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Discover the Best Materials for Flat and Low Slope Roofs

Posted on November 12, 2023

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Your roof isn’t just a minor detail of your property, it’s a fundamental aspect that ensures the safety, insulation, security, and aesthetic appeal of your building. However, not all roofs are created equal. In today’s blog post, we’re diving into the best roofing materials for low slope roofs to help you make the best decision for your property. 

Roofing Systems For Low Slope Roofs

There is a range of options when it comes to roofing materials, particularly for low slope roofs. But before we get into specifics, it’s important to understand the different types of roofing systems. Essentially, there are two types: membrane and metal roof systems.

1. Membrane Roof Systems

Low slope roof

Membrane roof systems are mainly used in commercial construction due to their proven performance. These consist of flexible sheets that form a barrier on top of the underlying roof structure. Common types include built-up roof (BUR), modified bitumen, TPO, PVC, and EPDM. Their key characteristics include versatility, durability, resistance against leaks, and impressive lifespans.

In general, a membrane roofing system is resistant to rust and other forms of decay that plague other roofing systems, although its longevity largely depends on the particular type used.  

2. Metal Roof Systems

Low slope roof

If you’re considering a more traditional approach for your low slope roof system, metal might be a good option. 

Metal roofs are precisely what they sound like: roofing materials created from metallic sheets or panels. Due to their durability, energy efficiency, and low maintenance requirements, metal roofs are commonly used for both commercial and residential buildings.

You will find standing seam metal roofs as the standard for low slope roofing systems, which are named because of their raised interlocking mechanism that connect adjacent panels.

Types of Membranes Used For Low Slope Roofs

1. Built-up Roof (BUR)

A built-up roofing system, also known as BUR, is one of the time tested solutions for low slope roofs. These systems incorporate alternating layers of bitumen, like asphalt or tar, and reinforcing fabric that forms a finished membrane.

However, BUR comes with some disadvantages, such as heaviness, which can lead to more structural strain and increased installation costs.

2. Modified Bitumen

Low slope roof

Closely following BUR in popularity is modified bitumen. This roofing material is manufactured with polymers to enhance overall stretch and durability. Its notable advantages include low maintenance requirements and its resistance to extreme temperatures. However, potential drawbacks include low reflectivity, which can lead to more heat absorption in warmer climates.

3. Single-Ply Membranes

Single-ply roofs are lightweight roofing systems manufactured for low slope roofs. Single-ply membranes offer ease of installation while delivering durability and resistance against UV rays. 

  1. TPO: Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) is a highly energy-efficient material known for its reflectivity and superior performance in hot climates. Additionally, TPO offers significant resistance against fire, chemicals, and UV rays. However, you should consider the relatively high cost of installation before making a decision.
  2. PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) offers similar advantages to TPO, including reflectivity, durability, and flexibility. It comes in lightweight rolls, making installation a breeze. PVC membranes are usually white, which contributes to their energy efficiency and keeps the building’s interior cooler. But, the light color can easily stain and may need to be cleaned more often than other membranes. 
  3. EPDM: Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), a kind of synthetic rubber, is another preferred option that offers excellent durability and ease of repair. An EPDM roof can handle any weather conditions, including freezing temperatures and severe storms. Despite these advantages, the black color of the EPDM absorbs more heat, which results in increased indoor temperatures in warmer months.

4. Rolled Roofing

For those seeking a cost effective solution, rolled roofing can be a better option. A rolled roofing system comes with tightly packed fire-resistant granules and is easy to install. Yet, it falls short when it comes to aesthetic appeal and has a shorter lifespan compared to other options.

Types Of Metal Roofs For Low Slope Roofs

1. Standing Seam Metal Roof

Low slope roof

A standing seam metal roof has distinct vertical ridges that run the length of the panels. This type is made of thick, durable metals, such as steel or aluminum, providing a robust and lasting shield against extreme weather conditions. It’s an exceptional choice if you’re seeking longevity and resistance to UV rays, weathering, and impacts.

Advantages of Standing Seam Metal Roofs

Standing seam roofs are known for their uniformity and sleek design. Additionally:

  • They come in extended length panels.
  • They are available in various finishes to match any homeowner’s aesthetic.
  • Metal roofs are known for being fire-resistant.

However, these benefits come at a higher cost compared to other metal roofing systems.

2. Corrugated Metal Roofing Panels

Low slope roof

This type is made from ribbed or corrugated sheet metal, which allows water and snow to slide off easily, making it another viable option for low sloped roofs.

