UPDATED: JULY 28, 2023 | 1 MIN READ
Flat roofs are a staple of contemporary residential architecture. They can provide homeowners additional outdoor living space or amenities like a rooftop garden. But it isn’t always easy to find home insurance for flat roofs, especially when you must ensure the insurance covers roof leaks.
Despite their growing popularity, homebuyers hesitate to purchase properties with flat roofs. They’re also reluctant to build home additions that include flat roofs. Why? They’re worried that their home insurance policy won’t cover it, or they’ll see a significant rise in premiums.
Flat roofs do present a challenge, but not an impossible one. Here’s everything you need to know about them.
How Does Home Insurance Treat Flat Roofs?
A flat roof is not considered a bad roof. It doesn’t automatically disqualify you from an affordable homeowners insurance policy. Flat roofs might become more popular as white and green roofs become more of an urban staple. Insurance companies tend to consider the following when pricing policies for homes with flat roofs:
- Flat proportion: If only a tiny portion of your home has a flat roof (e.g., a recent addition), insuring your home may not be an issue. Insurers have different thresholds for a flat roof, so be sure to ask when shopping for policies.
- The exact incline of the roof: Just because a roof looks flat doesn’t mean it’s flat. A slope of just a few degrees can let water fall to the ground more quickly. However, remember that these “low-sloped” roofs often need to be constructed with specific materials to be effective.
- Roof materials: While tar and gravel are the most common components of flat roofs, variations in construction methods result in different levels of quality. It would be best to ask your insurance carrier about methods like singly-ply, built-up, or modified bitumen roofing.
- Age of roof: Newer roofs are more sturdy and have undergone less wear and tear. It’s also likely that newer roofs are still under the manufacturer’s warranty. Insurance companies may see this as an additional means to spread out risk.
If you file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance, they will consider all the above points when deciding whether to accept your claim. Another point to keep in mind is how well you maintained the roof. Your policy will not cover damage that is ultimately the result of negligence.
Hail damage on a brand-new roof kept clean differs greatly from water damage because you didn’t have a proper drainage system. Maintenance is vital if you choose to have a flat roof.
How is a flat roof different from a sloped one?
The difference is not just aesthetic and includes these key factors:
- Drainage ability: It takes much longer for water to drain from a flat roof than from a slanted one. This means you’re much more dependent on environmental factors like temperature and humidity for the melting of snow/ice and water evaporation.
- Materials: Flat roofs are commonly constructed out of tar and gravel to create a monolithic surface, unlike shingling on sloped roofs.
- Cost: The upfront cost of a flat roof is usually less than a sloped roof. The reasons for this include materials costs and less intensive labor.
Is there an ideal climate for a flat roof?
A location with very little precipitation is the best place for a home with a flat roof. In this climate, you can take advantage of low, upfront installation costs in addition to a lower cost of maintenance.
Pros and Cons of Flat Roofs
Flat roofs have become increasingly popular in contemporary residential architecture, offering advantages and disadvantages compared to sloped roofs. Understanding these factors can help homeowners make informed decisions when considering a flat roof for their property. Here are the key pros and cons of flat roofs:
- Lower Upfront Cost: Flat roofs’ primary advantages are their lower initial installation cost than sloped roofs. The simplicity of the design and the reduced amount of material required contribute to the cost-effectiveness of flat roofs.
- Additional Outdoor Living Space: Flat roofs provide homeowners with valuable outdoor living space. These areas can be transformed into rooftop patios, decks, or lounges, offering an ideal spot for relaxation and entertainment.
- Rooftop Amenities: The horizontal surface of flat roofs allows for the installation of various rooftop amenities. Homeowners can create rooftop gardens to grow plants, flowers, and vegetables, adding greenery to their living space. Additionally, flat roofs are suitable for solar panels, making them an excellent option for eco-conscious homeowners seeking to harness renewable energy.
- Ease of Maintenance: Maintaining a flat roof is generally more straightforward than a sloped roof. The accessibility of the flat surface makes it easier for homeowners or professionals to inspect and perform routine maintenance tasks, such as cleaning gutters and checking for potential issues.
- Drainage Issues: One of the significant challenges with flat roofs is their slower drainage compared to sloped roofs. Rainwater, snowmelt, and debris can accumulate on the roof, leading to ponding water. Proper drainage systems and regular cleaning are essential to prevent leaks and structural damage.
- Prone to Leaks: Flat roofs are more prone to leaks than sloped roofs. The absence of a steep pitch means water has more time to find its way through seams, joints, and roofing materials. Adequate waterproofing and regular inspections are crucial to maintain the roof’s integrity.
- Maintenance Requirements: Flat roofs offer ease of maintenance but demand more frequent attention than sloped roofs. Regular inspections, cleaning, and repairs must address minor issues before they escalate into significant problems.
