What Is the Best Flat Roof Material to Use?

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Roofing

When it comes to selecting the best flat roof material for your roofing project, the choice can significantly impact the longevity, durability, and performance of your roof. Flat roofs have unique requirements compared to sloped roofs due to their minimal pitch, necessitating materials that offer robust water resistance, durability, and ease of maintenance. This comprehensive guide will explore the various flat roof materials available, weighing their pros and cons, to determine the best material for a flat roof.

Understanding Flat Roofs

Before we delve into the materials, it’s essential to understand what makes flat roofs distinct. Unlike pitched roofs, flat roofs have a minimal slope, often not visible to the naked eye. This unique characteristic demands materials that offer robust waterproofing and durability to withstand weather variations.

Key Flat Roof Materials

1. Built-Up Roof (BUR)

Built-Up Roofing, commonly known as BUR, is a time-tested method that involves layering several tiers of roofing felt impregnated with bitumen. The top layer is typically a layer of finely crushed stone embedded in a hot tar. BUR is prized for its durability and effectiveness in waterproofing.


  • Excellent waterproofing capabilities.
  • High durability with proper maintenance.
  • Insulative properties due to its thickness.


  • Heavyweight, requiring strong structural support.
  • Installation can be messy and time-consuming.

2. Modified Bitumen

Modified Bitumen roofing is a modern take on BUR, incorporating layers of bitumen interwoven with fiberglass or polyester fiber matting. This design offers enhanced flexibility and resistance to temperature fluctuations.


  • Superior tensile strength.
  • Reflective coatings can reduce cooling costs.
  • Can be installed with less mess than BUR.


  • Susceptibility to punctures.
  • Requires professional installation for optimal performance.

3. Rubber Membrane (EPDM)

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) is a durable rubber roofing option. It’s known for its resilience, easy installation, and maintenance. EPDM is lightweight and can be installed in large sheets, minimizing seams and potential leaks.


  • High resistance to UV radiation and ozone.
  • Flexible in low temperatures.
  • Long lifespan with minimal maintenance.


  • The black color can absorb heat unless coated.
  • Can be punctured by sharp objects.

4. Thermoplastic Olefin (TPO)

Thermoplastic Olefin (TPO) roofing membranes are among the fastest-growing choices for commercial and residential flat roofs. These single-ply membranes combine durability, heat resistance, and energy efficiency, thanks to their reflective properties.


  • Excellent durability and resistance to UV rays and chemical exposure.
  • Reflective surface reduces cooling costs.
  • Resistant to mold, dirt accumulation, and punctures.


  • The longevity of TPO roofing can vary depending on the manufacturer.
  • Installation quality can significantly impact performance.

5. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) roofing is another thermoplastic option, known for its strength and resistance to environmental factors such as chemicals, fire, and water. PVC roofing is similar to TPO in many aspects but tends to have a longer track record in terms of performance.


  • High resistance to chemical exposure and fire.
  • Energy-efficient due to its reflective surface.
  • Durable and resistant to punctures and tears.


  • Higher cost compared to other materials.
  • Requires skilled installation for optimal performance.

6. Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF)

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) is a unique option that involves spraying a liquid foam over the existing roof surface, which then expands and hardens into a solid layer. SPF provides excellent insulation and creates a seamless waterproof barrier, making it an intriguing choice for flat roofs.


  • Exceptional insulation properties, reducing energy costs.
  • Seamless and waterproof, effectively eliminating leaks.
  • Versatile application over existing roofs, which can save on demolition costs.


  • Requires expert installation to ensure proper application and durability.
  • Regular maintenance and recoating are necessary to maintain its waterproof and reflective qualities.
  • Susceptibility to punctures and damage from foot traffic without a protective topcoat.

Evaluating the Best Material for a Flat Roof

When considering the best flat roof material, several factors come into play, including climate, building use, budget, and maintenance capabilities. Each material offers distinct advantages, but one consistently stands out for its versatility, durability, and cost-effectiveness: PVC roofing.

PVC roofing on a flat roof.

Why PVC Roofing Stands Out

PVC roofing membranes offer a combination of high performance, longevity, and environmental benefits that few other materials can match. Here are several reasons why PVC is often considered the best material for a flat roof:

  • Durability: PVC roofs are resistant to chemical exposure, fire, and extreme weather conditions, making them exceptionally durable. Their welded seams create a watertight bond, significantly reducing the risk of leaks.
  • Energy Efficiency: The reflective properties of PVC roofing can significantly reduce cooling costs by reflecting sunlight and heat away from the building. This feature makes PVC an excellent choice for energy-conscious property owners.
  • Low Maintenance: PVC roofs require minimal maintenance compared to other materials. They are easy to clean and repair, contributing to their overall cost-effectiveness and longevity.
  • Eco-Friendly: PVC roofing materials can be recycled at the end of their life cycle, reducing landfill waste. Additionally, their energy-efficient properties contribute to a lower carbon footprint for buildings.

Contact A. Stewart Roofing & Waterproofing for Assistance With Your Flat Roof

While various materials offer unique benefits for flat roofs, PVC emerges as the top choice due to its unmatched combination of durability, energy efficiency, low maintenance, and environmental friendliness. Its suitability for a wide range of climates and building types further solidifies its position as the best flat roof material.

Here at A. Stewart Roofing & Waterproofing, we understand the importance of choosing the right material for your flat roof project. Specializing in flat roofs, we offer a wide range of options to ensure that your roofing needs are met with the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing tailored solutions that cater to the specific needs and preferences of our clients.

For those in New York seeking the best in flat roof materials and services, look no further. Whether you’re looking to repair, replace, or install a flat roof, we encourage residents of New York to reach out to us for expert advice and assistance. Contact A. Stewart Roofing & Waterproofing today to learn more about how we can help you achieve the perfect flat roof for your property.


What is the lifespan of PVC roofing compared to other flat roof materials?
PVC roofing typically offers a lifespan of 20 to 30 years, often outlasting other materials such as EPDM and TPO due to its superior resistance to chemical exposure, UV light, and physical damage.
Can PVC roofing be installed over an existing flat roof?
Yes, PVC roofing can often be installed over an existing roof, depending on the condition and type of the underlying roof, which can save on removal and disposal costs.
Are PVC roofs environmentally friendly?
PVC roofs are considered environmentally friendly due to their recyclable nature at the end of their lifespan and their reflective properties, which improve a building’s energy efficiency.
How does weather affect the performance of PVC roofing?
PVC roofing is highly resistant to extreme weather, including heavy rain, strong winds, and wide temperature fluctuations, maintaining its integrity and performance over time.
Can I walk on a PVC flat roof?
Yes, PVC roofing is durable and can support foot traffic, making it ideal for buildings where the roof is accessed for maintenance or recreational purposes.