By Karen Lawrence
Is a flat roof the right choice for me?
A flat roof can be a great choice when extending or remodelling your home. It can be quicker and more economical to construct than a traditional tiled roof, and is ideal if you want to add a roof terrace or green roof.
Over the years, however, flat roofs have gained a bad reputation. Even today, you may still hear so-called ‘experts’ say that they are problematic and prone to leaks.
So how can you create a good-looking, practical flat roof that’s long-lasting and trouble-free?
Good design can prevent future problems
Many of the most common flat roof problems can be put down to the quality of the original design or poor workmanship.
Joints between the flat roof and a parapet or the wall of the existing house are a potential area of weakness, so junctions must be carefully designed and detailed. A skilled architect will allow for movement of the different materials – including thermal expansion and contraction - to avoid the risk of cracking and subsequent leaks.
An experienced builder will ensure that the surface of a flat roof is not actually flat! The roof needs a slope to ensure rainwater runs off; otherwise, puddles can lead to leaks. The design and positioning of gutters and outlets is also important to avoid blockages, and safe access to the roof is useful to carry out inspections and maintenance.
What type of flat roof covering is best?
The most commonly used flat roofing products available today are torch-on felt, EPDM rubber and GRP. Each has its pros and cons; your choice will depend on your budget and what you hope to achieve.
Torch-on felt - is a bitumen-coated felt supplied on a roll. As it is rolled out, a large blowtorch is used to melt the bitumen, bonding it to the roof. It is the most economical option, but also the least durable – the minimum guarantee is ten years – and it can be easily damaged. It comes in a very limited range of finishes, and repairs can be unsightly, so is best used on roofs that will be hidden from view.
EPDM - (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) rubber is a durable, synthetic rubber that is becoming increasingly popular due to its tough, lightweight and elastic properties. It’s normally glued onto the roof and can be done in a single layer, without the need for joints. EPDM withstands foot traffic well and most companies offer a 25-year guarantee, but it is only available in dark grey.
GRP - (Glass Reinforced Plastic) – sometimes known as fibreglass – is a waterproof resin used to create a seamless roof covering. Originally used in the boat-building industry, modern GRP designed specifically for roofing is extremely durable and resistant to damage, with a life expectancy of 50 years or more; most companies offer a minimum 25-year guarantee.
Aesthetically, GRP is certainly the most attractive flat roof covering available, with thousands of UV-resistant colours available, plus a wide range of trims and flashings designed to enhance your home.
As Kelley Malcher, Refresh Renovations Specialist, points out “GRP is undoubtedly the best value flat roof option given its long guarantee and versatility”.
But whatever your budget or design considerations, Kelley adds, “We ensure the roof structure and lining are constructed to the highest standards and with the best possible materials. We strive to achieve the maximum longevity whichever roof covering you choose, whether it is GRP, felt or EPDM”.
Will a flat roof suit my period home?
Because of the limited colour range and unattractive appearance of some flat roof coverings, it’s often thought that a flat roof is unsuitable or inappropriate for a traditional or period property.
The wide range of GRP finishes available means that a flat roof can be designed to blend with almost any building style. GRP can be used as a substitute for lead (grey) or copper (green), replicating rolled rib joints and other architectural details but with seamless waterproof performance.
Turning your flat roof into a design feature
Choosing a high performance, durable flat roof finish such as GRP means you can add a feature balcony, terrace or roof garden to your home without worrying about leaks – even if it’s walked on daily.
Heavy-duty GRP roofs are available in non-slip as well as standard finishes, in a wide range of colours, and can incorporate balustrade supports, tiles or decking.
Alternatively, why not plant a green roof? GRP provides the perfect watertight base for a low-maintenance sedum roof, or even a wildflower meadow.
Speak to Refresh Renovations today to find out how a GRP flat roof can transform your home.
You may also be interested in Creating a Roof Terrace in the UK
Want to know more? Get in touch with the renovation experts at Refresh now to find out what they can do for you and your home. Refresh Renovations Specialists offer a free initial one-hour consultation that will help you make the decision whether their team is the one for you. This consultation is no obligation and is a chance to understand what they can do for you.