Flat roofs are trendy and aesthetically appealing – yet understanding their nuances is key for ensuring safety and longevity.

It’s important to note that no roof is entirely flat; a slight pitch is necessary for effective water drainage. Instead, flatness is encompassed by a less than 4-in-12 pitch, meaning it rises less than 4 feet for every 12 feet in length.

Types of Flat Roof Materials

The choice of material for flat roofs is critical, especially since asphalt shingles are usually not preferred for low pitches due to vulnerability to wind and water damage.

Rolled Asphalt Roofing

This economical option involves rolls of material, similar in composition to asphalt shingles but different in installation. The lifespan of a rolled asphalt roof, ranging from about 8 to 15 years, hinges on factors like material quality, roof pitch and maintenance. This type of roofing is particularly susceptible to prolonged exposure to sunlight and rain, which can accelerate deterioration. Regular maintenance, especially resealing, is crucial for prolonging its life.

Rubber Membrane (EPDM) Roofing

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer, a durable rubber roofing material. Unlike rolled asphalt, EPDM is often available in large sheets, reducing the number of seams and potential leak points. The longevity of EPDM roofs can extend up to 20 years or more, depending on maintenance. One of its strengths is UV-resistance without additional sealants. However, it is sensitive to petroleum products.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofs are an excellent choice for their durability and extended life expectancy, often exceeding 30 years. They are resistant to fire, mildew, insects, and rot. While they can be more expensive, metal roofs reflect sunlight, potentially reducing summer cooling costs. Common materials include steel, aluminum, zinc alloy, and copper, each with its unique appearance and price point. However, metal roofs can be noisy during rain and hail, though indoor sound suppression methods can mitigate this.

WIN Home Inspector performing a roof inspection

Choosing the right flat roof material involves a balance of aesthetic, durability and budget. But the journey doesn't end at selection. The longevity of your flat roof largely depends on regular maintenance and prompt attention to repairs. Let's dive deeper.

When selecting a flat roof material, consider the local climate. In areas with intense sun, UV-resistant options like EPDM are ideal. For regions prone to heavy rains, choose materials with robust, water-resistant properties. Aesthetic alignment with your home's architecture is also a key factor. Rolled asphalt offers a traditional look, while metal roofs can add a modern touch. Budget constraints are an important consideration, but initial cost savings may lead to higher maintenance expenses down the road.

Regular maintenance is paramount for any flat roof. Annual inspections by a professional are recommended. WIN home inspectors look for signs of wear, such as cracks, blisters or loose seams and pay special attention to areas around vent or chimney penetrations, as these are common leak sites. Our Drone Roof Inspection is non-invasive and the safest option for roof inspections, leaving all parties safely on the ground.

Additionally, regular cleaning and maintenance are necessary for roof maintenance. Debris like leaves, branches and dirt can accumulate on flat roofs, potentially blocking drainage points. Regular cleaning ensures water can flow freely, preventing pooling and damage. Furthermore, it’s imperative you keep an eye on minor issues, as resealing seams, patching small punctures or replacing worn flashing keep minor repairs from growing into major problems. Also keep an eye out for water pooling. Particularly for rolled asphalt roofs, resealing the surface can protect against UV rays and water damage. While some water pooling is normal, it should not last for days. Persistent pooling can indicate an issue with the roof pitch or drainage system.

Over time, even well-maintained roofs will show signs of aging. Proactive repairs and upgrades can extend the life of your roof. Certain coatings can be applied to materials like EPDM or metal to enhance UV resistance and waterproofing, and upgrading insulation not only improves energy efficiency but also reduces thermal cycling that can wear out roofing materials.

Consult with a roofing professional to understand the best practices for your specific roof type. WIN can offer tailored advice on maintenance schedules, best repair practices, and replacement timelines.

In essence, the selection and maintenance of your flat roof requires thoughtful consideration. By making informed choices and committing to routine care, you can significantly extend the lifespan of your roof, ensuring it remains a protective and aesthetic asset to your home.

Author Bio:

Josh Rogers

As a former professional home inspector and Training Specialist at WIN Home Inspection, Josh has years of experience in both performing and teaching home inspections, infrared scans, radon testing, mold testing, and more.