It's often hard to decide when just to repair or to replace your current roofing system completely. If it shows real wear and tear with water constantly pooling or extensive cracks and rips, it's probably best to bite the bullet and look to install a new roof covering.
Fortunately, the best flat roof system that we are going to discuss is extremely long-lasting, so after installation, it will last for many decades to come . Later in this guide, we will discuss how many years this type of flat roof material lasts, and you'll probably be surprised, though pleasantly!
The materials used for traditional pitched roofing are not suitable for flat roofing. As most people are aware, pitched roofing typically uses overlapping tiles combined with the roof’s pitch - this ensures that rain or snow doesn't leak through. A flat roof will have very little pitch, so other solutions are needed. Tiled roof tiles wouldn't be practical, as water would leak through them.
Types of Flat Roofing Systems
These are the most common types of flat roofing:
- Felt Roofing System
- EPDM Roofing System
- TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin Elastomers) Roofing System
- GRP (Glass Reinforced Polyester) Fibreglass Roofing System
The Best Flat Roofing System - EPDM
One of the most popular types of flat roofing systems with UK homeowners is EPDM. It's affordable, long-lasting, and straightforward to install. However, you might have explored other types of flat roofing systems and be unsure if it is the best option for you. Further on in this guide, we will compare rubber roofing against other common types to give you a better understanding of why it is a much better choice.
What is EPDM?
EPDM, or Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, is a type of synthetic rubber. As well as being used as a flat roof material that is both durable and easy to maintain, you are probably no stranger to EPDM as it is used for door seals in fridges and freezers. Moreover, it is also a good insulator and watertight so you'll find it in your car for door seals, window seals, and some engine components.
The Benefits of EPDM Roof Systems
You can read more about the benefits of using EPDM for a flat roof here but let's take a brief look at a few of the advantages of using EPDM rubber membrane roofing.
Environmentally-Friendly Roofing System
If you want to do your bit for the environment and like the idea of choosing an eco-friendly material for your flat, roof Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer is an excellent option. It comes Greenpeace-approved and is at the top of their list for low impact membranes.
Its green credentials are due to its environmentally friendly materials, extended lifespan, little energy required to apply it, and it's recyclability. It is in contrast to felt roofing that contains bitumen and is classed as a hazardous material. This makes it environmentally unfriendly and difficult to dispose of once it comes time to replace it.
You Get a Great-Looking Flat Roof
If you like minimalist colours for the surface of your flat roof that blend in with the surroundings, the product typically comes in black or grey. The muted colours ensure that dirt doesn't show up easily and unlike other options (such as felt), moss can't grow on it. If you do want to give it a brighter look or make your flat roof standout, painting it is an option.
EPDM Rubber Roof Membrane is The Most Resilient Option
As the membranes of the material are incredibly elastic, they can adjust to house movement and temperature extremes, so it doesn't suffer from cracking as you often find with a felt roof. It is also resistant to moisture and UV radiation, making it by far the most resilient one of the best flat roofing options available.
An Easy Flat Roof System to Install
Installation is extremely straightforward once you have the materials available. It's an easy 6-step process - clean the roof, position the membrane, leave it to relax,bond it place by using a water-based adhesive (WBA) to adhere it to the roof and a contact adhesive for the edges and then edge the roof using the upvc modular Trim
If you don't want to go the DIY route and have it installed by a roofing professional, this can easily be arranged. If you have obstructions on the roof surface such as chimneys, roof lights or vents, then installation can be a bit trickier, and it might be better to use an expert if you aren't fully confident in your DIY abilities.
Once installed, it requires little upkeep and just periodic cleaning with warm soapy water and removal of any fallen leaves.
How Long Does EPDM Roofing Last?
Flat roofs using this kind of roofing material have a remarkably long life span. If you are looking for the best flat roof for longevity, then you've found your product. As long as it is not getting excessive foot traffic, you can expect it to last 30 years or more; even 50 years isn't unknown. There are roofs using this material that are still going strong since the sixties.
How Much Does Rubber Roofing Installation Cost?
EPDM is a budget-friendly roof material especially if you factor in its longevity, it requires little upkeep .
An example of the cost, for instance, would be Flexi Proof EPDM Membrane that is priced at £7.25 + VAT per square metre. A cost-effective and simple solution is to purchase a complete kit in which everything is included. The kit will contain the membrane, adhesive, and trim and installation instructions.
It will also depend on if you install it yourself or if you are going to have a professional do the job for you. If so, you'll need to factor in the cost of the material, labour, and VAT. It obviously will also depend on the amount of roof surface that needs covering.
How Does It Compare To Other Roof Systems?
Let's look at some common materials for flat roofs and see how they compare.
Some less canny householders are seduced by the low price that comes with felt roofs. EPDM costs generally a little more so you might see the initial appeal. But you need to take into account that felt roofing has a lifespan of around 10 years, contrasted with EPDMs 50 years.
Even in a best-case scenario, a felt roof will need to be replaced five times before an EPDM needs replacing once. If you also factor in that it is not so easy to install, requiring a gas torch to heat and apply the bitumen, so a professional will be needed to perform the job safely, you can see the clear winner.
Glass Reinforced Polyester is a type of fibreglass roofing that is also gaining in popularity over traditional materials like felt. Two advantages of GRP is that it can be moulded to different shapes which is ideal for roofs that have unusual shapes or have structures that make them uneven. GRP is corrosion-resistant, which makes it useful for the tops of commercial buildings or factories that deal with corrosive chemicals.
GRP has a lifespan of around 25 years, but because of the costly materials used in its manufacturing, it is a lot more expensive than EPDM. While it is easier to install than felt, the process is still somewhat complicated, so DIY installation is out of the question.
While for some, GRP might be a more aesthetically pleasing option, its higher costs, shorter lifespan and no opportunity for DIY installation make it a less appealing choice over EPDM.
TPO [thermoplastic polyolefin], just like EPDM, is a single-ply membrane system. TPO comes at a similar price and is known for its durability. However, TPO hasn't been as battle-tested as it's counterpart with its compounds being changed over the years. Because of this, how long a TOP roof will last is unknown - experts put it at between 10 to 20 years. TPO, while easier to install than GRP or felt, still requires a more complicated process than EPDM.
With it's proven track record, easy installation, affordability and longevity, EPDM is hands down the best flat roof system currently available. Add it's eco-friendly credentials, easy upkeep and minimalist good looks and you can understand why we believe it's the best choice.