You’ve probably noticed a few different roof types when driving through various neighborhoods. Most homes have a standard pitched roof, while others have a unique design, like a hip roof. But what about flat roofs? Despite their popularity in commercial and industrial buildings, flat roofs are often overlooked in residential homes. But if you’ve found the perfect house with a flat roof or are thinking about building a home with one, you may be wondering if a flat roof is a good investment. While they have some disadvantages, there are also several advantages that make flat roofs a great choice for many homeowners.

Advantages of Flat Roofs

Image of the Alte Exteriors LLC team installing a flat roof.

They’re More Economical

Flat roofs tend to be more economical than pitched roofs. The pitch (or steepness) of your roof is a significant pricing factor because a steeper roof is more difficult to build. Also, because flat roofs have less incline, they require less material. Although the upfront cost for a flat roof replacement can be higher than a standard roof, there are benefits to having a flat roof that make the cost lower over time. The initial cost is higher due to the higher cost for the stronger commercial grade materials used. The installation requires a specialized roofing contractor that normally has a higher labor cost to install a specialized roof system. The specialized roof system consists of multiple layers including ISO insulation board, vapor barriers, commercial grade metal edging, custom drains and a custom tapered drainage system to allow the water to flow quickly off of the low sloped roof. Long term when a flat roof system reaches near the end of its life, there are options such as Silicone, Asphalt and Acrylic coatings that can extend the life of the roof system another 15-20 years saving the homeowner thousands of dollars.

Image of an active roof replacement by Alte Exteriors.

They’re Energy Efficient

Another advantage of flat roofs is that they can be more energy-efficient than pitched roofs. This is due to the type of insulation used. Pitched roofs typically use fiberglass insulation, which can be less effective than the spray foam insulation often used in flat roofs. Spray foam insulation forms a seal around your home, preventing heat from escaping in the winter and keeping your home cooler in the summer. This can lead to significant savings on your energy bills. In warmer climates that experience extended periods of sun exposure, a white-colored energy efficient roof membrane can help the homeowner recoup thousands of dollars in energy savings.

They’re Safer & More Accessible

Flat roofs are also safer and more accessible than pitched roofs. With a higher pitched roof, more equipment is needed to access the roof, and there is a greater risk of injury. A flat roof is much easier to walk on, and you won’t need as much equipment to maintain it. This makes it safer for your roofing contractor during routine maintenance and means it will cost less to have your roof serviced.

They Create Usable Outdoor Space

Another great advantage of flat roofs is that they can create usable outdoor space. If your home lacks square footage, a flat roof can be the perfect place to add a rooftop deck or garden. This extra outdoor space can be a great spot for entertaining, relaxing, or even working from home. Our clients have tasked our experienced team at Alte Exteriors to help build out the additional outdoor space with something as simple as a balcony or as complex as a hot tub area equipped with a large entertaining space. Commercial buildings often use their flat roofs to store HVAC units or other equipment out of sight, but this extra space can be used however you see fit.

They Can Be Aesthetically Pleasing

A flat roof doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Many homeowners find that flat roofs can be quite aesthetically pleasing. When done right, a flat roof can add a modern touch to your home’s exterior. And, because they don’t have as many angles and eaves, they can allow for more expansive windows and views.

Disadvantages of Flat Roofs

They Need More Maintenance & Upkeep

Likely the biggest downside of flat roofs is that they require more maintenance and upkeep than pitched roofs because they’re more susceptible to damage. Though they’re not completely flat, they sometimes have drainage problems, which can lead to leaks. Even bird droppings can cause problems if they’re not cleaned off the roof regularly because they’re extremely acidic and can degrade the roofing material. (This is true for all roof types, but it’s a bigger issue for flat roofs because they allow greater space for birds to hang out.)

They Have Limited Roof Material Options

Regarding roofing materials, there are limited options for flat roofs. If you’re building a modern home with a flat roof, you’ll likely choose between EPDM, TPO, or PVC membrane roofing, or a liquid applied roof system. This limited selection can make it more difficult to find the right roofing material for your home, and it also means that you’ll have fewer options if you ever need to replace your roof.

They Don’t Last As Long

Because flat roofs are more susceptible to damage, they don’t last as long as pitched roofs. The average lifespan of a flat roof is only 10-20 years, while pitched roofs can last 30-50 years or more. Unfortunately it is more common to see mistakes made by local roofing companies installing residential flat roofs they do not have experience installing. You’ll likely have to replace your flat roof more often, which can be a significant expense.

They’re Less Stable on Larger Buildings

While flat roofs can be a great option for small homes, they’re not as stable on larger buildings.

This is because the weight of the roof can cause larger flat roofs to sag or collapse if they’re not properly supported. For this reason, most commercial buildings with flat roofs have a support system in place to help distribute the weight of the roof evenly.

You May Not Have An Attic

You likely won’t have an attic if you have a flat roof, so you’ll have to find another place to store your holiday decorations and other items that you only use occasionally. This lack of storage may only be a minor inconvenience for some homeowners, but it can be a major problem for others. Especially if you don’t have any other storage space in your home.

How Do I Properly Maintain My Flat Roof?

If you have a home with a flat roof, or you’re thinking about purchasing one, you can help it last longer with proper maintenance and regular inspection. If you need a new roof, or if you’re just looking to have your flat roof inspected, call Alte Exteriors. We can help you determine whether a flat roof is the right option for your home and provide regular maintenance and repair services to keep your roof in good condition. We have experience with even the most unique roofing styles and materials. With over 50 years of continuous service in Northern and Central New Jersey, Alte Exteriors is your trusted partner for all of your roofing needs. Contact us today to identify any maintenance needs, potential for extending the life of your existing roof system or potential problems with your flat roof and fix them before they cause serious damage.

Speaking with Dan Alte, Master Elite roofing contractor he says, “It is common for homeowners to say their problem is that they have a flat roof. After a careful inspection of the roof system the problem is almost never due to the roof being flat. The problems they have are always because of who installed the flat roof system. It is vital that homeowners choose a company to install a flat roof that has a real, time tested proven track record of installing multiple flat roof systems.”