Flat as a pancake
Never, ever build something with a flat roof. Never.
We did. As I took my very long break from blogging, one of the reasons was we were building an extension to the house. For various difficult reasons a part of it had to be build with a flat roof. We thought we’d be forward thinking and sustainable and built it as a green roof, with fancy drainage and a complex planting system that could cope with wet and drought.
There are so many things that proved wrong with that decision. First, weeds. I never in my wildest dreams imagined having to weed my roof. It was a constant battle from month one. I was continually up there having to take out the undesirable self plantings! Second, autumn leaf fall. If you didn’t pick up the leaves they would form a lovely layer that both killed the plants below, and also totally screwed up the drainage system. Picking them up was not straightforward! You couldn’t just use a rake as that would damage the normal planting. I did end up getting this clever leaf hoover, but then I had the problem of getting the collected leaf fall down without tromping it through the house.
Over the years I spent both countless hours and considerable cost as we had to replant at one point. I grew to hate that over so wonderful reality of sustainability.
Then, inevitably we got a leak. I had various people in to look at it, and the problem is two fold. Water doesn’t necessarily come in where it shows in the ceiling below. Trying to find a leak under a green roof system is essentially impossible. It could be anywhere.
The various experts all agreed. Take it all up. After a conversation that lasted all of five minutes we agreed to lift the green roof, throw it out and replace it with the most indestructible system science could imagine. I interviewed various builders, researched reviews, talked to past clients, and settled on a quote that was not the cheapest with the belief you get what you pay for.
This was finally settled just as lockdown was coming in. It was outdoors, the roofing firm was willing, so we went ahead. The work seemed to go well, but then, what did we know? It was all completed and looked very neat and tidy, and I reveled in my first autumn of just being able to sweep up the leaf fall, and not have to weed… my… roof!
Except, as winter and heavy rains settled in, guess what? A leak.
The builder was called back, he cogitated and said it was something completely different and it would cost another £1,000 please. Gritting our teeth, we paid up, the work was done, and… it did nothing to stop the leak. I contacted the builder again, then again, then… silence.
I talked to out insurance company, who had paid for some of the repair, but they shrugged and said quality of build was not insured. I argued, they grudgingly agreed to send a specialist who reviewed. It was definitely quality of build, in fact the job was so substandard the poor guy was speechless. Our insurance company dug its heels in. Not their problem, we had chosen the builder.
At the same time I much more carefully chose a builder and got a part of the flat roof redone. What he found was really just awful. I engaged a lawyer, and after much tooing and froing a settlement was reached. No fault agreed, but a settlement none the less.
Today, after the driest two weeks this summer I sit under the most incredible noise as the roof is lifted and re-laid properly. I’ve even had a surveyor in to review the works as done. Its all pukka. Soon, soon I shall have a properly dry house again.
Never, ever build something with a flat roof.