Best Flat Roofing Materials: Top 5 Picks

Flat roofs have many benefits. They are modern and less expensive to put up and take care of. You might wonder what materials are best for flat roofs. Exploring various types of roofs is crucial for homeowners and contractors alike to make an informed decision about the most suitable and affordable option for their specific needs.

PVC, TPO, EPDM, and MB are top picks for single-ply flat roofs. Built-up roofs, or BUR, layer different materials with asphalt. Flat roofing materials are not just for commercial spaces; they are increasingly being adopted for residential buildings due to their modern aesthetic and practical benefits.

When evaluating different flat roof systems, it’s essential to consider factors like roofing contractor expertise, roof membranes, and the specific needs of low-slope roofs.

In this article, we’ll talk about why flat roofs are good, the top materials for them, how their costs stack up, and how to keep them in good shape. Let’s dive in!

Best Flat Roofing Materials: Top 5 Picks

Top 5 Best Flat Roofing Materials

Flat roofs are less expensive to build. Let’s look at the best materials for flat roofs!

1. PVC Roofing

PVC Roofing ProsPVC Roofing Cons
One of the most popular flat roofing materialsThere are many sustainability concerns
Low maintenanceIt is one of the more expensive options
It is very durable and has a multi-decade lifespan
Water-resistant and not prone to leaking

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a top material for flat roofs. It’s made from petroleum and comes in big, single-ply rolls. PVC is a favorite for many because it’s strong and doesn’t need much upkeep. PVC roofs can last up to thirty years. They’re waterproof, fireproof, can handle strong winds, and don’t get damaged by pollution.

But, some people worry about PVC’s effect on the environment. Making PVC lets out harmful chemicals. Don’t worry—PVC isn’t the only choice for flat roofs.

2. TPO Roofing

TPO Roofing ProsTPO Roofing Cons
Fairly popular and gaining widespread usageInsufficient data regarding long-term performance
Extremely lightweightYou may have trouble sourcing this material
Very durable
Non-pollutant and won’t contaminate rainwater
Another popular choice in single-ply membrane roofs is TPO, known for its energy efficiency and ease of installation. This type of material is a go-to option for many residential buildings, offering a balance between cost and durability.

TPO, or thermoplastic polyolefin, is another good choice for single-ply roofing. It’s becoming more popular in the roofing project world and for good reasons.

TPO is tough and can shield your roof from UV rays and chemicals. Plus, it won’t dirty the rainwater that flows off your roof. It’s also light and doesn’t need a lot of care.

Since TPO is still pretty new, we don’t know how it will hold up over many years. This makes TPO more of a gamble, especially when finding a trustworthy seller.

3. BUR Roofing

BUR Roofing ProsBUR Roofing Cons
Great expected lifespanHard and long installation process
Extremely durableVery heavy material that needs adequate support
Perfect for roofs where people will often hang outRepairs can be difficult

Built-up roofs, known as BUR, are made by layering materials like ply sheets, cover boards, and insulation. These layers are glued together with asphalt right on the roof.

Built-up roofing (BUR) is a popular choice among commercial properties for its durability and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions. Its multiple layers provide a strong seal and excellent insulation, reducing energy bills significantly.

The many layers make the roof last longer, with each one adding about five years to its life. A top layer of stones and gravel protects it from things that could hurt other roofs.

BUR is perfect for people who want to use their roof space, like for walking around, because it’s very strong. It’s also not very likely to catch fire because of all the materials in it.

But BURs are heavy and take a while to set up. You need to make sure the building can hold the roof’s weight. If you get a leak, it’s harder to fix than in a single-layer roof.

4. EPDM Roofing

EPDM Roofing ProsEPDM Roofing Cons
Extremely customizable and versatileIt can be difficult to install
Very durable and has an exceptionally long lifespanProne to leaking if improperly installed
Easy to repair
Works well in nearly any climate

EPDM, a tough rubber roof material, is great for building flat roofs. It can be put up in different ways, which makes it flexible. And it has lots of benefits!

It is a synthetic rubber membrane, is not typically used on steep slopes but excels on flat or low-slope roofs. Some variants come with a reflective coating to further enhance energy efficiency.

Another popular type of material in flat roofing is the single-ply membrane, known for its versatility. These single-ply roofs come in various colors, with white color being a common choice for its superior energy efficiency, while black material is preferred for its durability and UV resistance.

