What Is the Lifespan of a Flat Roof?

Brad GordonFlat Roofs


As its name implies, a flat roof is nearly perfectly horizontal. Flat roofs are commonly used to top apartment complexes, offices, retail establishments and other public buildings. They are constructed from materials such as tar, asphalt, metal and wood. The expected lifespan of a flat roof depends on its material and maintenance. Let’s start with an overview of some common types of roofing.

Basic Types of Roofs

  • Tar and Rubber Roofs: A popular choice for commercial buildings, tar and rubber roofs can hold out for roughly 15 to 30 years. The moderate climate of Vancouver makes these roofs a reliable choice. However, heat waves, snowstorms and other environmental factors can speed their aging.
  • Asphalt Shingles: A thrifty option for Vancouver homeowners and businessowners, asphalt shingles typically last 15 to 20 years. Expect easy, inexpensive repairs balanced by an increased risk of mold and mildew.
  • Wood Shingles and Shakes: Wood shingles and shakes can protect buildings for 30 to 50 years. They require more maintenance than asphalt shingles, but offer a natural, old-fashioned charm.
  • Metal Roofs: Built by soldering multiple pieces of sheet metal, metal roofs are perhaps the most durable and eco-friendly variety. Metal roofs can last over 60 years, all while decreasing heating and cooling costs. Due to their durability, metal roofs also require less maintenance than other roofing materials. Metal roofs can also be fitted directly over old roofing.

Maintaining Your Flat Roof

Properly maintaining your flat roof can extend its lifespan by 10 or more years. Metal roofs and other durable materials may require less attention, but regular care can only help. Here are common ways to ensure your roof lives its life to the fullest:

  • Seasonal Inspections: Check up on your roof at least 3 to 4 times a year. Clear out any debris to prevent clogging. Make sure all flashings are secure.
  • Water Removal: As one of Canada’s rainiest cities, Vancouver is no stranger to heavy rainstorms. If you have an older roof, be sure to drain any standing water to prevent mold, mildew and leaks.
  • Blister Repair: Tar roofs are more prone to blistering. If you discover blisters in your flat roof, contact a professional roofing contractor to repair it.

If If you’ve repaired your roof multiple times and problems persist, it’s time to replace it. Single and multi-ply roofing can be layered over your old flat roof and extend its life by 10 to 30 years. If you’re willing to pay more upfront, metal roofing is the superb long-term option. In addition to a reliable roof replacement, choose a reliable contractor. Look for a business address, phone number and website. References and positive client reviews are a plus. If you’re not sure where to start, consult your friends, neighbors and coworkers about their experiences.