanted moisture out from under your roofing system and away from the insulation. Water that is able to get under your current membrane can be bad enough, but when it soaks the insulation, it can create an unsafe environment.
While it should go without saying that your commercial roof insulation is one of the most integral parts of any commercial roof, it should be emphasized just how important it is. Take the steps to have regular maintenance performed so that any problem areas can be revealed before they near catastrophic levels.
Talk about your options with your roofing contractor and see what he has to say about the matter. A contractor worth their salt will be able to guide you towards the proper commercial roof insulation that will help to properly protect and insulate your building for a long time to come.