When you think of what a roof line looks like, you probably picture an asphalt shingle system with at least a sharp peak or two. However, a flat roof is an increasingly popular choice more homeowners are deciding on.

Unfortunately, not all regions of the country are suited for a flat roofing. In fact, unless you live in a dry community or an area that doesn’t experience a ton of rain, you may be setting your home up for failure.

But, if your home is ideal for one, you may be able to reduce your building costs drastically. The only thing preventing more houses from adopting flat rooftops is that they are prone to water damage.

As a result, this style of roofing requires multiple layers of materials that prevent water from leaking through, as well as a dedicated draining system to keep water from pooling. That said, there are many styles to consider if you are building a new home, or are in the market for an entirely different installation than what you currently own.

Developed Roofing

As we mentioned, flat roofing requires layering to be effective. However, with developed roofing systems, or built-up roofing, these layers are built atop one another.

Developed roof work by using different materials that shield your home from water. The materials are stacked one after the other, rotating each layer until it creates a rigid barrier. These roof types frequently rely on several types of asphalt, as well as adhesives and tar pitch.

Flat roofs are common among commercial buildings where the area is level and covered in gravel. In fact, yet another name for these covers is “tar and gravel,” because, well, it’s made of layers of tar and topped with gravel.

The rock on top shields the material from the sun, which it would receive a ton of during the day. Think of it as scratchy and uncomfortable sunblock, but for your building.

Of course, tar and gravel are a little on the old-school end of the spectrum. Today, it may be more typical to find that a built-up roof has layers of modified bitumen.

Modified bitumen roofing, or MBR for short, is comprised of asphalt sheets manufactured with fiberglass. Once each layer has been laid down, a hot film covering of bitumen is mopped across, creating a seal that is difficult for water to penetrate.

While MBR is ideal for the fight against moisture, it is also easily damaged by prolonged sunlight. You may save more on the initial costs of these roofs, but they may require more maintenance over other roofing styles.

Single-Ply Systems

Single-ply roofing is an incredibly popular roof style. It’s relatively affordable, especially compared to architectural roofing, and the materials used are durable.

Where shopping for a single-ply roof becomes confusing is deciding between the two primary forms of this system. Both rely on polymer membranes, but you have thermoset and thermoplastic options to choose.

The most significant difference between the two types of roofs is that thermoset membranes are created from rubber polymers, while thermoplastic comes from plastic polymers. Both have their place, but one is often more beneficial than the other depending on where you live.

Thermoset membranes are simple to install. Once the layers are in place, a series of liquid adhesive products and specialized tape create a waterproof seal. Because the layers overlap and adhere, it creates a “shrink wrap” effect on the roof. That is a better choice for drier climates, as well as those just looking for a quick and cheap solution.

However, thermoplastic seals better than thermoset. The membranes are physically welded together, either from a heat source or with chemical reactions, to form a tight bond.

In addition to creating a tighter, more durable seal, thermoplastic can also lead to more strength and longevity for your roof. While the heat of the sun will wear it down, it will more than likely encounter fewer issues over thermoset roofs.

SPF Roofing

SPF roofs protect your building from the sun, but it’s not the SPF that you use on your skin. No, this SPF is of Sprayed Polyurethane Foam, which is one of the newest forms of flat roofing choices.

Unlike plastic or rubber membrane roofs, SPF goes on as one liquid layer. Once applied, it creates a single sheet, free from multiple layers and potential leak spots.

Although this type of roof is effective at what it does, it probably isn’t for every home or commercial building. Usually, builders use SPF for oddly-shaped roof lines, buildings that have protrusions or architectural choices, and other problems for traditional roofing.

SPF is a common choice for re-roofing jobs because it can install directly over the old roof. And, because it can work with any style of roof, it adds the versatility of being compatible with asphalt, developed, and other roofing types.

Because it’s a spray foam, SPF roofs usually have among the best insulating properties over other traditional roof materials. Unfortunately, because it is still such a new product, there isn’t much in the way of work history to know just how effective they are.

Hire an Expert

While asphalt shingle roofs may be a simple enough job to complete by yourself, flat ones are anything but easy. These roofs are a specialty item and one that requires a roofing expert.

Not only is a professional recommended to ensure the best roof installation, but many of these roofing components are hazardous to install without training. That is especially true of hot tar, as well as welding membranes together.

Instead, call your favorite local roofer for safe and prompt installations. You’ll enjoy a new roof faster, all without the painful injuries of trying to do it yourself.


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