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As the name suggests, a flat roof is simply a roof that appears to be flat. Some people prefer to describe it as a wholly or partially leveled roof. This is because it might appear flat but can have a little slope that helps drain off rainwater. Therefore, contrary to common interpretations, most flat roofs are not entirely flat.

This kind of roof is popular in countries with tropical climatic conditions. People worldwide now widely accept them because they are relatively cheaper than traditional pitched roofs. Be that as it may, the durability of flat roofs has been questioned as it hasn’t stood the test of time. By rough estimates, it can last between 7 to 30 years.

However, this depends on the quality of the structure and coverings. Flat roofs demand unique materials and thorough care in handling them. Compared with conventional sloped roofs, these kinds differ in benefits, cost, materials, and appearance.

Commercial building owners use flat roofs more; if you are one, you will most likely have come across it or will in due time. So, it would be best if you accustomed yourself to their precise nature and how they work.

Types of Flat Roofs

As simple as flat roofs seem, there are differences in how they are constructed or mounted. Acquainting yourself with how they are built and the different types of flat roofs will help you understand how to better care for your roof. The various types of flat roofing include:

Thermoplastic membrane flat roof

This can be TPO or PVC and uses a single-ply layer of material attached to the roof with plates and screws. This type of roof can come in different colors, but it’s generally known to be gray or white. They are widely known for their ability to withstand high temperatures and are also long-lasting.

Thermoplastic membrane flat roofs comprise thermoplastic olefin and polyvinyl chloride, as earlier represented in acronyms. The thermoplastic olefin (TPO) type is considered eco-friendly for all thermoplastic membrane roofs. This is because the old material can easily be recycled when it is time to replace the roof.

It comes with certain bonus abilities like flame resistance and the ability to absorb ultraviolet rays. Durability is also not a significant issue, as TPO can last up to 17 years.

Polyvinyl chloride is one of the most prevalent produced synthetic polymers (plastic). Regarding roofing, it is easier to install because of how flexible it is and the stronger of the two types.

PVC lasts for nearly 20 years and can be considered the more durable of the thermoplastic roofing variations. Generally, thermoplastic membrane roofs are regarded as a popular option due to their durability, energy efficiency, and low cost.

Built-up roofs

Built-Up Roofs (BUR) have been the most popular flat roofs used for over 90 years. They are easily identified because of their unique features, including an exterior made with gravel and textured tar. The building contractor or installer builds it up, and this is where the name built-up roofing emanates from.

Built-up roofs are very cost-effective and do not require intense maintenance guidelines; hence, they are popular. One primary function is that it helps to stop ultraviolet rays by absorption, and when maintenance is appropriately done, it can last for 20 years.

One concern is that its resistance gets compromised during harmful weather conditions, and a leak can occur.

Once this happens, the source of this leak might be hard to find. Its energy efficiency also could be more reliable. The BUR is not recommendable if you reside in really harsh weather conditions.

Rubber membrane flat roof

Rubber membrane flat roofs can otherwise be called EPDM roofing, and they utilize a single-ply membrane comprising rubber. The rubber is attached to rocks or fasteners. It resembles the BUR when rocks are used, but the membrane is held in place with stones and not gravel.

This flat roofing type is white or black and can be regarded as the cheapest flat roof installation type. It is also the easiest to amend whenever repairs are demanded. The installation process is easy and can be done quickly too. All things being said, EPDM roofing lasts for close to 30 years.

Modified bitumen flat roof

The modified bitumen roof is similar to the built-up roof in terms of appearance and texture. Its installation is cumbersome and occurs in layers. It is also labor-intensive and requires the services of a professional.

Its installation involves various processes, such as cold-pressing or even hot-mopping. Although the installation process can be difficult and time-consuming, it is always worth it when it is eventually carried out. When it encounters a problem, it is repairable and can also be said to be durable (it lasts for close to 20 years).

Metal flat roof

A flat roof can also be constructed or built with metal. Metals used for this purpose can vary from zinc, steel, copper, or tin, but primarily aluminum is used because of its malleability. Large metal sheets are attached to the roof using fasteners; having a professional contractor carry this out is always recommended.

Metal roofs usually come in handy in arid climates. In normal conditions, they can last for up to 30 years. Metal roofs help to reflect heat properly and to draw off moisture. The major downside of flat metal roofs is corrosion since flat roofs do not come with much drainage, but this can only be experienced in wet climates.

Concrete flat roofs

Another flat roof material that can be used is concrete. This might initially sound weird but yeah! It can be done. It is done using various layers. For starters, a layer is placed on the concrete slab called the screed layer. Then, there is the application of a second layer called the insulation layer, and eventually, the concrete material is laid.

Concrete is one of the most preferred in flat roofing because it can withstand adverse weather conditions, and its maintenance is not so hard. Ideally, it can last for nearly 50 years. Still, it can occasionally come up with leaking issues because of concrete’s porosity.

Benefits of Flat Roofing Systems

Here’s an overview of some of the benefits of flat roofing systems:


Flat roofing is generally more cost-effective in comparison with a sloped roof. Flat roofing materials are cheaper and hence can be said to be more affordable. Plus, it involves less labor and risk during installation.

Installation time

Installing flat roofs usually takes less time, around two days, to finish the whole process. This can depend on the roofing material employed too.


Throughout the article, we have talked about the maintenance of flat roofs and how they can be less demanding. They do not need repairs often, and it is easy to take care of when they do.

Problems Associated with Flat Roofing Systems

Despite the benefits mentioned earlier, flat roofing systems are often associated with a few common problems, which include the following:

Insulation problems

Over the years, it has been gathered that flat roofing offers minute insulation compared to its sloped counterparts. This is so because they do not allow you to add materials to protect your building from the cold.

Slope angles

Some flat roofs have a slope angle to aid water drainage, but frequently, it is not enough to stop water accumulation, especially after heavy rainfall.

Debris problems

There are certain times when debris or dirt accumulates on the roof. Since there is no drainage system, they build up and cause blockage, eventually leading to pooling.

Professional Flat Roof Installation

Flat roofing is generally recommendable, depending on which part of the world you are in. After weighing the factors above, you can decide whether or not to opt for it. A flat roof can last for more than 20 years (depending on the roof material) with good maintenance when built appropriately.

You might need to replace or repair it at some point, but this should only be considered after taking into cognizance the severity of the damage and the duration of the roof. More importantly, ensure your flat roof is installed by a professional to prevent sudden issues with your roof.

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