What is the Best Type of Material for a 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 metal flat roof over your business, you need to do thorough research to find the best metal flat roof material that suits your style and budget. When evaluating the different flat 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.

Flat Roof Materials Types

A variety of materials can be used to make a flat roof. The most common types include these four flat roofing materials listed:

1. 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 metal 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Walkable Flat Roofs

A walkable flat roof is a roofing system specifically designed to support foot traffic safely. Several key factors contribute to making a flat roof walkable:

  1. Structural Integrity: A walkable flat roof must have a robust structural framework capable of bearing the weight of people, furniture, and equipment. This typically involves using strong materials and proper reinforcement to ensure the roof can withstand the added load.
  2. Slip Resistance: The surface of a walkable flat roof should have excellent slip resistance, even when wet or exposed to other environmental factors. Various coatings or materials can be applied to provide traction and prevent accidents.
  3. Waterproofing: A walkable flat roof needs to be fully waterproofed to protect the underlying structure from leaks and water damage. This often involves incorporating multiple layers of waterproof membranes, sealants, and flashings to create a watertight barrier.
  4. Insulation: Adequate insulation is crucial for a walkable flat roof to maintain comfortable temperatures below and prevent heat loss or gain. Proper insulation can also enhance energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.
  5. Drainage System: Efficient drainage is essential to prevent water pooling and ensure the roof remains dry. Incorporating a well-designed drainage system with gutters, downspouts, and proper slope allows water to flow away from the roof surface effectively.
  6. Access Points and Safety Features: Walkable flat roofs should include safe and secure access points such as stairs, ladders, or rooftop hatches. Additionally, the roof may require safety features like guardrails or skylight screens to protect individuals from accidental falls or hazards.

By incorporating these elements, a walkable flat roof provides a functional and safe space for regular foot traffic, whether it's for maintenance, leisure, or commercial purposes.

What Is the Best Flat Roof System?

There are several flat roof systems available, each with its own advantages and considerations. The best flat roof system for a particular project depends on various factors such as budget, building design, climate, and intended use of the roof.

Here are some popular flat roof systems:

  1. Built-Up Roofing (BUR): This traditional system consists of multiple layers of bitumen (asphalt) and roofing felts alternated with layers of bitumen. It is durable, fire-resistant, and provides excellent waterproofing. BUR is commonly used in commercial and industrial buildings.
  2. Modified Bitumen (MB): This system is similar to BUR but includes added polymer modifiers that enhance flexibility and durability. MB roofs are available in various installation methods, including torch-applied, self-adhesive, and cold-applied. They offer good resistance to weathering and can be suitable for both residential and commercial applications.
  3. Single-Ply Membrane Roofing: Single-ply membranes, typically made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or TPO (thermoplastic olefin), offer lightweight and flexible solutions. They are available in rolls that are either mechanically fastened, fully adhered, or ballasted. Single-ply roofs are known for their energy efficiency, ease of installation, and resistance to UV radiation.
  4. EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer): EPDM is a synthetic rubber membrane that provides excellent weather resistance and durability. It is commonly available in large sheets, which can be mechanically fastened or fully adhered to the roof deck. EPDM roofs are popular in both residential and commercial applications.
  5. Green Roof Systems: Green roofs involve the installation of vegetation and growing medium on top of a waterproofing layer. They offer numerous benefits, including improved energy efficiency, stormwater management, and aesthetic appeal. Green roofs require additional structural support and specialized expertise for installation and maintenance.

Ultimately, the best flat roof system depends on your specific needs, budget, and local climate conditions. It is advisable to consult with a or professional roofing contractor who can assess your requirements and recommend the most suitable system for your project.

Benefits of Metal Flat Roofing

Metal flat roofing offers numerous benefits for both residential and commercial buildings. One of the key advantages is its exceptional durability. Metal roofs are built to withstand the harshest weather conditions, including heavy rain, snow, and intense sunlight, without deteriorating over time. Additionally, they are incredibly low-maintenance, saving you time and money in the long run.

Metal roofs are also highly energy-efficient, reflecting the sun's rays and helping to keep your building cooler, which can lead to reduced energy costs. Moreover, they are environmentally friendly, as metal is often recyclable. Lastly, metal flat roofs provide a sleek and modern appearance, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of any structure. All these benefits combined make metal flat roofing an excellent choice for those looking for a long-lasting, energy-efficient, and visually appealing roofing solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use metal roofing on a flat roof?

Yes, you can use metal roofing on a flat roof! Metal works especially well on flat roofs with a low pitch. Installing a metal roof over a flat roof area can be a great way to improve your buildings eye appeal.

What is the best flat roof material for walking on?

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is the best flat roof material for walking on. This material is known to be tougher and more durable than other flat roof types, and can withstand foot traffic in moderation.

Looking for roofers for your commercial and industrial building project?  Call Action Roof Service on

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Damschroder Roofing was founded in 1976 and has been a family, locally owned business for over 45 years. We pride ourselves on the quality process we provide to all of our customers from start to finish.
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