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Snow, Ice & Standing Water: The three enemies of flat-roofed premises

COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES WITH FLAT ROOFS ARE WELL KNOWN FOR BEING PRONE TO BLOCKED GUTTERS AND DRAINAGE GULLIES, BUT WHAT LASTING DAMAGE CAN POORLY MAINTAINED GUTTERS CAUSE TO FLAT ROOFS IN THE WINTER TIME?

From schools and colleges to retail and industrial units – flat roofs are a popular roofing type in various commercial properties across the UK. They’re relatively cheap to build and – providing regular maintenance is kept up to – offer great value for money.

The danger then is when flat roofs are denied the vital attention they require to make sure everything functions as it should. Though they’re designed with less fall than a pitched roof, there should be sufficient run-off for rainfall.

But when gutters, gullies and downpipes become blocked – rainwater has nowhere to go and pools across the roof, which is known as standing water.

Why standing water poses a threat to commercial flat roofs

Even during the Summer months, standing water poses a massive risk to commercial buildings with flat roofs.

The roofing material often dictates the issues standing water can pose, as different materials are more prone to damage than others. Here are some of the most popular roof coverings used in the UK today:

Amongst the complaints that we come across – cracks, holes and buckling are some of the most common and persistent faults on commercial flat roofs. If the roofing material is cracked or damaged with age or wear, the main risk to the premises is water ingress through those cracks.

The problem with water ingress to your property

Left untreated, this can cause damp issues on the building’s interior – like insulation damage, black mould and interstitial condensation.

Over a prolonged length of time, water ingress will cause the growth of wet rot within any timber in the property. When left unchecked, wet rot will create weak points in any flat roof, damaging the structural integrity of timber-framed buildings in particular.

The weight of standing water is also an issue, as this can put unnecessarily high loads on roofs that weren’t designed to carry excess weight. Couple this with potentially weakened timbers through wet rot, and you have a real recipe for disaster.

Ice, snow and your flat roof

Flat roofs are designed to shed rainwater as quickly as possible through channels, gullies, gutters and downpipes. It only takes one year’s worth of Autumn leaves, and they can become blocked, resulting in a flooded rooftop.

Any minor cracks or breaks in your roofing material will hold that water, and when the winter months come along, the pools on your roof will freeze over. Water expands upon freezing, which stretches and tears those minor cracks, making them major ones.

It probably seems fairly obvious that once the ice melts back into water, the now wider crack will allow water to penetrate the roof membrane – potentially resulting in some of the issues we covered earlier in this article.

Snow can create a similar collection of maladies!

While it doesn’t weigh a lot initially – if there is a harsh winter, with multiple layers of snow melting and freezing on top of one another – snow can become very heavy. This poses the same concerns of overloading as standing water, coupled with the expansion issues that ice threatens.

So what is the solution?

As with all things in life, prevention is better than the cure. Many issues with standing water can be avoided through regular, routine maintenance.

This includes keeping your gutters, downpipes and gullies clear – of course! But also, rely on your maintenance contractor to inspect the roofing material whilst keeping your gutters clear, this should be part of the service.

Here at UK Gutters, we have over 15 years experience in ensuring that the gutters on flat-roofed properties have a long and healthy life span. On top of maintaining the gutters and roofing channels leading from your property – we also offer an emergency gutter repair service, for those issues that need addressing as quickly as possible.

Head to our emergency repairs page for the full details.

WITH THE WORST OF WINTERS WEATHER YET TO COME, INVESTING IN OUR GUTTER MAINTENANCE SERVICE NOW COULD SAVE YOU MONEY DOWN THE LINE. CONTACT THE UK GUTTERS TEAM FOR MORE INFO ABOUT OUR ROUTINE MAINTENANCE CONTRACTS.