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Discover What Are The Best Flat Roof Materials? – Your Ultimate Guide

Best Flat Roof Materials

Discover What Are The Best Flat Roof Materials? – Your Ultimate Guide

Are you in the market for a new flat roof and wondering which materials are the best to use? Look no further because in this guide, we’ll explore the top flat roof materials available on the market. With their advantages and disadvantages, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that meets your needs.

Flat roofs offer a range of benefits, such as increased interior space and affordability. However, choosing the right material for your flat roof is crucial for ensuring a long-lasting, durable roof that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

Understanding Different Types of Flat Roof Materials

When it comes to choosing a flat roof material, there are a variety of options available. Each material has its own unique characteristics that affect its performance and longevity. Here, we will explore the different types of flat roof materials to help you make an informed decision for your project.

Single-Ply Membrane Roofing

Single-ply membrane roofing systems are made from a single layer of synthetic materials, such as TPO, PVC, or EPDM. These materials are popular for their durability, ease of installation, and energy efficiency. Single-ply membranes are generally UV-resistant and require little maintenance. They also have flexible installation options, including fully adhered, mechanically attached, or ballasted.

Material Installation Cost per Sq. Ft Service Life
TPO $6-$9 20-30 years
PVC $7-$11 20-30 years
EPDM $4-$8 20-25 years

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing (BUR) has been used for over a century and is still a viable option for flat roofs. BUR consists of multiple layers of asphalt-impregnated felt and a top layer of gravel or mineral granules. This material is known for its low cost, durability, and resistance to fire and wind damage. However, BUR can be heavy and require frequent maintenance to prevent leaks.

Material Installation Cost per Sq. Ft Service Life
Built-Up Roofing (BUR) $3-$6 15-20 years

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is a popular option for its durability, longevity, and resistance to fire and wind damage. It is also an energy-efficient option, reflecting the sun’s rays and reducing cooling costs. Metal roofing can be made from a variety of materials, including steel, aluminum, copper, and zinc. However, metal roofing can be noisy during rain or hailstorms and may require periodic maintenance to prevent rust or corrosion.

Material Installation Cost per Sq. Ft Service Life
Steel $5-$12 30-50 years
Aluminum $7-$13 30-50 years
Copper $15-$30 50+ years

These are just a few examples of the different types of flat roof materials available. Each material has its own pros and cons, and the right choice will depend on your specific needs, budget, and preferences.

Exploring the Top Flat Roofing Materials

Choosing the right flat roofing material can be a daunting task, but we’re here to help! In this section, we will highlight the top flat roofing materials that have gained popularity among homeowners and professionals alike.

1. Asphalt Roofing

Asphalt roofing is one of the most widely used materials for flat roofs. It is made of asphalt, which is a sticky, black, and highly viscous liquid that is mixed with a filler material such as fiberglass or felt to create a flexible roofing material. Asphalt is a cost-effective option with a lifespan of 15-30 years, depending on the quality of the installation and the climate in which it is located. It is easy to install, but can suffer from cracking and leaks over time.

Advantages Disadvantages
Cost-effective Prone to cracking and leaks over time
Easy to install Not as durable as some other materials

2. EPDM Roofing Membrane

EPDM roofing membrane is a popular choice for flat roofs due to its durability, flexibility, and ease of installation. It is made of a synthetic rubber material that is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, making it a great option for areas with high humidity or heavy rainfall. It has a lifespan of up to 50 years and is one of the most cost-effective roofing options on the market.

Advantages Disadvantages
Durable Not the most visually appealing option
Flexible and easy to install Can shrink over time

3. Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing (BUR) has been used for flat roofs for over 100 years. It is made of layers of tar and gravel, and is known for its ability to withstand extreme weather conditions. It is a highly durable option, with a lifespan of up to 30 years. However, it can be difficult to install and maintain, and can be heavy, requiring a strong structure to support it.

