Felt Vs Single Ply Flat Roof: An Unbiased Review

Felt Vs Single Ply Flat Roof An Unbiased Review
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Are you looking to install or upgrade a flat roof? Trying to decide between felt vs single ply?

Flat roofs have taken off in recent years, and there are plenty of styles to choose from, each with different pros and cons. Felt and single-ply are some of the most popular flat roofing materials, but how do you know what’s best for you?

It’s simple. Read this blog. 

We’re going to delve deep into the felt vs single-ply flat roof argument and pit the two popular roofing methods against each other, all in one place, just for you. 

What Is Felt Roofing?

Felt Vs Single Ply Flat Roof An Unbiased Review-2

Felt roofing is the stuff you see on most garden sheds, and it’s regularly found on flat roofs UK-wide.

Used for over a century, felt roofing is durable against the elements due to its double (sometimes triple) layer of protection. This common roofing material is made from some pretty robust core substances, including bitumen (the oozy black stuff used in tarmac), sand and limestone, which are all held together on a fibrous membrane most commonly cut from hessian or fibreglass. 

Though torch-applied felt roofing is increasingly common, felt roofing is still notoriously simple to install, meaning home DIYers can confidently tackle a roof felt roll. To learn more about felt roofing, read this blog here.

What Is Single-Ply Roofing?

Felt Vs Single Ply Flat Roof:

Where felt roofing is a commonly known term, single-ply might not be. You might have seen single-ply on local newbuilds, commercial buildings, or large blocks of flats without realising what it was.

Single-ply roofing systems are made from PVC or TPO, both durable and lightweight materials that come on a roll. These sheets are welded together for a strong, long-lasting and watertight result. 

Felt Vs Single-Ply Flat Roof – How Much Does It Cost?

Don’t worry; we’ll tell you straight. Exactly how much are these two common roofing options going to eat into your bank balance?

Felt

Felt has been the homeowner’s go-to for decades, and its cheap initial outlay is a big benefit. 

It’s by far the more affordable option. The average cost of felt roofing per square metre is around £30 to £50, meaning you’re looking at around £300 to protect your standard-sized garden shed against raging heat waves and glacial frosts.

But. And it’s a big but…

Felt roofs don’t last half as long as their single-ply equivalents; you might get ten years out of them if you maintain them effectively, but they’re simply not as robust. So, even though you’ll have to stump up more for a single-ply flat roof, your investment will work much harder for you and keep you warm and dry for longer. 

Single-Ply

The cost of installing a brand new single-ply flat roof is approximately £150 to £300 per square metre, depending on the specification. 

Single-ply roofing is more expensive, but it lasts longer, saving you money in the long run. It also comes with a long warranty – from 20 years up to a lifetime, making it a far more reliable investment if you’re in the market for a new or refurbished roof.

Felt Vs Single-Ply Flat Roof – How Long Does It Last?

Felt

Most felt roofs fail somewhere between the 5 and 10-year mark. 

What’s more, there is a huge variety of felt available on the market, and it’s not all top of the range. If you’ve found a supplier with a price point too good to be true, then it probably is. 

Felt is prone to damage over time, too. Splitting, cracking and UV damage means repair is likely necessary within its lifespan, costing you time and money.

And, even though your new felt roof should come with a warranty, this warranty only covers the physical product, the felt covering, not your whole roof. What that means is that if you don’t notice your felt wearing thin and the structure of your roof suffering beneath it, you won’t be able to claim for the damage. The process of claiming itself can also be slow and laborious because you’ll need to track it right back to the manufacturer and take your issue up with them. Sometimes the installer and manufacturer both bounce you from one to the other, with both refusing to take responsibility.

Single-Ply

In contrast, single-ply roofing should still be going strong after 20+ years of life.

Some companies will even offer a lifetime guarantee upon purchase, making single-ply a solid long-term investment and rewarding you with complete peace of mind that your investment is fully protected.

So, how’s it looking so far? Felt vs single-ply flat roof… What’s coming out on top?

In short, felt is a fantastically cheap, speedy solution for re-roofing your building, outbuilding or extension, but its lack of longevity knocks it down a few pegs as a long-term solution. Single-ply is long-lasting and some companies will offer a lifetime guarantee making it a solid long-term investment and giving you peace of mind.

Read this blog here to learn more about how long different flat roof types last.

Felt Vs Single-Ply Flat Roof – Safety And Convenience Comparison 

Cost and lifespan are two crucial factors when you’re working out which roofing option to go for, but there are a few other things to take into consideration. How safe is the material topping your building? And how intrusive will the fitting of it be?

Felt

There are some downsides to older methods of roof covering, like felting.

Some felt is attached securely by using a heat torch, and some purely through the application of a bonding adhesive. If you or your roofer will be using the former, you’re quite literally playing with flames, meaning there is a fire risk. And old fashioned felt installers use potboilers filled with tar which can spill and cause roof damage and personal injury. 

When you’re dealing with fire and glues, it can be pretty tricky to successfully fit roofing felt in wet weather. But, on dry days, felt is super quick to fit, taking as little as one day for a small roof. 

Single-Ply

Single-ply roofing systems are also extremely simple to put together, meaning it only takes one or two days to complete the job, depending on the size of the roof.

With no naked flame or hazardous materials necessary, due to its mechanically-fixed system, single-ply is a very safe material to install. Single-ply can be installed in most weathers, even rain. 

Felt Vs Single-Ply Flat Roof – Common Problems 

Let’s troubleshoot the common problems property owners come up against when choosing felt or single-ply solutions for their flat roofs.

Felt Is Cheap And Easy To Fit, But…

  • It’s not very durable. Sun damage and consistent weathering mean splits and cracks are pretty inevitable, and where there are cracks there are leaks. Not ideal.
  • Moisture can become trapped between the layers. When this moisture freezes, it expands, causing damage to both the roof structure below and the felt above.
  • Unless rigorously maintained, you’ll end up with an ecosystem growing up there. Accumulating moulding leaves and blown-on dust can quickly break down to form rooftop compost, the perfect conditions for wind-blown weed seeds to germinate.
  • The range of quality out there is hard to police. Many cowboy roofers offer felt roofing, and it can feel impossible to find a reputable installer.

Single-Ply Is Extra-Durable And Easy To Look After, But…

  • Older single-ply systems can perish when they get on a bit, say 30+ years, due to harsh weather conditions.
  • It’s initially a lot more expensive than felt. 
  • It requires a professional installer’s expertise to ensure a proper fit.
  • It’s not a DIY solution, making it extra costly after you add on labour costs.

Felt Vs Single-Ply Flat Roof – Who Wins?

That’s it. We’ve covered everything you need to know about felt vs single-ply flat roofs.

If you’re looking for a quick fix and need to keep an eye on the pennies, a felt roof is for you. It’s a popular choice for a reason, as long as you know its limitations.

Don’t have time to keep felt looking spick and span? Would you rather avoid having to fix or re-cover your roof in the near future? Single-ply is the strong, reliable and durable roofing option if you’ve got the money to spend on the initial outlay plus specialist labour. 

Looking to find out more about the cost of a brand new flat roof? It’s complicated, but we can help. Click here to read one of our recent blogs, ‘How Much Does A New Flat Roof Cost?’.

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