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What Is The Lifespan Of A Flat Roof

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  • 19-07-2022
What Is The Lifespan Of A Flat Roof

Have you been wondering: what is the lifespan of a flat roof? We explore how many years a flat roof lasts and the options for flat roof materials.

How many years does a flat roof last?

Most traditional flat roofs tend to be made up of asphalt or mineral felt; they usually have an average lifespan of approximately 10-15 years. Over the years, flat roofs have garnered a relatively bad reputation for their ability to become damaged from pooling water or leaks.

However, if you ensure that your built-up roof is well-maintained, your flat roofing material can last you much longer. Many flat roofs in the modern-day tend to last around 20-30 years before you require a replacement. Since plastic and rubber materials have been introduced, you can sufficiently extend the shorter lifespan before replacing them. 

What are the options for flat roof materials?

For those looking to improve without a more traditional type of roofing option, you may wish to consider materials like TPO and EPDM. You can select from more hardwearing options like lead, concrete tiles, copper, fibreglass and zinc, or choose rubber roofing. EPDM and TPO offer a relatively longer lifespan than traditional materials.

Here are reviews of some of the most popular residential and commercial roofing options on the UK market:

Modified Bitumen felt roofs could be efficiently applied in three-layer systems with reinforced felt layers, cap sheets and a vapour control layer. All three felt layers get welded together and create a material known as 'torch-on-felt.' 

Such types of flat roofing systems should never be solely fitted through a DIY project; you must employ a friendly team of trained professionals to perform such tasks due to the expertise required and dangerous risks. Ensure that contractors carry the right insurance that certifies them to work with hot flames.

Hot tar was previously utilised with gravel on numerous existing roofs in the past; however, they no longer use it. If treated well and you give it the proper maintenance, felt roofs are guaranteed to last longer than 10-20 years. Felt roofs are generally the cheapest option for flat roofing material; however, they aren't the most aesthetically pleasing. 

Modern bitumen felt roofs offer excellent properties, such as expansion and contraction. Yet, they can become incredibly damaged if they experience too much hot weather or foot traffic from builders or window cleaners. Patches will become visible when repaired, so it's best to utilise this material for unused or unseen roofing areas. 

EPDM is a vastly popular choice as, depending on the roofing area, it can be sufficiently installed by professionals in one entire single-ply layer without the need for joins. EPDM is known for its elasticity and toughness while being an incredibly lightweight material.

Their hardwearing nature guarantees them approximately 30 years due to their durability and ability to withstand foot traffic. Its structure allows for expansion and contraction according to the weather. Rubber roofing is excellent for numerous reasons, it's waterproof no matter the harsh UK weather, yet they can still be easily vandalised or damaged.

It's best to ensure a sound installation; it can be challenging to achieve a pleasing finish, especially where there are complicated pipes or corners.

TPOs, also known as Thermoplastic Polyolefin Elastomers, are two-component elastomer systems with finely dispersed elastomers inside the thermoplastic polyolefin, considered the primary component.

An example of elastomer may be EPDM, and Polypropylene or Polyvinyl Chloride are examples of thermoplastic polyolefin. Compared to EPDM, it is more heat-weldable and has incredibly environmental credentials, making its usage far more popular over the years. TPO rubber roofing often has a lifetime of 20 years. 

Fibreglass GPR often has one or two layers; it's made in virtually any colour and has a joint-less finish. Many fibreglass flat roofs are guaranteed to last approximately 25 years; however, they can last for many more years if they are well-maintained.

It happens to be one of the more expensive options covered due to the cost of materials; however, it isn't as flexible as rubber applications but is still as damage resistant, and roof repair work is incredibly straightforward. GRP is exceptionally waterproof, and there is less likely to be a risk of frost damage or leaking. Its immense durability and aesthetic value make it worth the money if you can afford to stretch your budget.

Why Do EPDM Roofs Last Longer Than Other Materials

EPDM chemical structure is created through carbon black, a highly resistant material to degradation and decomposition that many products can retain from frequent UV exposure. EPDM is highly flexible; its properties can expand and contract if temperatures become too hot or cold.

The material is best at withstanding strong winds and extreme weather conditions as its synthetic rubber composition makes it completely waterproof. Its longevity was proven in 2010 by the ERA (EPDM Roofing Association in Washington DC.

The study tested roof membranes and tiles samples approximately 30 years old, carefully evaluating their physical and mechanical properties. Such properties tested include water absorption, tear-resistance and tensile strength. Its result was highly positive, providing that the samples met all minimums and standards even after 30 years of exposure to the elements. 

Benefits Of EPDM Rubber Roofing

There are many benefits to EPDM rubber roofing to discover, the following include:

Many homeowners can do their bit for the environment by choosing a roof replacement material like EPDM, which is 100% recyclable with its low impact membrane structure. EPDM provides a relatively limited impact on our environment due to its immense reusability and extended lifespan with correct maintenance. 

EPDM is regarded as one of the most cost-efficient materials, especially for flat roofing projects and jobs. You can find much cheaper flat roofing materials; however, you'll sacrifice the longevity and eventually have to fork out for more repairs in the future. Comparable, durable materials include fibreglass, yet these may be in a far higher price range. 

There is often little need for post-installation inspections or maintenance to be carried out by yourself or professionals if your rubber roofing has been efficiently and correctly installed. 


Maintenance for your flat roofing material doesn't have to be a chore; however, it's something you must ensure you carry out maintenance and inspections a few times a year. The most suitable time of the year is once in the spring to assess the dampness and cold from the winter months and its potential effect on your roof.

We encourage you to do so once in the autumn to see if the sun's rays cause any moisture damage in the hot summer months. It may be worth checking the roof after spouts of heavy rain or harsh weather like a hailstorm or heavy snowfall.

Ensure there is no water pooling on top that requires removing. When carrying out bi-annual inspections and maintenance, it's essential to remove any leaves from the roof, dirt, and debris that could eventually cause drainage system issues by blocking water from properly draining, causing it to pool or potentially clog.

For those with overhanging trees and branches that dangle over your roof, it's best to cut them off, alongside heavy branches that could damage the rubber membrane material if it fell on it. Like any other roof, you must be prepared to undertake the occasional repair every once in a while; you can do so as a DIY project with inexpensive repair kits fit with patches for straightforward maintenance of any EPDM roof. 


The primary reason people have worries about purchasing households with flat roofing is its problems with life expectancy and the factors that can affect it. The flat roof's lifespan will typically depend on the manufacturers' materials to produce the roofing, so it's paramount to ensure you do inspections on your home every once or twice a year for proper maintenance.

A poorly installed flat roof is also likely to underperform in terms of effectiveness. It's best to utilise the help of a talented professional to complete the work for you, or you can do so yourself by taking the time to carefully follow the instructions. The best way to complete said task is to choose the most efficient, high-quality material on the market, ideally from a reputable dealer in your local area.

Correct installation and high-quality EPDM will ensure that your new roofing is a long-lasting investment, so don't let the expected lifespan put you off your purchase. 

Are you looking for a flat roof specialist in Andover, Basingstoke or Winchester? 

If you find yourself in need of a replacement flat roof, don't hesitate to contact Flat Roofers Basingstoke today! We have staff on hand to answer any questions you might have.