Flat roof technology makes for a viable alternative
The general assumption when comparing pitched and flat roofs is that pitched roofs are generally the best for long life and appearance, whereas flat roofs are the cost-effective solution more commonly used for some extensions and other ‘add-on’ structures.
The reality is less distinct now. As flat roof technology and manufacturing techniques improve along with newer longer-lasting materials, the case for the more widespread use of flat roofing with its inherent advantages is growing.
Typical flat roofing
The image of flat roofing is of rolls of felt and contractors working with fires and blow torches in rather dangerous looking situations. Health and safety legislation has removed this image somewhat, and newer and longer lasting materials such as fibreglass and rubber mean the usual assumption of having to replace a flat roof every twenty years or so is less applicable than before.
Usually constructed using clay, concrete or slate tiles, a pitched roof tends to be thought of as the longer-lasting durable option. Other traditional benefits:
- Drainage – rain water runs straight off the slope and away from the property via the guttering
- Space – a pitched roof provides storage or even habitable space (an extra bathroom or home office for example) in the loft cavity
- Insulation – thick rolls of insulation can easily be fitted in the loft, and tiles themselves act as insulators
The main disadvantage is the cost of installing a pitched roof – and there’s likely to be ongoing maintenance that can be pricey as roofers have to access a high structure.
Another factor to consider with pitched roofing is the need for strong foundations. It could be that replacing an old flat roof with a pitched type may not be feasible if the foundations aren’t suitable.
Flat roofing advantages
It’s worth mentioning that flat roofs aren’t completely flat – they are pitched by a few degrees to allow water to run off although they’re designed to ‘hold’ water on top for a period of time.
Flat roofs are significantly less costly to install than a pitched type, and roofs constructed from newer materials such as EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer – a rubber membrane) and fibreglass can last around 40 years, more than twice that of felt roofing.
The time taken to install a flat roof is likely to be significantly less than a pitched roof – a job that usually turns into a lengthy project and can cause considerable disruption. Once installed, modern flat roofs are very low maintenance, and if any is required it’s a lot easier and thus less expensive for a roofer to carry out the work.
Choose a roofer carefully
Many roofers are competent fitting flat felt roofing as it’s been the most common type over the years, but those expert and experienced in the newer types such as EPDM rubber and fibreglass are less widespread.
Many roofers advertise fibreglass and EPDM as a service offering, but may not be the best ones to select. Read websites and sales literature carefully, and ideally seek out recommendations from others with a similar roof you’re thinking of or maybe ask one or two builders you trust who they’d recommend. When hiring a roofer it is vital that you ask to see their roofing contractor insurance certificate. Cowboy roofers are unlikely to hold insurance and any damage done to your property, or your neighbour’s property, will not be covered. Always hire a roofer with the correct insurance in place for peace of mind.