How do I know if my flat roof needs replacing?

flat black roof

How to know if its time for flat roof replacement

Commercial and industrial structures are known for having a flat roof. Why? Because of money and safety. Building a sloped roof on a residential structure is less dangerous and isn’t as costly as it would be a on a commercial or industrial structure. 

In fact, in many ways, a pitched roof a large commercial or industrial structure is almost impossible. Of course, with the technology and tools available today, it is possible if the owner of the building has the budget and a contractor willing to do the work. Although, flat roofing experts recommend against pitched or sloped roofing on a large structure due to the future issue possibilities. 

Seriously though, are flat roofs really flat? No, a flat roof is not completely flat. It is common sense that water can’t drain from a flat surface, and when that flat surface is a flat roof, the trouble it could create for the structure supporting it is monumental. There is a low slope to the roof, as little as ¼ an inch and as much as half an inch per foot. 

It is because of the low slope to a flat roof, there must be adequate drainage and that flat roofs are made of right roofing material is a must to provide the watertight surface needed. So, is a flat roof worth the concern and common question of “Do flat roofs always leak?”. We’ll answer that by stating that flat roofs do not ‘always’ leak, but yes, the are prone to leak. 

The primary reason that a flat roof is prone to leaking is because they aren’t able to shed the water like a sloped roof, key reason why drainage installed is a must. With the ever-so-slight slope, as we described above, a flat roof properly constructed should have minimal to no chance of leaking. 

The inspection by a roofing contractor or insurance adjuster can advise the owner of a flat roof building if the roof was built correctly or not.  Poor construction of a flat roof is the most common reason for a leaking roof. This will happen with the original contractor is running tight on the budget and they cut corners, or they made a mistake in the construction. 

Even with the workmanship set aside, every sloped or flat roof can have the possibility to develop a leak. With good roofing material and proper maintenance, a flat roof can last 30 years or more before any issues like leaking begin. 

What are flat roofs called?

For commercial and industrial structures, there are five different types of a flat roof: 

  • BUR (Built-Up Roof Systems): This flat roof system has been in used for over one hundred years and is referred to as a tar and gravel roof. This flat roof material is a system of layering asphalt paper with hot liquid tar to reach a specific thickness. 
  • Metal Panel Roof Systems: Metal Panel Roof system is used for a low slope roofing applications and is common on factory and warehouse structures.  The panels span between flat roofing boards referred to as  rafters up to four feet and can hold the weight of a human. Sealed between the seams and overlapped joint for water protection and bolts have neoprene washers for sealant. 
  • Modified Bitumen Membranes: The Modified Bitumen Membrane flat roof system began being used in American in the 1970s. This two ply membrane consists of asphalt-covered reinforced fabrics with added modifiers  for the elastic property that keeps it flexible. There are two type of this membrane: APP Polymer and SBS. 
  • Single-Ply Membrane: The last three are a single ply flat roof membrane available in a EPDM, PVC, or TPO in wide sheets from the factory that is installed to the roof with an adhesive.

What is the best material for a flat roof?

There are several factors that are considered in deciding which flat roof material is used for a commercial structure.  The customer’s budget, the climate, and the age of the existing roof as well as any local building codes. 

The most popular of flat roof materials is PVC roofing, a preferred choice for clients for the cost, even though initial install is more money, the longevity pays for itself over time.  It is preferred by many contractors for the ease of installing the material.  

flat black roof

How long do flat roofs last?

A commercial flat roof that is installed correctly by a professional and has proper maintenance and upkeep by the building owner can last up to 40 years. The type of material used, and the climate can affect this lifespan, and in some areas, with lack of maintenance and upkeep, could last as little as 10 years. 

A new flat roof with overhang is recommended and in some building codes, required. With a professionally installed flat roofing material, the waterproof surface encourage rain to enter the gutters and the flat roof overhang sends the water directly to the drainage system. Key to keeping your flat roof looking good and lasting up to 40 years is keeping those drains clear so the water can flow as intended. Call (856) 662-1382 today for your flat roof replacement needs in Berlin and Cherry Hill, NJ.