Commercial Roofing: How to Choose the Best Flat Roof Color

Commercial roofing - choosing the best flat roof color

For commercial roofing, when it comes to choosing a color for your flat roofing membrane, often the color specified by designers is black. Asphalt and tar roofing is black in color. It is often the default color for many suburban development plans.

You, as a building owner, may not be told there is another choice – several other choices, in fact.

Other Types of Flat Roof Colors

The other most popular color for commercial roofing is white. We’ll turn to why this could be the best option – even for a northern climate like Michigan – in a moment, but there are two other options out there. Green roofing is the third, and blue roofing is the fourth and less well-known option.

Green roofing can take the form of a park complete with structures on top of a commercial building. These are popular in dense urban settings. It can also be a low-maintenance green roof not meant to be walked-on, such as are becoming more popular in Europe.

Blue roofing is chosen specifically to retain and store rainwater. It is not literally blue – more of a gray color – and it can be combined with a green roof system.

Black vs. White Flat Commercial Roofing

The reality is, however, that if you are a building owner you probably aren’t retrofitting a green roof or a blue roof on top of your building just yet. These are becoming more popular. However, as they are cost-prohibitive for the average commercial owner, they probably won’t explode in popularity for some time.

The average building owner is looking to replace a worn-out flat membrane system and wants to know how cost-effective the two main options are.

The membrane we’re talking about in this case will be EDPM or a “true rubber” roofing membrane. It can be about the same cost as some of the other methods – built-up roofing and modified bitumen.

This material comes in both black and white. The white material tends to be a bit higher in cost than the black to install. That is because of its heat and sun reflecting properties. This is where the real cost-benefit analysis will come in.

Black roofs absorb the sun’s heat. White roofs reflect it.

Does this mean that if you live in a cool climate, you should automatically choose a black membrane? Many builders and designers make this assumption. In hotter, sunnier climates, it seems like a no-brainer that you’d want to keep your air conditioning costs down as much as possible. After all, the sun is the main degenerative agent for any roof.

Important Considerations When Choosing a Flat Roof Color

However, when choosing a flat roof color, it is important to consider these things:

  • The sun does not shine directly on a roof in winter, and it doesn’t shine for as many hours of the day.
  • Many black roofs will be covered with white snow for much of the winter anyway, in a climate like Michigan’s.
  • The sun will be shining much more fully and for more hours on a black roof in the summer months – which is when energy costs rise for commercial building owners. The savings you think you will see over the winter months may not appear.
  • White roofing helps reflect heat away instead of trapping it, causing the “urban heat island” effect that black roofing and paving is responsible for. You could be doing yourself, and the environment, a favor by choosing white over black.


Ultimately, it is up to you as a building owner what color you choose. No one choice is good for everyone. Work with your roofing contractor to choose the best roof color that will save you the most hassle and money.

If your business is located in Southeast Michigan, please give us a call. We would be honored to help.

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