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Just how much of a risk is a house with a flat roof?

By Shelly, Jul 12 2016 02:29PM

Typically there are two types of roofs on most houses you see, regardless of age or style – those being a pitched (pointed) roof or a flat roof.

A 'flat roof' is actually a slight misconception because, in order to enable rainwater to drain away, flat roofs have a slight pitch (or slope) of a few degrees, to take the water away effectively, so as not to cause damage to the roof.

There are certain pros and cons of flat and pitched roofs to consider before you make a final decision on considering a property with a flat roof, over its pitched counterpart.

A pitched roof has at least two slopes that rise to meet at a peak and they are known for their durability and decent lifespan. Also, a pitched roof allows you to have usable life or storage space in the loft area. This is a feature that a flat roof simply can't match.

You will also benefit from added insulation, as rooms in the house will not be affected by varying extreme temperatures that can be a drawback of having a flat roof.

Conversely however, pitched roofs do not come cheap. Their initial design is more complex than a flat roof, so labour and material costs mean that they are usually a far more expensive option to build than a flat roof and, therefore, repairs can sometimes also be a costly affair.

Flat roofs

Flat roofs are renowned for their space saving and compact design and make a good choice for not just houses, but also smaller structures, such as extensions, dormers, garages and other out houses.

A flat roof is essentially a flat base fixed to the building's ceiling joists and then covered with a waterproof membrane, enabling rainwater to drain from the roof, as it is slightly pitched by a few degrees.

Flat roofs are, generally, a more cost effective and energy efficient option, which will save owners money. Its construction involves considerably less labour and materials than its pitched roof counterpart and full replacement can be done much quicker than a pitched roof.

Traditionally, flat roofs are constructed from a mineral felt material, which is then covered with a thin layer of stone chippings to protect the roof from the effects of the sun. However, this does have a tendency to become blistered in direct sunlight and cracks can appear when exposed to temperature changes which, let’s face it, is a feature of our weird and unpredictable UK weather!

In our opinion, the most important factor for a flat roofed house is that it be well maintained. There is no real reason why flat roof can’t last for a decent period (say 15-20 years) if it is regularly maintained and protected against the elements.

Sadly, it is usually poor maintenance or lack of additional treatments (such as adding the layer of gravel or treating the base with special solar reflective paint) that causes the roof to have problems, like leaking water for example.

We’d always advise that a roofing expert inspect a flat roof at least twice a year. The best times to do this is in the spring (after the harshness of winter) and then again in the autumn (to prepare for the coming winter).

During the inspection, it’s also a chance to clear any leaves, dirt and other debris that may prevent your flat roof from draining properly or cause early deterioration and can often be a chance to spot things early to prevent a much bigger roofing repair bill in the future!

It’s always a good idea to have a quick inspection done after any bouts of extreme weather, like storms, high winds etc. A quick check of all gutters, pipes and anywhere that water flows in and out of could save you money in the long term and can be done at very little cost.

So, in summary, flat roofs are a totally viable option for domestic houses and they are cheaper to construct (initially) than pitched roofs. Some also believe that flat roofs look more contemporary than pitched roofs.

However, flat roofs do require a greater degree of maintenance and can suffer from drainage issues (ponding) if the pitch is not adequate to allow water to run off properly.

Typically, the life span of a flat roof is not as long as a traditional pitched roofs and the need for higher level of maintenance and more frequent and possibly serious repairs can add to the upkeep costs.

All in all, a pitched roof is probably the better option of the two, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid a flat roof at all costs, especially if it’s kept in a good state of repair.

AJB Roofing are experts in both pitched and flat roofs, so we’d be happy to help you out with any advice you might need or if you want us to come and inspect your roof – just give us a call.

Until next time, we’ll be on top of a roof somewhere nearby! ☺

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