The Three Best Types of Roofing Materials for Flat Roofs

Tar and Gravel

If you know the types of roofing materials for flat roofs, you help save more money, prolong the roof’s lifespan, and install the material correctly.

Commercial properties are a huge investment. With American commercial real estate prices on the rise, well-maintained ones get the most attention and highest value.

Therefore, property owners understand the value of retainer and maintenance duties for their properties. Indeed, these will take much from budgets, but it is a preventative solution that guarantees excellent savings in the future.

single ply roofing system

The roof is a crucial part of any property and also the most vulnerable against temperature and weather changes. Knowledge about roofing materials helps property owners make decisions on which roofing type to use and which roofing services they will need, such as roof repairs or restoration.

The Right Material: Applying the ‘Iron Triangle’ Principle

The “Iron Triangle” principle stipulates that a manufacturer or service provider’s product quality depends on the time spent for its manufacturing or rendering, the scope or features each product or service has, and the value or cost of the product.

When choosing from the three types of roofing materials for flat roofs, the iron triangle is modified as a roofing material’s value for property owners depends on its lifespan, durability, and cost.


Every roofing manufacturer concentrates on providing the best durability and lifespan for their materials. Most expensive roofing materials the US Department of Energy and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NCRA) approve for quality through testing are great investments because of their long life, durability, and installation difficulty.

Some average yet affordable roofing materials also qualify for quality in tests. However, consult your contractor or a roofing expert first before deciding to purchase any average material to avoid choosing substandard materials.


Durability varies in all types of roofing materials for flat roofs. Expect better durability from NCRA or US Department of Energy-tested and approved roofing materials regardless of lifespan and price. However, durability does not guarantee a longer lifespan for your roof.

Several factors will render the durability of a roof useless. For example, TPO roofs are efficient synthetic membranes that have notable durability and strength. However, a minor tear that heavy equipment or consistent foot traffic causes will affect the lifespan of the roofing material.


Contractors will definitely suggest top-shelf roofing materials. Some property owners might refuse their suggestions because of the cost. Indeed, the break-point for choosing from the types of roofing material for flat roofs depends on its price.

Consider your budget for your roof. If it is not enough for quality materials, then you can consider having roofing repairs. Doing this allows you to save enough for better material and installation services in the future. As per the iron triangle’s principle, if you pinch on costs and time spent for the roof’s material and installation, you will make a problematic long-term investment.

Three Types of Roofing Materials for Flat Roofs

flat roofing system

Synthetic Roofing Membranes


Durable synthetic roofing membrane that uses thermoplastic olefin (TPO) as its base material can last for 20-30 years if maintained properly. The roofing material is fire-retardant, introduces airtight seals preventing the development of internal moisture, provides excellent insulation, and reflects UV rays efficiently. It costs $5-$6 per square foot.


PVC is the strongest but the most expensive choice out of all synthetic roofing membranes. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is capable of carrying any roofing equipment having an average 350 pounds per inch (PPI), well beyond the US Requirement of 200 PPI for all roofing materials.

Like TPO, it can introduce airtight seals for better insulation and rainwater protection and block UV rays. However, PVC roofs are priced at $6-$10 per square foot and have a lifespan of 20-30 years.


Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) roofs are the cheapest choice for durable yet long-lasting synthetic roofing membranes. It is made from recycled material such as wheel rubber, slate dust, and saw dust. The affordable EPDM roof manufacturing process and materials give them the best price point out of all synthetics at $0.80 per square foot.

If maintained consistently and efficiently, EPDM is one of the types of roofing materials for flat roofs that are investments that pay off. They can last for 20-30 years and perform in the same league as TPO and PVC roofs.

metal roofing system

Metal Roofs


Aluminum is lightweight and compact. As the material used to construct airplanes and even some heavy-duty military equipment, they are durable and have a long lifespan with the maximum reaching above 50 years.

However, they are extremely expensive. It costs $889-$1,125 per square foot. Most high-end commercial roofs use aluminum because it withstands any harsh weather, does not warp, crack, burn, and has excellent insulation.


For most homes steel roofing is a better choice compared to aluminum. It is relatively less expensive at $12 per square foot and has a lifespan up to 50 years.

Both metal types of roofing materials for flat roofs require the least amount of maintenance and are easy to repair. Steel introduces excellent insulation for homes, withstand extreme weather (with the right installation), and is unlikely to puncture under great duress. However, both roofing types are noisy during rain or hailstorms.

Traditional Membranes

Modified Bitumen

Roofing felt and modified bitumen are as cost effective as EPDM roofing membranes. They have an average lifespan of 20 years and costs only $0.38 per square foot. Roofing felt creates airtight seals and resists water leaks. However, the material is vulnerable against the growth of fungi, molds, and algae.

Mastic Asphalt

The most durable of all types of roofing materials for flat roofs, asphalt rivals metal roofs with a lifespan of more than 50 years. In fact, it beats metal roofs with market price ranging from $2.50-$4 per square foot.

Asphalt roofs are one of the most durable of all traditional membranes. However, contractors often build additional joists and support structures to support their weight. The payoff of a low maintenance and cost-roof is worth all the trouble given its superior cost, lifespan, and durability.

Tar and Gravel

Tar and Gravel

The sturdiest among all roofing materials, it is also the heaviest with a fair price point. It costs an average of $4 per square foot of a tar-and-gravel membrane sandwich for flat roofs. Tar and gravel roofs use membranes made up of sandwiched corrosion and leak-resistant material caked with tar. This makes their construction process quick and easy.

However, tar is smelly and takes time to dry. This means a rainstorm immediately spoils the newly-installed tar and gravel roof. A well-maintained roof made of tar and gravel can last up to 20-40 years.


Knowing the types of roofing materials for flat roofs available for property owners help them decide which type of contractor they need and the services their roof needs when it comes to repair, restoration, or installation.

Investing in the right roofing material saves property owners money from installation and maintenance. However, each roofing contractor specializes in different roofing materials. J&M Roofing Systems is the company to call for any repair, restoration, or installation service for all these types of roofing materials for flat roofs. Give us a call for a free quote today:  330-575-4784