Older Houses With Flat Roofs
Flat roofs have a bad reputation for causing expensive problems for house owners. Although modern buildings that feature flat roofs are designed with the latest technology and built to a much higher standard than older houses, if you own or are looking to buy an older house with a flat roof, you should be aware that it is almost inevitable that it will leak.
Local leakage problems in flat roofs can be solved by the keen DIYer, although more serious damage can only be fixed by removal and replacement of the top layer of the roof.
Flat roofs have several elements, including a covering, thermal insulation, a structural deck, drainage outlets and often a heat and light reflecting coating.
A leaking flat roof can usually be detected by checking the ceiling of the room below for stains. If the leak is in the top layer of the flat roof, water will leak through, run down the slope of the roof inside the structural deck and appear as a ceiling stain, possibly some distance away from the original hole in the roof.
Ponding is a term used to describe depressions or hollows in the flat roof, where water accumulates. The wind may blow seeds up from your outdoor plants and lawns and over time, you will develop an unexpected roof garden in the ponding area.
As well as holes in the outer covering of the flat roof, other areas that may cause leaks in the flat roofs of houses are joints in the covering, and cracks in the covering around chimneys. Blocked gutters and drains are another cause of water accumulation.
If the flat roof has a layer of gravel on top of the covering, check the areas where the gravel has changed colour, as this may give you an idea as to where water is collecting and where it may be leaking slowly down through the roof.
Flat roofs can suffer rot, not only from obvious water leaks on top of the roof, but also through condensation from the heated room below and from moisture trapped within the flat roofspace. Modern flat roofs have provision for ventilation to minimise this problem.
Most DIY centres and building merchants offer a range of felt tapes and adhesive for small localised repairs to your flat roof. However, if the flat roof has many problem areas, you should consider replacing the entire top covering.
This article is only intended as a basic general summary and you should always seek professional advice where necessary.
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