I have a PVC flat roof, but it’s not covered by our home insurer
Property Clinic: Your questions answered
When insuring, my home insurers ask for confirmation that: “The property is roofed with slates, tiles, concrete, metal (other than corrugated iron), asphalt, mineral felt or torch-on felt. Where any portion of the roof is covered with mineral felt or torch-on felt, it is no greater than 20 per cent of the total roof area.” My flat roof is made of a PVC membrane I think. Why do they exclude this material? Are they just not up-to-date? It is a relatively new material, I think, used since about 2000. Also 20 per cent is very low, should they not increase it to at least 33 per cent of roof surface?
At the outset, it will be helpful to note that a flat roof is defined as having a roof pitch below 1.5 degrees (or a fall of 1 in 40). There are four main types of flat roof construction – bitumen, liquid membrane, single ply roof and green roof. Building product manufacturers have significantly improved their materials over recent years and specific materials used in the construction of roofs meet particular industry standard requirements.
The particular material you reference in your question is within the “single ply membrane” category. These are strong, flexible sheets composed mainly of synthetic polymer (PVC). The single ply product should be certified by the manufacturer and the Irish Agrément Board (IAB)/ British Board of Agrément (BBA). The material is generally guaranteed for 15-20 years.
It is normal for insurers to seek to obtain full information from a homeowner when they are considering the potential risk associated with a property. In this regard, the insurer will have developed a “risk profile” for varied types of construction, age of property, etc and this will allow for a standard premium quote to be provided. In some cases, the insurer will not provide a quotation and others may require more information to better assess the request.
Flat roofs have in the past been prone to water leaks typically due to design faults and materials used. In addition, older flat roofs may not have been routinely maintained and this can exacerbate potential issues. In more recent times, flat roofs are most often a key design feature of a new build or extensions. With proper design, appropriate use of materials and periodic surveys, such roofs can have a long lifespan and will not cause a particular challenge.
Similar to all insurance types, some insurance companies will provide a quotation for flat roofs, but will require a survey to be submitted as part of the consideration of the risk. In this regard, if you have difficulty sourcing a quote from an insurer directly, you may wish to engage with an insurance broker. A periodic survey report from a qualified professional might also be most helpful.
Andrew O’Gorman is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland