Tips for Maintaining Your Flat Roof

Residential | August 19, 2023  | By: John Esh

Modern stone and wood home with flat roof

Flat roofs are popular because they can be easier to maintain than pitched roofs and don’t interrupt the skyline. But the materials they’re made of and their tendency to collect debris and water mean they require more maintenance than pitched roofs. 

You can keep your flat roof healthy and reduce its risk of developing serious and expensive problems by making regular maintenance a habit. 

Before You Begin, Get to Know Your Roof 

It’s important to understand your roof type when inspecting or repairing it. There are several popular types of flat roofing materials that each have unique strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your roof’s strengths and weaknesses helps you know where to pay special attention when inspecting it. 

In very general terms: 

  • EPDM (Rubber Membrane Roof) is easily patched, rarely leaks, and handles temperature differences well, but is more prone to puncture than other types. 
  • Modified Bitumen may cut energy bills and is flexible at cold temperatures but isn’t as damage-resistant as an EPDM roof. 
  • TPO and PVC both offer durability, strength, and wind resistance. Both are also energy efficient, but there are some differences to note:
    • TPO resists mold growth, tears, and punctures but may have a shorter lifespan than other flat roof types.
    • PVC is strong, stable, and longer lasting than TPO but doesn’t stand up as well to cold weather. 
  • Built-Up Roofs (BUR) are typically low-maintenance and attractive but may not hold up as well as other types in extreme weather. Also, the gravel from the top layer can get into gutters and scuppers, clogging them. BUR roofs rarely leak, but it can be challenging to pinpoint the source when they do. 

Before attempting any repair to your flat roof, it’s important to read the manufacturer’s guidelines and any warranties. The different types of roofing have different steps and materials needed for repairs.

Repairing any roof can be tricky and dangerous. When in doubt, always call a professional roofer. 

7 Tips For Maintaining Your Flat Roof 

  1. Inspect it regularly 

It’s easy for problems to “hide” on a flat roof. Even though a flat roof may have a slight incline, it doesn’t have as much visibility as a pitched roof. Regular roof inspections ensure you find potential problems before they have a chance to damage your roof or home. 

It’s best to inspect your roof 2-3 times a year, or more if you have nearby trees. You should also inspect it after heavy rain or snow. 

Look for blisters, cracks, debris, holes, leaks, loose seams, pooling water, rust, and soft areas indicating insulation damage. 

  1. Clean off debris 

A flat roof will collect more debris than a pitched roof, but it is easier and safer to remove. Using a broom, sweep off leaves, dirt, branches, and anything else the weather blew up there, but take care not to stand on the roof. 

  1. Trim nearby branches 

Trim back nearby trees to avoid branches falling on or rubbing against the roof. Overhanging branches can cause several problems. Falling branches or limbs that rub against the roof can damage it, while moss on the branches can spread to the roof. Trees also provide critters access to your roof, where they can find their way into the cozy airspace between the roof and ceiling. 

  1. Fix leaks immediately 

Leaks typically need professional help and should be fixed right away to prevent mold and damage to your home. On flat roofs, leaks tend to form in seams or around flashing. Always check the flashing for cracked caulking. A leak on a flat roof can be much more expensive to fix than one on a steep roof. Because the roof is flat, water won’t run off. Instead, it will saturate the substrate (Roof substrate: the base or underlying layers of a roof system, as opposed to the waterproofing top layer) and may do significant damage before it ever drips into the living space. Often, by the time water shows up inside, extensive lateral damage on the flat roof system has occurred. 

  1. Keep weight off the roof 

Snow and ice can strain any roof but have nowhere to go on a flat roof. Your roof is built to be strong, but excessive ice or snow buildup can cause the roof to bow, letting water creep in. Worse, it can cause the roof to collapse.

Snow and ice removal can be tricky and dangerous. Moisture can make TPO and PVC membranes slippery, and the cold makes membranes contract, making it too easy to puncture your roof accidentally. Structures like vents may be covered in snow and damaged when shoveling or raking snow. If you can’t reach to clear snow from the ground, it’s safest to call a professional for snow and ice removal. 

  1. Clean the drainage system 

Flat roofs will collect water if the drainage system isn’t working efficiently. Any water or ice on the roof is cause for concern. Drains, vents, scuppers, and gutters can get clogged with dirt, sticks, leaves, and gravel. When water can’t properly drain, it backs up and pools on the roof. In the winter, that can cause ice dams. 

Water pooling on the roof is a sign that your roof’s drainage isn’t sufficient. Ensure your drainage system moves water off your roof and away from the house. If it doesn’t, it may need to be unclogged, reconfigured, or leveled to fix the flow. 

  1. Check seams, membranes, and flashings 

Where roofing pieces join, the roof is vulnerable to leaks and can develop cracks from exposure to the sun. Any cracking or splitting should be repaired to prevent further damage. Flashing is used to protect areas that are more vulnerable to leaks. Loose or damaged flashing should be repaired or replaced. 

Joyland Roofing’s Got You Covered 

When it comes to projects and repairs around the house, it’s often tempting to DIY to save money, but roofing is a special case. An improper repair could lead to leaks, mold, or expensive damage to your home. And any roof, even a flat one, can be dangerous. Your home and personal safety are too important to leave to chance. 

When you need your roof inspected or repaired, a trustworthy and knowledgeable company like Joyland Roofing will protect your roof and everything under it. We’ve got you covered.

    Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor License (HIC) # PA124258