EPDM is one of the strongest materials for flat roofs, lasting up to fifty years. It’s a single-ply material, so it’s easier to install than others.

EPDM roofs last long because the rubber stretches to handle different weather well. It’s also cheap to buy and easy to fix if damaged. Plus, it doesn’t catch fire easily.

But, if EPDM isn’t put on right, your roof might leak. So, getting someone who knows how to work with EPDM to do the job is important.

5. MB Roofing

MB Roofing ProsMB Roofing Cons
Similar to BUR roofing, but easier to repairConsidered somewhat fragile
Very easy to installSignificantly shorter lifespan than similar materials
Extremely water-resistant and not prone to leaking
Energy-efficient and good thermal performance

Modified Bitumen, or MB roofing, is an asphalt-based choice that’s a lot like the built-up roofs we talked about before. But unlike BUR’s layers, MB is a single-ply material that’s simple to put on flat roofs.

MB roofing is easy to install because it comes in self-sticking rolls and is good at keeping water out. Its water resistance and tight sealing help prevent leaks.

However, MB material can be delicate. It’s not the best choice if you use your roof space often. Also, MB roofs don’t last as long as some other materials.

You might need to replace an MB roof after 10 to 20 years. If you want a very strong roof that lasts a long time, you might prefer something like PVC or TPO.

For those considering modified bitumen roofs, it’s worth noting that this type of bitumen roof system combines traditional and modern roofing technologies, offering enhanced flexibility and protection against harsh weather conditions.

Flat Roofing Materials Cost Comparison

We’ve looked at different materials’ good and bad points for your flat roof. Now you know what choices you have. Next, let’s think about how much they cost.

We’ve determined the prices of these materials by how much they cost for each square foot. This way, you can guess how much the material you pick will cost. We’ve listed them from the least expensive to the most expensive. Let’s check them out!

Flat Roofing MaterialsAverage Cost Per Square Foot
EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer)$1-$4
TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin)$2-$5
BUR (Built-Up Roof)$3-$6
MB (Modified Bitumen)$4-$6
PVC (polyvinyl chloride)$6-$12

What Makes Flat Roofs So Desirable?

Choosing a flat roof comes with lots of benefits. You start getting these benefits even before your flat roof is built. Let’s discuss why this is and four other good things about flat roofs.

While discussing flat roofing options, it’s worth mentioning metal roofing as a viable alternative, especially for sloped roofs. Metal roofs offer longevity and can be an excellent option for certain architectural styles.

Flat Roofs are Cheaper to Construct

The slope of your roof affects how much material you need to build it. Flat roofs need less material, so they cost less to make. You don’t even have to paint them.

Flat roofs are not just cheaper to build, but they’re also cheaper to fix. This means you’ll save money from the start and keep saving as time goes on. A flat roof is a smart choice that’s good for your wallet!

Flat Roofs are the Modern Choice

Flat roofs are not just affordable to build, but they also give a modern look. While steep, slanted roofs might seem old-fashioned, flat roofs are in style for modern buildings.

If you want your home to look modern, picking the right roof is key. So, your chosen roof is a big deal for your home’s appearance.

Flat Roofs Improve Energy Efficiency

Houses with steep, slanted roofs have a lot of space up high, making heating and cooling expensive. But a flat roof doesn’t have this extra space that’s not being used.

Depending on the materials you choose for your roof, you can make the surface of your flat roof up to forty percent cooler. This means less heat gets into your house. If you want to save energy at home, a flat roof can help with that.

Flat Roofs Maximize Interior Space

Pitched roofs can make using the space under them tricky because of the sloping walls. But flat roofs let you use every bit of space inside without any weird angles!

Thanks to a flat roof, you can turn the top floor into a nice living space or an attic with a lot of stuff. You can even use the space on top of your roof outside.

Flat Roofs are Highly Versatile

The versatility of flat roofs extends to green roofs, which are becoming an excellent choice for urban environments. These roofs enhance the aesthetic appeal and contribute to environmental sustainability.

Flat roofs let you use the space on top of your house. For example, it’s easier to put an air conditioning unit on a flat roof, and it’s safer to get to it for any service it might need.

But you can do more with a flat roof than installing an air conditioner. You could make a green garden or a patio to relax with friends and family. There are so many possibilities with a flat roof.