Advantages Disadvantages
Durable and long-lasting Expensive compared to other options
Can withstand extreme weather conditions Difficult to install and maintain

Asphalt Roofing for Flat Roofs

Asphalt roofing is a popular material for flat roofs due to its affordability and ease of installation. It consists of a fiberglass or organic mat that is infused with asphalt and covered with mineral granules for added protection.

The installation process of asphalt roofing involves laying down layers of the material and sealing them with a hot tar mixture. This creates a waterproof barrier that can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance.

One of the benefits of asphalt roofing is its versatility. It can be used on flat roofs with a slight pitch or on more sloped roofs. It also comes in a variety of colors and styles, allowing homeowners to choose an option that fits their aesthetic preferences.

However, there are some drawbacks to consider. Asphalt roofing has a shorter lifespan compared to other flat roof materials, such as metal or PVC. It is also prone to cracking and blistering over time, especially during extreme weather conditions.

Pros Cons
Affordable Shorter lifespan compared to other materials
Easy to install Prone to cracking and blistering
Versatile in color and style options Not as energy efficient as other materials

Is asphalt roofing a good choice for your flat roof?

If you have a tight budget and need a quick installation, asphalt roofing may be a suitable option for your flat roof. However, if you are looking for a longer-lasting and more durable material, you may want to consider other options such as metal or PVC.

EPDM Roofing Membrane

If you’re looking for a reliable and cost-effective flat roofing material, EPDM roofing membrane may be the perfect choice for you. EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer, and it’s a synthetic compound that has been used for decades in the construction industry. It’s known for its excellent resistance to weathering, heat, and ozone, making it an ideal material for flat roofs that are exposed to the elements.

EPDM roofing membrane is available in different thicknesses, usually ranging from 45 to 90 mils. It’s also available in different colors, although black is the most common due to its high UV resistance. The installation of EPDM roofing is relatively easy, and it can be done using adhesive, ballast, or mechanical fasteners.

Advantages Disadvantages
Cost-effective Prone to punctures and tears
Highly resistant to weathering and UV radiation Not the most aesthetically pleasing option
Easy to install May require frequent repairs
Durable and long-lasting

EPDM roofing membrane has a lifespan of up to 30 years when properly installed and maintained. It’s also a popular choice for homeowners who are looking for an eco-friendly roofing option, as it’s recyclable and doesn’t emit harmful chemicals.

EPDM Roofing Installation

The installation of EPDM roofing membrane involves preparing the roof surface, applying adhesive or other fastening methods, and laying the EPDM sheets. It’s essential to ensure that the roof substrate is clean, dry, and free of debris before starting the installation process. The sheets should be cut to the desired size and shape, and appropriate overlaps should be created to avoid any gaps that may lead to leaks.

The adhesive or fasteners used during the installation process should be compatible with the EPDM material to ensure a proper bond. A protective coating may be applied once the installation is complete to enhance the durability of the membrane.

If you’re not comfortable installing EPDM roofing membrane on your own, it’s best to hire a professional roofing contractor who has experience with this type of material. They will ensure that the installation is done correctly and that your roof is protected from leaks and other damages.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing (BUR) is a traditional flat roofing material that has been around for over a century. It is also known as tar and gravel roofing, as it is composed of layers of asphalt and tar paper, finished with a layer of gravel.

BUR roofing is built on-site, with layers of tar paper and felt laid down on the roof surface, then coated with hot asphalt. The process is repeated until the desired number of layers is achieved. The final layer is then covered with a layer of gravel, which provides a protective layer and helps to reflect sunlight.

Pros Cons
Long-lasting Heavy and requires a strong roof structure
Cost-effective Gravel can be displaced, causing water pooling
Resistant to inclement weather Can be difficult to find leaks

One of the main advantages of BUR roofing is its longevity. With proper maintenance, a BUR roof can last up to 30 years. It is also a cost-effective option compared to some other flat roofing materials. BUR is resistant to inclement weather, making it a reliable choice for regions with harsh weather conditions.

One of the main drawbacks of BUR roofing is its weight. It requires a strong roof structure to support the layers of asphalt and gravel. The gravel can also be displaced over time, causing water pooling, which can lead to leaks. Additionally, finding leaks in BUR roofing can be challenging, as the layers can make it difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem.

