How to know when a flat roof needs repair

Flat roofs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. All flat roofs will develop problems if enough time passes, these can be extremely problematic if ignored but if handled properly they’ll cause no further harm. With roofing problems it’s clear that prevention is better than cure but it can be hard to know when get help to avert a big problem. The trick is to find an issue when it’s only a small problem. That’s when it’s cheap to put it right and cut off any further damage to your roof and property.

There are a variety of flat roofing materials used in home flat roofing and each have different characteristics. So when it comes to the business of inspecting your flat roof for signs of damage or wear, what to look out for and where can vary from roof to roof. We’re going to try to give you some good general advice about all kinds of flat roofs that should serve you well enough if you’d like to keep an eye on your roof at home.

General flat roof inspection tips

1) Understand your flat roof

The first thing we’d advise is to take a good long look at your roof. See how water will run off from it, notice where the edges are. Imagine where the leaves will gather first. Work out which internal rooms are under which part of your roof. Draw a little sketch if you’re dealing with a larger roof. The better you understand how your roof works and where it takes the most punishment, you’ll be well equipped to inspect it for years to come and will know what to look for.

2) Be safe when inspecting your own flat roof

Before we give you any advice about getting a close look at your flat roof, we need to stress the safety aspect. Using ladders to get up on even a relatively low roof can be hazardous. There’s no list of quick tips than replace experience and common sense but here are some safety basics.

Home roof inspection safety tips

  • Always go up on ladders with at least one other person to assist you.
  • Keep your weight in line with the ladder. If you’re tempted to lean off to one side, resist it. It’s much better to move the ladder than lean too far and cause a fall
  • Carefully seat your ladder on the floor, make sure it’s at a high enough angle and will not slip backwards
  • Check your ladder is strong, in a good state of repair and properly set up before mounting it

3) The power of your smartphone

A selfie stick that holds your phone can be a handy inspection camera, just make sure the phone is held tight and you don’t drop the stick. It can be particularly helpful in checking edges, corners and under gutters and eaves.

4) Check out the shape

Take a good look at the shape of it, are there places the surface is dipped or bowed? You’ll need to view the roof from as many angles as possible but paricularly looking right across the surface of it. If you made a sketch of your roof, make a copy for each inspection & mark any problem areas carefully on the sketch. This can help you check the interior later. If the roof is wet, you should look for areas where water gathers and does not run off. Mark these on the sketch too.

5) Pay close attention to joints, seals, fixtures and fittings

Whatever type of flat roof you have, there’ll be places where it meets the edges of the structure and any features like skylights or vents. When inspecting your roof you should pay close visual attention to every part of where the roof surface meets something else. You are looking for physical degradation of the materials. If something is peeling or lifting, if you can see bubbling/flaking or cracking even if it’s quite minor, this is something to note, photograph and consider taking action on. Small faults will always become larger faults if you leave them, see them as a hole that leaks money. The longer you leave it the more money will leak out.

6) Check the interior

If you can access the interior under your flat roof, it’s essential that you do so. You’ll need good light and at least a footstool. The job is to get close to the ceiling with a clean white cloth and take a good look. You’re looking for signs of leakage from the roof above.

Signs of a leaky flat roof (visible from the inside)

  • Dripping water obviously
  • Spots left from slow drips now dried up
  • Fine cracks in the plaster
  • Light damp sheen on some areas of ceiling
  • Mould staining
  • Paint/plaster peeling or feeling hollow when you tap it
  • Soft plaster (easily depressed with the back of a teaspoon)
  • Streaking/discolouration on the ceiling/walls

What to do when you’ve done your roof inspection?

It’s a good idea to keep a record of your inspection, if you can put your images, sketches and notes together in one place, that can be very handy. If you’ve found some areas of small concern but you don’t feel it’s time for a repair, we advise you note these areas down clearly in your calendar and check back on them more regularly. If you see them getting worse, it’s really time to talk to a flat roofing specialist about a suitable repair.

If you’ve found some concerning damage right away it’s a good idea to send your images and sketches to a specialist flat roofer. Digital images can be very useful in giving a customer a rough estimate for a job quite quickly. The cost of a flat roof repair can often be less than you’re expecting so the moment you have an issue, why not find out a rough cost of putting it right?

If your roof is in good order, we recommend you simply schedule another checkup in your calendar and store your sketches and notes to refer to next time. If you make checking these things a regular chore and take action when small issue emerge you can be quite assured that your roof will serve you well and your overall costs will be kept to a minimum.