Which Roofing Material is Best for a Flat Roof

There are a few ways to go when it comes to a flat roof and roofing material has made some advances in the past few years. These new materials and processes tend to offer better wear than older methods but like all new things, they also tend to cost more. With that said, you can expect a properly installed flat roof to last about 25 years.

Here are your flat roof options and some benefits and drawbacks for each that may help you decide how to manage your roofing material on your flat roof.

Built Up Roof (BUR)

Built from three or more layers of hot tar, smooth river rocks, and waterproof membranes, BUR once used exclusively tar paper for the waterproofing. Now the method is transitioning to a more advanced fiberglass membrane instead.

This type of roofing material offers a great fire retardant option thanks to the gravel. It also provides a nice view for windows that overlook the roof and it’s quite cost-effective as compared to the other methods discussed below.

However, this type of roofing material is very heavy so joists may need to be strengthened to support this method. When installing this roofing material, it needs a professional to do the job and it is quite messy, not to mention smelly. For this reason, installation is not recommended on an occupied home.

As well, it is difficult to locate leaks should the need arise and the gravel itself can clog gutters. So regular checkups and maintenance are important for a BUR material.

Modified Bitumen

This flat roofing type of material is very similar to ice and water shielding. The difference is that, unlike the shield, the roofing material includes a mineral-based wear surface. A torch-down method of installation heats the adhesive as the material is rolled out.

As an alternative, there is now a peel-and-stick system that can be applied safely and with greater ease. This is also beneficial as a homeowner can install the peel-and-stick variety on their own.

The light color of the mineral surface reflects heat and helps cut energy costs. This material is higher up the scale in terms of price as compared to BUR but it’s not the most expensive way to go.

If the torch-down method is used, make sure it is professionally applied as it is a fire hazard. So it is also not recommended for application on an occupied home. This material is not as forgiving on scuffs or tears as other rubber membranes.

Rubber Membrane

Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) is a rubber material that is perfectly suited for a flat roof. It is durable and appears similar to an inner tube of a tire, with a design that is built to resist damage from direct sunlight.

This type of roof can be anchored down with fasteners, ballasted with gravel or similar stone, or it can be glued in place, which makes it easy for a homeowner to install on a DIY project.
This material is light-weight and resists tearing, while it can also be easily repaired in the event of a leak.

However, the black material absorbs heat and although there is a light-colored option, it can add up to 30% more to the cost. This is the most expensive of the flat roofing materials we have noted and it is more susceptible to punctures than the others.

So there are the choices for flat roofing materials, along with some pros and cons to consider for each. If you’re still not sure which one is right for you, speak to a professional roofing expert that has experience with flat roofing options.

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