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5 Signs It’s Time for Flat Roof Replacement

A flat roof is exactly what it sounds like: a roof that has very little slope to it. Usually, this style of roofing is used primarily in commercial applications, especially in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll find more residential flat roofs in parts of the country that are arid because one of the drawbacks to having a flat roof is that it can be difficult to find and repair leaks. With our consistent precipitation, no one wants to deal with that in their home.

The benefit of having a flat roof is that you can also use it for additional space. For instance, green roofs or eco-roofs are popular places to have small gardens where a roof is visible to inhabitants of the building or those around it. In urban places, such as downtown Portland, apartment buildings, colleges, and medical complexes are creating green spaces on the roofs visible to their students, patients, and occupants. This way, architects are also creating spaces for stormwater management, reducing the urban heat island effect—where cities have a higher ambient temperature due to so much concrete—and also creating spaces for pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds to live.

So, if you have a flat roof, how do you know when it’s time to perform some maintenance or replace it? Here are five signs it’s time for flat roof replacement:

1. Cracks in the Flashing

Anywhere there is a sharp bend on your roof—any 90-degree angle—there will be flashing, which seals water away from the interior of your building. Think of flashing as the seams of your roof. If your flashing is cracked and old, water has a natural pathway into your building. Needless to say, it can cause a lot of damage to the wooden joists under your roof, the support beams, and any insulation that might be there. You can bet that if you can find old and worn-out-looking flashing, other parts that you can’t see will need to be replaced too.

2. Blisters Forming

You’ll see this more commonly in a flat roof that has membrane roofing. Blisters or bubbles form when pockets of air or moisture are trapped between the layers of the membranes and can be exacerbated by regular foot traffic. Sometimes, they are a result of a crack in the seam, which then collects moisture or cold air from below.

If you catch a blister before it cracks, you can sometimes repair the roof instead of replacing it. However, if it’s a consistent problem, or the blisters or bubbles show up all at once all across the roof, it’s probably time to consider replacing it. Even if you’re able to repair one blister, there’s a good chance it will come back again and again.

3. Water Is Pooling

This is actually the biggest and most common problem with flat roofs, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Since we live in a wet climate, you want to be sure that there are no places on your roof where water will “pond” or pool and have appropriate drainage. If you have a space where there is a consistent pool (and if your roof is fairly new), you can install additional roof drains or a tapered system. Of course, if you are maintaining an old roof rather than fixing a new one, you may have bigger problems. The faster you get the water off the roof, the better the chance you won’t spring a leak.

4. Building Materials That Hide Damage

You may think this is a good thing at first, but if the damage is hidden, it may not occur to you to repair or replace the roof until it’s too late. If you have a tar and gravel roof—which is becoming less and less popular for this reason—it may be difficult to actually find the damage, and even an experienced contractor may only have a 50-50 chance of finding the leak. If it’s time to replace the roof anyway, make sure the flat roof replacement material is something that is easy to work with and shows damage instead of hiding it.

There are many types of flat roof coverings, including asphalt, synthetic rubbers, liquid membranes, and glass-reinforced plastic. They all have advantages and disadvantages, so make sure you ask your highly experienced technicians at Interstate Roofing which one is right for your building and your budget.

5. Alligatoring

Have you ever seen the pattern in an alligator’s skin? You’ll see similar patterns in the cracks that can form in your roofing material. As the sun’s UV rays dry out the top layer of your roof, you’ll be able to see this kind of damage. Remember, while it’s frequently cloudy in our climate, some UV rays will still get through and slowly degrade your roofing material. Clouds only block some rays—not all of them. If you don’t handle this problem, these cracks can let in ice and water, and the heating and cooling cycles will make these cracks wider and lead to more and more problems.

But if you replace your roof, or if you apply a new coat to the roof when you first notice these patterns, you can say, “See you later, alligator!” to this particular problem. If you have noticed alligatoring in the past, or if you’ve recently replaced your flat roof, it’s good practice to inspect your roof every six months or so and after major storms, including ice and wind storms.

Flat roofing is one of our specialties at Interstate Roofing. We’ve worked on many large commercial buildings in Oregon and Washington, such as churches, office buildings, medical complexes, restaurants, warehouses, and multi-family structures. We were also awarded the Versico Gold Medal Quality Award for our work on the Timberline Wy-East Day Lodge. Having been in this business for over 30 years, it’s no wonder Interstate Roofing is the obvious choice for your roofing needs, whether it’s commercial or residential.

