Flat Roofing 101: Pros & Cons, Repairs & More!

Whether you’re in the market for a new roof or need help with your current flat roof, you’ll want to read on. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about flat roofing: what it is, types of flat roofs, the pros and cons, and common repairs. By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of your flat roof and what to do if you run into issues.

What is Flat Roofing?

Flat roofing may seem self-explanatory but there’s more than meets the eye. While flat roofs may appear to be completely flat when looking at them from the ground level, most of the time they are slightly pitched (5 to 15 degrees) so that water can drain off of them properly.

Types of Flat Roofing:

When it comes to flat roofing materials, there are a few different types you can use. Below we’ll go over each one so that you have an understanding of what’s available.

Built-Up Roof (BUR) – BUR is the most common flat roofing system. It uses multiple layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabric to create a durable, waterproof surface. BUR systems are known for their long life spans and high level of fire resistance but can be prone to ponding water issues when not installed correctly. Asphalt built-up roofs tend to last 20 years or more if properly maintained periodically with gravel re-coating every year or two depending on sun exposure etc.

Modified Bitumen – Modified Bitumen consists of asphalt combined with polymers such as SBS (Styrene Butadiene Styrene) or APP (Atactic Polypropylene). This combination allows it to be applied in a variety of ways including cold adhesives, hot moppings, or torch down applications. These roofs typically last between 10 and 20 years with proper maintenance.

EPDM – Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer is made of synthetic rubber usually black in color but also available in grey. It’s most commonly used for commercial roofing due to its lower cost and ease of installation. However, they can be prone to punctures if not properly installed so it’s recommended to look into other options before choosing this type of flat roofing material.

TPO/PVC – Thermoplastic Polyolefin / Polyvinyl Chloride are the newest types of materials for residential flat roofing systems. They’re both very similar with some slight differences between them like TPO sheets being seamed together while PVC seams are welded. They’re also non-flammable and have long life spans.

Metal Roofs – A metal roof can be installed on flat or low slope roofs and comes in many different materials such as copper, zinc steel aluminum. The main drawback is metal flat roofing materials tend to be hard and inflexible, making it more difficult for workers who aren’t used to working with it.

Pros of Flat Roofing:

Easy maintenance & access: A flat roof may be easier to maintain than a sloped roof as it is safer and easier to walk and access.  Keeping debris off of the roof and doing regular inspections to ensure the seams and penetrations are in good order can be a lot easier..

Additional space: Flat roofs offer additional usable space that can be used for storage purposes or for mounting equipment like HVAC units.

Reflective surfaces:  Flat roofs are often reflective and can help on your energy bill.

Aesthetics:   Some flat roofs can be pretty to look at or may just not block a scenic view which can be ideal in certain locations.  There are even some “Green” flat roofs that have gardens, plants and trees on them that are amazing to look at.

Cons of Flat Roofing:

Leaks: The main downside of a flat roof is that they are more prone to leaks since there are fewer places for the water to run off. This means that you’ll need to be vigilant in inspecting your roof regularly and performing necessary repairs to prevent any damage from occurring.  Diagnosing the location of the cause of a leak is also difficult as water can travel very far in between the roof and the ceiling before it drips misdirecting the location.

Snow and ice: Flat roofs also tend to accumulate snow and ice more easily than sloped roofs, which can lead to dangerous conditions and even structural damage if not cleared promptly due to the weight.

Heat loss: A final consideration when it comes to flat roofs is their propensity for heat loss. Since they have no slope, warm air tends to escape more easily through the roofing material, making them less energy efficient than sloped roofs.

Common Repairs for Flat Roofing:

There are a few common repairs that you may need to perform on your flat roof from time to time. Here are some of the most common:

Leak repair: Leaks are by far the most common problem with flat roofs and should be fixed as soon as they are noticed. If left untreated, leaks can cause extensive damage to both the roof itself and the building below.

Patching and sealing: Another common repair for flat roofs is patching and sealing any cracks or holes in the roofing material. This helps to prevent water from leaking through and causing further damage.

Gutter cleaning: Flat roofs often have gutters attached to them to direct rainwater away from the structure. These gutters must be cleaned routinely to prevent them from clogging with debris which can cause water damage to the building below.

Have a Flat Roof and Need Help, What’s Next?

If you’re looking for a new roof, be sure to consider all of your options before making a decision. Flat roofs have many benefits but also some drawbacks that should be taken into account when weighing whether or not they are right for you.

If you have a flat roof and need help with repairs, don’t hesitate to book a FREE Roof Inspection today! We are experts in all things flat roofing and would be happy to assist you with whatever needs you may have.

Roof MD