Flat roofs have been used for years in commercial buildings, but until a few years ago they were rarely seen on homes, cottages, or boathouses.
But they’ve become a popular roofing choice with modern builds over the last few years, says Mike Vettese of GBS Contracting Services.
He says the popularity is partly driven by aesthetics. “A quality flat roofing system is perfect for modern builds, which feature sharp lines and angles,” he explains. “A lot of new homes are being designed with flat roofs. With multi-levels and steps, it looks amazing.”
A properly installed roof has plenty of functional benefits as well.
Flat roofs can be extremely cost-efficient to build – often more so than a comparable-sized truss roof.
There’s also the added flexibility of usable space on the roof. “Flat roofs are particularly popular on boathouses because they can support added living spaces and can act as a lounge for outdoor gatherings,” says Mike. “They really have a lot of benefits for residential use.”
As for snow and ice load, that’s not an issue if the roof system is properly designed and installed.
“When the roof is designed well, the snow will melt and the water run down the drains, preventing a build-up of snow and ice,” Mike explains.
While residential installations of flat roofs are increasing, they are still most often found on commercial buildings.
Recently, Mike’s team performed a full roof replacement and upgrade at the famous Robinson’s Hardware Store in Dorset. For this project, they installed a two ply modified bitumen system. The long-lasting durable heat-welded system is designed to reflect the sun, which reduces summertime cooling costs and can extend the life of the roof.
As with all they do, GBS Contracting Services has experts for each job. Roofing is no different, and the father-son duo of Peter Garland and his son Dylan Garland are especially adept at installing flat roofs.
“These guys are the best of the best,” says Mike. “As we’ve noted before, we have a team of experts that specialize in each field, whether it’s roofing, welding, siding or other work we do.”
Making a smart choice
With any project, Mike says, proper installation is just as important as the materials used, if not more so.
For instance, there are six systems of flat roofing that can be used: PVC single ply, EPDM single ply, TPO single ply, Modified Bitumen 2 ply, BUR tar and Gravel 4 ply hot asphalt, and Spray on Coating single ply. All have their advantages, and each has a different ideal use. For example, a gravel roof is durable but can require more maintenance; spray-on coating is fast to apply but doesn’t last as long.
“With a quality contractor, all of these systems are reliable to differing degrees if properly installed,” says Mike.
“For residential installations, I usually recommend the Modified Bitumen two-ply system or the EPDM single ply system.”
The Modified Bitumen is a 25-year roofing system. Factory-fabricated layers of asphalt are modified using a rubber or plastic ingredient for increased flexibility, and combined with a reinforcement for added strength and stability.
Bitumen displays a thermoplastic quality when softened by heat, making it particularly durable. New high-performance roofing systems can be quickly installed, are easy to maintain and cost efficient.
The EPDM single-ply membrane system comes as flexible sheets of compounded synthetic materials that are manufactured in a factory to strict quality control requirements. Available in black or white membranes, they provide strength, flexibility, and durability.
“Choosing the right system is job specific,” says Mike. “That’s why it’s important to understand what the material benefits are and where they’re best used, so we can help you make an informed decision.”
Although flat roofing has become popular, it’s not for everyone. Mike says when looking at sloped roofing, the best option is a standing seam metal roof due to its strength, durability, and aesthetics.
Mike explains that this type of roof can withstand rain, snow, ice, and other weather-related stresses, while the hidden fasteners offer extra protection.
“The standing seam metal roof is the evolution of metal roofing,” he says. “Hidden fasteners are not exposed to snow and ice, which can cause them to become loose over time. This also improves curb appeal and adds value to your home or cottage.”
Mike also suggests using granulated steel to prevent snow from sliding fast and crashing onto the ground below, and using snow guards, also known as snow breaks, for any sloped roof.
The GBS Contracting Services team staggers their snow guards higher and lower on the roof to evenly distribute the weight.
“If you only put one line of snow guards at the base of the roof, it won’t last,” he says. “When it rains and then freezes, the pile of snow becomes one big sheet of ice that’s so heavy it will tear your house apart.”
No matter what roof you choose, make sure to go with an experienced and fully insured company that will ensure your building is protected from above.
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN