Considering a Flat Roof for Your Home? Here’s What You Need to Know

Each year, many individuals and families move into newly built homes. While cookie-cutter houses are incredibly common, at least 22 percent of the homes built each year use custom floorplans and designs.

This gives you control over the appearance and layout of the house.

While creating the perfect floorplan will help make the home livable, it’s still important to pay attention to the exterior.

Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against the elements. Though pitched roofs are by far the most common type of roofing system on residential structures, they’re far from the only type available.

Choosing a flat roof is a wonderful way to make a house stand out from others in the neighborhood.

Before you decide to build a house with a flat roof system, there are a few things you should know.

1. Flat Roofs Aren’t Flat

Flat roofs may look flat, but they’re actually sloped. The slope is typically so slight that the roof appears completely flat.

Why is the roof sloped? Well, the slope allows the roof to send excess water and moisture to your gutter system. This helps reduce the risk of water damage, leaks, and structural issues over time.

If the roof was completely flat, water would collect and puddle. Over time, that water could soak into the roofing materials and leave you with leaks throughout the house.

Even a slight slope is enough to keep the drainage working properly.

2. They Can be Made From Different Materials

Since the materials making up a flat roof are not visible from the ground, many homeowners think they’re only made from a single material.

In fact, flat roofs can be made from many different roofing materials. Here are a few of the most common:

EPDM

EPDM roofs are more commonly known as rubber roofs. The rubber coating is spread across the entire roof surface and installed without the use of heat or torches. Once spread and set, the material is held down by a series of metal strips.

EPDM is one of the most waterproof materials on the market, making it perfect for homeowners worried about leaks.

BUR

BUR, otherwise known as built-up roofing, is frequently seen in commercial flat roofs. The roof is made up of layers of waterproofing which are held in place by a layer of tar.

The tar is then covered in a layer of gravel. Though durable and highly flame-resistant, these roofs are incredibly heavy.

This makes them less ideal for some residential structures. Your roofer will be able to determine if your house can handle the weight of the roofing materials before you commit to an option.

MBS

Modified bitumen systems are becoming a popular choice for homeowners across the country.

These roofs are made up of layers of weatherproof matting, much like BUR systems. Unlike BUR systems, these mats have a protective coating built into the materials themselves.

This means roof installation goes more quickly as the crew won’t have to install a weatherproof coating after building up the layers of the roof.

3. Your HOA May Not Approve

Unfortunately, homeowners associations often have strict rules and regulations in place to keep the neighborhood a pleasant place to live.

In most cases, these rules keep noise levels down and prevent your neighbors from turning their yards into a makeshift junkyard. But that’s not all.

Homeowners associations can decide how the exterior of your house looks right down to the approved paint colors for your siding.

Before hiring a contractor to install your flat roof, make sure the roof is approved by the HOA. If it is, make sure the types of materials you intend to use meet their standards.

If the roof isn’t approved or you use materials that the HOA doesn’t like, you might be fined by the association. Worse, you might have to rebuild the entire roof and cover the cost out-of-pocket.

4. Maintenance is a Breeze

You’ll want to stick to a maintenance schedule. Leaving the roof unrepaired increases your risk of leaks and damage. Worse, it makes it more likely that you’ll need an entirely new roof far sooner.

Since the roof is flat, it’s easy for contractors to access the entire system. The easier it is to get to the water damage, the faster the repairs will be.

Keep in mind that flat roofs may need more frequent maintenance than standard pitched options. The materials are exposed to the elements more consistently and are more likely to break down more quickly.

5. Drainage Is ALWAYS a Priority

We’ve already talked a bit about drainage, but we’re going to mention it again. Drainage is always a priority for flat roof systems.

When the drainage design is implemented properly, the risk of leaks and water damage decreases significantly.

If it’s not or the roof warps from heat, water can puddle. Over time, these puddles turn into leaks and increase your risk of mold and mildew growth inside the attic.

Even a small amount of mold can lead to health problems.

The best way to keep your home mold-free is to make sure your roof is draining properly. After a storm, take a look at the roof and see if water is collecting anywhere on the surface.

If it is, schedule an appointment with your roofer as soon as possible.

6. Flat Roofs Are Energy-Efficient

Believe it or not, flat roofs can be incredibly energy-efficient.

Flat residential roofs sit on top of a thick layer of insulation. The insulation lessens the load on your HVAC system for heating and cooling your home, reducing the amount of energy loss through the roof.

When properly vented, the roof circulates air throughout the attic. This helps your HVAC system maintain temperatures throughout the house without having to combat heat loss in the attic.

