Flat Roof Materials & Installation Costs 2020: PVC vs. TPO, EPDM Rubber, BUR, Modified Bitumen, Spray-on Coating

When it comes to covering up a flat roof, your options are both limited and expansive. What that means in a nutshell is that your traditional roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, concrete tiles, and corrugated metal are out of the window. That being said, flat roof systems such as PVC, TPO, EPDM rubber, and others, each have their distinct pros and cons.

EPDM Rubber installed on a flat roof by GemTile

So why can’t you put the traditional roofing materials like asphalt shingles on a flat roof? Well, technically you can, but they are almost guaranteed to leak!

Need a Roofer? Get 4 Free Quotes From Local Pros:

Enter Your Zip Code:

Systems designed for sloped roofs, such as asphalt shingles and concrete or clay tiles, are installed by overlapping one row on top of another. These systems work cohesively with the pitch of the roof to shed rainwater and snow as it falls from the sky.

Since flat roofs have little to no pitch, the water would work itself underneath the shingles or tiles, eventually rotting the substrate and causing leaks on your interior.

Covering a flat roof is a whole different animal (specialized skills and expertise are required) than shingling a pitched one. On a flat roof, generally speaking, you want to avoid any types of seams, if at all possible.

The biggest threat is of course going to be water, which WILL find any access though any hole or inadequately-sealed seams in a roofing membrane.

Your main goal when covering a flat roof is to create a barrier that will be impenetrable to water.

How do you make an item (besides a roof) impenetrable to water? You can either apply something physical such as a tarp, or coat it with a material to create a barrier like you would via deck stain or lacquer. Roofs follow this same premise –- either physically cover it with something like a PVC or an EPDM rubber membrane, or apply a coating such as tar or spray on silicon.

Flat Roof Costs:

It’s easy to assume that a flat roof would be far less expensive to apply materials to than a pitched one. For access reasons alone it would seem it’s a lot easier to roof a flat surface than one that is steep and requires a harnesses and a rope line to move around.

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

See costs in your area Enter Your Zip Code

Many roofing contractors will tell you, though, that working on flat surfaces is actually harder on the back.

Take into account that flat roofs often require the application of a layer of insulation, adhesives or hot air welding, and some types such as modified bitumen are installed with a torch that heats up the seal.

Installation costs can be just as high for a flat roof as they would be for a steeper roof with say an 18/12 pitch.

Professional warrantied labor prices will vary across different markets in the US. You can get a fairly good idea of the estimated cost to cover a flat roof based on the national average:

1. PVC
2. EPDM
3. TPO
4. Modified Bitumen
5. BUR
6. Spray on Coating

Read more

Best Roofing Materials for Homes 2020: Material Costs, Plus Pros & Cons

This comprehensive guide to roofing materials is all the research you’ll need to evaluate the top choices for residential re-roofing and new construction projects in 2020.

What to Expect: In this guide we’ll cover the following most common roofing options: asphalt shingles, cedar wood shingles and shakes, metal shingles and standing seam metal roofs, concrete, clay, and fiber-cement tiles, natural and faux slate, and BiPV solar tile options.

Traditional PV solar panels on a new asphalt shingle roof

For each residential roof type we cover the following topics:

  • An overview including how the roofing is made
  • Pros and cons including maintenance, repair, durability, options, home styles they work with and more
  • Cost for materials and installation
  • Choosing your roofing material: The “bottom line” summaries of each type
  • How to save money on a new roof

Types and Styles of Roofing Materials

The most common roofing options presented below cover more than 95 percent of all residential roofs in the United States, so unless you’ve got something unusual in mind like BiPV solar tiles – oh, wait, we’ve included those – or a vegetative green roof, the options you’re considering are likely discussed below.

1. Asphalt/Fiberglass Composition Shingles
2. Wood Shingles and Shakes
3. Metal Roofing
4. Concrete and Clay Roof Tiles
5. Natural and Synthetic Composite Slate Tiles
6. BiPV Solar Shingles and Tiles
7. Low-sloped and Flat Roof Options

Asphalt/Fiberglass Composition Shingles

More than 75 percent of all single-family homes in the US are roofed with asphalt shingles, though that number is slowly shrinking thanks to the more energy-efficient and durable metal roofing.

Asphalt (composition) shingles dominate the market because they are affordable, offer a variety of attractive options, and do a good job protecting homes from the nature’s elements.

