A New One for Me - Sagging Flat Roof
January 28, 2013 in Design Dilemma
I recently purchased a 65 yr old ranch style house that is as charming as the day is long - BUT - the entire house has a flat roof that is in dire need of (I thought initially) repair. As i have gone in to remove seven layers of wallpaper interspersed with two layers of panelling, I quickly came to the realization that there have been numerous leaks in the past which led to wood rot, water damage, a tiny bit of termite damage (looks really old) and at one end of the house (that I call the man-cave) complete disintegration of the joists. The roof itself is only 3 years old, but based on the wallpaper and panelling evidence, indications are that the elderly man who lived there merely put layer after layer of cosmetic "fixes" on things to cover them up.

Here's my dilemma: Would it be advisable to construct a new slightly pitched roof OVER the existing roof, thereby using the newer roofing that's there but preventing a leakage issue in the future since the water will run off instead of pooling? I should also let you know that the two ends of the house (one is man-cave the other is bedrooms) are the ones whose roof is entirely flat. The center portion with the great room and kitchen has a roughly 3 or 4 -12 pitch sloping one direction up to the south over the great room and the kitchen roof is flat. My idea was to build this new roof OVER the existing one to match the pitch over the great room over the whole house. Either that or gable the two ends while still matching the middle pitch for half of the way. (Golly, I hope I have described this well enough for you to picture it.) The other option is to tear off what's there and really, really do it right by replacing the flat roof and leaving the pitches alone.

*** The man cave will need to be removed and replaced no matter what due to the joist issue I mentioned.

Please help! At this point, roof work is looking like a HUGE chunk of my renovation costs, and I have to make sure I have money left for the rest of the work (rewiring, plumbing, etc.)
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
Flat roof lines are difficult at best to maintain and keep from leaking. Also, we find that homes built in the 60's are notorious for having undersized joists - although it was probably up to code for that time. Personally if you have that level of damage, I would go ahead and overframe the new roof line matching the slope of the other areas and then go in and remove the old roof and install new ceiling joists. Then reroof the new sections - you should be able to match at only 3 years old.
January 28, 2013 at 4:44am     
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Ironwood Builders
Brickwood is correct...as are you. My only interjection is that I'd tear off and truss the entire roof. Trusses are lighter than joisting and the ceiling joists are part of the package. Generally we truss instead of "stick" build (cut individual rafters and joists and install one piece at a time) for labor cost savings...the single most expensive component of a project of this scope. The truss manufacturer can offer many different engineered solutions to your problem. Contact a local general contractor for help. Check on the "find local pros" tab.
January 28, 2013 at 9:08am   
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The Color People
I agree with both commenters above. I know you would like to find a cheap way out but given the years of damage you would be better just pulling it all and starting from scratch. The only comment I would have about flat vs pitched roofs is the style of the architecture. If it is really built around a flat roof you should go that direction. Do feel too bad or blame the original architects though, even Frank Lloyd Wright's flat roofed houses are leaking as well.
January 28, 2013 at 11:01am   
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Thank you all three for your comments. I certainly agree about the architectural consideration. I have removed more insulation and sheetrock since posting to discover that a number of the 2x8 joists have cracked or broken, undoubtedly causing the sags and resulting leaks. I am hoping to be able to repair the joists with larger, stronger material, keeping mostly with the flat idea, and aim for a "cold, flat roof" kind of construction. I am consulting with an engineer in the next week or two and also with the city inspector. Depending on their opinions, I will pass along the info as it becomes available. Thanks!
February 4, 2013 at 1:28pm   
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