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4 Best Roofing Materials for a Low Pitch Roof

February 21st, 2023 | 6 min. read

4 Best Roofing Materials for a Low Pitch Roof

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A low pitch roof is a little different than a standard-pitched roof. While it functions the same by keeping your home dry, it requires specific roofing materials to keep it leak-free. 

This leaves you with fewer options than you typically have for a roof replacement. But even with fewer choices, you’ll still have multiple low pitch roofing material options. 

But of the options available, which are the best? 

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners choose the right roofing material for their upcoming roofing project. Now, I’ll help you find the perfect fit for your low pitch roof. 

In this article, I break down the 4 best roofing materials for a low pitch roof and how long they last. 

1. PVC roofing membrane

PVC roofing membrane (polyvinyl chloride) is a single-ply white membrane used in commercial and residential roofing. The benefit of this roofing membrane being white means it reflects heat instead of absorbing it. 

pvc roofing membrane installed on a flat roof

This makes PVC a great option for a low pitch over a bedroom or living area because it’ll keep the room below cooler during summer. While the white is great for keeping the room below cooler, you need to consider its look. 

The white membrane will get dirty over time and is very noticeable if you can see it from a window. The “dirtiness” won’t affect the functionality of the PVC roofing membrane.

So, you don’t have to worry about the look if aesthetics aren’t a big deal or if you can't see the roof. However, you still need to consider it when making your final decision. 

As long as the PVC roofing membrane is properly installed, you should get around 25 years out of it.

2. TPO roofing membrane

TPO roofing membrane (thermoplastic polyolefin) is also a single-ply white membrane used in both commercial and residential roofing. Like PVC, it has the benefit of a white membrane that reflects heat. 

tpo roofing membrane installed on a flat roof

Besides the chemical makeup, PVC is similar to TPO and an untrained eye can’t tell the difference. The installation process for both is even pretty much the same. 

The only big difference is that a PVC roofing membrane is more flexible than TPO roofing. Like PVC, a TPO roofing membrane is a great option for a low pitch over a living space.

But remember to consider how dirty the white gets as it ages and how it looks when seeing it from the window. Also like PVC, you can expect to get around 25 years out of a TPO roofing membrane as long as it’s installed properly.

3. EPDM roofing membrane 

EPDM roofing membrane (ethylene propylene diene monomer) is a synthetic rubber black membrane that’s mostly installed on commercial and medical facilities. However, EPDM is becoming more and more popular in residential roofing.

epdm roofing membrane installed on a flat roof

Unlike the previous membranes, the black membrane absorbs heat instead of reflecting it. That's why I don't recommend using it over a bedroom or living space. 

While it doesn’t reflect heat like a white membrane, it doesn’t get as dirty. This means you don’t necessarily have to worry about the aesthetics if you can see it from a window. 

While I recommend an EPDM roofing membrane on a low pitch roof over a garage or a non-living space, you can still install it over a bedroom or living roof. Just make sure to consider the heat absorption when making your final decision.

The big benefit of an EPDM roofing membrane is that it’s extremely durable, and I like to say it’s like having a bulletproof rubber roof. This durability means you can expect to get around 25 to 30 years out of a fully adhered 0.060-thickness EPDM roofing membrane.

4. Standing seam metal roof

While both metal roof systems can be installed on a low pitch roof, I recommend a standing seam roof system. A standing seam metal roof is made up of a series of panels locked together at the seams or seamed mechanically that allows the metal roof to expand and contract freely.

standing seam metal roof on a low pitch roof

A standing seam metal roof is a great choice for a low pitch roof. It offers better aesthetics with more color options and lasts longer than the membranes. There’s no reason you shouldn’t get at least 30 years out of your standing seam metal flat roof as long as it’s properly installed. 

In ideal conditions, it could last for 50 years. However, the extra life and aesthetics come with a steeper price point. In fact, it will be more expensive than all of the roofing membranes discussed earlier.

Why shouldn’t you install asphalt shingles on a low pitch roof?

After reading this article, you’re probably wondering why asphalt shingles aren’t on the list. A roof is considered low pitch when its pitch is below a 2:12. 

asphalt shingles improperly installed on a low slope roof

Per shingle manufacturers’ installation instructions and/or codes, a low pitched (or flat) roof is not steep enough for shingles to be installed. This is simply because shingles aren’t meant to hold sitting water that can form on a low pitch or flat roof. 

Sitting water will drastically shorten an asphalt shingle's lifespan and create a leak if nail pops or other problems are in the area. No matter what, asphalt shingles shouldn’t be installed on a roof with a 2:12 pitch or less. 

Not only does this lead to problems, but the shingle manufacturer won’t warranty the area because their specific installation instructions weren’t followed.

How much does installing these roofing materials on a low pitch roof cost?

Now you know the best materials for a low pitch roof, how long they’ll last, and why you shouldn’t use asphalt shingles on a low pitch roof. All of these materials are great options for your low pitch roof. 

The important thing is to choose the one that’s right for your situation. However, there’s still one more important decision-making factor that’s not covered. 

This is how much these materials cost to install on your low pitch roof. After all, it’s hard to truly make the right decision if you don’t know which one fits your budget. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find realistic pricing for roofing. Which is why I wrote another article breaking down how much these low pitch roofing materials cost. 

Since 1990, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided flat and low pitch roof replacements to homeowners in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee areas. We take pride in our workmanship and back it up with a lifetime craftsmanship guarantee.

Check out How Much a Flat Roof Replacement Costs to learn the budget you’ll need for each low pitch roofing material.

roofing contractor questions checklist

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