There are two main types of asphalt shingles:

  • Fiberglass shingles start with a fiberglass mesh mat that is covered in asphalt and topped with granules that provide color and reflect some of the sunlight. Shingles made with fiberglass are lightweight and resist tearing.
  • Organic asphalt shingles begin with paper, often recycled, that is saturated in asphalt and covered with granules. The shingles are heavier and harder to work with than fiberglass, but they generally offer better stability in high winds. Although you can still see them on many roofs, organic shingles have been mostly phased out or discontinued over the course of last decade. Why? Manufactures have stopped making organic shingles due to their tendency to dry out, become less-waterproof and more prone to excess moisture absorption.

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Shingles

The reasons to choose asphalt shingles are:

  • Fiberglass shingles offer good fire protection
  • Look good on most any style home
  • Shingles are often the most affordable roofing option, especially in good/better ranges
  • The best asphalt shingles are a 30-year roof solution installed on homes located in moderate climates
  • The cheapest 3-tab shingles are an affordable way to dress up a home before putting on the market
  • Broad selection of colors and styles including affordable three-tab and architectural shingles that mimic shakes and slate
  • DIY asphalt shingle installation is possible for those with good skills, experience and equipment
  • No support beyond standard roof sheathing is required for shingles
  • 3-tab shingles are rated for 60-70 MPH wind uplift, while standard architectural shingles are rated for 110 MPH winds; high-wind shingles are rated for 130 MPH
  • High-impact shingles such as the ones manufactured by GAF should be used for heavily-wooded locations and areas where large hail is possible
  • Some shingle repairs are easy and cost-effective

A few words of caution about asphalt shingles:

  • The lifetime cost of shingles is higher than metal, tile or slate, because composition shingles must be replaced more frequently
  • Cheaper asphalt shingles last as little as 10-15 years in hot, sunny climates
  • Rapid temperature changes can cause asphalt shingles to crack
  • A poorly vented attic will trap heat and significantly shorten asphalt shingle lifespan by cupping or cracking them
  • While the asphalt shingle industry boasts that its products can be recycled for paving, few recycling facilities take asphalt shingles, and they are among the least eco-friendly roofing options
  • After a second layer of shingles needs replacing, all layers must be torn off the roof, creating extra expense and a lot of potential landfill waste
  • Mold or algae can be a problem on shingles in shady areas, unless treated with anti-algae/anti-stain treatments
  • Organic/felt shingles are heavy; getting them to the roof in bundles can be a challenge
New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

See costs in your area Enter Your Zip Code

Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood delivers a natural dose of beauty to any roof. Cedar, redwood, cypress and pressure-treated pine shingles and shakes are available.

How are wood shingles and shakes different?

  • Wood shingles are machine-cut and feature cleaner edges and a smooth surface to produce a more uniform appearance.
  • Wood shakes are hand-cut from blocks of wood, so have a more rustic appearance. They’re thicker too, so slightly more expensive than wood shingles.

Pros and Cons

The advantages of wood shingles and shakes are:

  • Wood has natural beauty that ranges from rustic shakes to handsome, neat shingles
  • Cedar and redwood contain oils that make them naturally resistant to moisture and insects
  • Treated wood shingles have a Class A fire rating
  • They can last 5 to 10 years longer than asphalt, which makes them competitively priced with asphalt over their lifespan
  • Wood has an insulation value twice that of asphalt shingles (but your home’s insulation levels are far more important than the R-value of the roofing)
  • Many shakes and shingles are made from salvaged trees – those that have fallen over from age or toppled by storm
  • Wood is recyclable into wood chips, mulch or compost
  • They enhance a range of architectural styles including Tudor, Victorian, Cape Cod, bungalow and cabin/cottage

Keep these potential disadvantages in mind:

  • Non-treated materials have a Class C fire rating, but wood can cedar shingles and shakes are also available as a more-costly treated option
  • Wood roofing is prohibited in some areas prone to wildfire, so be sure to check with your building department first
  • Untreated wood shakes and shingles are high maintenance – they need to be cleaned consistently to prevent the growth of algae or moss, and debris needs to be cleared to allow the wood to breathe
  • While DIY installation is possible if you have good experience, faults in the installation can lead to quick deterioration of the roof which often includes serious leaks
  • Staining of the shingles and shakes might occur as natural factors cause tannins to be released from the wood
  • While wood is quite durable, but repairs will be expensive if they are required

Read more

Roofing Shingles Vs. Cedar Shakes Costs, Plus Pros & Cons in 2020

In this guide, we present a side-by-side comparison of cedar shingles and shakes vs. asphalt roofing, with focus on on material composition, installation costs, plus pros and cons and ROI of each option. Let’s get started! The Difference Between Wood Shingles & Cedar Shakes When used in roof covering, wood can be either shakes or … Read more