Multifamilies almost overwhelmingly have flat roofs. Affordable to construct and practical, these roofs dominate the market. But while this kind of roof can be great for storing generators and building rooftop gardens and observation decks, it can also cause you serious financial trouble. Why? Because flat roofs are notorious for becoming severely damaged over time. And when damage is left neglected for too long, repair bills can quickly spiral out of control. As an owner, it’s in your best interests to prolong the life of your flat roof and increase ROI with regular roof maintenance. This will not only ensure that your tenants stay safe, but also that you don’t end up facing a repair bill that will break the bank.
Common Problems With Flat Roofs
While every apartment block is different, there are some issues that everyone who owns a building with a flat roof needs to be aware of. Some are more serious than others. But all of them, if left untreated, can lead to leakages that cause serious damage to the building and misery for your tenants.
- Standing water: Despite the name, flat roofs aren’t actually flat. They should be very slightly sloped. When the gradient of the roof isn’t steep enough, water can pool in one or several places. Pooling can also happen if the roof has started to sag in places or if a drainage outlet has been blocked by debris. Over time, a build-up of standing water will start to damage the protective membrane of your roof and cause leaks to occur. The proper maintenance solution will depend on the cause of the standing water. If an outlet has been blocked, removing the debris should be enough to clear the standing water and remove future risk. The roof may need to be relayed, however, if the gradient needs to be increased or if the surface has become uneven.
- Blistering: This occurs when moisture gets trapped between your roof and its membrane. Unfortunately, this problem is particularly prevalent in California where the hot weather gives moisture more opportunity to expand. While blisters that have not opened don’t present any immediate cause for concern, those that have leave your roof vulnerable to the elements. Blister repair is a straightforward job for most contractors who will either patch over or replace the damaged membrane.
- Shrinkage: Most flat roofs will use EPDM as a membrane coating. While this form of rubber is extremely durable, it is susceptible to shrinkage, particularly around the edges and by the flashing. If this occurs, seams could become loose and allow moisture into the unprotected layer below. Repairs can be made if shrinkage is not excessive. Of course, the greater the extent of the shrinkage, the harder repairs become.
- HVAC damage: With air conditioning a necessity in California summers, many multifamily apartments have HVAC units located on rooftops. While the rooftop is a great way to keep units out of the way of residents, remember the adage: out of sight, out of mind. At the same time it provides relief to your tenants, your HVAC system can also be causing damage to your roof. If it is improperly installed, vibrations and condensation can cause significant wear and tear around the unit leading to, you guessed it, leaks. Regular inspections will uncover any signs of damage that, if present, can be corrected by having the unit reinstalled properly or removed from the roof altogether.
Some of these repairs may seem simple. But don’t think you can get away with buying cheap materials at your local construction supply store and having your maintenance guys do the job themselves. Poorly executed repairs are only going to exacerbate the problem. The last thing you want is to cause your entire roof to be replaced.
Establishing a Regular Maintenance Procedure
It’s important to remember that your roof won’t last forever, and that there will be leaks from time to time. But that doesn’t mean that repairs have to be expensive. Catch problems early and repairs can be relatively straightforward. Establishing a regular maintenance procedure for your flat roof, therefore, is the best way to increase its lifespan and increase your ROI on your multifamily as well. Maintenance steps should include:
- Bi-annual inspections: Hire an expert to inspect your flat roof at least twice a year to account for seasonal change. The inspector will document and detail any signs of damage and provide suggestions on what repairs, if any, need to be carried out.
- Removal of debris: Regardless of inspections, debris should be removed regularly from the roof over the year. This work can be handled by your onsite maintenance team, but particular attention should be paid to areas surrounding gutters and other drainage outlets. If debris is brought up in the inspection report, your onsite team isn’t doing a good enough job.
- Removal of surrounding tree limbs and foliage: If your rooftop is surrounded by trees, ensure that branches and limbs that overhang the roof are regularly trimmed or cut down completely.
- Internal checks: Appoint someone responsible for regularly checking the ceiling closet to the roof in your apartment block for signs of damp or water damage.
Regular maintenance doesn’t need to be a costly affair. The vast majority of the work can be handled by a member of your current onsite team. Of course, an expert should still be retained to carry out the regular inspections. You will save the cost a hundred-fold when they find damage the untrained eye may have missed and save you a total roof replacement.
Inspection and Repair Equal High ROI
When it comes to your roof, invest in experts to ensure you gain the maximum ROI from your multifamily. We’ve helped dozens of multifamily owners to maintain, repair and increase the lifespan of their flat roofs through discerning inspections and cost-effective repairs. For more information on how you can enlist our services, speak to a member of our team today or send us a message using the form below.