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flat roofing on residential

4 Best Flat Roof Materials (Durability, Longevity, Costs, & More)

Posted By: Matt Watson

Flat roofing is a recognized standard for lots of commercial buildings. This is because flat roofs offer:

  • A sleek and modern aesthetic
  • Efficient use of space
  • The potential for rooftop storage and solar installation
  • Minimal maintenance

Is your business in need of an upgrade? Dealing with unsightly damage, leaking or worse? Don’t hesitate to upgrade your commercial roofing system with a new material or coating.

After all, choosing the best flat roof materials is crucial for ensuring durability, weather resistance, and cost-effectiveness.

In this blog post, we will delve into different flat roof materials, discussing their pros and cons, costs, and expected lifespans. Additionally, we’ll explore common signs of flat roof damage and provide essential maintenance tips to extend the life of your flat roof.

4 Popular Flat Roofing Materials

Each property is unique, which means that you deserve a unique roof! Knowing the different pros and cons of flat roofing can help you choose the style that is best for you.

1) Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-Up Roofing (BUR), also known as tar and gravel roofing, has been a reliable choice for flat roofs for over a century. It is constructed by layering alternating sheets of bitumen (asphalt or coal tar) and reinforcing materials like fiberglass or polyester.

βœ… Pros:

  • BUR roofs are known for their longevity, often exceeding 20-30 years.
  • Fire-resistant due to multiple layers of bitumen.
  • Good protection against UV radiation.

❌ Cons:

  • The multiple layers make BUR roofs quite heavy, requiring a sturdy roof structure.
  • Installation can be labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  • Vulnerable to ponding water if not properly sloped.

πŸ’° Cost:

Moderate to high, depending on the number of layers and quality of materials. On average it costs between $4-$10 per square foot.

πŸŽ‚ Expected Lifespan:

20-30 years or more.

2) Modified Bitumen Roofing

Aerial view of flat roof material - modified bitumen - being installed

Modified Bitumen roofing is a modern evolution of BUR, combining bitumen with modifiers like rubber or plastic to improve its performance.

βœ… Pros:

  • Improved flexibility and resistance to temperature fluctuations.
  • Multiple installation methods, including torch-applied, peel-and-stick, and cold-applied.
  • Reasonable cost compared to some other flat roofing materials.

❌ Cons:

  • Not as durable as BUR, with an expected lifespan of 10-20 years.
  • Vulnerable to punctures and tears.
  • Requires regular maintenance to address potential issues.

πŸ’° Cost:

Moderate. A modified bitumen roof will typically cost you between $4-$7.50 per square foot.

πŸŽ‚ Expected Lifespan:

10-20 years.

3) EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) Roofing

EPDM flat roofing material - close up view

EPDM roofing is a synthetic rubber membrane commonly used for flat roofs. It is known for its durability and resistance to weathering.

βœ… Pros:

  • Exceptional durability, with a lifespan of 30-50 years.
  • Excellent resistance to UV radiation and harsh weather conditions.
  • Lightweight and easy to install.

❌ Cons:

  • Vulnerable to punctures from sharp objects.
  • Requires regular cleaning to prevent debris buildup.
  • Not as aesthetically pleasing as some other options.


Moderate to high. Typically runs between $3-$12 per square foot.

πŸŽ‚ Expected Lifespan:

30-50 years.

4) TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) Roofing

TPO roofing is a single-ply membrane that has gained popularity for its energy efficiency and reflective properties.

βœ… Pros:

  • Energy-efficient, reflecting heat and reducing cooling costs.
  • Lightweight and easy to install.
  • Resistant to punctures and tears.

❌ Cons:

  • Some TPO products have shown signs of premature aging and cracking.
  • May not be as durable as EPDM over the long term.
  • Limited color options compared to other roofing materials.

πŸ’° Cost:

Moderate. Usually falls in the range of $5-$9 per square foot

πŸŽ‚ Expected Lifespan:

20-30 years.

Common Signs of Flat Roof Damage

Regardless of the roofing material you choose, it’s essential to be vigilant and identify signs of damage early to prevent costly repairs.

Some common signs of flat roof damage include:

  • Ponding Water: Prolonged standing water on your flat roof can lead to leaks and structural damage.
  • Blisters or Bubbles: Raised areas on the roof’s surface may indicate trapped moisture or insufficient adhesion.
  • Cracks or Tears: Visible openings or damage to the roofing membrane can lead to leaks and further deterioration.
  • Membrane Pulling Away: If the roofing membrane is separating from the roof deck or flashing, it requires immediate attention.
  • Algae or Moss Growth: Over time, organic growth can damage the roofing material and create weak spots.

Of course, if the damage is too great, it may be time to get in touch with a qualified commercial roofing contractor for reliable and detailed commercial roof replacement.

Flat Roof Materials – Maintenance Tips

Proactive maintenance is key to extending the lifespan of your flat roof and minimizing repair costs. Here are some essential maintenance tips:

  • Regular Inspections: Perform visual inspections at least twice a year and after severe weather events to spot potential issues early.
  • Keep Drains Clear: Ensure that drains and gutters are clear of debris to prevent ponding water.
  • Clean Debris: Remove leaves, branches, and other debris from the roof to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Address Punctures Promptly: Repair any punctures or tears in the roofing membrane promptly to prevent leaks.
  • Schedule Professional Inspections: Hire a roofing professional to perform a thorough inspection every 2-3 years or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Ensure Proper Sloping: Ensure your roof has an adequate slope to allow water to flow toward drains or scuppers.

Reach Out to the Experts on Flat Roof Systems

Selecting the right flat roofing material is a crucial decision for any commercial building owner. Whether you opt for the time-tested BUR, the modern Modified Bitumen, or the efficient EPDM or TPO, a well-maintained flat roof can provide years of reliable service and protection for your property.

Not sure which route you want to go? Springfield Roofing can help!

Our commercial roofing services are designed to provide you with a roofing system that saves you money and time. Contact us today to learn more about our services!

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