Why so many flat roofs in Zambia leak, and how to prevent it

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Last updated on
April 7, 2022
A good flat roof wont leak if you build it right and maintain it regularly

Flat or hidden roofs are becoming more popular in Zambian home building projects. There are many types of roofs in the world but the most common ones in Zambia so far have been hip roofs and gabled roofs, flat roofs were more commonly seen on commercial buildings. But times, styles and preferences are changing and we are seeing more and more flat roofs on Zambian homes.

You may bethinking about building a home with a flat roof but worried about all the leaking flat roofs you hear about during the rainy seasons. This article discusses flat or hidden roofs and lists 6 of the most common reasons why flat roofs leak and how to prevent or manage them.


Why choose a flat roof?

Flat roofs are considered simple and elegant in architecture and they do not distract from the natural landscape around a home, unlike other roof types. Depending on the materials used, they are also often cheaper than other types of roofs. A flat roof can also be converted into an outdoor patio or rooftop garden – though the final use needs to be considered at design stage so that appropriate materials are used and construction considered made.  

However, in countries like Zambia that experience very heavy rainfall, proper construction and regular maintenance of a flat roof is critical to prevent leakages. Below are some common reasons why many flat roofs in Zambia leak and what you can do about it


1.    Incorrect construction

Building a flat roof properly from the get go is the most important aspect to preventing leakages. Even if they are called flat roofs, they are actually not supposed to be completely flat. Flat roofs need a slope of 5 to 15 degrees to allow rainwater to flow into drainage systems. Some flat roofs are even sloped in many directions towards drainage holes. Without a properly constructed incline and drainage system, you will have water pooling on your roof that can cause various other issues that we discuss later below.


2.    No drainage system

This one seems like an obvious one but it’s worth emphasising – your flat roof needs a proper drainage to allow all that rainwater to run down. Gutters are typically used as drainage systems on flat roofs but other solutions can be used to as long you have a way to capture the water and safely transport it to the ground at a safe distance away from your foundation. In addition to a drainage system, a good waterproofing solution is also essential to prevent leakages in your flat roof.


3.    Poor workmanship

Good quality materials in the hands of an amateur roofer will likely result in a leaking flat roof. As this is a relatively newer roof type on Zambian homes, not all builders and roofers have the necessary skills, experience or knowledge of the materials required for flat roofs. Make sure to hire someone who has built a flat roof before and get references from their past clients, especially one with flat roofs that have survived a few rainy seasons. On Rivuuz, you can browse through vetted and experienced roofers to find someone who can build or repair your roof.


4.    Pooling of water

Loose or incorrectly installed roof materials can cause water to collect in pools on your roof. Even when a flat roof is correctly installed, sometimes your roof may shift as your house settles over time and may leave the roof uneven and water can pool in dips on your roof. Pooling water will eventually wear down your roof and penetrate to the lower layers of your roof and ceiling, causing rot and mould. These pools of water also add weight to your roof which may cause structural damage.  

Pooling can be detected by inspecting your roof 48hrs after heavy rains. If water remains, empty the pools and hire someone to inspect and your roof.


5.     Accumulation of dirt and debris

Every so often, your flat roof’s drainage system will get clogged by dirt, leaves, twigs and other debris that will prevent proper drainage. Ensure that you roof and drainage system are regularly inspected and cleaned to prevent water pooling and other damage to your roof  


6.     Damaged roofing materials

There are different types of materials that can be used for a flat roof and they vary in strength and durability. Even the best materials with wear and tear over time, even with regular repairs and maintenance. A lack of frequent inspection and maintenance of your flat roof will decrease the lifespan of your materials and your overall roof. Prolonged water pooling can cause cracks and blisters in your roof and increase your repair costs. So quick diagnosis and action is necessary in maintaining your roof. Try to get a professional roofer to inspected your flat roof for wear and tear at least twice a year or after a very heavy rain storm.


So in conclusion, even with the heavy rains that Zambia experiences, a leak-proof flat roof is possible with the right construction and regular maintenance. If you would like to get any type of roof built, inspected, or repaired, be sure to hire one of the good quality roofers listed on Rivuuz.



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