The problem with roofs in Sydney
Balmain builder and designer Mat Wilk reveals the issues with roofs today
The roofs in Sydney seem to be leaking more than ever before. Why is that? I believe there are a few reasons causing this pain, and the ballooning insurance bills that come with it.
1. Changing architecture
Pitched roofs – that are particularly effective at getting rid of water quickly –are just not built so much anymore. No doubt there has been a push for space, particularly in the inner suburbs, and flat roofs have been employed more often than not to maximise space.They are also more economical. There is also an undeniable trend away from pitched roofs, with modernism in and pitched roofs out.
2. Changing design
Another factor is compliance with planning laws. It’s not just that flat roofs have less impact, it’s the maximising of space and jumping through the hoops of setback, view loss, privacy and overshadowing issues. Then throw in a heritage consultant’s 10 cents’ worth and you end up with a convoluted solution, with at times bitsy little roofs connecting in odd ways. We care about what happens below the roof and we can disguise change of levels, so nobody notices that the ceiling level in one room is slightly lower or higher once you go through a doorway. Nobody seems to care about roof integrity when designing – the builder can sort that out right? Well yes but each complication in roof design adds to potential for error.
3. Climate change
The weather is changing; the dry is drier and the wet is wetter. What smart people said would happen is happening, and it’s going to keep happening. We seem to be getting what was previously a once in five-year storm twice a year. The Climate Council of Australia’s Super Charged Storms in Australia report found Extreme weather events including tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall, hail/thunderstorms and extra-tropical cyclones (for example, east coast lows) are now occurring in an atmosphere that is packing more energy and carrying more moisture than it did in the 1950s. Australia is highly vulnerable to more storms of increasing intensity, including east coast lows. The report said Australia’s infrastructure has been built for the climate of the 20th century and is unprepared for more intense coastal storms and rising sea level, with the annual frequency of severe thunderstorm days likely to rise by 30 per cent in Sydney by 2100.
4. The standards are inadequate
I strongly believe roofing standards need to evolve with changing environmental conditions, but standards are a slow-moving beast, and climate change might be here quicker than anyone expected. Apart from this, the standard may never have been adequate – I have seen roofs built to the Australian standard fail time and again. The roof and gutter systems don’t cope with the volumes of water and velocity of wind. We already have different standards for different areas, maybe we should be shifting the boundaries incrementally over time to follow the science?
5. The solutions that are problematic
There are a multitude of widgets, from high fronted gutters to mesh of gutter guards. While some are fantastic others, if used inappropriately, can cause more problems than they fix. Mesh not only attracts leaves, but has an uncanny ability to go from mesh to a leaf version of papier-mâché. This is particularly a problem if you put mesh into a sump (collection point) in a box gutter – pretty soon you have a nice matting of leaves preventing the flow of water.
At Ballast Point, we have a range of solutions to help fix problem roofs. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch so we can discuss your issue and find a way to help.