Flat Roofs Pros and Cons
By Anne Earley
Flat roofs have a mixed reputation, so it’s worth taking a considered look at flat roofs pros and cons before making decisions.
Flat roofs are often a feature of commercial and civic buildings – think 1960s primary schools and low-rise industrial estates. With limited kerb appeal in many cases and a reputation for leaking, it is sometimes hard to understand their enduring use, but architects love them!
It’s not just new office blocks that often have flat roofs. It seems that every expensive and innovative new house-build now has a flat roof as a main design feature too. Pitched roofs are starting to look rather dull by comparison.
At Improve a Roof, we’re experts in everything to do with roofs! So, let’s look at the pros and cons of flat roofs, especially since the introduction of the revolutionary EPDM rubber cover which has been a game-changer for flat roofs.
A short history of roofs
Flat roofs originated in hot, dry climates, while pitched roofs were developed in colder places where they allowed snow to slide off the building before its weight caused damage. The flat roof became popular in Western Europe and North America after the First World War. New materials and building techniques allowed architects to become more adventurous, abandoning traditional roof shapes and designing buildings that reflected the modern, cubist trends in design. The trend continues to this day.
How flat is a flat roof?
Just to put the record straight, flat roofs are rarely completely flat. In fact, they are built with a slight angle, allowing water to run off and drain away into a downpipe. The gentle slope is usually concealed behind a short parapet topped with coping stones.
Pro: Flat roofs are cost-effective
If you are building an extension or even your own house, you will probably be more interested in controlling your budget than creating a modern architectural masterpiece. A flat roof could be a good option for you as they are much cheaper and quicker to build than pitched roofs. Flat roofs require far fewer materials and labour hours, allowing you to make considerable savings.
In a commercial building, attic storage space, a concealed feature of a pitched roof, is simply not required, so you won’t be paying to create dead air space if you choose a flat roof.
The same feature allows you to save money on heating. With effective insulation, flat roofs are very efficient at retaining heat as there is no draughty attic space for heat to leak into and then out into the atmosphere. So if you’re weighing up flat roofs pros and cons, cost effectiveness is a big tick for flat roofs.
How about a roof garden?
A flat roof could allow you to extend your living area or entertaining area. If you don’t have any outside space, why not create a roof garden? These are often seen on blocks of flats as an extra amenity for residents. With the help of an engineer, you could even use the space for a swimming pool. And there is increasing interest in developing upwards, particularly in cities, with the development rights above buildings with flat roofs worth money to the freehold owners.
Pro: Flat roofs are the ideal place for solar panels
Make your flat roof earn its keep. You could use the space to make a saving on your energy bills by installing solar panels. The level area of the roof is ideal as you can place the panels at the optimum angle to gather as many of those rays as possible.
Which type of roof is the most durable?
At one time, the building materials used on flat roofs lacked durability and needed replacing every 10 years or so. The development of the EPDM rubber roofing for flat roofs has been a game-changer, making a flat roof as durable as a pitched roof, if not more so. The EPDM membrane is made of single-ply rubber and is resistant to everything the weather can throw at it, including temperature extremes, alkali rain, and UV radiation. Roofs covered in EPDM rubber roofing can last up to 50 years; if repairs are ever required, they are cheap and straightforward to do.
What are the cons with flat roofs?
Any type of roof can present problems, and all are prone to weather damage and leaks. Slates get blown off pitched roofs in high winds or become loose when the wooden battens securing them rot through. However, the flat roof, in particular, needs a good drainage system to support it.
Extremely wet weather conditions can quickly overwhelm an inadequate drainage system, carrying leaves and other detritus into the downpipes and blocking them. If the rainwater backs up, it can result in a pool of standing water on the roof area. Standing water is the enemy of the flat roof! As builders say, ‘Water will always find a way,’ and it will quickly penetrate through the tiniest cracks or crevices in your roofing material and cause leaks. It is this issue that has given the flat roof a bad reputation.
Maintaining your flat roof
So how do you get all the advantages that come with a flat roof but avoid the leaky bit? Of course, it is essential to start with an excellent quality roof that has been erected and sealed by a skilled roofer with an EPDM membrane.
After that, the flat roof is relatively low maintenance. Although the flat roof has no slates to check, you should give it a look over regularly. Keep your roof clean and free from leaves that could block the downpipes and it should serve you well for decades to come.
About Improve a Roof
Roof cleaning: Our wash and refurbish process is designed specifically to kill and prevent moss, lichen, and algae from forming on the roof of your home. We also provide repairs and renovations as part of our roof cleaning service.
EPDM rubber roofing: Or you have any queries on how EPDM Roofing could benefit you and your property we are only a phone call away.
Call us: 0800 046 9686