No access to roof...

I was wondering what you guys do when the access to a roof is blocked. I did an inspection yesterday, the house had a flat roof and that hatch was sealed shut (probably with roofing tar). I always feel like I did an incomplete job for my client when there is no access to a certain area. I even got into fight with the real estate agent. He told me that I shouldn’t go on the roof if there are no leaks and that he is sure that the sellers had it redone a couple of years ago. I asked him to produce the paper work for my clients.
Would anyone have done anything different?

If there is no access to the roof, disclaim it and state why.

Your client can also have you do a re-inspection (for an additional fee) if the Seller can get the access hatch removed for you.

Old inspector mantra

Report what you can see and report what you can’t see

No need to fight with realtors, just document the facts for your client

An associate inspector gave me the best piece of advice any of us can have:

  1. get a life sized cardboard cutout of a realtor
  2. place it in the corner of your office
    *]practice ignoring it

Ahhh…advice to live by…ha-ha-ha…:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

The flat roof in this case is just like any other part of the home you cannot access or view. Write in the report the circumstances of why you did not inspect it, and recommend appropriate action to your buyer.

The consensus in the construction trade is: “flat roofs are designed to leak.” If you couldn’t access it, presumably, neither could anyone else, which means that it has probably not been cleaned and could have blocked drainage channels and scuppers. I have a long narrative about flat roofs that prints automatically, and I spend more time on flat roofs than any other. My advise: quote the realtor, which makes him/her responsible for what was said, and recommend that your clients request the installation permit to confirm that the roof was professionally installed and could include a transferable warranty, and then recommend that the roof be evaluated by a professional within the contingency period. (And expect to be black-balled/bad-vibed by the realtor for being a responsible inspector).

Thanks everyone…great advise.

Geographically, that might not be an accurate statement, Keith.

Flat roofs around here are well designed, monitored, and inspected by the Manufacturer of the Product. Most flat roofs here are guaranteed for a minimum of 15 years.
What is happening here to more what you are saying is the fact that you get two or three years roof trainees that go into business themselves on to the Residential Market and do not have the third party inspections as would the Commercial Market. They actually get away with it until a NACHI Inspector shows up, right? ha. ha.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Marcel, You could be right, but I’m going to go on believing that “flat roofs are indeed designed to leak.” Remember the old adage: “When ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” I’m electing to remain ignorant, but I enjoy your always helful posts and happy faces. Thanks.

Flat roofs don’t last very long around here, because the lower angle to the sun deteriorates them a lot faster than a pitched roof. 100+ degree days will do that.

I also, like Keith does, spend more time inspecting flat roofs than others, due to the inherent problems.

I just when onto the roof. I gained access through a neighbor. The idiot that did the roof rolled the membrane right over the hatch, tarred it and painted it with that aluminum coating. This guy must have had a hard time getting down. I was also told by the real estate agent that if I can’t get to the roof, I can go to the roof of an apartment builbing (10 stories and a half of a block away) and look from there roof. I told him that he better hope that I never inspect another house for a client of his.
Thanks for the input.

Flat roofs may be monitored in Maine, but I can tell you that I have made a lot of money over the years converting flat roofs to peaked. This includes some small commercial buildings (strip motels). I agree completely with Keith on this one.

Your area must need better Roofers, I guess. :slight_smile: :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley: :wink:
Maybe the Roofers are related to the one that did the roof in the post before you. ha. ha.


I agree wiith Marcel. I have seen flat roofs that were perfect. The problem, at least in Brooklyn, is that people are looking to make a quick buck. I refuse to hire anyone to do any work for me because nobody will do a quality job. I think that one of the biggest problem with flat roofs in my are is that they are never vented.


Thought I would show this link that shows some of the work of flat roofs I am accustomed too.

Hope this helps some.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

A friend of mine continued to have leaks on a flat roofed section of the house, and three or four roofing contractors made various attempts to “cure the problem.” Finally, I was contracted to install a pitched roof over this portion and, indeed the rest of the house. It looked better, and worked better. Many flat roofs are pitched one-quarter inch per foot and drain well. However, most of the ones that I inspect in Los Angeles are indeed flat, and most hold water somewhere, and there’s nothing more skillful at getting inside a house than water. Ask yourself: who’s the first person that will be called when a roof does leak? And I don’t care what your disclaimer says; that’s human nature, and one of the "givens’ in our business. Nuff said.

Understand your frustrations toward flat roofs, Keith.

I am not trying to convince you that Flat roofs is the way to go.
The must important part of Flat roofs is the fact, they are not flat.

As you well stated, they should pitch to a drain via tapered insulation so there is no standing water. Besides the fact that ponding water etc. 20’ x 20’ 1" deep could way as much as 1 ton.

I would not advocate a Flat Roof when there is an other alternative.

The means and the methods used to install flat roofs, especially membrane roof, varies throughout the Country. The one’s best served are the one’s monitored and inspected by the Manufacturers.
That is the point I have been trying to make. If left to the local Roofing Contractors to simulate, it will sure as hell become a disaster. I know, it happens here all the time.
Amazing how one bad roofer of flat roofs can ruin the reputation of flat roofs.

Doesn’t that sound like a bad Building Contractor that ruins it for all Contractors?

A trick I picked up over the years to find a leak in single membrane roofing, is that after a rain, you walk the roof when dry, and look for a wet spec the size of a pencil point. If there is a pin hole in the membrane, it will have a wet ring around it.

Flashing leaks perhaps, bring a garden hose on the roof and flood different areas at a time. Most likely you will find it. Start at the drains and work your way up.

I know I have not convince you for flat roofs, but that is alright. :smiley:

You sure know how to right good books. :wink:


Marcel:) :stuck_out_tongue:

Marcel, I think the rubber roofing you posted the pics of probably is much better than the kind most people think of when talking about flat roofs. Thanks for posting that.

Marcel, you sure know how to be positive, and a force for “good.” Thanks.

WOW. That was impressive!