Types Of Roof Coverings For Flat Roofs – Pros and Cons

The right roof covering is crucial for the long-term success and longevity of a building. Whether you have a flat roof or any other roof type above your head, the correct roof covering will ensure your roof is watertight and durable. With numerous materials and systems available, the options can be overwhelming. Understanding the advantages and limitations of each and every system is important in making the most informed decision possible.

The roofing system isn’t as easy as most people think it is. Engineering, design, and craftsmanship all work together to form the roofing system to cater to the structure’s needs. The decision-making doesn’t have to be vague, consider all the key factors that come into play such as the climate, weather conditions, and local building codes.

Read on, as we unlock the different types of roof coverings for flat roofs.

EPDM Membrane Roofing

One of the most popular roofing systems for flat roofs is EPDM membrane roofing. It has been used for over 40 years and remains a dependable solution, especially in cool climates. EPDM is made from synthetic rubber and comes in either rolls or panels. The material can be installed using several different methods including fully adhered, mechanically fastened, or ballasted systems. EPDM is produced in different thicknesses – they are 45, 60, and 90 thousandths of an inch.

Living spaces and bedrooms aren’t the right place for EPDM as it absorbs heat and would make the space uncomfortably hot during sunny days. Using it over a garage or other areas where the warmth isn’t an issue, EPDM will for sure work well as a flat roof covering.


Most Economical Solution – EPDM is a cost-effective choice for roofing. It is easy to install and is known to be durable. With excellent waterproofing qualities, and a life expectancy of up to 25 years. It also resists damage from ultraviolet radiation and ozone.


Not Good For Extreme Weather Conditions – In some climates, the rubber material can be susceptible to tearing or punctures from extreme temperatures and sharp objects. This reduces its effectiveness as a waterproof barrier.

Thermoplastic Olefin Membrane (TPO) Roofing

TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) roofing membrane is a popular option for flat roofs, known for its durability, energy efficiency, and ease of installation. TPO roofing is made from a blend of plastic and rubber, providing a highly reflective surface that helps to reduce heat absorption and minimize energy costs. Additionally, TPO roofing is highly resistant to weathering, punctures, tears, and most chemicals, making it an excellent option for commercial and industrial buildings.

TPO membranes can be installed over many different types of flat roofs as they are available in both white and light gray shades. TPO is applied as a membrane, similar to EPDM, creating a watertight seal that protects the underlying roof deck.


Energy Efficiency – TPO roofing is highly reflective, which helps to reduce heat absorption and energy costs. It keeps a building cool in hot weather.

Durability – TPO roofing is highly resistant to weathering, punctures, and tears, making it a reliable and long-lasting option for flat roofs. It is also resistant to most chemicals, which prevents damaging effects from environmental factors.

Easy to Install – TPO roofing is available in large sheets, which can be installed quickly and easily without the need for ballast, fasteners, or adhesives – helping to reduce the cost and time of installation.

Environmental Benefits – TPO roofing is made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable, making it an environment-friendly choice.


Quality Control – The quality of TPO roofing can vary depending on the manufacturer, ultimately making it difficult to determine the quality of the product.

Limited Color Options – TPO roofing is typically only available in white or light colors, which may not be suitable for all building designs or preferences.

Vulnerable to High Temperatures – While TPO roofing is highly reflective, it can also become brittle and susceptible to cracking under high temperatures, which can impact its durability over time.

Built-Up Roofing (BUR)

A traditional roofing option hanging around since the 19th century is Built-Up Roofing (BUR). The system is composed of several layers of tar and gravel. It’s a popular choice for commercial buildings since it provides excellent protection against severe weather conditions like hail, heavy snow, and extreme temperatures. For flat roofs, it can be a good choice since it is durable and able to effectively resist water.

BUR is installed in layers of tar paper, each coated with a layer of asphalt. The roofing can be applied directly over existing roof coverings that are in good condition. On top of the final layer, a layer of gravel or stone chips is added for additional protection against the elements.


Cold Weather Resilience – The BUR system works great in areas with cold climates as its ability to withstand temperatures is superior compared to other roofing systems.

Cost-Effective and Easy Repairs – Using BUR will not have difficulties in need of repair and can be replaced in sections, allowing for cost-effectiveness.


Weight Considerations – BUR is a heavy system, so you’ll have to make sure your roof can handle the weight of the material and layers before installing.

Time-Taking Process – Installation can be time-consuming and laborious, as well as expensive due to its many layers. In addition, BUR can be prone to developing ponding water issues.

PVC Membrane Roofing

PVC membrane roofing is a type of single-ply roofing material that is designed for use on flat or low-slope roofs. PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a type of plastic material that is commonly used in a wide range of construction applications.

PVC membrane roofing is manufactured in large sheets that are laid across the surface of the roof and then fastened in place with screws or adhesives. The seams between the sheets are then heat-welded together to create a completely waterproof barrier. It is available in a range of colors and thicknesses, allowing you to choose a material that best fits your specific needs and preferences. PVC and TPO are quite similar in many ways; even their installation process is pretty much the same.


Durable and Long-Lasting – PVC membrane roofing is highly durable and can last up to 20 years or more if properly maintained.

Waterproof – PVC membrane roofing is completely waterproof and can protect against water damage from rain, snow, and other forms of weather.

Reflective – PVC membrane roofing is highly reflective, helping to keep your building cool in the summer months by deflecting sunlight away from the surface.


High-Cost Installation – The cost of installation can be higher than other flat roof covering options, depending on the size and complexity of your roof.

Vulnerable to UV Rays – UV rays can degrade PVC over time meaning it may need to be replaced more frequently in warm climates. 

We believe roofing is all about the details. Understanding the major things as well as the minor ones will make a difference. The pros and cons of each type are essential to choosing the best roofing system for your flat-roofed building.

Make sure you do your research, hire a qualified contractor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! With the right roofing materials in place, you can rest assured that your structure will remain safe and secure.