Unlike other roof types, a flat roof can also be covered in a cool roof coating. These white coatings improve the waterproofing of the materials and also help reflect sunlight, keeping your roof cool and letting your HVAC system run more efficiently.

The less your HVAC system runs, the more money you’ll save on heating and cooling costs.

7. You’ll Gain More Usable Space

A flat roof can help you declutter your yard by giving you plenty of space to install HVAC units, swamp coolers, and other equipment.

You can even turn a portion of the roof into a usable living space when designing your custom home.

Who wouldn’t want to take in a sunset from the comfort of their rooftop deck?

8. Inspections Need to Happen Frequently

Flat roofs are weather resistant, but they’re not invincible.

The material is susceptible to storms and wind. Once one part of the roof is damaged, the rest can quickly become compromised.

You’ll need to inspect the roof regularly to keep leaks at bay.

After a storm, make sure the weatherproof layers are still attached to the roof deck. If you notice any peeling or bubbling in the surface, schedule a professional inspection immediately.

9. Inspections Are Easy to Do

Roof inspections are typically a chore that homeowners leave to the professionals.

Think about the steep pitch of a standard residential roof. You need to balance carefully so as not to fall off.

Even professional roofers need some safety equipment in place to safely work on a pitched roof.

By comparison, a flat roof is easy to walk on and makes it possible for homeowners to perform their own routine roof inspections. The more you inspect your roof, the sooner you’ll notice minor repairs and damage.

Over the life of your roof, this can save you thousands of dollars in repairs.

10. Waterproof Coatings Can Extend the Life of Your Roof

As the roof gets older, the materials will start to break down. The layers may not be as waterproof and you may start to see more frequent tears or rips in the material.

Even asphalt shingles can show signs of wear and tear, forcing you to replace the shingles entirely.

With flat roofs, additional layers of sealant and coatings can be applied without replacing the entire roof.

This typically extends the usable life of the roof for up to 30 years. The longer your roof lasts, the less you’ll spend on roof replacements while you’re in your home.

11. Look for a Contractor Experienced in Flat Roof Systems

Flat roof repair can be tricky and if the contractor doesn’t know what they’re doing, they can make the problems far worse.

Unfortunately, flat roofs are somewhat of a specialty. Not every contractor is qualified to work on them.

Before you hire anyone to take care of even minor repairs, make sure they’re familiar with flat roof systems. If they’re not, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral.

Just because they’re not qualified to work on your roof doesn’t mean they don’t know someone who is.

12. Flat Roofs are Environmentally Friendly Options

When you schedule a roof replacement, those old roofing materials often make their way to the landfill. They can’t be recycled or re-purposed.

When you choose a flat roof, especially a BUR system, you’ll reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the landfill. The materials are recyclable and can be turned into new roofing materials for future use.

When asking for a flat roof replacement cost from your contractor, make sure to ask about their recycling program. Not all contractors provide recycling and if it’s a priority to you and your family, it never hurts to ask before agreeing to the project.

13. Gives You More Flexibility with Your Floorplan

Pitched roofs create slopes inside the attic. This can cut into the amount of usable space you have on the upper floors of your home.

If you’re planning on creating an attic office or guest room, getting rid of the sloped walls will help make the room feel more spacious.

Flat roofs completely eliminate the annoyance of sloping ceilings and walls. You’ll be able to focus on creating a unique and functional upper floor without worrying about design constraints due to a strangely shaped ceiling.

How to Decide If a Flat Roof Is Right for Your Home

If you’re thinking of building a custom house with a flat roof, you’ll need to decide if it’s the best roof for your needs.

Think about whether or not the roof is allowed under the HOA or local building code. Sometimes, flat roof systems are only allowed on commercial structures.

If it is allowed, then consider if the modern and sleek look goes with the type of design you’re dreaming of. Flat roofs can work with almost any style of house, but some homeowners may prefer a traditional pitched design.

Keep in mind you can always combine different roof options. In one part of the house, you can utilize a pitched design while another can have a flat roof installed.

If you’re unsure of what’s best for the house, your contractor will be able to make a recommendation based on the type of home you’re building.

Ready to Install a Flat Roof?

At Z Roofing & Waterproofing, we understand the unique maintenance and repair needs homeowners with flat roofs face, but that’s not all we do.

We’re here to help whether you have a flat roof system or a traditional pitched roof.

Our experienced contractors will make sure every issue is taken care of quickly and properly so you can get back to enjoying your home.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to see if a flat roof is a great option for your family. Our team will come to your property to help you find the best roof design and materials possible.