- Susceptibility to Weather Damage: Flat roofs can be more vulnerable to damage from extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, or hail. The lack of a slope means there is less natural runoff for water and debris, increasing the risk of structural damage if not properly managed.
Common Flat Roof Problems and Solutions
Flat roofs offer unique advantages and are also prone to specific issues that homeowners must be vigilant about. Understanding these common problems and having the know-how to address them can help maintain the integrity and longevity of a flat roof. Here are some of the most typical flat roof problems and their potential solutions:
- Problem: Roof leaks are prevalent with flat roofs due to their slow drainage and potential for ponding water. Leaks can occur around seams, flashing, vents, or areas where the roofing material has worn out.
- Solution: Promptly address any signs of leaks, such as water stains on the ceiling or walls. If the problem seems minor, you can attempt a DIY repair by applying roofing sealant to the affected area. However, for more significant leaks or if you are unsure about the source of the problem, it’s best to hire a professional roofer. They can identify the root cause and properly repair to prevent further damage.
- Problem: Over time, flat roofs can develop cracks in the roofing material due to exposure to the elements, temperature fluctuations, and structural settling.
- Solution: DIY repairs with a roofing sealant may suffice for minor cracks. However, larger or multiple cracks may require professional attention. Roofers can properly assess the extent of the damage and apply appropriate patching materials to seal the cracks effectively.
Blisters and Bubbles
- Problem: Blisters and bubbles may appear on the surface of a flat roof due to trapped moisture, poor adhesion during installation, or the use of incompatible roofing materials.
- Solution: If the blisters or bubbles are small and localized, you can attempt a DIY fix by making small incisions, releasing the trapped air or moisture, and applying roofing adhesive to seal the area. For more extensive blistering or if you’re uncertain about the cause, it’s best to consult a professional roofer who can address the issue correctly.
- Problem: Ponding water occurs when water accumulates and remains stagnant on the flat roof for an extended period. This can lead to structural damage and accelerated wear and tear of the roofing material.
- Solution: Improving drainage is crucial to mitigate ponding water issues. Clearing debris from gutters and downspouts regularly is essential. Consider installing additional drains or scuppers to facilitate proper water runoff if the roof’s slope allows. A professional roofer can help assess the roof’s drainage and suggest the best solutions to prevent ponding water.
- Problem: Flat roofs often use membranes like EPDM or TPO, which can get damaged over time due to UV exposure, foot traffic, or extreme weather conditions.
- Solution: DIY repairs for minor membrane damage may involve patching materials recommended by the manufacturer. However, hiring a professional roofer with experience handling flat roof membranes is best for larger or more complex repairs. They can ensure the proper patch installation and maintain the roof’s integrity.
Maintenance tips for flat roofs
Even if you don’t live in an ideal climate for flat roofs, it’s not impossible to maintain them throughout their lifetime (usually 10-20 years).
Here’s what you can do:
- Keep drains clean: This is probably the most important thing you can do to maintain the quality of your roof. Keep drains and gutters clear of anything hindering them from doing their job. Standing water is a significant cause of roof leaks and damage.
- Check the roof on a regular schedule: Unlike slanted roofs, you can’t just look up at a flat roof to see if any repairs need to be done. You (or someone you hire) must go to the roof to look for damage and wear. You can make a routine out of this (monthly or quarterly), similar to caring for any other part of your home.
- Keep debris from piling up: A flat roof can become home to a lot of drifting junk and debris because of its orientation. Be on the lookout for leaves and items like animal nests. If trees grow near the residence, trim them to prevent twigs and branches from piling up.
- Patch minor tears immediately: Performing simple repairs when problems arise can save money. Make sure a professional investigates any other underlying issues you must deal with.
Why do insurance companies not like flat roofs?
The insurance company reviews potential risks when you get a home insurance quote. Flat roofs might be a higher risk because they don’t drain as quickly as sloped roofs and have a slightly shorter lifespan.
How often does a flat roof need to be replaced?
Flat roofs typically last between 10 and 20 years. Keep yours in good condition by maintaining a regular maintenance schedule.
What will happen if the roofs of a house are flat?
Flat roofs are common, especially in areas with a dry climate. If you have one, ensure it’s properly maintained and drains well to ensure it lasts a long time.
What are the disadvantages of flat roofs on houses?
The main disadvantage of having a flat roof is that they don’t drain as well as sloped roofs. It’s important to maintain a flat roof regularly.
What type of roof is best for insurance?
Your home insurance policy covers the roof of your house, so you don’t need additional flat roof insurance. While having a flat roof might affect your insurance premium, you shouldn’t see a massive increase.
Finding flat roof insurance
Your home insurance policy covers your home’s roof, whether a flat or sloped roof. To ensure you’re adequately protected, get several home insurance quotes.
- Will homeowners insurance pay for a new roof?
- How to get homeowners insurance with a bad roof
- How to get homeowners insurance with an old roof
- Does home insurance cover roof leaks?
- 7 steps on what to do if your roof is leaking