working on a flat roof
5 minutes Read 3.8.24

When it comes to roofing, flat roofs offer a unique set of challenges and opportunities. They are a popular choice for commercial buildings, modern homes, and even some traditional architectural designs.

However, the key to a successful flat roof lies in selecting the right materials. In this comprehensive guide, we will go into:

  • What a flat roof is
  • Various types of flat roof materials
  • The pros and cons of each
  • Insights on when to replace your flat roof system
  • Associated costs

What is a Flat Roof?

A flat roof is a horizontal or nearly horizontal surface that covers the top of a building or structure. While it may appear completely flat to the naked eye, it typically has a slight slope to allow for proper drainage. They are usually found in commercial buildings. Flat roofs are distinct from sloped or pitched roofs, which have a steeper angle to facilitate rain and snow runoff. Flat roofs are chosen for several reasons, such as aesthetics, space utilization, and cost-effectiveness.

4 Different Types of Flat Roof Materials and Their Pros and Cons

1) Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing, also known as “tar and gravel” roofing, has been a popular choice for flat roofs for decades. It consists of multiple layers of roofing felt or fiberglass mats impregnated with asphalt and alternating layers of hot tar. Here are the pros and cons:

✅ Pros:

  • Proven durability: BUR roofs can last 20-30 years with proper maintenance.
  • Excellent waterproofing capabilities.
  • Resistant to UV rays and extreme temperatures.
  • Provides thermal insulation.

❌ Cons:

  • Heavy and requires a sturdy roof structure.
  • Installation can be messy and labor-intensive.
  • Maintenance and repairs can be costly.
  • Vulnerable to ponding water, which can lead to leaks.

2) Modified Bitumen Roofing

Modified bitumen roofing is a modern evolution of BUR roofing. It combines asphalt with modifiers like APP (Atactic Polypropylene) or SBS (Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene) to enhance performance. Here are the pros and cons:

✅ Pros:

  • Good flexibility and resistance to temperature fluctuations.
  • Easy and relatively quick installation.
  • Strong waterproofing properties.
  • Resistant to UV rays.

❌ Cons:

  • Limited aesthetic options.
  • Vulnerable to punctures and foot traffic.
  • Requires regular maintenance to check for cracks or blistering.
  • Lifespan typically ranges from 10-20 years.

3) EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer)

EPDM is a synthetic rubber roofing material often used for flat roofs. It comes in large rolls that are mechanically fastened, adhered, or ballasted to the roof substrate. Here are the pros and cons:

✅ Pros:

  • Excellent resistance to UV radiation and extreme weather conditions.
  • Lightweight and easy to install.
  • Low maintenance requirements.
  • Lifespan can exceed 30 years with proper care.

❌ Cons:

  • Susceptible to punctures and tears.
  • Limited color options.
  • Seams may require periodic inspection and maintenance.
  • Vulnerable to damage from oils and solvents.

4) TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin)

TPO roofing is a single-ply roofing membrane that has gained popularity in recent years. It is made from a blend of ethylene-propylene rubber and polypropylene. Here are the pros and cons:

✅ Pros:

  • High reflectivity and energy efficiency.
  • Resistant to UV rays and chemical exposure.
  • Lightweight and easy to install.
  • Low maintenance requirements.
  • Lifespan can exceed 20 years.

❌ Cons:

  • Vulnerable to punctures and tears.
  • Limited color choices.
  • Seams may require regular inspection and maintenance.
  • Quality can vary among manufacturers.

When to Replace Your Flat Roof System

Roofer installs a flat roof

Knowing when to replace your flat roof system is crucial to prevent extensive damage to your building and its contents. Here are some signs that indicate it may be time for a replacement:

  • Persistent Leaks: Frequent or severe leaks that cannot be effectively repaired are a clear sign of roofing failure.
  • Blisters and Cracks: If you notice widespread blistering or cracks on the surface of your flat roof, it may be time for a replacement.
  • Visible Wear and Tear: An aging roof with visible signs of deterioration, such as granule loss or exposed roofing felt, should be evaluated for replacement.
  • Ponding Water: Prolonged ponding water can cause structural damage and leaks, necessitating roof replacement to improve drainage.
  • Energy Inefficiency: If your energy bills are consistently high and your flat roof lacks proper insulation, it may be cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient material.
  • Extensive Damage: Damage from severe weather events or fire may require a complete roof replacement rather than repairs.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a New Flat Roof?

installing a flat roof

The cost of installing a new flat roof can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of roofing material, the size and complexity of the roof, labor costs, and geographic location. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $12 per square foot for a new flat roof installation.

Here’s a breakdown of typical costs for different flat roofing materials:

  • Built-Up Roofing (BUR): The cost for BUR roofing ranges from $5 to $10 per square foot, including materials and labor.
  • Modified Bitumen Roofing: The cost for modified bitumen roofing falls in the range of $6 to $12 per square foot.
  • EPDM Roofing: EPDM roofing typically costs between $5 and $10 per square foot.
  • TPO Roofing: TPO roofing is priced similarly to EPDM, ranging from $5 to $10 per square foot.

It’s important to note that these cost estimates are approximate and can vary significantly depending on your location and specific project requirements. Factors such as insulation, additional layers, roof access, and roof shape can all impact the final cost. Additionally, roof maintenance and periodic inspections should be factored into your long-term budget.

Get The Right Flat Roofing Material For Your Home

Selecting the right flat roof material is crucial for the longevity and performance of your roofing system. Whether you opt for built-up roofing, modified bitumen, EPDM, or TPO, a well-maintained flat roof can provide years of reliable service for your home or commercial building. At Veteran’s Roofing, we work with a wide range of flat roof materials to help you get the results that you want. Contact us today to learn more about your options.

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