Tips for Maintaining a Flat Roof

Proper maintenance is crucial for extending flat roofs’ lifespan, whether on commercial buildings or residential properties. Regular inspections and timely repairs can prevent major issues and ensure the roof’s integrity.

Maintaining the roof surface is crucial for longevity. Applying roof coatings can enhance the performance of materials like the single-ply roofing membrane, offering additional protection against the elements.

We talked about how the material of your flat roof can affect how long it lasts. But taking care of your roof is just as important. Let’s go over five key tips to keep your flat roof in good shape!

Keep Your Flat Roof Clean

A common problem with flat roofs is that they can gather leaves and other stuff because there’s no slope for things to slide off, like on pitched roofs. If you have a flat roof, you need to make sure to clean it off.

Cleaning stops the debris from blocking water from flowing off your roof, which could make it leak. If you keep your flat roof clean, you can avoid these problems!

Make Sure Your Drainage System Functions Properly

Like we said before, if stuff piles up on your flat roof, it can mess up how water drains off. If you don’t clean it off, the debris might get into your drains and block them.

This can cause other problems, like rainwater building up on your roof. That’s why ensuring your drains are working right regularly is important. And when you do that, it’s also a good idea to look at your roof.

Regularly Inspect Your Rooftop

Flat roofs might need more work to keep up than slanted roofs. But if you check your roof often, you can catch any problems early and keep your roof in great shape. It’s easier to see issues when standing on a flat roof.

You should check your roof often, but doing it after a storm is extra important. That’s when wind damage can blow stuff onto your roof, and rain can make puddles if the drains are blocked. Even though you have to go up on the roof to check it, it’s safer because it’s flat.

Don’t Overload Your Flat Roof

Remembering how much weight your flat roof can hold is key if you want it to last a long time. It’s especially important to use the space on top of your roof. Your roof can only handle so much weight.

You need to know the exact weight limit for your roof. If unsure, ask the people who designed and built your roof. They can tell you. This is important to stop your roof from falling in.

Be Wary of the Surrounding Environment

We’ve talked about how flat roofs can gather leaves and stuff. To make cleaning your roof easier, you can cut back any trees close to it, especially those hanging over the roof.

Look around your yard for trees that might drop leaves or branches on your roof, and trim them. This will not only make it easier to keep your roof clean, but it will also stop branches from falling and hurting your roof. Plus, it helps your drains stay clear and work well!

FAQs about the Best Roofing Materials

What is the best material to use for flat roofs?

1. PVC Roofing: Durable, water and fire-resistant, minimal maintenance, but more expensive and has environmental concerns.
2. TPO Roofing: Increasingly popular, UV resistant, lightweight, and eco-friendly, but with limited long-term performance data.
3. EPDM Roofing: Versatile, durable, affordable, and easy to repair, but can be prone to leaks if not installed properly.
4. BUR Roofing: Very durable, great for heavy usage, but heavy, complex to install, and requires a strong structure.
5. MB Roofing: Easy to install, water-resistant, and energy-efficient, but less durable with a shorter lifespan.

What is the longest-lasting flat roof material?

The longest-lasting material for flat roofs is typically EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer). EPDM is a synthetic rubber roofing membrane known for its durability and longevity. When properly installed and maintained, an EPDM roof can last up to 50 years.

What is the best roofing solution for a flat roof?

The best roofing solution for a flat roof often depends on specific needs and circumstances, but generally, PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) roofing is highly recommended. PVC roofs offer a strong balance of durability, longevity, and environmental resistance. They are waterproof, fire-resistant, and can withstand strong winds and chemical exposure.

What is the best base material used for a long, flat roof?

For a long-lasting flat roof, PVC is often considered the best base material due to its durability, water resistance, and lifespan of up to 30 years.

When considering flat roof replacements, it’s crucial to consult experienced professionals who can assess your roof type and the condition of your roof deck. Each material has its range of benefits and challenges, and a professional can guide you in making the best choice for your specific needs.


Flat roofs are getting more popular all the time. They’re not just the modern choice for roofs but also have many other pluses. We’ve gone over the good things about these up-to-date roofs, the top materials for making them, and advice on how to keep your flat roof in good shape for a long time.

Consulting with roofing experts is key to understanding the ease of proper installation and maintenance. These materials can also influence energy costs, especially in colder climates, by providing better insulation.



Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.