How To Choose The Best Material For Your Flat Roof

Replacing a flat roof isn’t like buying a new pair of shoes — you don’t make such a big decision on a whim. If you’re planning to install a new flat roof over your business, you need to do thorough research to find the best flat roof material that suits your style and budget. When evaluating the different roofing material types, you’ll want to look at the lifespan, ease of maintenance, and the bottom line price of each of your options. To get you started, here are the four best roofing materials for flat roofs.

4. Metal Roofing

One choice for flat roofs today is aluminum. Older metal roofs were, however, made of terne (a tin-steel alloy) or copper. Modern-day styles include shingle strips and corrugated or ribbed panels.  Aluminum roofs are good, non-combustible heat reflectors, but not all styles are suitable for flat roofs.

The ease of maintenance is perhaps the best selling feature of aluminum roofs. These flat roofing materials are very easy to maintain except when the aluminum comes into contact with other metals, which can result in electrolytic action, causing faster deterioration. 

If you have a copper or terne roof, repairs can be easily performed with simple soldering skills. Copper or terned stainless steel doesn’t require priming or painting. But if your metal roof is made of copper, you can use acid flux to solder. You can seal any cracks with aluminized caulk or patch larger areas of damage using fiberglass. Overall, aluminum metal roofs can last about 35 years, but terne or copper roofs last much longer.

We recommend retrofitting metal flat roofs with a roof coating to help it last even longer.

3. Built-Up Roofing

Built-up roofs are designed to be absolutely waterproof, a feature which makes this material a perfect candidate for flat roofs. A built-up roof is usually fabricated on-site by laminating layers of felt with coal tar or asphalt, then topping with gravel.

However, maintenance problems associated with built-up roofs usually stem from incorrect installation at the beginning. Leaks from a poor job can plague you all through the lifespan of the roof. For this reason, make sure you are working with a seasoned roofing contractor.

Fortunately, repairing built-up roofs is relatively easy. Your roofing contractor will typically use roofing cement to seal small cracks and use the same material used for the original roof to repair bigger areas of damage.

The lifespan of a built-up roof ranges between 5 and 20 years. Generally, built-up roofs with more layers last longer than those with fewer layers.

2. Modified Bitumen Roof

When compared to other flat roofing materials, modified bitumen is the more budget-friendly option. Modified bitumen roofs utilize an asphalt membrane as the base of the roof itself. The surface is susceptible to blistering and cracking, which reduces the lifespan to just about 10 to 15 years. While the lifespan of modified bitumen is less than the more advanced flat roof options, the price point can make modified bitumen a desirable roofing material for some buildings.

Moreover, the top layer of modified bitumen can be treated to add “cool roof” features like thermal emission or solar reflectance, making it energy efficient. This helps to reduce indoor cooling requirements, which results in lower energy consumption.

In case the roof does tear, repairing modified bitumen can be done quickly and efficiently through simple patches. Most failures in flat roofs occur at the seals and flashing, but with proper installation and regular maintenance, modified bitumen roofs can last more than 15 years.

1. Single-Ply Roofing

Single-ply roofing comprises of flexible sheets of compounded plastic-derived materials used to cover flat and low-sloped roofs. The prefabricated membranes are produced in a factory following strict quality control requirements and can be applied in a variety of methods. Over the last 30 years, single-ply roofing systems have replaced older materials like tar paper as the roofing material of choice for flat roofs. When correctly installed, single-ply roofing systems can offer inherent advantages over other flat roofing materials due to their high durability, strength, and flexibility. 

There are three main types of single-ply roofs:

  • TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) – TPO roofing is considered the gold standard for flat roofing materials.
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – A membrane roof roofing system time tested and still popular roofing systems for flat roofs.
  • EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) – this roofing has been a top choice for single-ply roofing for several years.

If you know you need a flat roof replacement, we’re the local roofing contractor you can trust. At Damschroder Roofing, we have extensive experience with all the four best flat roofing material types. Whether you need a new roof or you’d like to explore a cost-effective flat roof restoration, it is a major decision that can massively impact your pocket. Fortunately, we offer free roof inspections in Fremont, OH, to help you make an informed decision. Contact us today to begin the conversation with one of our knowledgeable roofing specialists.