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How Long Does a Flat Roof Last: Average Life & How to Increase It

flat commercial roof in chicago

Flat roofing.

The majority of us never have to think about it in our lifetimes. However, if you are one of the few people who own a commercial property (or live in an urban area where residential flat roofs are common), you likely have a lot of questions. After all, flat roofs are very different from standard residential sloped roofs. If you’ve never dealt with one, you’re probably wondering:

  • What are my flat roofing options?
  • How much does a flat roof replacement cost?
    (And perhaps most importantly…)
  • How long does a flat roof last?

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! As you’re local roofing experts, we’ve got all the information you need to keep your flat roof in tip-top shape and get the best quality flat roof repairs!

What Is a Flat Roof?

Let’s start with the basics: What exactly is a flat roof?

A flat roof is a slightly misleading name for this common type of commercial roofing system. It’s understandable. After all, when compared to the standard sloped roofs that you see on residential properties, commercial roofs certainly look flat.

However, the truth is that all flat roofs do have a slight slope that allows water to flow off of them. Flat roofs are the go-to choice for most commercial buildings due to their versatility and simplicity.

Flat Roof Pros and Cons

Is a flat roof right for you? Maybe! Before investing in a commercial property, it is important to do your research on the pros and cons of the commercial roofs that go with them. Here are some of the things you should know.


  • ♻️ Energy Efficient – Flat roofs are known for being particularly energy efficient. This is a huge plus when you are in charge of a large property that needs lots of energy to run properly.
  • ⏳ Lifespan – Most residential properties use asphalt shingle roofing. This hugely popular roofing material only lasts about 15 years! By contrast, most types of flat roofs can last between 20-30 years!
  • ???? Easy Access – No one likes breaking up the work day in order to let home improvement professionals work on a problem. With flat roofing, that isn’t a problem. The roof surface is easy to access without disrupting the people inside.
  • ???? Extra Storage – When you run a business, every inch of space is important. A flat roof allows you to free up inside space by giving you room to store your heating and cooling systems on the roof.

close up of flat commercial roof long lasting in chicago


  • ???? Requires Professional Installation – If you are an avid DIY-er, you may like to tackle any building problems you face on your own. Unfortunately, most types of flat roofing materials require professional installation and maintenance.
  • ???? Cost – While there are a variety of flat roofing materials available, the fact of the matter is that any type of roof replacement is going to be pricey. Be sure to take the time to make a budget before selecting a new flat roof.

5 Different Types of Flat Roofs

Before installing your flat roof, you need to do your research! Luckily, you have us here to help you. We’ve compiled a list of the five most popular types of flat roofs that you can choose from.

1) Built Up Roof

Built-up roof, otherwise known as BUR, is one of the oldest types of roofing materials available on the market. For years, in fact, it was the only option. A BUR roof is made of layers of tar and gravel on top of roofing felt. Usually, it is topped off with a layer of gravel.

2) EPDM Roofs

EPDM roofs are one of the newer options for property owners. They are a type of single-ply roofing that is known for its great lifespans and variety of color choices. If you are looking for a flat membrane roof that helps maintain a consistent style for your building, EPDM roofs might be the right choice for you.

3) Spray Foam Roofs

Spray foam roofs are not as common as some of the other options on this list, but they are a great choice if you are looking for a fast solution. A layer of high-density polyurethane foam is sprayed onto the roof surface with a sprayer. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for something aesthetically pleasing, this probably isn’t the option for you. It very much looks like it has been sprayed on, which is unappealing to some property owners.

4) Modified Bitumen Roof

Modified bitumen is a slightly more modern version of a BUR roof. Like a BUR roof, modified bitumen roofs use asphalt. However, they pair it with rubber or plastic and layer it with fiberglass. This creates a material that is significantly more sturdy than BUR roofing, which has a tendency to become damaged after severe weather.

5) TPO Roof

TPO roofs are another type of flat membrane roof. Instead of rubber, though, they rely on a plastic membrane to keep the roof safe. Like EPDM roofs, they can be installed in a variety of different colors, although they are most commonly white or gray.

How Much Does a Flat Roof Cost?

city scape view of long lasting commercial flat roofs

Many factors will affect the overall cost of your flat roof replacement. These could include:

  • The state of your existing roof
  • The materials that you choose
  • The area you live in
  • The size of your roof

In general, most commercial roof replacements cost between $7,000-$12,000. Of course, a big part of this includes the labor costs for the flat roof installation.

When hiring a roofing contractor, make sure to do your research and find out if they have experience installing the type of roofing material that you have chosen. Each style of roofing material requires a specific installation method, and hiring a quality contractor will help ensure that your roof has a long lifespan.

How Long Does a Flat Roof Last?

When you invest in a big part of your building, such as a roof, you want to be sure you are investing in something that will last. The good news? The flat roof life expectancy is longer than many forms of sloped roofs.

Most forms of flat roofing can last 20-30 years when left alone. However, when properly maintained, some single-ply roofs have been known to last up to 50 years! Now, that’s bang for your buck!

It is important to note that BUR roofing only lasts for 10-15 years, though.

Maintenance Tips for Flat Roofs

Want to extend the lifespan of a flat roof? You need to take care of it. Follow this maintenance routine if you are looking for a flat roof that lasts.

Schedule Regular Inspections

One of the best ways to keep your roof functioning is to stop problems before they start. If you want your roof to last, scheduling regular roof inspections with a professional contractor. They have the knowledge to spot problem areas and come up with solutions.

Trim Tree Branches

Falling branches and twigs can puncture roofing membranes and allow water to seep through the layers of your roof. You can solve this problem by regularly trimming any trees that are near your building.

Remove Debris

One of the biggest risks commercial roofs face is debris accumulating. Twigs, leaves, and other debris can end up blocking water and not allowing it to drain. Luckily, it is an easy fix! In order for your roof to function optimally, take time to regularly remove any debris from your roof.

Watch for Water Damage

Water damage is the most common roofing problem. On flat roofs, water damage is typically indicated by a pool of water that will not drain properly. If you are noticing a puddle of water on your roof for more than 24 hours, you’ll want to contact your local roofing pro!

Talk to a Flat Roof Expert!

Ready to get the flat roof you deserve? Anchor Point Roofing can help. We are the Chicago area’s leading roofing specialists and can help you choose the flat roofing materials and solutions that work for you. Contact us today to receive a free quote on your roofing project!

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