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What's the Best Roofing for a Flat Roof?

If you're in the market for a  new roof or simply curious about the best options for flat roofs, you've come to the right place. I’ve been in the roofing and home improvement business for quite some time, and I've had the opportunity to work on various roofing projects, including those with flat roofs. Trust me when I say that installing the right roofing material is crucial for a flat roof's performance and longevity. Flat roofs aren’t as common as pitched roofs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist! So, whether you’re repairing your flat roof or installing a brand new one, by the end of this post, you'll have a solid understanding of the top contenders and be one step closer to making an informed decision for your flat roof.


What Roofing Materials Are Best for a Flat Roof? 

When it comes to flat roofs, there's a whole range of roofing materials to choose from, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. But when it's time to tackle a flat roof project, roofing contractors often turn to single-ply materials. These are the go-to choice for repairing or installing a new flat roof:

  • Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM Rubber)
  • TPO Vinyl
  • Built-up Roofs (BUR)
  • Modified Bitumen Torch Down

Most roofing contractors will use EPDM rubber and modified bitumen roofing materials – but the best flat roof material for your house’s needs will depend on a range of factors. 


EPDM Rubber Vs TPO Vinyl Vs BUR Vs Modified Bitumen 

EPDM Rubber, TPO Vinyl, Built-Up Roofs (BUR), and Modified Bitumen are all commonly used roofing materials, but they each have unique properties that make them better suited for different roofing projects. 

For example, EPDM Rubber is known for its durability and resistance to weathering, making it a popular choice for flat roofs. TPO Vinyl is also a durable and energy-efficient option, providing excellent reflectivity and flexibility. Built-Up Roofs (BUR) consist of layers of tar and gravel or asphalt and are typically used for low-slope roofs. Modified Bitumen is a hybrid roofing material that combines the durability of asphalt with the flexibility of rubber, making it ideal for both flat and low-slope roofs. 

Ultimately, the best choice depends on the specific needs, climate, and budget of each project. So let’s dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of each. 


Pros and Cons of EPDM Rubber 


  • Durability: EPDM rubber roofs have a long lifespan and can withstand harsh weather conditions, including extreme heat, cold, and hail.
  • Low maintenance: EPDM rubber roofs require minimal maintenance, and any repairs can be easily and quickly done with patching or adhesive.
  • Energy efficiency: EPDM rubber roofs have excellent insulation properties, which can help reduce energy costs.
  • Cost-effective: EPDM rubber is one of the most affordable roofing materials available and can be a cost-effective option for flat roofs.


  • Vulnerability to punctures: EPDM rubber roofs can be vulnerable to punctures from sharp objects or falling debris, which can cause leaks.
  • Fading: Over time, EPDM rubber roofs can fade due to exposure to sunlight and may require a new coating to maintain their appearance.
  • Environmental impact: While EPDM rubber is a recyclable material, the manufacturing process can have a negative impact on the environment.


Pros and Cons of TPO Vinyl


  • White reflective surface: TPO vinyl has a white reflective surface that helps to reflect sunlight and heat, which can reduce cooling costs in warm climates.
  • Seam strength: TPO vinyl is heat-welded at the seams, which can create a stronger and more watertight seal 
  • Resistant to algae and mold: TPO vinyl is less likely to develop algae or mold growth 
  • Chemical resistance: TPO vinyl is resistant to many chemicals and pollutants, making it a good choice for industrial and urban areas.


  • Limited color options: TPO vinyl is only available in white, which may not be aesthetically pleasing for all building designs.
  • Vulnerability to tears: TPO vinyl can be vulnerable to tears from sharp objects or foot traffic, which can cause leaks.
  • Long-term performance: TPO vinyl is a relatively new roofing material, so its long-term performance under various weather conditions is not yet fully understood.


Pros and Cons of BUR


  • Long lifespan: BUR roofs can last up to 30 years or more with proper maintenance.
  • Resistant to fire: BUR roofs are made of multiple layers of asphalt and gravel, which can make them highly resistant to fire.
  • Versatile design: BUR roofs have a versatile design, allowing contractors to create custom layers based on the specific needs of the property.


