Many custom homes in Southern California are built with contemporary styling, and to many architects of the modernist home, this means adding a flat roof. But not all homes with flat roofs are contemporary; some Craftsman, Art Deco and Southwestern style homes also have roofs without any pitch whatsoever. There are also many commercial buildings, especially churches, that have been designed with flat roofs.
These homes look sleek, attractive and distinctive, yet there can be one big problem, even in California: LEAKS. Have you ever wondered why all those homes in the mountains, Swiss Alps or otherwise, have those steeply pitched roofs? It’s to encourage the runoff of rain and snow. In U.S. cities like Buffalo, New York, there is a building code requirement that roofs have a specific minimum slope of 6 inches in 12 inches because they receive a lot of snowfall. In places where there isn’t as much rainfall, like our fair state, there is no requirement for pitch at all, and therefore these architects have free rein when designing these custom homes.
But rain does fall here, and usually when it does, it is for short periods of time with a large quantity. And that’s a perfect recipe for disaster if your roof is flat. According to the National Roofing Contractors Association/Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (NRCA/ARMA) Manual of Roof Maintenance and Repair, the greatest cause of premature problems on flat roofs is the failure to find and correct minor defects and deterioration in their early stages.
And make sure you have a flat roof checked particularly well if you are looking to buy a property with one. Just ask pop-star Rhianna, who is currently in litigation with the person she bought her palatial Los Angeles mansion from, as the home leaks from the roof, windows, doors and balconies. Her attorneys maintain that the previous owner knew of the defective construction and did not disclose them during the sale. If that is true, Rhianna has a pretty solid case.
Flat-roof leaks can be some of the hardest to locate, because the water you see may not be anywhere near the leak itself. Flat roofs allow the water to travel in any direction from the leak point, whereas with a sloped roof, you can at least discount the area below the leak. Water doesn’t travel up. Ever.
We will mention a few places to look for a leak, but we highly recommend that you call a certified, bonded, insured and licensed roofing contractor to evaluate your roof and repair the leaks. Luckily, we have those credentials and can both fix your roof and restore the interior of your home and its contents, so please call us first:
- Start with a dry roof, and always start at what is called a “flashing”. This is where something is connected to the roof, like a chimney or plumbing stack. Often these flashings are metal, so look for cracks and make sure that they overlap the roofing material. Flashings are often used at the edge of roofs as well.
- Water likes to rest at the lowest point it can find, and on flat roofs this can cause mini lakes. When the puddles dry out, they create concentric rings of dirt. Look for these as you examine your roof, and examine carefully to see if there are any holes or splits in the roof—they don’t have to be big to let the water through!
- Check the seams for cracks or holes, and make sure that you cannot lift up any of the material.
Again, please get your flat roof checked often by a professional to have repairs done before the water damage to your home or property occurs. Most roof repairs should be done when the weather is dry, so finding out you have a leak during a large winter storm is going to pose a big problem. And when you do find that water has leaked into your home, give us a call as soon as possible so we can help get your life back to normal, especially during the holidays! We have technicians standing by, 24-7 to help you: (877) 732-8471