Advantages of Corrugated Metal Roofs

Some quick points worth noting about corrugated metal roofing systems include:

  • They are relatively affordable.
  • The installation process is quick with large sheets covering a more significant area.
  • The wavy pattern provides exceptional strength over flat surfaces.

Though it’s important to note that corrugated metal roofs may not have as much aesthetic appeal as standing seam metal panels.

Can You Install Asphalt Shingles On A Low Slope Roof?

Many property owners wonder whether they can install asphalt shingles on a flat or low slope roof. Since they are affordable and aesthetically pleasing, can they be an option to consider? 

Asphalt shingles are less expensive yet effective for pitched roofs, but aren’t a great low slope roofing material. Here are some of the reasons why: 

Water Leakage

One of the most problematic issues with asphalt shingles on low sloped roofs is water leakage. The lower the roof’s slope, the slower water drains off it. Asphalt shingles, unfortunately, aren’t designed to handle standing water, which can potentially seep through cracks and edges over time, leading to water damage to your property.

Less Durable Design

Asphalt shingles are not designed to withstand heavy loads or foot traffic, both of which can be common on low slope roofing systems. They are more likely to crack or break due to increased weight, for example from outdoor HVAC systems, making them a poor choice for flat roofs. 

Shorter Lifespan

Asphalt shingles installed on low slope roofs are more susceptible to weathering than when placed on steeper slopes. This is because water that drains slower has more time to cause damage, resulting in premature deterioration. The lifespan of an asphalt shingle on the flat roof may be relatively shorter compared to other roofing materials.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Low Slope Roofing System

When choosing the right roofing system, it’s important to consider factors other than the material itself. Here are some other things to keep in mind: 

Local Climate 

The first major consideration revolves around the climate and weather conditions in your area. The durability of your roof largely depends on how well it defends the local climate, whether it’s heavy rains or intense sun rays. 

Maintenance Requirements

Ease of maintenance shouldn’t be overlooked when deciding on a low slope roof material. Some types of roofs require more regular maintenance compared to others. Remember that neglecting timely repairs might even shorten your roof life drastically. 

Total Cost and Your Budget

The cost of materials and the installation should influence your decision. Budget constraints could direct you towards specific options over others:

  1. Initial Installation Cost: This incorporates the cost of material, labor, and additional roof system components like insulation and flashing. Metal roofs or single ply membranes like TPO and PVC might pose a higher upfront investment compared to traditional systems like BUR or rolled roofing.
  2. Lifespan: The long term value of the roofing system includes repair and maintenance costs over its lifespan plus replacement costs should it fail prematurely.

How To Install A Low Slope Roof 

After you decide which low slope roofing system is best for your property, it’s time to install your new low slope roofing system. Here is a general overview of the process:

  1. Old Roof Removal: The existing damaged or worn out roofing materials are carefully removed and disposed of.
  2. Surface Preparation: Prior to new roof installation, clearing the surface guarantees that no gaps are left between old layers, which could later lead to leaks or an inconsistent roof surface.
  3. Applying the Underlayment: Installing underlayment provides an extra layer of waterproofing and stability to the roofing deck. 
  4. Installing Roof Material: Depending on the chosen material, whether it be a membrane roof or metal roof, professional installation techniques are employed to ensure maximum durability.
  5. Sealing Joints: To avoid water infiltration around joints, they’re well sealed using a high quality sealant suited for low slope roofs.
  6. Flashing Installation: The final step involves installing flashing around all penetrations, like vents, edges, and corners of the roof.

Closing Thoughts

Choosing the best low slope roof for your needs requires careful consideration of installation costs, material lifespans, and maintenance requirements. 

Choosing a low slope roof can be overwhelming, however understanding your options can help you make an informed decision that will impact not only the durability of your building but also its longevity and energy-efficiency.

Contact A. Fricker Roofing & Waterproofing In Tulsa, OK 

Selecting the best material for a low slope roof can be a challenging process. There are numerous factors to consider, from climate and cost to maintenance requirements. Should you opt for a membrane or a metal roof? What type of membrane is best for your specific needs? If you want to make the best decision for your roof, it is best to consult the experts at A. Fricker Roofing & Waterproofing. Are you considering installing a low slope roof in Tulsa, OK? Call A. Fricker Roofing & Waterproofing! The roofers at the company are proficient at handling any roofing job, including flat roof installation and roof repair. Contact us today at (918) 402-7167 to talk with our team of professional roofers.

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