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A Starter's Guide to Installing a Green Roof

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Friday, June 14, 2019
Jules Hopkins

The Starter's Guide to Installing a Green Roof

In this age of environmentalism, more and more people are trying to do their part for conservation. American consumers want to know where their products come from and how they were made. People are trying to ride bikes instead of cars, recycle, avoid plastic bags, and contribute however else they can to sustainability. One of the best new environmentally friendly trends over the past few years has been the emergence of green roofs. People are increasingly turning their homes into more eco friendly houses. One of the best ways to do that is by installing a green roof. Roofs protect homes from rain and sun. They also help manage energy costs with insulation. By installing a green roof on top of your house, it can help improve water conservation and add green space to the neighborhood. They cut down on air pollutants because the plants absorb them organically. As a bonus, green roofs often provide an added layer of natural insulation that keeps homes cooler in the summer and warm in the winter. Here are a few tips on how beginners can get started on installing a green roof on their home.

The Green Roof Planning Phase

Buildings went centuries with a lot of wasted, unused roof space. Fortunately, someone came along and discovered that roof space on commercial buildings, hotels, apartments, and other buildings with flat roofs would be great garden spaces. Owners began building roof-top gardens and the rest is history. Now there are a wide variety of choices when it comes to green roofs. They can be made to fit basically any structure.

The first step in installing a green roof is to assess your roof. There are structural engineers that specialize in green roof installation. They’ll be able to tell you how much weight your roof can withstand, what should be put on the roof, and if there are any other concerns. A typical green roof can add up to 40 pounds of additional weight per square foot. Things can get even heavier after it rains. One of the challenges in installing a roof is in homes with steep roof grades. If the roof is too steep, installation becomes very difficult. Gardeners should also be consulted as to what type of plant life would best survive on your roof. They come and look at the sun conditions and recommend plants that will grow well based on your home location.

Installation Basics

On a very basic level, green roofs require a waterproof membrane to keep moisture from damaging your home. The sides of your roof may also need special edges installed to prevent vegetation from sliding off. Remember, plants and soil are adding a good deal of weight onto your home, so something needs to keep it in place. General contractors are a good option for edge installation. Once the edges, membrane and grade are taken care of, it’s time to manage water runoff. It’s unlikely with the way soil and vegetation takes on water, that your existing gutter system will work the same. You need to make sure that the water is fed into gutters and not off the roof in a way that could damage the house.

Once all those checkpoints have been crossed off, it’s time to start gardening. Professionals can help design and landscape your green roof into an oasis. It will either provide much needed green space in an urban setting or help your home meld into the forest around it. One of the best ways to build a green roof is by installing several square or rectangular living roof trays. It will help with easy management after the build’s done. After your green roof is installed, you will need to tend to it much the same way a garden needs tending. Your green roof will need lawn-edging, watering, pruning and fertilizing. It will become a living, breathing roof that requires regular attention. The great thing about green roofs is that their owners get out what they put into them. Homeowners have a real sense of pride in building and maintaining a beautiful green roof.

Other Starter Considerations

Unfortunately, it’s a bad idea to just hop on the internet and start planning a green roof without knowing it’s a possibility. You need to check with your local municipality on whether it’s even an option. It’s likely you’ll need to apply for a permit to build, and that permit will carry stipulations on what can be done to your green roof. One thing to keep in mind also is that you’re going to need to have easy roof access. Very few homes have built in roof access because traditionally no one ever gets up on their roof. Whether it’s a ladder or a custom stairwell, a safe, sturdy way of accessing your roof is a must.


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