Flat roofs are a popular option for smaller homes or those on a budget. They are relatively cheap to install and the upkeep costs are typically much lower than their sloped (or pitched) counterparts.
Despite this, homeowners would be wise to ensure they keep their flat roofs in good working order to ensure the greatest life expectancy possible and save them having to undertake regular repairs.
As such, here are some of the biggest issues for flat roofs, as well as the ways in which they can be avoided or rectified.
The single biggest issue for flat roofs is that of pooling water. Rainwater is heavier than it may appear (in fact it’s around 5lbs for every square inch), so any that remains on a roof can cause serious structural impairments. Not only that, given the chance to stagnate, rainwater can quickly begin to teem with fungi and spores which can damage whatever they touch.
It’s this reason why flat roofs are typically slanted – albeit only slightly – as this should allow water to run off without excessive ponding (a little is to be expected). So before anything else, a strong, water-resistant membrane should be used to cover the flat roof to avoid any water seeping through.
The old adage of “you get what you pay for” certainly rings true here, with many of the more basic membrane materials failing after a short time or having been put under stress. Instead, much more robust materials that are designed to withstand ponding should be sought. Similarly, maintenance-free options such as EPDM are available, as these can be left (provided they’ve been installed properly) without the homeowner needing to continually keep tabs on the situation.
Maintenance work on flat roofs can range from the simple to something quite in depth. For example, just checking there’s no debris on the roof should ensure water can run off freely without obstruction. The same considerations should also be expanded to the guttering, as any blockages can send water building back up along a roof it would otherwise have run clean off.
Any issues which present themselves should be dealt with promptly and completely. What is just a small failure of the membrane along an edge or corner may not require a great deal of work if addressed in time, but the longer it’s left the bigger your task will be. Corners and joins are often the biggest issues as these are where weaknesses lie, so it’s worth checking them intermittently.
If a full replacement is needed, it’s wise to give the roof structure a good once over before starting, as this will illustrate the scale of repair work. After all, even the best membranes will be rendered somewhat useless if a roof’s structure has been entirely compromised.
Despite all of the above, a well-maintained, properly installed flat roof should last for years with no trouble whatsoever. That said, it’s still wise to know when to repair one – or more importantly maintain it – to prevent additional costs down the line.