Which Flat Roofing Material is Right for Your Business?

Flat roofs are a common and popular choice for commercial properties for a number of reasons. They’re easily accessible, as they’re much easier and safer to climb and walk on than sloped roofing. Flat roofs also have more room available to accommodate the large exhaust and air conditioning vents often needed on commercial buildings, and the level surface provides added stability for these heavy systems. They’re also typically less expensive to maintain and install than sloped roofing systems and provide the same (if not better) longevity.

Despite these benefits, flat roofing systems are not without their challenges. Namely, without the same degree of slope as pitched roofs, it can be difficult for water, snow and leaves to run off the roof, which has the potential to cause moisture problems. Because of this, flat roofing requires different materials to help with these special conditions and considerations, and there are a variety of materials available, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.

In general, there are two kinds of flat roofing: single ply and multi-ply. Here are a few single-ply options.


EPDM, or ethylene propylene diene monomer, is a single ply rubber roofing membrane. It’s one of the easier flat roofing solutions to install, which can save property owners time and money during installation. However, its rubber surface tends to absorb heat in the sun, which can have a negative impact on the heating and cooling bill of property owner or tenant. The average lifespan of an EPDM roof is 25 to 30 years, though some are warrantied for up to 40 years.


While more expensive than EPDM, PVC roofing is also more durable. PVC roofing can withstand up to 300 pounds of weight per inch, far above industry standards of 200 pounds per inch. PVC roofing can last 15 to 30 years. PVC roofing is also more energy efficient, as it comes in the color white, which can reflect the sun’s rays and prevent them from converting into excess heat, which alleviates strain on the property’s air conditioning system.


TPO, or thermoplastic polyolefin, strikes a balance between affordability and exceptional protection. Made of rubber, ethylene and propylene, TPO is bonded using a variety of fillers such as talc or fiberglass, making it one of the strongest flat roofing solutions available. TPO also comes in different widths, unlike some other single-ply flat roofing materials, ensuring you can find a width that best covers your roof and requires fewer seams, which will reduce the chances of water leaking. The average lifespan of a TPO roof is 15-20 years.

Another added benefit to tpo roofing is that it is 100% recyclable with TPO, you can protect your property from mother nature and protect mother nature from your property.

In addition to single-ply, there are also multi-ply flat roofing solutions available. The two most popular are built-up roofing and modified bitumen.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

Built-up roofing is an older method of multi-ply flat roofing, often referred to as tar and gravel roofing because of the materials used. It is extremely heavy, but useful for protecting commercial flat roofs from the heavy foot traffic they often receive.

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen is comparable to BUR, but has rubber and elastomers added for extra protection. Modified bitumen roofs offer superior protection from the elements, both extreme heat and extreme cold, making them a smart choice for commercial property owners in the Midwest, where the weather is prone to seasonal extremes. In addition to weather protection, modified bitumen is also durable for heavy foot traffic and can help prevent the wears and tears prone to roofs that are walked on often, such as commercial roofs. Modified bitumen is also long lasting, easily lasting more than 20 years, and easy to install, which can save property owners money upfront.

Choosing which flat roofing material is right for your business will depend on a variety of factors, including your property, the climate where it’s located, your budget and more. If you’re ready to learn about different flat roofing options and how they can benefit your property, reach out to the flat roofing experts at John Beal Roofing. We’ll walk the surface of your property, making notes about what would benefit you most. We will then help you to review all of the roofing solutions available to you and provide you with a free estimate. Contact John Beal Roofing today to get started.