How Do You Maintain a Green Roof?

Back in March, we blogged about the benefits of green roofs. Their stunning natural beauty, coupled with the benefits of reducing heat and noise in cities, make them a modern and sustainable alternative to more traditional materials.

However, one of the reasons they are not being adopted by more sustainably-minded homeowners is that maintaining a green roof is perceived as being more difficult than tiles, which mostly look after themselves. Just like looking after a houseplant or a garden, green roofs must be cultivated throughout the year to ensure they are both beautiful and purposeful.

So, we’ve put together a few helpful hints and tips for dealing with a green roof. Read on to find out how to keep your green roof the talk of the town.


Irrigating your green roof

Think of a green roof like a crop or field of grass.

Water is necessary for maintaining a green roof on a survival level, but are the plants receiving enough to really thrive? Access to a nearby water point is vital; whilst the plants may be happy in the colder months, this heatwave we’ve been having recently has surely wreaked havoc for green roofs across the nation which are not sufficiently provided for.

Consider that, unlike plants on the ground, green roofs may not benefit from deep foundations and nutritious soil as part of the natural water table.

There are many irrigation systems available to purchase on the market, including drip systems, as well as pop-up sprinklers which can be adapted for use on roofs.

Controlling these systems is vital for regulating the amount of water your roof receives, both to avoid over-saturation, and to save you money on your water bill. Maintaining a large green roof can require sensors and other equipment, but it all starts with a human awareness of the potential pitfalls.


Fire prevention is key for green roofs

Fire prevention has always been at the centre of green roof planning, just as roofers who use tiles, stone or felt would be expected to prepare materials for all eventualities. Maintaining a green roof merely for its image could endanger the household.

Fire breaks made of gravel should be put around the edge of a green roof and the edge of any openings such as skylights. The use of stone makes it more difficult for fire to spread and engulf the building. All breaks should have a minimum width of 0.5 metres. To prevent fires spreading on extensively large green roofs, there should be a gravel fire break every 40 metres.

Plants should be prevented from growing in these gravel fire breaks. As such, maintaining a green roof with safety in mind may require removal of weeds or stray plants from these areas as soon as they are discovered.

The depth of substrate on intensive green roofs means that soil saturated with water will be a good fire retardant, and equally the types of plants chosen should not constitute large amounts of combustible material.


Drainage is a top priority for green roofs

As we have detailed before, effective drainage is a vital part of good roofing. It helps to avoid pooling, any drips into the building below, and strain on the roof structure.

Green roofs are beneficial for drainage overall, as they absorb a large proportion of rainfall. However, this build-up of water and plants on a roof can lead to future problems.

A poorly installed green roof runs the risk of damp ceilings. But even a well-installed example can be problematic when it comes to drainage. Just as debris from trees and leaf-fall can clog up gutters around regular roofs, the sheer volume of flora can mean drains are more severely affected with green roofs.

There is a recommended minimum of two drainage outlets for each roof, to prevent a total blockage and stagnant water. These should use filters and be regularly inspected.


Maintaining a green roof isn’t as hard as you think.

Many of the benefits of green roofs will outweigh the extra effort needed to maintain one. If you understand the roof and stay on top of the work that needs to be done, a green roof will be a pleasure for both the local community and for those who live in the building itself.

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