How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

Does a gravel roof need maintenance?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A gravel roof, also called a tar and gravel roof or built-up and gravel roof, needs regular maintenance to extend its  lifespan. We recommend that at least once a year the following two minor upkeep projects be undertaken:

1) Keep an even and solid top layer of gravel over the roof surface. Gravel protects the built-up roof underneath from damage by ultra-violet rays in sunlight. If the built-up roof surface becomes exposed, it accelerates the deterioration of the roof. Redistribute or add gravel where necessary if you see gaps, like in the photo below. 

2) Blow off any leaf debris. Because a gravel roof has minimal slope, rain does not consistently wash down any leaves that fall on it. Minor areas of ponding on the roof create rings of leaf piles. As the leaves accumulate and decompose, their acidity will also accelerate deterioration of the roof surface. Once enough organic debris builds up, moss, weeds, andfungi start growing on the roof.

  We suggest that you have a professional roofer do this maintenance. The roofer can also do any minor repairs to perimeter flashing and roof penetrations that may be necessary, and advise you as the roof approaches the end of its life.

   But, should you decide to tackle this project yourself, be VERY careful! Most homeowners consider a steeply sloped roof to be unsafe, because of the potential of slipping and falling down and off the roof. But low-slope and flat roofs are actually more dangerous. It’s easy to walk off the edge of the roof if you are not paying close attention to where you are in relation to the edge, especially if you are walking backwards while doing the maintenance chores. 

    Also, see our blog posts What is "ponding" on a flat roof? and What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?

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Here’s links to some of our other articles about “FLAT ROOFS (LOW SLOPE)":

Do flat roofs always leak?

Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof? 

Why are most house roofs slanted instead of flat?

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

What is the difference between roll roofing and modified bitumen? 

 What is the purpose of the gravel on a flat tar roof? 

Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof? 

What is a TPO roof? 

What is the stuff you paint an old mobile home metal roof with to extend its life?

What is the average lifespan of a built-up and gravel roof?

What is the average lifespan of a modified bitumen roof? 

What is the average life expectancy of a TPO (Thermoplastic PolyOlefin) roof? 

What is an EPDM roof?

• What is the average life expectancy an EPDM roof? 

 I'm buying a '50s modern house with a "gravel" roof. Is the roof going to be a problem? 

Is "ponding" (standing puddles of water) normal on flat roof?

What is a low slope roof?

• What is the average life expectancy of a built-up roof? 

What is the average life expectancy of an elastomeric roof coating?

 • Can you coat a TPO roof to extend its life? 

What causes ponding (standing water) on a flat roof?

• What are the signs my flat roof needs to be replaced? 

What is the average life expectancy of a PVC roof?

    Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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