Although flat roofs have been used throughout the centuries, they are considered a relatively new, stylish look for residential homes in the United States. Very popular in the 1950s, the mid-century modern look can still be found today. Mostly used in warmer climates for the additional living area, the look can still be found in the Pacific Northwest.
There are pros and cons for a flat roof, just as there are for all roofing styles and materials. This design is common in commercial roofing because it’s cheaper to build than a pitched roof and also allows more usable space in a plant or other industrial facility. For residential uses, however, a flat roof is mostly chosen for its looks.
There are a few flat roof applications that require using a torch for installation, which will always be a hazard. However, in the hands of a trained professional, this method is completely safe. Much safer than trying to work on a 30- or 40-degree roof slope.
Safety harnesses and fall prevention equipment must always be used when working on a pitched roof. With a flat roof, crews can work under relatively normal circumstances. That means less time is needed for installation, which means fewer labor costs.
Cheaper Installation Cost
The major difference between a sloped roof and a flat roof is the pitch of course. With a flat roof, trusses aren’t needed (although ceiling joists are) which cuts down on the structure cost. A flat roof also needs less roofing materials because a pitched roof has more square footage than a flat roof.
However, there are fewer options for a flat roof. The cheapest choice is a built-up roof, made from waterproof materials that are attached by tar and ballasted with small gravel. A modified bitumen roof can be torch-down or peel-and-stick while EPDM roofing (a synthetic rubber) is the easiest to install.
While all of those materials are more expensive than asphalt shingles, proper maintenance is needed to make sure they last as long. But they are cheaper than slate or metal roofing. Still, EPDM is the preferred option for today’s laser pitched roofs.
If there is access to the roof, a flat roof is much easier to take care of. Just like a flat surface is easier to install, keeping the roof free of leaves and other debris is just a matter of a quick sweep here and there. It’s also easier for the average homeowner to remove moss and algae from the surface.
Expanded Living Area
If it is your intention to do so, a rooftop patio can be a great place to spend those warm summer evenings. Safety first, of course – make sure there are railings all around the roof and be sure your plans make note of the extra weight the roof will need to support.
Considering a rooftop garden? You’ll definitely want to make sure the roof is strong enough to hold the weight of planters full of dirt and water during the summer as well as the wetter months. Or you can just sit back, enjoy the sunset, and take it easy.
Not All Blue Skies
There are a few drawbacks, however. The very reason this type of roof is easy to maintain is also what makes it more prone to leaks than a pitched roof. When it comes to installing a flat roof, it isn’t 100 percent level. Rain and melted snow and ice need somewhere to drain to after all.
However, any imperfections in a flat roofing project will cause water to pool. If that happens during the winter, the water will cycle through freezing and thawing, increasing those imperfections and leading to leaks. Leaves and other debris can also hold water in place, so regular maintenance is needed.
When choosing a flat roof, or if the home you want to buy has a flat roof, make sure you understand all of the advantages and disadvantages. If you have any questions regarding the care of your flat roof or even installation on a new build, give Warner Roofing and Construction a call.
We’re a professional roofing contractor that has been working in Clark County since 1992. In addition to traditional roofing services, we also offer repair and maintenance, skylight and solar tube installation, and offer free estimates with all of our jobs. Have more questions about flat roofs – or other roofing needs – feel free to contact Warner Roofing and Construction.