What Are the Most Common Modern Roofing Styles?

As unassuming as it might seem, the roof of a building is one of its most important features. It helps to protect the inside of the building from the elements and keeps everything warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It contributes greatly to the value of a home, and although largely unsung, the roof is one of the most sophisticated pieces of building technology.

Of course, not all rooftops are created the same. There are many different modern roofing styles, each with a different purpose and specialization. Some are used primarily for homes, while others are more likely to be seen on commercial buildings. All of them are designed to serve their purpose—of keeping the inside of the building safe from the elements—and some can save you a great deal of money on heating and energy.

Below, we’ll list a few of the most common modern roofing styles:

Flat Roof

You’ll see this one on buildings everywhere, both commercial and residential. It’s very simple, being a roof that’s basically flat, and its primary benefit is in maximizing usable space inside a building. Since it won’t really be visible from the top, the flat roof doesn’t make use of decorative shingles, primarily utilizing asphalt, TPO, or PVC to reflect ultraviolet radiation away.

Despite the name, flat roofs are rarely truly flat. They still need to be able to allow for drainage of rainwater, so they almost always have a very slight gradient. Even so, flat roofs have a greater tendency to leak and let water in than other styles of rooftop, especially in areas that are prone to heavy rains, hail, and snow. If you do notice a leak, contact a professional from Interstate Roofing and ask them to come to repair it for you.

Gable Roof

Although this article is about the most common modern roofing styles, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one timeless classic: the gable roof. After all, a true classic never goes out of style, and indeed, the gable roof remains as popular on houses as ever. It’s the roof you imagine when you think of the classic “house” image—the one you see in thousands of paintings going back centuries—with the simple triangular rooftop.

Gable roofs allow a house to have a large attic or loft space. Their steep pitch also allows rainwater and snow to cascade off the rooftop easily. They are a relatively simple design, which makes their maintenance and care a bit less expensive than some of the other roofs on this list. Because of their striking shape, gable roofs are a very visible part of a house, so for the sake of your home’s curb appeal, it’s worthwhile to invest in some good-quality shingles.

Note that this style of roof, while great for deflecting rain and snow away from the home, tends to be vulnerable to heavy winds. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, it’s best to avoid the gable roof style.

Shed Roof

The shed roof has gained popularity in recent years as a trendy, modern type of rooftop, even though the design itself is quite old. As the name suggests, this rooftop resembles the one on a shed: it has a steep pitch, but only in one direction. Because this style of roof is so steep, it’s particularly great at keeping water and snow away from the home. It’s also a tad less vulnerable to wind than gable roofs are, although it’s still not recommended to utilize a shed roof in a part of the country that is vulnerable to hurricanes and tornadoes.

Shed roofs give you a good deal of freedom on the type of shingles you utilize on them. You can lean into the traditional “shed” look and opt for aluminum, or you can give your home a traditional-style boost by opting for more decorative roofing shingles.

Hip Roof

Hip roofs are popular because they allow for more attic space than flat roofs yet are sturdier than gable or shed roofs. However, there is a trade-off for this added stability. This style of rooftop tends to be more complex, and therefore more expensive, than other roofing styles. Hip roofs have four slopes of equal length, all of which come together at the top of the roof.

Besides being sturdy, hip roofs can be very attractive for a home, but they’ll require you to have a good relationship with a professional roofer. This is because maintenance is key for this type of roofing style. It’s more complex, and so minor issues must be tackled quickly before they balloon into more major problems. Even so, it’s well worth the extra investment for this roof, particularly when you make use of good-quality shingles to make your home the most striking one on the block.

Butterfly Roof

Here’s a style that’s truly befitting of modern homes. Today’s homeowner tends to be very conscious of their energy bills, both because of environmental concerns and the skyrocketing cost of heating in some areas. This rooftop, which is so named because it resembles the wings of a butterfly in flight, has two slopes that come together in a “V” shape. This allows for taller walls and, as a result, larger windows. It’s great for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. The relative flatness of the roof compared to other styles also allows for the addition of solar panels, giving you a further benefit to your energy bill.

Of course, the signature V shape of this roofing style can lead to some issues with regards to water drainage. That’s why it’s important to make sure your roofer waterproofs the entire roof. Water building up will, over time, cause damage, which can ultimately cause the roof to collapse. Fortunately, regular maintenance will help to avert this. Contact Interstate Roofing to get a quote for care and repairs of your butterfly roof.