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Question of the Week: Should You Install A Low Slope or Flat Roof On Your Commercial Building?

In Ohio, roof design impacts a commercial or industrial building far more than in most places throughout the country. That’s because our state experiences (some type of) severe weather year-round. In spring, tornadoes and heavy rain steal the show, and snow is known to make an appearance October through May!

Your roof design provides protection for your structure (whether it’s a commercial or industrial building). And while pitched roofs are the norm for residential structures, steep slopes aren’t necessarily the best option for a commercial or industrial building. Instead, you’ll find that low slope or flat roofs are much more common and add functionality to a building by providing a place for HVAC, equipment or even a rooftop patio.

So, is a low slope or flat roof a good option in a city like Akron with its pesky weather climate?

 

Flat Roofing for Commercial Buildings

Well, first and foremost, it depends on the size and shape of your building. While no roof should be completely flat (there needs to be at least a slight slope for drainage), a flat design can create or free up a good amount of space by providing an area for the building’s HVAC equipment. 

 

A flat design typically has a two percent or less slope, making it appear flat while still being able to accommodate equipment or foot traffic and allowing water and snow to drain. There are numerous roofing material options available for flat roofing, including EPDM, PVC, TPO, built-up roofing and more.

 

Maintenance is easy because a flat roof can be accessed quickly and safely. This ease of access is important because the downside to flat roofing is that drainage can, at times, be poor… and poor drainage results in standing water (and the potential for leaks). Regular preventative maintenance can help to stay ahead of issues and take areas of concern into account.

 

Also, keep in mind that some winters in northeast Ohio are harsher than others. Snow load should be considered during winter months, and if accumulation is high, it may be important to consider snow removal from a flat roof building. Snow weighs a lot, and as it collects it becomes a burden on the roof. The result of too much snow on a roof can be roof collapse. And for a commercial building, that can mean you suddenly have employees at risk or inventory and equipment covered in snow.

 

Commercial Low Slope Roofs

A low slope roof is a great option for a variety of commercial buildings The term low slope typically refers to a roof with a 3/12 pitch. (Pitch refers to the roof’s fall over 12 inches.) A roof that falls one inch over 12 inches has a very low slope and would be a nearly flat design. You would typically see this written “1/12.” A normally sloped roof would begin at “4/12.”

 

Low slope roofing allows for good water runoff while still providing a safe environment for regular maintenance and inspection. The same types of commercial roofing materials that are used in flat roofing can be used on a low slope roof. However, all manufacturers’ warranties differ, so be sure that the material warranty will remain valid with your roof’s slope.

 

Keep in mind that as with a flat roof, heavy snowfall must be monitored closely. If a considerable amount builds up, it is a good idea to contact a commercial roofing expert to have it removed.

 

The Trade-Offs: Low Slope/Flat vs. Steep Slope

 

Each design has its trade-offs. Besides the added space for HVAC equipment, a flat or very low sloped roof often allows more natural light into the structure’s rooms since the overhangs do not block the windows. HOWEVER, overhangs (by comparison) provide added protection to the windows and doors and reduce siding maintenance requirements. 

 

Flat design, in addition to the storage, can also accommodate numerous skylights, ductwork and vents. However, weatherproofing and preventative maintenance are critical, because flat and low-sloped roofs drain water much more slowly than roofing with a higher pitch.

 

Luckily, maintenance and inspection of a flat or low slope commercial roof is much more simple than structures with a steep design. Inspectors can walk on the roof easily, minimizing risk and making access for repairs easier.

 

Contact TEMA Roofing Services

 

TEMA Roofing Services offers more than 50 years of experience in the commercial roofing industry and is family-owned and -operated. From our offices in Youngstown, OH, we serve all of northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Hermitage, Massillon, Warren and Youngstown. Contact us for any and all of your roofing needs, whether you’re looking for new construction or repair. Our expert team is ready to help!