If you’ve ever taken a stroll through stylish up-and-coming neighbourhoods like Leslieville, Yorkville, Little Portugal, and Bloordale, you’ve probably noticed that one of the hottest design trends for new or heavily renovated single-family homes is the flat roof.
In addition to being economical and energy efficient, flat roofs give houses that clean, modern profile that is increasingly in vogue. And because flat roofs are multi-purpose spaces that can be converted into rooftop gardens or patios, they are also a practical extension of a home’s living space in a city increasingly defined by massive growth.
Over the past twenty years, flat roofs have become increasingly popular across the Greater Toronto Area. But while flat roofs come with numerous benefits, for homeowners used to traditional pitched roofs, they also come with new challenges.
Unlike pitched roofs, which require minimal care, flat roofs require regular cleaning and maintenance if they are to be kept in good condition. Now that spring has arrived, homeowners whose houses have flat roofs will need to be thoroughly inspected and cleaned, and it may even be necessary to hire flat roofing services from Toronto roofing companies like Professional Roofers to help them make repairs if winter damage has been serious enough.
If you want to get the most out of your flat roof now that the weather is warming up, here are five key steps you should take to make sure your flat roof is ready for spring.
1. Remove Debris
One of the things that makes Toronto such an attractive city to live in is the many beautiful old shade trees that line residential streets, parks, and ravines. But all of this greenery means that debris builds up quickly on flat roofs across the city, and the first thing you need to do once the snow has finished melting is collect all the debris that has gathered over the winter
If even if your flat roof didn't have problems this winter with more serious issues like downed trees, fallen tree branches, or animal nests, the regular build-up of dirt and organic matter will need to be dealt with as soon as the snow is clear if you don’t want to run into more serious problems with drainage once the spring rains start to fall.
2. Clean all Outlets
Contrary to popular belief, a flat roof is not actually flat. Flat roofs are designed to slope gently towards drainage outlets either on the sides of the roof or in the centre. As any Toronto roofer will tell you, keeping these drainage outlets from clogging is the key to keeping your flat roof from leaking.
Once a drain is clogged, water will back up and pool on your roof, putting stress on the roof’s structural integrity and increasing the likelihood that water will find its way through the roofing membrane, into the roof insulation, and eventually through your ceiling itself.
One of the disadvantages of having a flat roof is that even if you take steps to protect your drainage outlets by installing leaf guards and other protective grilles to catch garbage and debris before it gets into the drains themselves, you are going to have to clean your roof regularly if you want to keep those drains clear.
For this reason, it is important to regularly sweep and clean your roof throughout the summer and fall, but especially during the crucial months of spring, when heavy rains and lots of accumulated gunk from the winter can cause drains to become overwhelmed quickly.
In the event that your drains do become clogged (and in a city like Toronto, this is pretty likely — especially if you live in the older-style flat-roofed houses found along Dundas Street West, Queen Street, and College Street), you will need to have it snaked. This can usually be done with a normal plumbing snake, but if the clog is bad enough, you may need to use a pipe brush or even a pressure washer.
3. Check for Punctures
Once the roof is clean and the drains are in good working order, you’ll want to check the roofing membrane more thoroughly for punctures, rips, or tears. The type of membrane will vary depending on what kind of flat roof you have, but most Toronto roofing membranes are made from PVC Membrane, modified bitumen, or EPDM.
Most of these materials are applied in layers and sealed to provide a watertight barrier, but winter damage can cause holes to form that allow water to seep through. As your flat roof ages, the materials will weaken somewhat, and these punctures will become more common, so it is a good idea to keep an eye out for these issues and to give us a call if you believe your roof may need to be repaired.
While roofing membranes are the most common material used in flat roofing, they are not necessarily the best flat roofing solution. At Professional Roofers, we are proud to be one of the only roofers in Toronto that offer Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) solutions as a more durable alternative.
SPF is a spray foam that hardens on contact with your roof and, when properly treated, provides an impermeable barrier to moisture and water. SPF is fast, affordable, and environmentally friendly, so if you are unhappy with your current flat roof and are considering a replacement, call us anytime to ask about the benefits of an SPF flat roof Toronto.
4. Inspect Parapet Wall Seams
One of the distinctive elements of Toronto’s older flat roofs is the parapet wall running along the edges of the roof overlooking the streets and alleys. These parapet walls are designed for safety and serve a variety of other architectural purposes as well (they also give the house a sharper and more pleasing profile).
But parapets can pose particular challenges when it comes to flat roof maintenance in the spring, and if your house has parapet walls, it is important to make sure they don’t compromise the integrity of your flat roof.
Because separate swaths of roofing membrane are generally used to roof the parapet wall and the roof deck, a seam usually runs along the base of the parapet wall connecting the roofing membrane of the roof deck to the membrane running up the sides of the parapet.
For obvious reasons, these seams tend to be a weak point and are particularly prone to tears and rips. And because these seams run along the edge of the wall, leaks at these joints often cause more damage to the house itself. Before you get your roof ready for summer fun, you should make sure there are no gaps or tears in these seams (one of the benefits of using SPF spray roofing as opposed to traditional membranes is that they do not have this problem).
5. Install a Flat Roof Deck
Now that you have made sure that your roof is clean, your drains are not clogged, and there are no punctures or tears on your flat roof, you can start turning it into a summer oasis. But before you haul up the patio chairs and the flower boxes, remember that protecting your flat roof from damage from foot traffic is essential if you want to keep it in good working condition for years to come.
One of the best ways to protect your flat roof while still being able to enjoy it is by installing a floating roof deck during the summer months. A floating roof deck is one that is not actually attached to the structure of your house, but merely rests on it. This guarantees that you can access your roof if you need to make repairs, and it protects the surface of the roof from damage.
There are plenty of design options when it comes to floating roof decks, but the best ones combine quick and easy installation with durable, waterproof materials.
Across Toronto, flat roofs have become the style of choice among homeowners who want to give their houses a modern edge while also improving energy efficiency and expanding their living space. But taking care of your flat roof requires work, and especially in the spring.
This year, make sure you start the season off right by clearing your roof, unclogging your drains, and fixing any tears or punctures before setting up for the first barbecue of the season. Not only will this help ensure you have a clean, safe, and convenient space to relax in, it will also guarantee that you can continue to enjoy your flat roof for years to come.