A flat roof might seem like an unorthodox option for residential and commercial buildings, but it hasn’t stopped hundreds of structures from having them. Flat roofs are popular in places where the climate is arid, such as the Midwest. As the name suggests, a flat roof has a slight pitch of about ¼” to ½” per square foot.
Because the climate is more dry, architects are not as concerned with sheeting off rain and snow or dealing with stagnant water. Unfortunately, this also makes flat roofs susceptible to some issues that pitched roofs don’t have, such as pooling water causing leaks.
If you notice that your flat roof isn’t working as it should, it may need to be repaired or replaced. The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from, some that will even make your roof far more efficient and reliable.
Let’s have a look.
What Causes Flat Roof Damage and Leaks?
There are many reasons a flat roof will start leak or get damaged, which are detailed below. If you are located somewhere that sees a lot of harsh weather and temperature extremes, the changes of your flat roof getting damaged is increased. Your building will undoubtedly see a lot of wear and tear.
Spotting Damage To Flat Roofs
To help you determine the damage to the roof and whether you need to repair or replace, here are some signs to look out for:
- Rips in membrane: Since EPDM rubber flat roofs are the most common kind, it isn’t uncommon to find faults with them. Though these roofs are great, they are prone to ripping. If you notice that the EPDM membrane is no longer keeping out moisture or has been visibly ripped, you will need to replace the section (or the whole membrane).
- Coating cracks: When a TPO coating begins to age, cracks can form, particularly around 15 years.
- Stagnant water: After a heavy rain, climb onto the roof. If you see ponding water, it means the drainage system has been damaged. Call a skilled roofing contractor immediately.
- Separated flashing: Flashing is added to prevent water from getting to vulnerable parts of the building. If you catch loose flashing early on, you simply need to repair it.
- Waving membrane: Don’t ignore any membrane that comes loose enough to billow in the wind. It means you will undoubtedly see water damage.
- Leaking and water damage: This is the worst case scenario. When water starts to leak through the ceiling or from other places, it could mean your flat roof has failed. You might also notice bubbling paint and mildew or mold on walls, inside and out.
- Outdated system: If you have an old system, it may fail simply because it is old; repairs will undoubtedly cost more than replacement.
Depending on the extent of the damage, you may either have to repair or replace your flat roof.
Best Flat Roof Replacement Options
Here is a quick overview of the best replacement options for flat roofing:
Metal Flat Roofing
One material that has been used for flat roofs throughout the years is metal. Durability is the main advantage of metal, and it can last for about 35 years before it needs to be replaced. In the past, copper and a tin-steel alloy called terne were used, but these days most industries prefer aluminum. Replacing your current flat roof with aluminum will extend the life for about 30 years.
Single Layer Membrane Roofing
A popular technology these days is the plastomeric or elastomeric roofing membrane. There are a couple of single-ply varieties, including EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and neoprene, among others.
The membranes are made of synthetic rubber, are flexible, can handle intense temperatures, and can withstand impacts. Presently, EPDM is the most sought after option, because it is cheaper than metal, easier to install, and has a long lifespan.
Built Up Roofing
This is what comes to mind when many older individuals think of flat roofing, because it was prevalent for about 120 years. BURs are installed by applying several layers of a special roofing felt that has been impregnated with asphalt. Then, it is embedded with bitumen. A mop is used during application.
The result is a thick membrane that is later surfaced with crushed graveled and hot tar to limit exposure to weather and UV light.
Modified Bitumen Roofing
Seen as a replacement for built up roofing (BUR), modified bitumen roofing was introduced during the 1960s and has become another replacement option. Available in rolls, the bitumen is spread across the roof and then applied with a blowtorch. There are several methods for applying the heat, and there is a level of danger as well. Never have an inexperienced roofer apply modified bitumen. However, overlooking the dangers, modified bitumen is cheap and easy to install. The material is also excellent at reflecting heat.
Spray Applied Coating
There are numerous options for spray applied coating. There are three main types: silicone, aluminum, and acrylic. The coatings are sprayed on as a liquid then are left to cure. This makes installation seamless, and with even coatings, there is virtually no space left for leaks to occur. That said, each type of coating has strengths and weaknesses that you should review. Make sure you are taking the current roof substrate into consideration.
Final Thoughts on Flat Roof Replacements
Flat roofs are bound to get damaged and leak at some point. When that happens, you will have to decide whether repairing or replacing the roof is the way to go. First, understand the severity of the issue. Then, take at look at your roof and the substrate. Once you know exactly what you need, you can then make the best choice for a flat roof replacement.
Have questions about flat roof materials? Need to learn more about the roofing types? Then check out other articles from our blog! And if you’re ready to see how we can help, fill out the contact form. More information will be sent right to your inbox.