Flat roof leaks and failures can prove catastrophic and expensive. Flat roofing also has a poor reputation for being notoriously likely to fail, but we also feel we need to point out that today’s modern flat roof membranes far outmatch and outperform more traditional materials in terms of longevity and waterproofing.
Reasons the flat roof is likely to fail
Over time, old membranes and traditional flat roof coverings become worn, such as:
- Asphalt felt
- Bituminous felt
When these substances wear and weather, they become brittle, bubble and eventually crack, leading to water ingress, particularly where there are joins or old repairs. Roof decks can also move slightly over time, and should be given a visual inspection on a regular basis, to make sure instances of ponding water or cracking are detected early enough.
If an old flat roof has been neglected over time, there is a good chance that moss patches will build up, ponding water will be sitting on the roof surface and water will be seeping in somewhere. Ponding water also affects the temperature variations across the flat roof, and during freeze and thaw cycles, can severely and adversely affect the covering materials.
Once water gets under the old felt, or seeps into cracks in concrete, the roof deck will begin to saturate, which will lead to rot in the deck and supporting woodwork or metalwork. If this is allowed to happen, then before long, the entire flat roof will be rendered useless and will need to be completely replaced. There is every chance that damage to the building underneath will also occur, and this is when we begin to realise the true cost of neglect.
How can you prevent flat roof leaks?
There are three important considerations to make to give yourself the best chance of being able to prevent flat roof leaks. The first and most important thing to keep on top of is maintenance.
Maintenance of a flat roof
Visual inspection is critical at least once every three months (or after a spell of bad weather) to look out for instances of ponding, bubbling of membranes, overfilled guttering or for any area of the roof that may have been damaged by severe weather.
If a flat roof is well-designed from the off, the instance of problems is greatly reduced. Flat roofing is never truly flat, but has a specified gradient to allow water to run off with no chance of ponding. Taking advice from a professional flat roof design company, or from an independent surveyor is a good place to start.
Buy good quality materials
Today, the latest in EPDM flat roof membranes means that not only is waterproofing significantly improved when compared to more traditional coverings, such as roofing felt, but in terms of longevity, we are in a completely new ball park.
EPDM membrane carries a life expectancy of more than 50 years once installed correctly. With little or no maintenance required, EPDM roofing is fast-becoming the go-to material of choice for flat roof installers all over the world.
Buying a membrane or flat roof system with superior lasting and performance qualities really does make a lot of sense. Initially, the investment is often more costly than the application of felt, but money can be saved with these types of systems as they are easily manageable by a DIY enthusiast in kit-form for installation, potentially saving £££s in professional installation fees.
Care, maintenance, design, materials – these are all considerations that can ensure that you can prevent flat roof leaks and failures.