What Are the Most Common Defects in Flat Roofs?

Leaks and moisture are probably the most common issues with flat roofs. Water has nowhere to go but down on a flat surface, so any potholes or holes in the roof can cause deterioration and reduce its lifespan. In addition to leaks, overexposure to the sun, lightning strikes, frostbite, hail, and wind damage can all cause problems. Even less common exposure problems, such as oil damage in restaurants or exposure to external pollutants and chemicals, can be an issue.

Most flat roofs aren't completely level, but they don't have much room for error. If the roof is damaged or if ice covers it, water can start to accumulate and cause more serious problems like systemic leaks inside the house, the growth of moss and algae, and additional damage to the roofing system. Debris can also block drains if it accumulates on the roof. A large pile of uncleaned leaves can retain moisture that can freeze, thaw, and refreeze during the winter.

This cycle can cause a flat roof to crack and bubble, similar to an alligator's skin - a phenomenon known as “alligatoring”. If left untreated, this problem can cause additional cracks, leaks inside the house, and a total failure of the roofing system. Homes settle and change over time, which can cause displacement of the membrane between a house and the roofing material. Poor installation of a flat roof can also contribute to deformations that require replacement sooner rather than later.

Wind damage is also more likely on a flat roof since it's a single sheet of material. Stagnant water, alligator formation, deformation and natural elements can contribute to a flat roof leaking. Poor installation, substandard materials, or simple age can also be factors that cause flat roofs to leak. After installation by an expert, a flat roof should last a minimum of 15 years and up to 30 years - shorter than an asphalt shingle roof but longer than cedar and metal roofs.

To prevent your flat roof from leaking, you should schedule annual inspections with your local roofing contractor. Your contractor can identify weak spots in your flat roof and repair them before they start to leak. Many flat roofs are sealed with an asphalt membrane that protects them from UV radiation and water damage. To repair bent asphalt on your roof, you may need to schedule professional roof repair services with a local roofing contractor serving your area.