September 22, 2022
A flat roof or a low-sloped roof, as opposed to a steeply sloped roof, needs extra attention. When it comes to flat roof maintenance basic procedures should be followed to maximize the life of the roof. A visual inspection of the roof and all penetrations and flashings should be done at a minimum of twice annually, preferably after more harsh weather conditions.
The best seasons for this in our area would be in the Spring and again in the Fall. Immediate repair of any defect before it allows moisture to enter the roof system or building interior is optimal. If water seems to have penetrated the roof, a moisture detection inspection should be performed by a trained professional with the appropriate equipment. At that time, recommendations can be made by the professional roofer to determine the best course of action for your flat roof maintenance to help preserve the roof’s integrity.
A flat roof maintenance program offered by a trained roofer can help identify and alleviate many issues with a flat roof. When hiring a roofer for a maintenance program ensure that some key points are included in the agreement. The inspections should be done minimally twice a year as stated, but also after any unusual type of weather such as hail, wind, or ice storms. An inspection report should be provided to include that flashings, penetrations, gutters, scuppers and drains are viewed. The roof should also be cleaned of any debris. At this time some movement or settlement in the roof may be noted. It is important that any cracks be identified and any work to be done be outlined by the roofer.
Another rule of thumb is to be very specific when allowing any non-roofing contractor onto the roof surface. Contractors should be very careful with any tools, screws and/or equipment, so that punctures and cracks are not caused in the membrane.
If the integrity of a flat roof is compromised beyond minor repairs, a certified roofing contractor with an unlimited license by the state of Illinois should be contracted to do any work. This type of work is highly specialized and involves thermography equipment to detect the best solution in moving forward. Ensure that the bids you are receiving are uniform in scope and outline in detail any flat roof maintenance program or warranty.
As the name suggests, a pond of water on your roof is a very bad sign. Long standing water will always find a means of escape and that often means through the roof.
Water may have escaped into the roof or evaporated after a long period of ponding. Either way it will often leave the tell tail signs of patches of a lighter or darker colour depending on the surface you are looking at.
Moss, fungus, lichen and weeds are all signs that there has been a build-up of water.
4. CRACKING OR STRETCHING AT JOINTS OR CORNERS
With age, the flexible materials that make up the waterproof layers of your roof can crack (due to drying out or stretching), rip or just wear away. This is most common with roofs made of rubber or EPDM (Ethylene-Propylene-Diene-Monomer).
This is when you see a bubble appear in the roof membrane. One day it might burst giving water direct access into your building.
All properties suffer from some degree of movement but in most cases it’s minuscule. However, subsidence and land heave can often cause significant movement to a building’s structure. A moving wall will stretch the roof which will often lead to tears and cracks in the waterproof membrane.
7. RUSTED OR MISSING ROOF NAILS
Whilst not common on modern roofs, exposed nails on older properties can become a water entry point as they rust or fall out.
8. DODGY REPAIRS
The previous occupant may have fixed a leak in a rush during a downpour and forgotten to have it properly looked at. Make sure that all materials match and there are no odd patches of membrane or excessive sealant covering your roof.
Keep a close eye on anything added to your flat roof which uses nails or screws to hold it in place. Not only does it provide a route for water into your building but it might also void the warranty from the roof installer.
10. NOT ENOUGH ROOF ANGLE
Flat roofs shouldn’t actually be 100% flat. There must be a slight gradient for water to flow off. Ideally between 1 in 40 and 1 in 80. At that gradient it can be very hard to spot, so buy or borrow a meter long spirit level to check the angle. You can use it to also check that there is no sagging in the roof.
11. REMOVE DEBRIS
It’s good practice to make sure water can run freely in all the guttering around the structure and also across the flat roof so remove all debris.
Looking to avoid flat roof problems before they start? Check out our preventative maintenance solution! Our team of experts will regularly inspect and clean your roof, keeping it in tip-top shape and catching any potential issues before they become big (and expensive) problems.