While flat roofs on residential buildings are rare in most of the United States, they seem to be slowly gaining in popularity among homeowners. A flat roof gives your home a modern appearance and allows you to use the square footage on your roof for solar panels, a terrace, or a garden. Is it worth switching your home from a pitched roof to a flat roof? To help you make your decision, here's what you need to know about the differences between a pitched roof and a flat roof.
More Usable Space in Your Home
The primary reason why homeowners switch to a flat roof is the extra usable space that a flat roof provides. You may wish to install solar panels on your flat roof. Not only will the solar panels be hidden from view, but solar panels that face straight up will receive more sunlight throughout the day than solar panels that are angled on a pitched roof. Another popular use for the space on a flat rooftop is gardening — plants get plenty of sunlight, allowing you to grow vegetables and herbs in planters placed on the top of your roof.
You can even turn your flat roof into a rooftop terrace or deck. However, there are a few caveats with turning your rooftop into a gathering space. You need to work with your roofing contractor to ensure that the structure of your home can support the load of a rooftop deck, including furniture and guests. You also need to install a flat roof using membranes that are thicker than usual in order to better protect the surface of your roof from foot traffic. Additionally, it can become difficult to check the condition of your flat roof if you overlay it with a deck. Despite the drawbacks, a rooftop deck is a fun and unique venue for entertaining.
Inexpensive and Energy-Efficient
Flat roofs provide two other advantages besides giving your home more usable space. The first is that flat roofs tend to be less expensive than pitched roofs — that's the reason why they're so common on large commercial buildings with a lot of square footage to put a roof over. The second advantage is that modern flat roofs with white, reflective coatings reflect a large portion of the sun's thermal energy. Switching your current roof to a flat roof can significantly lower your cooling bill during the summer.
Poor Drainage Can Lead to Water Damage
The most pressing disadvantage of a flat roof is the poor drainage. Flat roofs aren't actually flat — they have a very gentle slope that leads downwards into your gutters. However, that gentle slope is very vulnerable to punctures or sagging. If your roof begins to sag or is damaged, it will create a small depression in your roof that allows water to pool in the area. When the water on your roof doesn't evaporate quickly and is allowed to sit in one place for a long period of time, it can cause damage to your roof.
Needs Frequent Inspection
The risk of pooling water means that flat roofs need to be inspected at least twice a year, preferably a day or two after a heavy rain. When you own a flat roof, you need to be vigilant about making sure it's in good condition and that water drains quickly from the roof. Thankfully, making repairs to a flat roof is generally easier and less expensive than repairing a pitched roof in many cases — any deteriorated or damaged sections of the roofing membrane can simply be patched as necessary.
Overall, a flat roof is a great way to get some extra usable space out of your home. The only downside is that you need to have the roof periodically inspected in order to check for pooling water. However, this is not a major disadvantage, since both inspection and repair are inexpensive. If you'd like to switch your home to a flat roofing system, contact a professional roof installation company, such as Charleston Roofs + Windows, that has experience working with flat roofs