A Brief History of Flat Roofing Systems

Origins of Flat Roofs

Almost all of the first buildings that were constructed had flat roofs. In fact, until about 120 years ago, flat roofs were mostly found in areas with arid climates that experienced less rainfall and freezing temperatures were unlikely to occur.As a result, they were common in the American southwest and the Middle East since the climates there were generally dry with minimal rain. You can often see flat roofs in ancient Egyptian and Arabian architecture. The original flat roofs were often thatched, which means they were made up of leaves, straw, and branches. The materials they collected were pressed in clay to fill in the empty spaces and create a solid barrier for the top of their homes and buildings. Although, the concept of a flat roof failed in many ways at this point in time, in part because it lacked a basic drainage system. Geographic areas that experienced heavy rain or snow needed a sloped roof that would keep it from pooling and causing the roof to leak or sag. Simply put, the evolution of the flat roof was very dependent on factors such as the available materials and technology that would be developed over time.

Further Evolution of Flat Roofs

It was not until the 19th century when flat roofs became popular in America and Europe. While they had not been common in their early history, the emergence of waterproof materials, concrete, and structural steel made flat roofs very practical. Seemingly overnight, flat roofs became the roof of choice for commercial buildings like offices, warehouses, and other structures. At this time, the roofs were made out of metals like lead, tin, copper, and asphalt. These types of flat roofs were very effective, and the materials could last for many years. However, in the late 1950s and 1960s, a material called mineral felt – a bituminous felt roofing sheet – became popular since it was lightweight and affordable. However, it ended up causing a negative impact on the industry, as the material was prone to leaks. Luckily, the trend didn’t last long, but builders were still in the position of rebuilding the reputation of flat roofs with better materials like TPO, PVC and EPDM rubber roofing.Modern-Day Flat RoofsMany modern-day flat roofs use flexible polymer sheets, fiberglass, or rubber roofing, which provide improved durability and longevity. EPDM roofing, which stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, is a type of synthetic rubber membrane that is very durable and has been engineered to resist damage from sunlight. These have been one of the most popular materials for flat roofs since the late 1970s, and the roofs are still holding up. EPDM is generally the flat roofing material with the lowest cost per square foot – however, the drawback to this material is that it may not be able to support extremely heavy materials.TPO, or thermoplastic polyolefin, is another common material that modern flat roofs can be made of. It is very similar to EPDM in that it is very durable and heat resistant since it is made of a vinyl composite. Although this material is a bit more expensive, it offers a higher degree of UV protection and structural integrity that allows it to support more weight. For commercial buildings like warehouses, it is also not uncommon to find flat roofs made out of metal. This is practical because of how long they will last, as well as the ease of repairs if needed. Metal roofing systems can be one of the more expensive options for flat roofs.

Why are Flat Roofs Common for Commercial Buildings?

So, why are flat roofs usually the first choice for commercial buildings? There are many reasons, ranging from aesthetics to durability and cost-effectiveness. Flat roofs allow commercial buildings to comply with business district requirements regarding aesthetics – they create a uniform and clean look regardless of which materials are used. This type of roofing structure is also very durable, so commercial building owners can be sure that their investment will withstand the elements and last for quite some time. The space offered by a flat roof also allows for more operational space within the building. Since there are so many different flat roof building materials to choose from, you can find an effective solution that will fit almost any situation. The first step is to contact a commercial roofing contractor to discuss the project in detail to determine what will be the best roofing system. Get started by contacting Benton Roofing today.

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