flat roof materials rolls of roofing

What Are the Best Flat Roof Materials? (Pros and Cons)

Is it almost time for a roof replacement? If you are the owner of a commercial building, chances are that that building comes with a flat roof.

A flat roof is very different than the roofs most of us have on our residential homes. As such, they require a different technology, one that you may be unfamiliar with.

If you’re looking to learn about the best flat roof materials, look no further! We’ve done the research for you to make sure that you get a flat roof system that will serve you for years to come.

What Is a Flat Roof? 🀷🏽

A flat roof is the most common type of roof for commercial and industrial properties. Unlike most homes, which have pitched roofs that allow gravity to pull water off of them, flat roofs rely on clever designs to prevent water damage.

Despite the name, a flat roof is not truly flat. It would be more accurate to refer to them as “low slope roofs,” as they typically have a slope of 1/4-1/2 an inch per foot. This allows water to drain.

flat roof materials workers on building

For commercial buildings that often use the roof to store their HVAC systems, flat roofs are particularly handy, as they are easy to access and allow you to walk across them without danger.

Flat roof systems typically rely on multi-layered roofing systems to protect your building from water, as well as insulate it against extreme weather conditions.

What Are the Benefits of a Flat Roof? πŸ‘

If they are so susceptible to water damage, why do most commercial buildings choose to install a flat roof in the first place? Flat roofs actually come with many benefits.

πŸ’‘ Energy Efficiency

Flat roofs are very energy efficient. Even the most perfectly installed shingled sloped roof has gaps in the roof system that air can enter through. Because flat roofs have layers of insulation that are fully covered, they help keep your energy costs low.

πŸ’¨ HVAC System

Did you know your flat roof can act as a storage system? Rather than having a separate room indoors space to contain a large commercial HVAC system, it can be installed on a flat roof.

πŸ”¨ Easy to Install

Depending on the type of flat roof materials you choose, it can be very easy to install flat roofing. Additionally, because flat roofs are so easy to access, any repairs can be done fairly easily.

πŸ’° Affordable

Flat roofs are significantly cheaper than sloped roofs. The simple installation process also means that you will spend less on installation costs.

flat roof materials hands placing roof

What Kind of Flat Roof Materials Are There? πŸ”§

1) Built-Up Roofs

Remember how we mentioned how layers of materials are put together to protect your flat roof from water? A built-up roof (also known as a BUR roof) is a classic example of that.

A built-up roof typically consists of seven layers of different roofing materials to create a waterproof surface. The layers are bonded together with asphalt and tar and then covered with a layer of gravel.

These tar and gravel roofs are then sealed for ultimate protection against the weather. Alternatively, roofs can be topped with large rocks that hold the other layers in place. These are called ballasted roofs.

A built-up roof offers huge amounts of protection against the elements. They also have quite a long life span, depending on the number of layers used. The average BUR roof will last for 25 years.

However, all those layers are quite heavy. It’s important to make sure the extra weight won’t put too much of a strain on your existing roof.

2) EPDM Roofs

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer, but most people choose to skip the tongue twister and just refer to it as a rubber roof.

EPDM roofs have been around since the sixties. While the formula has changed a bit over the years, the technique remains the same.

The rubber is unrolled and secured to the roof with either screw or liquid adhesive. Alternatively, a contractor may choose to ballast the rubber roof with stones, just as they would for a BUR roof.

  • EPDM is one of the most durable forms of flat roof materials on the market. It can last up to fifty years. This is partially because rubber roofs are hugely weather resistant.

That being said, rubber roofing certainly has its drawbacks.

  • Aesthetically, it’s not particularly pleasing.
  • It also is hugely heat absorbent, making it a less-than-ideal choice for hot climates.

3) Modified Bitumen Roofs

Modified bitumen roofs have been around since the 1960s but still occasionally face skepticism. A modified bitumen roof is a rolled, single-ply roofing system. Because it lacks the layers of other types of flat roofing materials, many people are under the impression that it does not provide adequate protection from rain and snow.

There is some truth to that. Modified bitumen roofs only last about a decade before they need to be replaced, in large part due to standing water. On the other hand, a modified bitumen roof also comes with a variety of benefits.

First and foremost, they are incredibly easy to install. It is an ideal choice for those who want a flat roofing material that is easy to DIY. Additionally, modified bitumen is one of the better-looking flat roofing systems available. It resembles regular asphalt shingles and blends well with any surrounding buildings.

4) Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofs

A spray polyurethane foam (SPF) roof is somewhat uncommon these days. It requires a trained professional to install it. When not installed properly, it can create damage to your overall roof structure.

Despite being one of the uncommon flat roof material options, an SPF roof comes with many benefits. Most people who choose them are attracted to their longevity. A well-installed SPF roof will last for 50 years!

It is also hugely energy efficient. The spray foam creates a strong barrier against heat and cold and is not susceptible to warping from weather conditions.

5) Thermoplastic Membrane Roofs

Thermoplastic membrane roofing comes in two different styles. Both are different types of single-ply membranes.

  • The first type is a PVC roof. PVC roofs are more expensive but will last up to twenty years. They offer good insulation and fire resistance but are more easily damaged by weather conditions, such as hail.
  • TPO roofs, on the other hand, are cheaper but have about half the lifespan of a PVC roof. A TPO roof is more difficult to install than PVC but is less environmentally damaging.

6) Metal Roofs

If you are looking for the ultimate in durability, a metal roof might be right for you. Metal roofs are not commonly thought of as a flat roof material, but actually, they work quite well for commercial flat roofs.

Metal roofing materials can last for up to a whopping 70 years, depending on your climate and the material. It is definitely a more expensive purchase, though, costing up to $18 per square foot.

flat roof materials rolling out

When Is it Time to Replace My Flat Roof? πŸ› οΈ

Now that you know your options when it comes to flat roofing materials, you might be wondering WHEN you should replace your roof. Here are some signs that it may be time for a total roof replacement.

  • It Has Been 25 Years – If your building’s roof has not been updated in over 25 years, then it is definitely time to call in a roofing professional for an inspection. You may have damage that you didn’t know about.
  • High Energy Bills – If your energy bills are increasing for no visible reason, your roofing materials may be less energy efficient than you want them to be.
  • Signs of Damage – If you are noticing signs of damage on your roof, such as blistering, cracking, or water pooling, your roofing material may be damaged. Damage to your building exterior can lead to expensive structural fixes further down the road.

What Is the Best Flat Roof Material? πŸͺš

Phew! That’s a lot of information. But what exactly is the best flat roof material?

The answer? It depends.

When it comes to budget and overall durability, most commercial building owners opt for a PVC roof. If durability is your main concern, a metal roof or spray polyurethane roof might work best for you.

Alternatively, if you are concerned about price, modified bitumen will likely fit into most budgets.

That being said, this is not a one size fits all situation!

A qualified roofing professional will be able to assess the needs of your building and guide you through the process of deciding which flat roofing materials will be best for you.

Contact a Roofing Contractor Today! ☎️

If you are ready to replace your flat roof, DuraShield can help. Since 2003, we’ve been guiding customers through the process of renovating and maintaining their homes and businesses. We’re experts in all things roofing and have installed commercial roofs for offices, hotels, and rental facilities throughout the Wisconsin area.

Interested in learning more about our services? Contact us today to request a free roof consultation! With our expertise, we can help you choose a roofing material that fits your needs and budget!

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