What type of Commercial Flat Roofing is best?

 When it comes to commercial flat roofing, building owners and facility managers face a critical decision in selecting the best material to meet their building’s needs. Among the most popular choices are EPDM, TPO, PVC, BUR Roofing, and Modified Bitumen. Each material offers unique benefits and potential drawbacks. Today we will take a deep dive into EPDM, TPO, PVC, BUR Roofing, and modified Bitumen roofing options and which one might be best for you. 

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer)

  • Pros:

    • Durability: EPDM roofs are known for their resilience and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, including heavy rain and extreme temperatures.
    • Cost-Effectiveness: It is one of the most cost-effective options for large flat roofs due to its relatively low material and installation costs.
    • Longevity: An EPDM roof can last up to 30 years with proper maintenance.
    • Environmental Impact: EPDM is often made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable at the end of its lifespan.
  • Cons:

    • Aesthetic Limitations: Typically available only in black, which can absorb more heat unless treated with a reflective coating.
    • Vulnerability to Punctures: While durable, it can be susceptible to punctures from foot traffic or equipment on the roof.

TPO Roofing (Thermoplastic Polyolefin)

  • Pros:

    • Energy Efficiency: TPO membranes are usually white, reflecting sunlight and helping reduce cooling costs in warmer climates.
    • Flexibility: TPO roofs can handle building movement and settling better than other materials.
    • Installation: TPO membranes are lightweight and their installation process can be more efficient, as the seams are heat-welded to create a watertight bond.
  • Cons:

    • Longevity Concerns: While TPO has many advantages, there have been concerns about its longevity and performance over time compared to other options.
    • Chemical Exposure: TPO can be sensitive to certain types of oils and solvents, potentially leading to degradation.

PVC Roofing (Polyvinyl Chloride)

  • Pros:

    • Chemical Resistance: PVC roofing is resistant to chemical exposure, making it ideal for buildings that may have exposure to oils or other chemicals.
    • Durability: PVC roofs are robust, with heat-welded seams that provide excellent water resistance.
    • Fire Resistance: PVC materials are highly fire-resistant, which can be a critical consideration for commercial buildings.
  • Cons:

    • Cost: PVC can be more expensive than other single-ply roofing options due to its chemical composition and performance characteristics.
    • Environmental Concerns: PVC manufacturing and disposal pose environmental challenges due to the presence of chlorine and other chemicals.

BUR Roofing (Built Up Roofing)


  • Durability: BUR systems are exceptionally durable due to their multiple layers, which provide robust protection against water, weather, and mechanical damage.
  • Waterproofing: The layered construction of BUR offers excellent waterproofing capabilities, making it an ideal choice for buildings in areas with heavy precipitation.
  • UV Protection: The surface layer of gravel or stone in BUR systems helps reflect UV rays, protecting the roof from sun damage and reducing the building’s overall heat load.
  • Fire Resistance: The materials used in BUR, especially when capped with gravel, are inherently fire-resistant, enhancing the safety of the building.


  • Weight: The multiple layers of materials make BUR systems quite heavy, which might require strengthening of the roof structure, especially in older buildings.
  • Installation Complexity: Installing BUR involves hot-applied bitumen, which can release fumes and poses a fire risk during application, requiring skilled labor and safety precautions.
  • Maintenance Requirements: Although BUR is generally low-maintenance, it does require regular inspections and upkeep to address any issues like blisters or cracks that can develop over time.
  • Heat Absorption: If not coated with a reflective material, traditional BUR systems can absorb heat due to their dark color, potentially increasing air conditioning costs.

Modified Bitumen

  • Pros:

    • Sturdy: Modified bitumen roofs are extremely tough and are less likely to puncture and tear, ideal for high-traffic roofs.
    • Flexibility in Cold Weather: This material remains flexible in colder temperatures, preventing cracks and other damage.
    • Ease of Repair: Modified bitumen can be easy to repair and maintain over time.
  • Cons:

    • Heat Absorption: Being a dark material, it can absorb a significant amount of heat, which might increase cooling costs if not properly coated.
    • Installation Risks: The installation process involves hot application methods, which can be a fire hazard if not handled correctly.

The decision between EPDM, TPO, PVC, and Modified Bitumen for commercial flat roofing involves considering several factors, including climate, building usage, budget, and maintenance expectations. Each material has distinct advantages and potential drawbacks, making it crucial to evaluate which characteristics align best with your specific needs.

For those in hotter climates, TPO or PVC might be preferable due to their reflective properties. In contrast, buildings in colder environments or those with heavy rooftop equipment might benefit from the durability and flexibility of EPDM or the toughness of Modified Bitumen.

Consulting with a commercial flat roofing professional who understands your local environment and building codes can further guide your decision, ensuring that your investment enhances your property’s value and functionality for years to come.

Get Started with a Professional Roofer Today!