Flat Roof Homes: Roofing Care and Inspection Tips

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Common flat roof issues

  • If there’s a leak, it’s difficult to find the source.
  • An overlap separation occurs between one sheet of top layer material and the next because the glue dries up.
  • Debris tends to collect on flat roofs. It clogs drains and causes water to pool instead of running off.
  • Flashing deteriorates around penetrations because the caulking that was used to seal them eventually dries out.
  • Small punctures or worn spots compromise the surface.
  • Someone walking on the roof may accidently damage the insulation, causing a depression where water can collect.

 Flat roof penetrations and potentially vulnerable areas:

  • Vents
  • Air Conditioning Units
  • Intervening structure  parapets
  • Roof access panels

One modern trend being seen more and more commonly is the flat roof, being a staple characteristic in modern construction.

Like many specialized features of design, there are often special considerations for the flat roof, which tends to collect moisture, debris, and plant growth at a faster rate than a roof with a steeper pitch. So, if you live a home with a flat roof, what are some considerations for you to keep in mind to keep your roof, and your home, as healthy as possible?

Roofing expert Doug Richards of All Area Roofing talks about ways to approach making sure your flat roof is well cared-for. 


Even though most flat roofs aren’t always perfectly flat, it’s better to treat them as if they are. Think of them as receptacles for everything that flies or falls and you begin to have a better idea of their nature.

Photo: Todd Carpenter

Flat roof warranties

The manufacturers of various flat roof assemblies are protecting themselves from litigation:  they offer warranties to ensure the quality of their products. Looking closely at any warranty, you will notice two main conditions are required in order to sustain it:

  • Correct installation
  • Maintenance

Assuming a reputable roofing contractor installed the roof correctly, the next responsibility falls on the owner, calling for a few steps that will not only maintain the warranty, but will, most likely, extend the life of the roof past it.

Get to know your flat roof

As mentioned above, flat roofs aren’t always flat and have a slight slope (on a large roof, slopes will run in different directions) that directs water toward drains and downspouts to collect and disperse it to the ground.

Photo: pnwra

Underneath the first layer, a layer of insulation intercedes between the first layer and the “deck.” The angle of the insulation determines how the roof is sloped. The insulation is obviously solid and usually made of various types of polyisocyanurates—a type of congealed foam. The top layer is adhered to the insulation with glue or metal fasteners.

Taking preventative steps

If you’ve just had a new roof installed, your contractor should have a few guaranty inspections due. The length of these guarantees varies with the contractor, and once they have expired, you’re on your own.

If you’ve just become the proud owner of a flat-roofed building, now is the time to call a roofing contractor to do an inspection.  Without the paperwork, there’s no way to insure that the roof you have is functioning correctly.

Lastly, if you’ve been the owner of a flat roofed building for the last five years, now is the time to have it inspected.

In the meantime, you can make a preliminary inspection and here’s how you check for possible problems:

  • Inspect the drains—make sure they are free of debris.
  • Clear away all debris and check for loose seams.
  • Look at the flashing around penetrations; make sure there’s a solid bond of caulking.
  • Look for indentations or holes in the surface.
  • If feasible, cut back limbs of trees that hang directly above and close to the roof.

When you’ve completed an inspection and the roof seems to be functioning, it’s a good idea to set up an inspection schedule every year, for either yourself or a roofing contractor.

With this kind of care, your flat roof may last longer than the warranty.


Thanks, Doug!
Doug Richards has been in the roof contractor business for over 25 years, currently operating All Area Roofing & Waterproofing, Inc. serving Florida with offices in Ft Pierce and Tampa.  Thier heavy emphasis on commercial roofs includes EPDM, TPO, Standing Seam Metal, and Modified Bitumen.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.