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Flat roofing systems are popular mainly for the numerous advantages they offer. These advantages include being easy to install, energy efficient, easily accessible, and cost-effective, unlike other types of roofing systems.

Flat roofs are also great for installing other components like solar panels, communication equipment, and HVAC units. Despite these advantages, they still have inherent problems, and it's essential to know them.

Flat roofs have multiple features that make them easy to install, but it's important to note that these features also make them vulnerable, especially without proper roofing maintenance. To maximize your flat roofs, we'll examine some common flat roofing problems.

Common Flat Roofing Problems

Most houses today use roofs with slopes, which are usually steep. Flat roofs are mostly leveled and with only a slight incline. They are primarily used on commercial properties because of their accessibility and ease of installation and are an excellent option for installing solar panels.

However, there are many problems linked to this type of roofing system. Here's a summary of some of the common issues associated with flat roofing systems:

Exposure

This is the most apparent cause of the problems associated with flat roofs. That's why it's the first problem on this list. Flat roofs are directly and constantly exposed to different elements, including the sun, and with that, the potential for damage increases. Regardless of the roofing's strength, durability, and material, constant exposure to different elements will reduce its lifespan.

Flat roof problems are usually a result of overexposure to freezing, sun, hail, lightning strikes, or wind-driven debris. Other exposure issues include exposure to chemicals, external pollutants, and oil damage.

Leaks

This is also a common issue in properties with flat roofing systems. Over time, the potential for flat roofs to drain water effectively reduces, primarily if the roof is not appropriately maintained.

Improper draining of moisture causes accumulation, so it wouldn't take long before it starts to seep into your home. Roof leaks are harmless for most people, but it's important to note that they can cause more severe issues if not attended to quickly.

Ponding water

The drainage system on flat roofs is not usually sufficient, especially for precipitation. This is because flat roofs are primarily designed with a slight slope for drainage purposes.

However, the slope is not natural enough, and this can typically lead to issues in the long run. Therefore, the water created from precipitation is accumulated on the roof. The weight causes stress on the roof, and water can eventually leak into the house.

Punctures/splits/tears

The potential for flat roofs to tear or puncture, especially after a storm, is higher than with other roofing systems. This is the main reason why it's crucial to perform a roof inspection after every unpleasant weather event.

Another factor that can cause tears and punctures is pedestrian foot traffic on the roof. However, this can be avoided with the aid of restoration systems that feature proper paths for walking.

Structural movement

Structural or thermal movement is natural contraction and expansion influenced by temperature changes. This is a natural event, but it can cause movements on your roof and the entire property.

The potential for commercial buildings to experience these movements is higher when compared to residential properties. Excess movement can alter the integrity of the roofing membranes, and this can cause them to split around seams, flashings, and penetrations.

Debris

This includes refuse or loose material like dust, mud/dirt, tree limbs, or trash. You'll always find some amount of debris on your roof at some point, primarily due to exposure to different elements and natural wear and tear. However, too much of this debris can cause build-up and block your drains.

Damages resulting from this are usually irreparable, especially when on flat roofing systems. For your flat roof to continue to drain properly, you'll need to remove the debris regularly, and you can do this by pressure washing or leaf-blowing.

Biological growth

Another common flat roofing problem is biological growth, which mainly forms in accumulated water on your flat roof. As mentioned earlier, it's vital to ensure proper draining of your roof to prevent accumulation that can cause leakages.

Apart from leakages, this can also trigger the growth of algae, vegetation, and other organisms. It's important to note that if your roof is dirty, it will be less reflective, and this can also affect the exterior and interior temperatures of your building.

To avoid roof repairs or roof replacement resulting from biological growth, you'll need to clean the roof regularly. You'll also need to ensure that the roof is appropriately sloped to ensure proper water drainage away from the roof.

Blistering

This is a surface defect like alligatoring, and it's common with flat roofing systems. The term alligatoring is used to describe deteriorated flat roof membranes, and the condition is usually so severe that it causes the roof to start to look like alligator skin. Blistering and many other surface defects are generally a result of prolonged exposure to saturated insulation or sun.

Shrinkage

This problem is common on roofs that are made from synthetic rubber membrane materials like Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM). Shrinkage causes the seams to pull apart or delaminate, thereby causing the formation of openings on the surface of the roof.

EPDM is a popular material in the construction sector for flat roofs, and this is because it is durable. However, it is highly susceptible to shrinkage. Installation and manufacturing errors are also factors that can cause shrinkage to occur on the roofing membrane.

Improper maintenance

One of the top causes of roof problems is poor roofing maintenance. Without proper maintenance, the chance of your roofing system failing is higher. Commercial roof inspections and maintenance can easily prevent all the issues we have highlighted. In addition, you can avoid some of these issues with the aid of a fluid-applied roof restoration system.

Common Fixes for Flat Roofing Problems

Apart from knowing the typical flat roof issues, it's also essential to understand how to fix some of them. Here's a quick overview of some measures to apply to fix these problems:

Proper roof plumbing

An effective way to solve flat roof problems, especially if it is due to water damage, is to install effective drains and gutters. This is vital for maintaining the health of the roof, primarily if you have a flat metal roof installed on your property. If you're thinking of having a flat roof on your building, you'll need to ensure that the roof plumbing system is installed correctly.

Adequate drainage cannot be achieved with only a gutter, you'll also need overflows and drains to accomplish this, and they should be built into the roofing system. In addition, it's essential to also get regular drain inspections and cleaning to ensure that they are functioning optimally.

Use a water-tight sealant to protect lead flashing

Apart from installing drains and gutters on your roof, another thing to ensure is that a waterproof sealant is applied so that water doesn't go under the flashings or roof windows.

For this, you might consider talking to a roofing expert for recommendations about maintenance requirements, expected lifespan, and water resistance offered by the sealant you choose. Doing this is a great way to preserve the lifespan of your roofing system and ensure that it doesn't get damaged quickly.

Contact a Roofing Professional

Flat roofing offers multiple advantages, as mentioned earlier. However, the problems associated with it cannot be ignored. Ensuring proper plumbing and the use of a water-tight sealant are great ways to prevent roofing problems.

However, if these problems occur, you might need to reach out to an expert to solve them. The roofing services offered by roofing professionals primarily include plumbing, replacement, and installation services.

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