Flat roofs require more maintenance than sloped roofs because roof debris has a tendency to collect on them easily. The most important thing you can do when keeping up with flat roof maintenance is to make sure that scuppers and drains are clear. This ensures that there won’t be any backups that trap standing water on the roof. With fall coming around, it’s important to sweep off the leaves and dirt before they turn to mulch. Plants can actually start growing on poorly maintained roofs.
Here’s what you need to know when selecting your flat roof material:
- Built-up roofing (BUR) has a long history. This “old-school” flat roof treatment involves the application of roofing felt (tar paper) and asphalt-based roofing tar, often in multiple layers. A top layer of gravel or a reflective coating is required to cut down on heat gain and improve durability. Maintenance and repair work usually call for more felt and coating layers to be applied. Over time, this adds weight to the roof and increases the mess and expense of its eventual removal. Though BUR remains an economical option, it can’t compete with more modern flat roofing materials in terms of low maintenance, lightweight, and durability. Modified bitumen works well on residential & small-scale commercial flat roofs. Because it comes in 3-ft.-wide rolls, modified bitumen roofing is easy to handle and apply.
- Modified bitumen roofing is applied in rolls that are usually heated with a torch to seal seams and adhere the asphaltic material to the substrate and to flashing details. The roof surface gets a reflective coating for durability and reduced heat absorption. The popularity of more modern single-membrane systems (EPDM & TPO) has reduced the demand for modified bitumen roofing.
- EPDM roofing has a good track record. Despite its exotic chemical derivation, ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM for short) has the look and feel of an everyday rubber inner tube. EPDM comes in large rolls and is well-suited to the application over any large, flat roof surface, providing the substrate is clean and uniform. The flexible rubber material is glued to the roof substrate and to adjacent EPDM sections (Installation with mechanical fasteners is also possible). An EPDM roof can easily last 20 years with minimal maintenance, but its dark tone absorbs a tremendous amount of heat. To prolong the life of this single-ply roof and reduce cooling costs, a reflective top coating is essential. Alternatively, you can pay extra for EPDM membrane with a white top layer.
- PVC roofing offers top performance for a premium price. This single-ply roofing material is made from polyvinyl chloride, the same high-performance plastic used in plumbing pipes. Like EPDM, PVC is most frequently used on larger commercial roofing jobs. Seams between PVC sheets are welded together with a specially designed heat gun. The resulting membrane is impermeable to moisture, with excellent durability. Because PVC roofing is naturally white, it has excellent heat-reflective qualities without any coating or extra treatment.
- TPO roofing is a light, affordable single-ply option. TPO is short for Thermoplastic Polyolefin, the chemical composition of this fabric-like single-membrane system, TPO represents a newer roofing technology that’s still being refined by different manufacturers. The material comes in rolls of different sizes, making it suitable for a variety of flat roof projects. It can be installed with adhesives, mechanical fasteners or heat welding. Like EPDM and PVC roofing, TPO requires a clean, uniform substrate; it can’t be installed directly over existing roofing material. Although TPO usually costs less than EPDM or PVC, it doesn’t yet have the same track record of proven performance. The white TPO material used most often does a good job of reflecting solar radiation, which helps to reduce the demand for air conditioning in hot weather.
Most common flat roof problems:
- It’s difficult to find the source of a leak
- The glue holding the top layer to the insulation can dry up and create a separation
- Leaves and debris can collect on the roof and clog drains and downspouts
- Deterioration in caulking around flashing can create a leak
- Walking on the roof can create holes in the insulation where water can sit
SPARKS Construction & Roofing LLC is experienced in a wide range of flat roof services for commercial, residential and industrial buildings in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for flat roof repair or installing a new roof, our professionals will inspect your building and go over all of the options and answer any questions you may have. We take the time to ensure that you are able to make an informed decision when it comes to protecting your home or business.