  • Heavy: BUR is a heavy roofing material, which can put a lot of weight on the building structure and may require additional support.
  • Vulnerable to moisture: If not properly installed, BUR roofs can be vulnerable to moisture buildup, which can cause leaks and damage.
  • Difficult to repair: BUR roofs can be difficult and time-consuming to repair, as multiple layers must be removed and replaced.


Pros and Cons of Modified Bitumen 


  • Durability: Modified bitumen roofs are durable and can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance.
  • Flexibility: The added rubber or plastic makes modified bitumen roofing more flexible than traditional asphalt roofs, which can reduce the risk of cracking and splitting.
  • Energy-efficient: Modified bitumen roofs are available in light-colored options that can reflect sunlight and reduce cooling costs in warm climates.


  • Vulnerability to heat damage: If the modified bitumen roofing is exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight, it can become brittle and crack over time.
  • Installation issues: Improper installation of modified bitumen roofing can lead to leaks and other issues.
  • Not eco-friendly: The manufacturing process for modified bitumen roofing can have a negative impact on the environment, and the materials used are not recyclable.


Which Flat Roof Material is the Most Cost-Effective?

The cost of roofing materials can vary depending on factors such as the size of the roof, location, contractor rates, and any additional features or requirements. However, here is a general comparison of the cost ranges for EPDM Rubber, TPO Vinyl, BUR, and Modified Bitumen:

EPDM Rubber: EPDM rubber is often considered one of the more affordable roofing options. On average, the cost can range from $5 to $8 per square foot for materials and installation.

TPO Vinyl: TPO vinyl is also known for its cost-effectiveness. The average cost can range from $5 to $10 per square foot for materials and installation.

BUR (Built-Up Roof): BUR is typically a bit more expensive due to the multiple layers involved in its installation. The cost can range from $7 to $12 per square foot for materials and installation.

Modified Bitumen: Modified bitumen is usually priced similarly to BUR. The cost can range from $7 to $12 per square foot for materials and installation.

It's important to note that these cost ranges are approximate and can vary significantly depending on the factors mentioned earlier. To get an accurate cost estimate, consult with a roofing contractor who can assess your specific needs and provide a detailed quote based on your project requirements.


Which Material is Best for Homes in Maryland and Virginia?

Choosing the best material for your flat roof can be a daunting task, especially if you're not sure which options are suitable for your home's location. In Maryland and Virginia, where the weather can be quite extreme, it's important to choose a material that can withstand these conditions. EPDM rubber and TPO vinyl are popular choices for flat roofs in these areas because they're both durable and able to withstand harsh weather conditions.

However, deciding on the right material also depends on other factors such as your budget and the specific needs of your home. To make the best decision, it's always a good idea to consult with a roofing professional who can assess your roof's condition and provide expert recommendations based on your specific requirements.


Should You Repair or Replace Your Flat Roof?

Your home's roof is a significant investment that plays a vital role in protecting your property from water damage and pests. If you're considering whether to repair or replace your flat roof, it's important to weigh the costs and benefits of each option. If your roof's material is relatively new and damage is minimal, repairing it might be a wise choice.

However, if your flat roof has reached the end of its service life or if repair costs exceed 20% of the price of a new roof, it's time to consider a replacement. Installing a new flat roof can give you peace of mind knowing it will last for 15 to 20 years. Additionally, a new roof can enhance your home's curb appeal and resale value. If you're planning to sell your property soon, a new roof can instill confidence in potential buyers and help you recoup your investment.


Let Windows on Washington Help You With Your Flat Roof Installation 

Need help with your flat roof? Speak with our expert roofing team at Windows on Washington. Our team of professional roofing contractors will visit your property and assess the damage, taking into account the existing materials and your budget. We'll provide you with a detailed, no-obligation quote that's tailored specifically to your needs, so you can be confident that you're getting the best possible deal. With our vast knowledge of flat roofing materials, we'll recommend the most advantageous options for your unique situation. Get in touch today. 


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Topics: Roofing, Home Improvement