We love the flexibility of a flat roof for certain design limitations, but they have a bit of a reputation for leaks and repairs. Knowing what type of flat roofing material is on your building won’t stop your leaks but it will help you make better decisions about maintenance, roof repair and/or replacing an old flat roof system.


Click here to understand more about your building’s roof will also help you communicate and relate better to potential roofing contractors as you go through the interview process to see which roofing company is a fit for your project.


Common Options For Flat Roof


  1. Bur or Build Up Roofs

Bur or built up roofs have been in use for more than 100 years in the United States and are often referred to as tar and gravel roofs. Layers of roofing felt usually three feet wide were striped in and covered with melted hot tar. Workers would heat the asphalt tar or coal pitch to a liquid in a large kettle then mop it on the roof. After the 2-4 piles or layers, or roofing felt were mopped into place with the tar, the roofs were often covered in aggregate or pea gravel. The small stones or gravel were used to protect the tar from the damaging effects of the suns UV rays.


  1. Modified Bitumen

This is similar to a built up roof in that it is composed of asphalt rolls usually three foot wide but a modified bitumen roof is usually only made of of two piles or layers, a base sheet and a cap sheet. Modified bitumen can be installed four basic ways: 1) hot applied with hot tar, 2) cold applied solvent based adhesive that does not require the use of heat, 3) torched down with an open flame that melts the two sheets together, or 4) peel and stick base and cap sheets that self adhere once a release tape is removed. The cap sheet or top layer usually looks granulated similar to the granules on a shingle roof and often is light gray in color.  


  1. EPDM Rubber Roof


Rubber roofs are fairly easy to recognize and are installed in two basic ways: 1) Ballasted or weighted down with large river stone or 2) Adhered or glued down. 


Rubber roofs that are adhered are easy to spot, they are black in color and usually stretched tight over an insulation board or fiberboard. Rubber roofs that are ballasted are being held down and in place with the use of ballast or large stones on top of the sheets of roofing.

These roofs are covered in rock similar to a built up roof but the stones are usually larger and they are not stuck to the roof with tar. If you gently move stone away you will be able to expose the rubber membrane.


  1. Spray Polyurethane Foam Roof

A spray foam roof begins with a layer of high density polyurethane foam sprayed from a wand or sprayer. The foam is then coated with some type of waterproofing elastomeric top coat. This top coat is often reflective gray or white in color.


  1. Thermoplastic membranes PVC

Thermoplastic roofing membranes are single layers of material usually white or gray but can be found in other colors. These membranes can be either adhered, similar to an EPDM rubber roof, or mechanically attached with screws and plates. From a distance PVC and TPO membranes are hard to distinguish but will most often be white or light color.