Prairie Style Perk Up: A Modern Rooftop Redo For An Old Classic

Once you fall in love with the look of a Prairie Style home, it's hard to imagine there's any way to improve upon its classic architectural lines. You're right. The style that became famous by association with Frank Lloyd Wright still has strong visual appeal more than a century after it was introduced. If you're fortunate enough to have invested in one of these treasures as your own home, updating its features to modern standards involves minimal changes to the design aesthetic. But it can include a major change to the home's functional integrity starting at the very tip top – the roof.

Original Rooftop Challenges

Yes, there were a few early detractors when Prairie Style started gaining popularity. It was called boxlike with a lid on top. But as more of these then-new homes became part of the architectural scene, the low-profile, clean design lines and flat roofs gained acclaim for how beautifully they fit in to the landscape of expansive prairie lands covering the middle part of the country.

Unlike the surrounding pitched and sloping roofs of other houses at the time, flat roofs became a hallmark of Prairie Style. The roof emphasized the strong horizontal design line. And it's finish of built-up roofing material topped with gravel accentuated with smooth pebbles added to the natural look as the house blended in with its surroundings. If your house still has that same type of roofing, you know that there are inherent problems.

  • The tar and gravel roofing material settles unevenly causing water pooling that leads to potential leaks.
  • Gravel and pebbles tend to wash off and clog gutters and drains.
  • Repairs can be smelly and messy as new tar is added and gravel is included in the mix.

To prevent these ongoing issues, good stewardship of the home means you'll need to upgrade with modern roofing materials.

New Roofing Installation

Putting on the new roof isn't likely to be a do-it-yourself project. Hiring an experienced roofing contractor ensures the expertise necessary to get a new, durable solution for the upper surfaces of your beloved Prairie Style home. Although the work can be done rapidly by a qualified contractor and working team, it can be extensive. The steps include:

  • Removing existing built-up roofing material. This requires some brute force to lift decades worth of built-up and hardened tar plus the loose stones that are part of the make-up.
  • Repairing any structural issues that may have occurred over the years, such as beams or portions of the roof decking that have been compromised by moisture.
  • Installing new flashing around the chimney, vents and any other features that penetrate the roof deck, such as skylights.
  • Installing the new energy-efficient roofing material. The installation starts with laying out the material in layers that slightly overlap and then welding the seams for long-lasting leak prevention.

Depend on your roofing contractor's recommendations for modern flat roof materials that have a long-term warranty. Some carry a "lifetime" warranty, but verify the parameters of what that means in terms of years and any maintenance that has to be done in the interim.

Solar-Ready Bonus Feature

As you bring your Prairie Style home up to date, you'll discover another advantage of having a flat roof. It's ideal for installing solar panels to reduce your carbon footprint. The panels will not be shaded as they would be during part of the day on a sloping roof. If you plan to save on energy costs by implementing a solar energy system, arrange a meeting with the roofing installer from a company like Fischer Roofing - Flat Roof Pros and the solar panel installer to coordinate the timing and any special considerations that either needs to make for efficient implementation.


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