Our Beginner’s Guide to Maintaining Your Residential Flat Roof

Many homeowners believe that flat roofs, or low-slope, SBS membrane (Torch-On) roofs, are maintenance free. Unfortunately, this is not the case! All roofs require care and attention from time to time.

As your Edmonton flat roof experts, we have some tips for maintaining your residential flat roof below.

There are simple things that one can do to look after a flat roof installation and save a lot of money in the long run.

You can do some preventative maintenance yourself, but don’t hesitate to consult your local roofing contractor for the proper care of your modern roof.

It’s also very important to keep in mind that when climbing up on your own roof, always take extreme precautions, especially if climbing ladders is not in your field of expertise.

Use a ladder with absolutely no defects and always remember to tie it off. Homemade ladders should NEVER be used. It’s always a good idea to have someone home with you as well.

The first thing you need to look at on your residential tar and gravel roofing system are your drains.

  1. Are they plugged?
  2. Do the roof drains have screens?
  3. Are the drain screens clear of debris?

Simply take the screen off and clear the leaves, needles or moss and place in a garbage bag, and reinstall the screen. Some modern roofs don’t have a roof drain, but instead will have scuppers.

They work the same way and generally don’t have a screen. Scuppers drain through the outside parapets of your home or building. If your scupper does not have a screen contact your local flat roof/residential roofing supply store. The screen for a scupper actually looks like the end of your kitchen whisk you beat your eggs with. You could make a whisk into a screen by using wire cutters and cutting about 3.5 inches out the end of the whisk; should work up to a 2.75 inch drain.

If your residential roof has parapet walls, then you probably have a base flashing running along the cant strip detailed portion of your roof. You can easily lift some of these flashings up and look for pollen staining. Pollen staining will let you know how high the water levels are reaching. While you have the flashing lifted, you can also look for cracks in the membrane. If you see any defects or cracked membranes then consult a flat roof contractor that deals with residential homes.

Some flat roofing systems will have a straight drip edge where your roof will drain into a continuous eavestrough. At every joint where the flashing overlaps the next piece there can often be a tiny split or separation that many people try to fix themselves, however, we highly recommend calling a professional to help you with this.

Generally, these joints only need to be fixed once throughout the life of a membrane roof. You could attempt to fix this yourself, but this practice is not a good idea as it makes it more difficult to repair afterwards because unsuccessful cold process sealing complicates the repair and will drive up roofing technician costs. Cured cold liquid membranes are very difficult to scrape and remove!

Finally, your eavestrough gutters should be regularly cleaned out once or twice a year depending on how many trees are nearby.

Is there black mold on your Edmonton roof?

Today’s biggest concern among roofing contractors in Edmonton is black mold on your roof.

With health being a number one priority in everyone’s life, it really is a serious issue. With flat roofs (Tar & gravel), there is a higher risk of black mold being present, whether in the walls or in the insulation. If your home was not built correctly right from the beginning with proper venting, then you need an expert to inspect your house as soon as possible.

In our experience it seems that half the houses designed with flat roofs in Edmonton, most from over 30 years ago, were vented incorrectly. Houses vented correctly usually have a continuous aluminum ridge vent running along the whole length of the peak. With this continuous vent is also a vented soffit. This being said, if you have a split or a hole on the roof, a professional roofing contractor will simply patch the roof, and if properly vented everything will dry up soon in a natural state.

Roofs that aren’t properly vented will end up trapping moisture and hence will turn into black mold. I am not an expert on black mold, but a proper building inspector or in particular a flat roof inspector should be able to give you the correct advice. Any credible roofing contractor in Edmonton should be able to work with a qualified inspector, bearing in mind that there are roofing contractors that won’t work with any roofing inspectors.

My best personal advice about a roofing contractor that won’t work with a qualified inspector is to take this as a red flag. We are here to correct, fix, and give you the proper service that you are paying for. That being said, I don’t want to scare or panic anyone just because a leak has developed.

In over the 30 years of roofing experience, I find it is usually the roofs that have been ignored for lack of maintenance that pose the most risk.