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Install Flat, Single-Ply, and Foam Roofing Like an Expert

Flat roofing is a popular choice for buildings that are very modern or other particular architectural styles. It is also cost-efficient, since it allows all the space below (in the rooms) and above (for a roof garden or other recreational purpose) the roof can be fully utilized. Flat roofing also makes it easy to install or replace solar panels.

The materials that cover flat roofing should be slightly inclined so that snow and water slide off rather than pooling.  

Even if your home does not fit into one of these categories, your roof might have sections that are flat, such as balconies or areas that cover a garage or porch. Therefore, even if your home is not topped entirely with a flat roof, the following information and tips might come in handy if you need to install or replace flat, foam, or single ply roofing.

How Does Flat Roofing Work?

Flat roofing is much flatter than traditional sloped roofing, but it is not entirely flat. The materials that cover flat roofing should be slightly inclined so that snow and water slide off rather than pooling.

Today’s flat roofs are usually covered by a continuous membrane, which can more easily prevent standing water. Continuous membranes are applied as one sheet whenever possible, but there are adhesives and sealants available to attach several sheets together.

Popular Flat Roofing Options

Foam Roofing made of polyurethane is the best waterproof, most energy-efficient flat roofing material available. Foam roofing is relatively easy to install as well. Foam roofing do-it-yourself kits are readily available. Foam roofing comes in liquid form, and it expands when it is sprayed. Before spraying on foam roofing, ensure the surface is completely dry. If there are any oils or solvents present on the surface, the foam roofing will not adhere properly. Summer is the ideal time to install or replace foam roofing. Foam roofing has a lifespan of 30 to 50 years if it is re-coated after 5 years and 25 years, and then every 20 years after that. The primary benefit of foam roofing is that it serves as a thermal barrier that completely prevents air penetration.

Single-Ply Roofing is most commonly made out of a synthetic rubber called Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM). It is easy to find and relatively easy to apply as well. Modern EPDM can be installed quickly with solid joints using Factory Applied Tape. Factory Applied Tape has reduced the required labor for this type of single-ply roofing by about 75 percent. EPDM is a cost-effective membrane. When applied properly and appropriate areas, its lifespan can be up to 50 years. With continuing advances and improvements, that number will increase even more. There are three main ways to install this kind of single-ply roofing, including 1. ballasting at 10 pounds per square foot with round, large stones, 2. mechanically, and 3. full adherence. Fully adhered EPDM is the most expensive option for installation, but it is also the option that yields the most longevity.

How to Maintain Flat Roofing

Properly maintaining flat roofing will increase its lifespan. You should remove all water within about 48 hours of ponding. You can install scuppers or roof drains if the ponding occurs around the edge of the roof, or automatic siphons if the ponding occurs at the center of the roof. You should also inspect flat roofing about twice a year, and always after a storm has occurred. Carefully assess the flashings and repair any lap seams to prevent leakage and roof failure.

Install Flat, Single Ply, And Foam Roofing Like An Expert,
part of our article series in the Roofing & Gutters category.
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