TPO Roofing Membrane

TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) roofing membrane is a single-ply roofing option growing in popularity for its energy-efficient and durable qualities.


TPO roofing membrane is a blend of rubber, plastic, and filler materials that create a flexible and durable roofing system. It is available in a variety of thicknesses, with the most common being 45 mils.

TPO roofing comes in white, light grey, and black. White TPO roofing is preferred because it reflects sunlight, which helps reduce cooling costs.

Installation Methods

TPO roofing membrane is commonly installed using two methods: mechanically attached or fully adhered.

The mechanically attached method involves securing the TPO membrane to the roof deck using screws and plates. The fully adhered method involves gluing the TPO membrane directly to the roof deck.


  • Energy-efficient: TPO roofing membrane reflects sunlight, keeping the roof cooler and reducing cooling costs.
  • Durable: TPO roofing membrane is resistant to impact, punctures, and tears.
  • Low maintenance: TPO roofing membrane is easy to clean and maintain.
  • Environmentally friendly: TPO roofing membrane is recyclable.

TPO roofing membrane is an excellent choice for commercial and residential flat roofs due to its durability, energy efficiency, and low maintenance.

PVC Roofing Membrane

PVC roofing membrane is a popular choice for flat roofs due to its durability, energy efficiency, and resistance to weathering.

PVC roofs are made of a single-ply membrane, which is a thin and flexible material that can be easily installed. This type of roofing material is heat-welded at the seams to create a watertight seal.

Pros Cons
Longevity – PVC roofs have a lifespan of 20-30 years. Initial cost – PVC roofing is more expensive than other flat roofing options.
Resistance to weathering – PVC roofing is resistant to UV radiation, heat, and other weather-related damages. Environmental concerns – PVC roofing is not environmentally friendly as it is made from petroleum products.
Energy efficiency – PVC roofs have a high solar reflectivity, which reduces energy costs by keeping the building cool. Installation – PVC roof installation requires specialized equipment and trained professionals.

Overall, PVC roofing membrane is a great option for those looking for a long-lasting and energy-efficient flat roof material. While it may come with a higher initial cost, the benefits outweigh the cons in the long run.

Metal Roofing for Flat Roofs

Metal roofing is a popular choice for flat roofs due to its durability and longevity. It is often made of aluminum, steel, or copper, and can be customized to fit any flat roof structure.

Types of Metal Roofing for Flat Roofs

There are several types of metal roofing materials that can be used for flat roofs, including:

  • Standing Seam Metal Roofing: a popular choice for its energy efficiency and modern aesthetic appeal. Standing seam roofs have raised seams that connect the panels securely and offer superior protection against water intrusion.
  • Corrugated Metal Roofing: known for its affordability and durability, corrugated metal roofing is a great choice for both residential and commercial flat roofs.
  • Metal Shingle Roofing: provides the look of traditional shingles with the durability and strength of metal. Metal shingles are available in various styles and colors, making them a versatile option for flat roofs.

Installation Considerations

Metal roofing installation requires specialized skills and equipment. It is recommended to hire a professional roofing contractor to ensure proper installation.

One consideration to keep in mind is the weight of the metal roofing. Depending on the metal material chosen, the weight of the roof can add additional stress on the structure of the building. It is important to consult with a structural engineer to ensure the building can support the weight of the metal roof.

Benefits of Metal Roofing

Metal roofing offers several benefits for flat roof structures, including:

  • Durability: metal roofing is resistant to weathering and has a longer lifespan compared to other roofing materials.
  • Low maintenance: metal roofing requires minimal maintenance and is easy to clean.
  • Energy efficiency: metal roofing reflects the sun’s rays, reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the building and reducing energy costs.
  • Fire resistance: metal roofing is non-combustible, making it a safe choice for flat roofs.

Overall, metal roofing is a great option for flat roofs due to its durability, low maintenance, and energy efficiency. However, it is important to consider the weight of the roof and seek professional installation to ensure a long-lasting and secure roofing solution.

Green Roofing Systems

If you’re looking for a sustainable and eco-friendly option for your flat roof, green roofing systems are a great choice. These living roofs are becoming increasingly popular for their environmental benefits, aesthetic appeal, and energy efficiency.

What is a Green Roof?

A green roof is a roof that has a layer of vegetation planted on top of a waterproof membrane. This system provides many benefits, including insulation, stormwater management, and air purification. It can also promote biodiversity in urban areas and reduce the urban heat island effect.

Materials Used for Green Roofs

The materials used for green roofs depend on the type of system you choose. There are two main types of green roofs:

  1. Extensive green roofs: These are lightweight and have a shallow growing medium, making them suitable for low-maintenance plants such as sedums and mosses.
  2. Intensive green roofs: These are more complex and require a deeper growing medium, allowing for a wider variety of plants such as grasses, shrubs, and even trees.

The materials used for both extensive and intensive green roofs typically include a waterproof membrane, drainage layer, growing medium, and plants.

Advantages of Green Roofs

Green roofs offer many advantages for flat roofs, including:

  • Energy efficiency: The plants and growing medium provide insulation, reducing the amount of heat that enters the building during the summer and escapes during the winter.
  • Stormwater management: Green roofs can absorb rainwater, reducing the amount of runoff that goes into storm drains and preventing flooding.
  • Longevity: The growing medium and plants can protect the roof membrane from UV rays and weathering, extending the lifespan of your roof.
  • Biodiversity: Green roofs can provide habitat for birds, insects, and other wildlife, helping to promote biodiversity in urban areas.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Green roofs can add visual interest to otherwise bland rooftop spaces, and can even provide a space for urban gardening or recreation.

Drawbacks of Green Roofs

While green roofs offer many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  • Cost: Green roofs can be more expensive to install than other types of roofing systems due to the additional materials and labor required.
  • Maintenance: Green roofs require regular maintenance, including watering, fertilization, and weeding.
  • Weight: Green roofs are heavier than other types of roofing systems, so it’s important to ensure that your building’s structure can support the additional weight.
  • Installation: Green roofs require specialized knowledge and expertise to install properly, so it’s important to work with a qualified professional.

FAQs About Flat Roof Materials

Choosing the right material for your flat roof can be challenging. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision:

What is the best material for a flat roof?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as it depends on your specific needs and budget. Some of the popular materials include asphalt, EPDM, built-up, TPO, PVC, metal, and green roofing systems. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s essential to do your research to determine the best fit for your project.

How long do flat roof materials last?

The lifespan of a flat roof material depends on various factors such as the quality of installation, maintenance, climate, and foot traffic. On average, asphalt roofs last between 10-20 years, EPDM lasts up to 25 years, while TPO and PVC last up to 30 years. Metal roofing can last up to 50 years, making it a long-lasting option.

Can flat roofs be repaired or do they need to be replaced?

The answer depends on the extent of the damage and the age of the roof. Minor repairs such as patching up small punctures or tears can be done. However, if the damage is extensive or the roof is old, replacement may be the best option. It’s important to consult a professional to assess the damage and offer recommendations.

How much does it cost to install a flat roof?

The cost of installation depends on the material used, the size of the roof, and the complexity of the project. On average, flat roof installation can cost between $250-$350 per square foot. It’s essential to get multiple quotes from different contractors to compare prices and ensure you get a fair deal.

How do I maintain my flat roof?

Maintaining a flat roof involves regular inspections, cleaning, and repairs. Ensure that the roof is free from debris, such as leaves and branches. Check for signs of damage, such as cracks, holes, or tears, and have them repaired promptly. Trim any overhanging branches that may pose a risk to the roof. Hire a professional to inspect the roof annually to identify and address any potential issues before they escalate.

Can I install a flat roof myself?

It is not recommended to install a flat roof yourself, as it requires a high level of expertise and experience. Improper installation can lead to various issues such as leaks, insufficient drainage, and premature damage. Hire a professional contractor with the necessary licenses and insurance to ensure the job is done correctly and safely.


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