Flat roofs are a very common roof system in North East Pennsylvania. They are also overlooked due to the fact you cannot see them from the ground. Most flat roofs have zero pitch which means it is hard for the water to run off.
Nearly all residential homes being built today have pitched/sloped roofs. This allows rain to run downhill, into gutters, through downspouts and away from the foundation. Quickly channeling water off a rooftop eliminates the potential for pooled water, which can lead to problems like mold and algae growth, wood rot and deterioration of roofing materials.
Most commercial buildings, however, have flat roofs. Why is that? It’s because their large square footage and design wouldn’t allow for a slope at the same angle as a single-family home. The roof would be too high, as well as costly.
Despite their names, flat roofs aren’t precisely horizontal to the ground. For drainage purposes, the International Building Code requires a minimum 2% slope, or a one-fourth unit vertical for every 12 units horizontal. In layman’s terms, that means a roof must slope ¼ of an inch for every foot. It’s a minimal slope, barely noticeable to the naked eye, but enough to allow gravity to do its thing and send water off the roof.
Flat, or low-slope roofs, offer a variety of benefits for commercial buildings:
Cost: A popular roofing material used in flat roofs across NEPA is TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), a single-ply membrane that covers a roof structure rather than shingles, tiles or metal panels. TPO is adhered or mechanically attached to a structure and costs less than other roofing materials. Because crews take less time to install TPO, commercial entities can save on labor costs.
Access: Many commercial buildings have A/C units, solar panels & satellites installed on the roof, and having a flat roof offers easy access to service that equipment.
Height: Many communities throughout Pennsylvania have height restrictions on new construction, so a three-story building with a flat roof can fit under a 35ft height restriction. With a sloped roof, developers might be limited to just a two-story building.
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