The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Flat Roof

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Flat Roof

09th May 2019

Many business owners here in the UK operate out of commercial or industrial premises that have a flat roof.  A flat roof has been the preferred roofing solution on some of the business and industrial parks that have sprung up on the outskirts of towns and cities across the UK.  The advantages of installing a flat roof are many:

  • The initial cost is lower than installing a pitched roof
  • The repair and maintenance costs over the lifespan of the roof will be relatively low when compared with repair and maintenance costs on a pitched roof
  • A flat roof offers easy installation of skylights, solar panels, satellite dishes, etc. which will save on overheads such as energy bills
  • The space on a flat roof can be used for the installation of some plant and machinery, such as air conditioning units, freeing up more space in the building below
  • Retrofitting of features like skylights is relatively simple and cost-efficient
  • A flat roof is more accessible than a pitched roof, which makes cleaning gutters, and performing routine inspections and maintenance easier
Fall Protection Post
Fall Protection Cover for Skylight

However, a flat roof does come with some disadvantages when compared with a pitched roof.  For example:

  • Flat roofs do not drain as efficiently as do pitched roofs, which means that water on the roof may have a tendency to puddle and remain on the roof, sometimes resulting in the roofing material breaking down and leading to leaks, especially along the seams.
  • A flat roof will usually have a shorter lifetime than a pitched roof, though developments in the materials sector is extending the life of flat roofs with some innovative new roofing membrane materials.
  • A flat roof becomes fragile over the years, which means that the surface will no longer be safe to walk on.
  • The skylights on a flat roof can represent a real danger when regular roof access is required.  This has resulted in falls from height, especially in cases where the skylights have become discoloured and are difficult to see. 

If you have a flat roof on your commercial premises and you or your employees require regular access for maintenance and repair purposes, it is your responsibility to ensure that safe working conditions are met at all times.  This means providing safe access solutions, such as:

  • Safe method of accessing the roof in order to carry out repairs and maintenance work – this could be a fixed vertical access ladder or, if space is limited, a companionway ladder
  • Demarcation barriers to designate which parts of the roof are safe to walk on when accessing work areas
  • Preventative measures so that personnel are unable to get within 6 metres of the roof edge
  • Fall protection covers for skylights and other fragile areas of the roof

A flat roof, if properly maintained, will last well and provide a cost-efficient method of roofing for both commercial and industrial premises.