Flat Roof Systems

When it comes to industrial and commercial flat roof systems, various options are available to businesses for their buildings. Some of the most common include:

  • BUR (built up roofing)
  • Single-Ply Membranes such as EPDM, TPO and PVC
  • Modified bitumen

There are pros and cons associated with each of these types of flat roof systems, but which choice is the best? Keep reading to find out!


built up roofingBuilt up roofing is currently the most commonly used type of flat roof. BUR systems typically consist of alternating layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabrics that form a finished membrane. This bitumen is generally asphalt, coal tar or cold-applied adhesive. The surfacings used for BUR systems include aggregate, such as gravel, mineral granules or slag; glass-fiber or mineral surfaced cap sheets; or hot asphalt mopped over the whole surface. The most commonly used type of flat roof is asphalt BUR, which is composed of multiple layers of reinforcing plies and asphalt, which forms a redundancy of waterproofing layers.

Considerations: The degradation of asphalt is a concern. Asphalt surfaces are oxidized by UV rays, and asphalt BURs become brittle and will begin cracking and, eventually, leaking. Also, BUR systems require frequent maintenance and are very inefficient when it comes to energy conservation.

Single-Ply Membranes

epdm and tpo commercial roofsSingle-ply membranes are sheet membranes that are manufactured in factories and are typically classified as thermoset (EDPM) or thermoplastic (TPO or PVC), the key difference being that thermoset materials are irreversibly solidified after heating, and thermoplastic materials can be softened and hardened repeatedly when heated and cooled.

EDPM roofing is a synthetic rubber roof style that is used on low-slope roof surfaces and is most commonly used in single-ply roofing. The most common type of this type of roofing is vulcanized EPDM. During installation, the sheets of synthetic rubber are glued together with a special adhesive.

TPO and PVC are the most common types of thermoplastic roof membranes, which can be repeatedly softened by heating and hardened by cooling. The membranes are generally joined together by heat welding (melting the membrane sheets together for a far better bond than glue). TPO sheets contain substances that include colorant, flame retardants and UV absorbers to attain the desired physical properties.  PVC sheets are made through calendaring, spread coating or extruding. They are generally reinforced using polyester, glass-fiber mats or scrim and contain plasticizers, stabilizers and other additives to achieve flexibility and other desired physical properties. The sheets are usually secured with fasteners, but some installs are fully adhered with glue to the substrate.

Considerations: Single-ply membrane roofing is less expensive and easier to install than BUR and is known to be durable and efficient. On the other hand, in typical installations, water can travel underneath and make leak detection very difficult. Also, there are many, many seams and other vulnerabilities around protrusions.

Modified Bitumen

modified bitumenPolymer-modified membranes are made up of reinforcing fabrics, which act as carriers for hot polymer-modified bitumen as it is made into a roll material. Like BUR membranes, modified bitumen roof system membranes are made up of multiple layers. They are usually installed as a two-ply system and are almost always fully adhered. The surfacings of these membranes include aggregate surfacing, metal foil-laminate surfacing, mineral surfacing and smooth liquid-applied surfacing.

Considerations: Like built up roofing and EPDM, the black color of bitumen roofs tends to absorb heat rather than reflecting it. Bitumen roofs can also be damaged and prematurely aged from puddling and standing water.

The Best Choice in Most Cases

coatingsFor servicing commercial flat roofs, the members of Choice Roof Contractor Group prefer high-quality Conklin roof coating systems and have since day one.

Conklin’s roof coating systems have been designed to eradicate common issues associated with commercial flat roofs, including chronic leaking and fast deterioration caused by weather. No matter what type of flat roof you have, Conklin’s flat roof restoration systems—installed by Choice Roof Contractor Group members—can save you tens of thousands of dollars in roof replacement costs and can add up to 36 years of guaranteed life to any commercial roof with just two applications!

Conklin roofing systems employ a seamless membrane that is extremely durable and leaves no breaches for water to get through. Every seam, penetration and fastener is tightly sealed with the very best acrylic elastomeric coating available, and everything is further sealed with a strong fabric reinforcement for additional protection. Also notable, there are Conklin commercial roofing systems built with enough strength to withstand hail and hurricane-force winds!

Here are just a few of the advantages of using this top-grade roofing system:

  • Environmentally friendly, eliminating the waste and harmful emissions associated with traditional roof replacement processes.
  • Reflect up to 85% of the sun’s rays for less energy costs.
  • Reduced labor expenses and little to no disposal costs.
  • Resilient water-tight and weather-resistant protection.
  • Strong enough to weather hurricane-force winds.

Need an Expert?

Our group works together to provide:

  • Larger Base of Knowledge
  • Group-Wide Accountability
  • One Source for All Projects
  • Set Standards for Service
  • More Peace of Mind
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Conklin’s roofing products have a stellar reputation and are trusted by professionals throughout the United States. Conklin’s products have an outstanding performance record in all climates and are offered with non-prorated warranties that cover total labor and material costs. Conklin is an industry leader and pioneered the very first liquid acrylic elastomeric roof coating.

Expertise You Can Trust, Every Time

The nationwide members of Choice Roof Contractors Group are fully trained to service any type of roof, and we are among the top commercial roofing professionals in the U.S. 

For a free estimate, inspection or more information, please call one of our knowledgeable members today at (800) 670-5583. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you find the best options for your commercial roofing needs!


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Written by: Cami Cox
Cami Cox
Cami is one of the main writers at Choice Roof Contractor Group. Leveraging her unique background in the space and more than a decade of professional writing experience, she has written countless articles on the various aspects of commercial roofs and has gained the respect of building owners and contractors across the country.