There is a difference between flat roof care and pitched roof care as they are completely different. When it comes to pitched roofs, the valleys in the roof and trees surrounding the structure can cause water to back up in the gutters and valleys, eventually leading to roof damage and leaking. It is easy to see leaves and debris on a pitched roof and know when maintenance is necessary. However, with flat roofs, it is not so easy to see when maintenance is required, which is why scheduling routine inspections by a reputable company is recommended.
How To Take Care Of Your Flat Roof
Flat roofs are a common choice for commercial buildings, and even residential buildings in some parts of the country. It’s important to note that flat roofs aren’t completely flat, as they are slightly sloped to allow for water drainage. Still, a flat roof requires consistent maintenance to ensure it won’t be compromised by weather or debris. Here’s what you can do, as the property owner, to prolong the life of your roof:
- Check it periodically for pooling water or debris – Almost all serious roof problems can be avoided if they are detected early, so check it frequently to ensure there’s no standing water, snow or debris.
- Have a professional provide an inspection at least three times a year – There are some issues that property owners won’t be able to catch, even if they are keeping an eye on their roof. However, a professional roof installer and maintenance crew will be comprehensive during an inspection, checking for leaks, damage and drainage obstructions. Professionals also know where leaks and other issues are likely to emerge first. Every flat roof comes with seams where roof panels or membrane sheets meet, and even though they are sealed, this represents a potential vulnerability. Commercial HVAC units, air and plumbing vents, and skylights are also common accessories, and to accommodate them, the roof material must be cut into. Vent flashings (the metal pieces that join the roof to vents and other elements) can also be vulnerable to leaks. A professional roof inspector will concentrate on these areas, as they are often the spots where the roof is likely to fail first.
- Trim nearby trees and clear roof debris – It may not seem like much, but even a tree branch or two can obstruct water drainage and cause water to pool, increasing the chances of a leak appearing. Keep the roof clear and trees trimmed to prevent this.
- Bring in a professional if water or snow is gathering on your roof – Flat roofs are reinforced to handle water and snow weight, but if you notice that leftover water and snow are gathering on your roof, contact a professional. It could be that your roof’s drainage system isn’t working properly, which could result in leaks or, in extreme cases, a roof collapse.
The major threat to flat roofs is standing water, so ensuring proper drainage is key to prolonging your roof’s lifespan.
What are the advantages of a flat roof over a pitched roof?
A pitched roof is shaped like a triangle, as it’s sloped on both sides to encourage faster drainage. They are a standard option for homes in regions where rainfall is common, but there are reasons to consider a flat roof for residential and commercial buildings, even if rain falls frequently. Here’s why:
- Flat roofs are less expensive to install and repair – Flat roofs are less expensive than pitched roofs, primarily because they require less material to construct. This not only applies to the initial construction cost of the roof, but most repairs, as well. Further, flat roofs are usually easier to access and move around on, reducing installation and repair time further.
- It’s easier to install HVAC systems and solar panels – Flat roofs provide an ideal surface for installing heavy components on, so HVAC units, solar panels and other equipment can be moved from ground level. This saves on space, improves the building’s appearance and prolongs the life of anything installed, as it will be out of range of most debris and safe from vandalism.
- A flat roof can be utilized to a greater extent – Flat roofs don’t just offer a functional advantage. Many homeowners and some commercial building owners turn their flat roof space into a place for entertaining or even convert it into a rooftop garden.
- Flat roofs are usually more energy efficient – Pitched roofs tend to trap warm air, as there is more overhead space for this air to gather and stagnate. Flat roofs don’t have as much overhead room for warm air to get trapped, so it’s easier to control the temperature in a building with a flat roof. This is particularly helpful in warm regions.
What should business and homeowners look for in their roof maintenance professionals?
First, when looking for a roof inspector, it’s important to pick a professional who is specialized in roof inspections, and not just a general home inspector. Home inspectors may not be as thorough and may confine their evaluation to the parts of the roof they can see from inside the attic or from the ground. That’s why reputable home inspectors recommend that their clients follow up with a licensed roof inspector. Here is what to look for to ensure you’re working with a trustworthy roof inspection crew:
- Licensing – Licensing is not required for roofing professionals in Texas, but a license is required in New Mexico. If you live in a state that doesn’t require licensing, it’s important to note that there are voluntary programs available for roofing professionals to attain. These programs require roofing professionals to demonstrate knowledge of the industry and the ability to attain insurance for consumer protection. A highly reputable roof inspector will have professionalism, knowledge and commitment to the field.
- Services – An experienced roof inspection and maintenance company will have the resources to provide a full range of roofing services. Whether you’re in need of a basic inspection, significant roof repairs or are in the market for a replacement, an established roofing company will be able to do it all.
- Warranties – A new roof is an investment in your home or business, and as such, it’s important to work with a company that provides a warranty. And when it comes to repairs, choose a roofing expert that will comply with the warranty when performing work on the roof.
- Safety – Safety isn’t optional when working on a roof, and the professional you choose shouldn’t consider it an option, either. Reputable roof inspectors and maintenance professionals observe U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. OSHA has an online database for any violations or complaints, where consumers can verify that their roof expert is compliant.
Flat roofs are the economical choice in terms of cost and space, and that makes them an attractive option for commercial buildings. When installed and maintained properly, they will last a long time, so make sure your roof is handled by people whose specialty is installing and maintaining them.