Anybody considering a conversion from a flat roof to a pitched roof is probably doing so simply because they are faced with problems on the existing roof. Before choosing to simply remove and replace the flat roof with a new pitched one it's worth considering the root cause of the problem and the pros and cons of the swap.
Bad, but Deserved, Reputation?
Flat roofs do have something of a bad reputation but this may not be as deserved as you might think. Flat roofs can be found topping off palaces and parts of cathedrals around the country. They can (if properly built and maintained), perform just as well as the pitched variety. The main reason for their presence on grand buildings is that they are cheaper to construct. This factor applies to small buildings too! However the cheap factor is one reason that they can be found on part, if not all of the post-war housing in the UK. During a period of large-scale house building, poor quality materials and poor building practices left a legacy of poorly performing flat roofs across the country. This goes a long way to explaining the bad reputation they have.
The Cost Factor
Some contractors state that the cost of a pitched roof is up to 15 times that of a flat. The figures may be slightly lower but it's certainly true that the flat option remains the cheapest. In terms of lifespan modern materials can also offer competitive options. Many new materials including rubber roofing materials offer guarantees of 30 years or more. Traditional materials such as rolled felt are more susceptible to damage and have much shorter lifespans, although they are often cheaper options.
Space is an important factor in choosing whether or not to replace a flat roof with a pitched one. Both types have their advantages; a flat roof, with modern waterproof coverings, can make for extra and valuable outdoor space. In contemporary buildings this can be an attractive feature, see specialist companies like www.marcusroofing.co.uk for examples. However, a pitched roof opens up potential for upward extension, adding a whole extra room to your property. The type of property (family home or starter home), the existing look of the building, (contemporary or otherwise) may also be factors to consider here. If you're planning to sell up in the next few years, a flat roof will be less costly and will not affect the price of your property as negatively as you might think – if you've had it replaced recently. An extra room may, however, be worth considering if you intend to stay put or your family is expanding. In terms of added value you'll probably recoup the cost of the work if you sell, but you may not make much profit.
Maintenance is a key issue with flat roofs. If you're thinking of replacing because an existing flat roof is damaged it's most likely that the combination of age, poor building materials and lack of maintenance is the cause of the problems. A pitched roof will need less maintenance but, due to its nature, it is riskier to access and will probably need specialist workmen to do the job. Flat roofs have the advantage that although you'll need to inspect them a couple of times a year, they are easy to access and modern materials like rubber can be patch repaired by anyone with basic DIY skills.
Speed is of the Essence
A flat roof will be a relatively easy and quick replacement to undertake. Rubber roofing by Marcus roofing can be fitted in no time at all. A pitched roof is by far the most disruptive option and can take a considerable time to complete, depending on the size of the roof. It may also mean that you'll not be able to occupy the house while the work is done – again depending on the size and position of the roof in question. With modern materials a replacement flat roof can be installed remarkably quickly and with minimum fuss and disruption.
Costly Coverings? If, in the end, you choose to replace an old, worn out flat roof with a like for like replacement there are a number of things to consider, the main one being material. Traditional felt coverings will be the cheapest option but have the shortest life expectancy and are the most likely to be subject to damage. Fibreglass offers a tough, long lasting solution but is costly; rubber is a mid-priced option, easily fitted, repaired and maintained. It's also one of the most robust materials and some suppliers will offer 25-40 year guarantees. Before you take a sledgehammer to that old flat roof and plan a new pitched one, it's certainly worth considering a simple like for like replacement; with modern techniques and materials, flat doesn't have to mean bad anymore!