Picking the right flat roof material for your project is an important step in roof refurbishment. You’ll need to take into consideration the various pros and cons that each offers, your own individual needs, plus the overall budget for the project. Every build has its own nuances and requirements so take the time to understand your plan clearly before making any concrete decisions.
In this article, we’re going to compare a number of the leading flat roof materials, try and help you to understand which flat roof material you should choose, and explore typical costs associated with a flat roof build. So, no matter if you’re reroofing or replacing, this guide will be sure to be helpful.
5 Best Flat Roof Materials to Consider
These are our choices of the best flat roof materials, each has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to weigh them against each other and pick the best option for your project.
Built-Up Flat Roof (BUR)
For over a century, built-up roofs (BUR) have been a popular choice for commercial and industrial roofing. Multiple layers of bitumen (asphalt) and reinforcing fabrics (ply sheets) are combined to form these systems, which are then topped with a layer of aggregate, such as gravel, slag, or mineral granules.
One of the most significant advantages of built-up roofs is their longevity; they typically have a lifespan of 15-30 years with minimal maintenance. They also provide excellent UV and waterproofing protection, and the aggregate top layer adds fire resistance and aesthetic appeal.
However, it’s important to note that built-up roofs can be more expensive and time-consuming to install compared to other flat roofing options. They may also be more vulnerable to water and wind damage.
PVC Membrane Roofing
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a white single-ply membrane that is extensively used in both commercial and residential roofing. It is especially well-suited to flat or low-slope roofs over living areas or bedrooms. PVC, like TPO, is a long-lasting as well as a durable option, with a lifespan of around 25 years when properly installed.
PVC and TPO are similar in many ways, including their characteristics and installation process. The main distinction is that PVC is slightly more flexible and has been around for a longer time. PVC Membranes are advanced waterproofing flat roof materials that are made waterproof through hot air welding and are based on elastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC-P).
Contractors and DIY enthusiasts can benefit from PVC roofs in a variety of ways. They are strong and elastic, making them ideal for rough and misshapen surfaces. They also meet all fire safety requirements and have a high vapor permeability, preventing condensate moisture stagnation.
PVC roofs are also lightweight, which reduces the load on the main structure and simplifies the covering process. They are simple to install and, helpfully, installs can be done in almost any weather. The membrane installation typically costs about $7 to $11 per square foot, making it an affordable option.
Modified Bitumen Flat Roof
If you were to compare these against the others on this list, modified bitumen roofs are the most cost-effective option. While these roofs are susceptible to cracking and blistering, reducing their typical lifespan to 10-15 years, the lower cost can make them an appealing choice for businesses on a budget. Despite this shorter lifespan, modified bitumen roofs can be a good option for those looking for a low-cost flat roofing solution.
EPDM Membrane Roofing
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) is a synthetic rubber roofing material that is commonly used on low-slope flat roofs. EPDM, also known as “rubber roofing,” has a reputation for being versatile and effective. The membranes come in black, white, grey, and tan colors. They are conformable, impermeable, lightweight, and durable, with a lifespan of 30 years or more, and are generally inexpensive.
Compare EPDM to other commercial flat roofing materials, and you’ll find that EPDM is the easiest to maintain. However, it is susceptible to shrinkage and puncture, and if you opt for the black EPDM you’ll quickly find that it absorbs more heat, potentially reducing energy efficiency and the additional heat makes it less suitable for many commercial roofing applications.
TPO roofing is a popular and cost-effective flat roofing material. TPO roofs have a lifespan of 10-20 years and are energy-efficient like PVC roofs. Because the seams are heat welded to prevent leaks, they require less maintenance than some EPDM roof installations. TPO roofing is an excellent choice for those seeking a low-cost, low-maintenance flat roofing solution.
Which Flat Roof Material Should You Choose?
If you’re a contractor or DIY enthusiast looking to replace your flat roof, it’s critical to consider which material is best suited to your needs and budget. There are several options available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
A membrane roof system is one option to consider. These systems, such as PVC or TPO, are inexpensive and ideal for flat roofs over living areas or bedrooms. A standing seam metal roof may be a good option if you have a larger budget and want a longer lifespan. This type of roofing allows you to customize the color of the painted finish and has a 20-25 year lifespan.
EPDM is another option to consider. EPDM is the longest-lasting flat roof material, capable of withstanding the most extreme weather conditions, plus it’s likely to last in the region of 30-50 years. EPDM may be the best choice if you want a flat roof that is flexible, highly resistant to UV and infrared light, and can withstand the erosive properties of rainwater. Helpful during the summer and reduces your winter maintenance checklist.
It really comes down to the budget and style you’d like for your roof, so consider these first All four of these options are viable options for differing reasons, and by considering your requirements, you will be able to make the best decision for your project.
How Much Will A New Flat Roof Typically Cost?
It’s almost impossible to give an accurate average cost, as there are so many factors at play here. Roof replacement costs also vary across the US. That said, if you want a ballpark figure, work with a budget of $14-17 per square foot if you’re going to work with a membrane in a smaller space, as low as $12 for larger projects.
Steel standing seam metal flat roofs tend to come in at the $15 per square foot mark.
Budget, style, taste, working conditions, longevity, and energy efficiency, there’s a lot to consider when planning a new flat roof. Our best advice would be to plan ahead, take the time to think about your options and work within a sensible budget.
- Each material offers its own pros and cons, consider what is most important to you.
- Some roofing materials offer greater thermal efficiency than others, the space below needs to be considered as well.
Ready to start your next roofing project? Contact Fahey Roofing, and speak with the experts today.