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9 Common Flat Roof Problems to Watch Out For

Flat roofs are one of the most common roofing styles for commercial buildings, yet they're quickly gaining popularity for residential properties. Despite their streamlined aesthetic and ability to accommodate rooftop patios or HVAC equipment, flat roofs have their share of faults. 

Many property owners choose Forever Exteriors for top roof repair in Raleigh, NC. Whether you have a residential or commercial building, their professionals can help address some common flat roof problems, including the ones below. 

9 Problems with Flat Roofs

Contrary to what many people believe, flat roofs aren't perfectly flat. Instead, they have a mild slope that's usually unnoticeable. Yet, including that small slope in specific areas helps the roof drain water. 

Many property owners prefer flat roofing due to its aesthetic value and cost-effectiveness. It also requires less regular maintenance than traditional sloped roofs. Despite these benefits, flat roof issues can quickly degrade the roofing system unless you notice and resolve them quickly.

Here are some of the most common flat roof problems for commercial and residential buildings.

#1 Exposure Damage

All roofing systems experience weather, sunlight, and environmental exposure. Unfortunately, flat roof materials tend to develop problems more quickly than shingled sloped roofs due to the increased surface area under constant outdoor exposure. 

A flat roof could experience exposure damage due to the following:

  • Lightning strikes
  • Intense wind
  • Hail damage
  • The sun's ultraviolet rays
  • Wind-driven debris
  • Rain, snow, and ice

#2 Ponding Water

Though flat roofing systems include a small slope for drainage, ponding water or puddles can still form. These roofing systems don't leave much margin for error. So if the installers don't account for the slope and drainage correctly, water can accumulate in flat or low-lying parts of the roof. 

The excess moisture can degrade flat roof membranes if the stagnant water doesn't quickly drain or evaporate. When that happens, roof damage and water leaks can occur. 

#3 Roof Leaks

Leaks are one of the most common types of roof damage regardless of how much slope and pitch a roofing system has. However, water leaks are widespread in flat roofs due to their inability to drain water effectively.

If water consistently collects on the roof, it will eventually weaken the roofing materials and seep into the building's underlayment and decking. That moisture can ruin insulation and building materials like drywall. The problem with flat roof leaks is that most property owners don't realize they have a problem until they notice warning signs inside their buildings like dripping water, puddles, and water stains on ceilings and walls. 

#4 Debris Accumulation

Though leaves, twigs, and other debris can fall onto a sloped roof and fall off, the same doesn't happen on flat roofs. If the wind blows anything onto a flat roof, it'll stay there until someone manually removes it. 

Leaf piles might not seem like a major problem, but they can be in the right conditions. For instance, a pile of leaves can harbor moisture following a rainstorm and potentially cause moisture damage to the affected part of the roof. The water could also freeze, thaw, and refreeze if temperatures fall below freezing, which will also cause problems for the roofing material under the pile.

#5 Punctures and Membrane Tears

If a storm produces winds strong enough to cause tree limbs to fall onto a flat roof, it could result in roof membrane punctures or tears. These membranes are important because they create a watertight seal along the seams of flat roofing materials. Any damage to these membranes can lead to water intrusion. 

Storm damage isn't the only way a flat roof can develop membrane damage. If the roof doesn't have a designated walk path for people using the space, the increased foot traffic can lead to flat roof membrane tears and punctures. 

#6 Alligatoring

When a flat roof's materials begin to degrade, they may form cracks, bubbles, and blisters that create a distinctive pattern resembling the skin of an alligator. This phenomenon is called alligatoring. The main culprit of alligatoring is over-exposure to the sun's UV rays.

Unfortunately, flat roofs can't hide from the sun. Still, it's best to address signs of alligatoring as quickly as possible to minimize the risk of further damage. 

#7 Structural Movement

Structural movement in flat roofing systems refers to the thermal activity that causes roofing materials to expand and contract due to temperature changes. These shifts are usually natural and minor. However, they can occur more frequently in commercial buildings due to the drastic difference between hot outside air and cool indoor temperatures. 

Structural movement can alter the flat roofing assembly. Over time, the shifting will damage the roof membranes, leading to splits and other damage around seams and roof penetrations like skylights and vents.

#8 Wind Damage

Wind damage is one of the more surprising flat roof problems. Unlike traditional pitched roofs with a series of layered shingles, flat roofs typically consist of one sheet or layer of material.

Whereas wind could blow one or two shingles from a pitched roof, intense wind could cause substantial damage to a flat roofing system. It's not uncommon for flat roofs to need roof replacement instead of minor repairs following wind damage. 

#9 Organic Growths 

When roofing materials retain too much moisture, they can become breeding grounds for organic or biological growths like algae, moss, and mold. Unfortunately, flat roofs with ponding water and poor drainage are ideal for biological growth. Unless you regularly clean the roof and address drainage problems, the growths can impact the building's exterior aesthetics. 

Maintain Your Flat Roof's Structural Integrity with Help From Raleigh Roofing Experts 

Don't let flat roof problems damage your home or business's roofing system and leave your property's interior in jeopardy. Forever Exterior's roofing contractors serve clients in Raleigh, North Carolina and have years of experience addressing common and uncommon roofing problems. They offer comprehensive roof replacement, repairs, and maintenance services for residential and commercial buildings of any size. 

With this licensed and insured roofing company tending to your flat roofing needs, you can be confident in your system's durability, performance, and longevity. Contact Forever Exteriors today to schedule your appointment.

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