Never has the maxim ‘pay now or pay more later’ been more true than with flat roofs. Assuming you have a decent roof, a little bit of work every year could prolong its life and save you a fortune in the long run. In this article we’re going to concentrate on roofs that have gravel or pea shingle on, as they are the most common.
The gravel/shingle performs two key functions:
1. To weigh down the roof membrane (that’s the material that makes the waterproof seal).
2. To soak up some of the sun to stop the sun drying out the membrane so it cracks. In order to keep the gravel or shingle in place it’s important that it’s properly bonded to the membrane.
The most important activity is regularly checking your roof twice a year, in spring and autumn. You’re looking for any evidence of standing water, crack, splits, movement or punctures. More than any other part of a house, the flat roof is the hardest working surface in protecting you from the elements.
In most cases, flat roofs are not designed to be regularly walked on so tread lightly to avoid puncturing it or causing it to sag. If regular access is needed, maybe for window cleaning, then use a temporary board to walk on.
Once up there remove any debris. Moss that has fallen off the pitch roof, leaves, vegetation and invariably the kids’ toys and footballs which you thought were lost years ago! Check for the free flow of water in the surrounding guttering and note the presence of overhanging trees that should be cut back.
Ideally, you should not make any repairs yourself. It might void your warranty or you might end up doing more harm than good. If your roof is out of warranty and you’re finding it hard to find a contractor quickly you might have to make a temporary repair using some form of patching compound. There are many temporary products on the market from the big DIY stores but plain old bitumen is the standard for British flat roof construction.
It’s very important that you wear protective gloves and goggles and always do heat the bitumen outdoors when making repairs yourself. But remember this is only temporary and sooner or later you will still need to get a professional in. It will usually cost more to get a professional in but the higher standard of work means it will last longer (and save you money in the long run). So look to see if they are a member of the Flat Roofing Alliance. Full details can be found at www.nfrc.co.uk/FRA.aspx
Obviously, you shouldn’t try to fix any hard materials to the roof or drill through it for any reason. This will compromise the waterproofing and any holes, no matter how well sealed, will give way to water.
Make sure you have kept all guarantees and warranties wherever possible. If not then you can often get a free inspection from many professional roof installers. This makes getting insurance easier too. At HomeProtect we ask when the roof was last checked, as the right information helps us to keep the insurance quote at an affordable price.