The Insider’s Guide To Commercial Flat Roofing Material

Flat roofs probably take more abuse from the elements and other factors than slanted roofs. Snow buildup, water pooling, and various critters pecking and clawing at it can weaken the roof, increasing the risk of your flat roof becoming your new floor.

However, before starting the long, tedious search of finding a professional to repair or replace your flat roof, it would benefit you greatly to do a little research on flat roofing materials.

The more you know about the different types of materials used for flat roofs, the better you will be able to choose the right professional to provide the quality of work you’re looking for.

Roofer preparing part of bitumen roofing felt roll for melting by gas heater torch flame

Various Types of Flat Roofing Material

When replacing your flat roof, the material you choose is important. Each material has pros and cons. The size of the roof, the environment you’re in, and what the roof can be exposed to all factor into the materials used for repairs.

Let’s take a look at some different flat roofing materials.

Built Up Roofing (BUR)

For years, BUR was the most common type of roofing. BUR involves spreading a layer of asphalt over the entire roof. Generally, it requires three to four layers to properly seal and protect the roof.

There are a few pros and cons associated with BUR.


  • Can last up to 10-15 years
  • Protects against water and inclement weather
  • Low maintenance
  • Resistant to foot traffic


  • Installation can take awhile
  • Emits potentially hazardous fumes and vapors
  • Heavy
  • Requires strengthening of roof joists prior to installation
  • Not flexible in cold weather and can sustain damage as a result

BUR, while low maintenance and inexpensive to upkeep, does have a high initial installation cost.

EPDM Roofing Material

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer. It is a rubberized roofing material that can last longer than most other flat roofing material when laid by a professional.


  • Waterproof
  • Repairs are simple and inexpensive
  • Can last up to 50 years


  • Must be installed by a professional
  • Can be damaged by foot traffic during installation and weather storms.

EPDM tends to be the number one recommended flat roofing material for commercial use.

TPO Roofing

TPO roof stands for thermoplastic roof. It is UV resistant and heat resistant similar to EDPM.


  • Reasonably priced
  • Durable, resisting mold growth, tears, and punctures
  • Easy to install and has fewer seams than most other materials


  • It is a newer material and longevity is often questioned
  • Does not stand up well to high thermal or solar loads

TPO is a fairly new material, only having been used in the last decade or two. As a result, new compounds are constantly being tested and created to provide the best possible compound.

Contact a Professional Roofing Company

No matter the choice of materials, it’s always a good idea to hire a professional to repair or replace a flat roof. You want your roof to be properly sealed, preventing any damage from inclement weather, foot traffic, and water.

While some roofing materials do allow for DIY projects, unless you have prior experience, it’s always best to hire professionals. However, if you do find yourself in a position where DIY is the only cost-effective approach, you should still contact a professional roofing company for advice and recommendations.