While flat roofs have many benefitsthey are easier and less expensive to install and provide a lower heating bill during the winterrepairing them can be difficult. If you have a flat roof, you will have to repair it more frequently than if you had a pitched, or sloped, roof. However, locating and repairing the leak should always be done as quickly as possible to stop the problem from snowballing.
A flat roof is also known as a tar-and-gravel roof, or a built-up roof (BUR). With routine inspections and maintenance, a flat roof has a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years. However, if preventative work has not been performed on a regular basis, the roof may start leaking within a few years.
While pitched roofs have slopes that encourage the runoff of water, completely flat roofs don't have this benefitalthough some flat roofs do have a slight slope. It is extremely important to ensure that the roof has a protective barrier to keep water from settling on it. Drains and gutters must also be installed properly and routinely cleaned to prevent the backup of water.
It is more difficult to find a leak on a flat roof because the water could be anywhere. With a sloped roof, the leak will generally be in the same spot as the damage to the ceiling below, but on a flat roof, the water can enter at one location and then travel to another area.
If you venture up on the roof yourself, be sure to choose a dry day when there is not much moisture in the air. Look around the roof flashings for signs of damage. The flashings are usually metal, and are found where the roof intersects with other items on it, such as the area around the chimney, plumbing pipe, or skylight.
Rings of dirt or missing stones or gravel, in addition to seams, cracks or holes in the roof, are indicative of where the roof may be leaking. Discoloration is another indicator that water has been pooling in that area.
You can try the following flat roof repair solutions:
- For exposed nail heads or for issues with seams, apply asphalt roofing compound to the nail heads or seams
- If the flashings or roof have been pulled away, try to renail them. If this is not possible, put the asphalt roofing compound in a caulking gun and fill the exposed area with it.
- If gravel or stone is missing from the roof, apply asphalt roofing compound and then use a shovel to pat the new stones or gravel back into place
If your flat roof repair problems are more advanced, or if you are unsure or uncomfortable troubleshooting or performing the work yourself, an Atlanta-area roofer can repair your flat roof and restore your peace of mind.