If you have a flat roof, regular shingles or other conventional cover materials won’t work. As there’s no pitch on such roofs, the water will stay between the shingles or tiles and eventually find a way to your home. Your goal with a flat roof is to make it impermeable for water.

There are lots of flat roof materialsthat will make you forget about tiles or metal. The variety of applications is as great as the materials; no wonder flat roofs are so popular. They have been around since ancient times and still prevail. There are lots of benefits to a flat roof:

  • It’s easy to access them, so you can check any damage and safety precautions without the fear of sliding down;
  • There are more possibilities to store equipment there, like air conditioning vents;
  • The longevity of such roofs extends to over 30 years, depending on the material you choose;
  • You can build a deck on such a roof, creating a nice breakfast terrace, putting holiday decorations there, and creating extra space in your home;
  • Flat roofs are cheaper to install and re-coat.

Now, to the material options you have.

Most Popular Materials for a Flat Roof

Here, we’ll see the variety of options, their pros and cons, as well as main features.

PVC Membrane

Polyvinyl Chloride and Vinyl, or shortly PVC, is a membrane-type material covered in a single ply.

Pros:

  • Durability;
  • Weather and damage resistance;
  • Strong seams;
  • Energy-efficient;
  • Lifespan up to 20+ years.

Cons:

  • Costs more than EPDM and TPO;
  • Weaker puncture resistance.

The seams are hot-air welded, providing a strong, durable connection between the sheets. The material has been around since the 60s. For extra energy efficiency, it’s recommended to install a layer of insulation before PVC.

EPDM Rubber

Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM) is a suitable material for both commercial and residential building roofing. It’s a rubber membrane, more affordable than TPO or PVC roofing.

Pros:

  • Low-cost option;
  • Energy efficiency;
  • Great moisture and water resistance.

Cons:

  • Seams might fail;
  • Long rolls are difficult to handle;
  • Dark material attracts solar heat.

Just like with PVC, it’s recommended to insulate the roof prior to the installation of the rubber membrane. EPDM should be installed very carefully, like a sticker, to avoid air bubbles. Its longevity is 10-15 years.

TPO Membrane

Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) is also a single-ply membrane. It’s a medium between PVC and EPDM by price, energy efficiency, and other qualities. It’s been around since the 90s, but the older versions performed poorly, compared to the new ones.

Pros:

  • Strong seams;
  • Bonding to rubber, propylene, ethylene;
  • Longevity;
  • Strong puncture resistance.

Cons:

  • Quality concerns depending on the manufacturer;
  • Little info on long-term use.

TPO is very flexible and has hot-air welded seams, providing a strong connection between the sheets. Expect it to last between 7-30 years, depending on the manufacturer and application.

Modified Bitumen

While all the options above a single-ply, Modified Bitumen is a multi-ply material based on asphalt. It’s a relatively new material, somewhat similar to a built-up roof.

Pros:

  • Multi-layer;
  • Cold-rolled technology available;
  • Great longevity.

Cons:

  • Lots of labor needed for installation;

The cold-rolled technology involved a lot of tar for a flat roof. This material needs professional hands to work well. If installed properly, it will last up to 20 years.

BUR or Built-Up Roof

Built-Up Roofing (or BUR), as it was mentioned earlier, is similar to bitumen. An extra layer of gravel is the main difference. It’s also a multi-ply system that needs a professional to be installed.

Pros:

  • Multi-ply construction;
  • Hot asphalt used for adhesion;
  • Energy efficiency if there’s a reflective top layer;
  • Extra durability if there’s a gravel top layer.

Cons:

  • Only professional installation;
  • Dark material attracts heat.

Basically, it’s tar and gravel on top of commercial buildings. Such a flat roof offers a longevity of 15 to 20 years.

Spray-On Roof

This isn’t a stand-alone roof. It’s a coating that is used to improve the power efficiency and longevity of your flat roof.

Pros:

  • No prep except for cleaning;
  • Easy application;
  • Great durability.

Cons:

  • Not a roof material, only a coating.

The Spray-On Roof coating lasts up to 20 years.

Final Words

By choosing a material for your flat roof wisely, you can achieve extra longevity of 20 years and more, energy-efficiency, and weather resistance. Consider having a professional install your flat roof.


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