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Buying a Flat Roof Property

Many homes in the UK have flat roofs on all or part of the property, with this being an especially popular type of construction for extensions.

However, flat roofs don’t always have a good reputation and can cause problems with insurance. This means it is important to check out this aspect of your chosen property thoroughly, for instance by arranging a Full Building Survey.

Here is a look at some of the main advantages and disadvantages of flat roofs.

Advantages of Flat Roofs

The main advantage is that flat roofs are often more economical, because they are quicker and easier to construct. Comprising joists, decking and covered in felt or a membrane, a much simpler design that a pitched roof.
This makes a flat roof a cheaper choice when building an extension,

Flat roofs save space, especially in smaller areas of the home, which is one reason why they are a frequent choice for extensions. Unlike a traditional pitched roof, a flat roof doesn’t take away a lot of internal room through a sloping ceiling. In addition this style of roofing has a more modern look, meaning it will appeal to people who prefer contemporary design.

Flat roofs are often more accessible, which can make it easier to organise maintenance. A further possible advantage is that flat roofs can sometimes be used as a balcony or verandah, providing external amenity space where a normal garden is not available. However, this would only be possible if the roof was constructed with these uses in mind and has the necessary structural integrity. The RICS warns you shouldn’t assume a flat roof can have an alternative use unless it has been “specifically designed and built” for this purpose.

Disadvantages of Flat Roofs

One major concern is that flat roofs typically don’t last as long as pitched ones. With modern materials and good maintenance they can often last much longer than used to be assumed. However, often in practice problems do occur and replacement is necessary. A full building survey will determine the overall condition of the structure (where access permits), particularly the condition of the covering and its remaining life.

In order to ensure that a flat roof does stay in good condition, there is a need for regular maintenance. The RICS advises inspecting such roofs twice annually to clear leaves and debris and examine guttering, with extra checks following storms. When repairs are needed, they may prove more costly than for traditional-style roofs. As a prospective buyer, you need to be aware flat roofs will have on-going future maintenance costs. This should be factored into your decision on whether to proceed with any intended purchase.

A further point to bear in mind is drainage concerns. Flat roofs are laid to falls, of under 10 degrees. However, they are often laid without adequate falls to allow rainwater to run off easily. This can lead to ponding where water ‘stands’ on the surface. It is essential that a flat roof is correctly treated to seal it against water getting in.

Many older flat roofs are badly insulated, meaning they could lose heat during the winter and add to your energy costs. In addition, they may absorb a lot of heat during the summer, making the space beneath uncomfortably hot. It is possible to add insulation to flat roofs without the need for complete recovering and there are building regulations governing this.

Easy access can make flat roofs tempting to criminals, and, partly related to this, insurance is another concern. It can cost more to insure a home which has a partly flat roof than it would for a property with traditional pitched roof construction. Some insurers are reluctant to take on this type of property at all, but there are companies which specialise in flat roof cover.

Ensuring a Flat Roof Property Is in Good Condition

Before you buy a property with a flat roof, you need to thoroughly check out the condition of the roof and be sure it won’t cost you a lot of money as soon as you move in. The best way to do this is by arranging an independent building survey with an RICS surveyor. A full building survey is the best choice for this type of property, because of its construction. Where the roof is on an extension, the integrity of the extended property needs to be examined as much as possible.

If there is a problem with the roof and it is shown up at this stage, knowing the full facts can help you to decide whether you still want to go ahead. It could also help you to negotiate a reduction in the asking price.

As expert chartered surveyors, Anderson Associates can advise on which is the best type of survey for you. We charge the same for a full building survey or structural survey as for a home buyer survey, because we want to ensure buyers have all the facts before committing to buy a property. We frequently carry out surveys in Woodbridge, Martlesham, Ipswich and across Suffolk, as well as in Essex, East London, South East London and Kent.

To arrange a survey or find out more about our services, follow the link, or call us on 01473 623 656 or freephone 0800 652 8285.


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Whether you need a simple valuation or a full structural survey as well as being expert building surveyors we’re happy to give you free, impartial advice on anything to do with buildings and property.
Anderson Associates
(Head Office & Correspondence Address)
Warneford House, Portal Avenue
Martlesham Heath, Ipswich
Suffolk IP5 3QY
T. 01473 623 656
T. 0800 652 8285
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Registered Office: Anderson Associates (Surveying) Ltd. | Warneford House, Portal Avenue, Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk IP5 3QY
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