flat roofing

Solar Roofing – Flat and Metal Roofs with Integrated Solar Panels

In this article we will discuss solar roofing systems, which integrate roofing materials with solar PV panels or solar thermal systems. Specifically we will cover, metal roofs, PVC flat roofing membranes and asphalt shingles. Although most roof-mounted solar systems are installed on top of an existing roof – be it an asphalt shingles roof or any type of flat roof – these solar systems are not integrated into the roofing material, and therefore are not solar roofs.

Why Are Solar Panels Installed On Roofs?

Most solar systems are installed on a roof of a house or a building. The exception are solar farms or ground-mounted solar installations, but these are rare, and are usually 100% commercial solar systems. There are a number of reasons why most solar systems are installed on roofs. The primary one being limited space – especially in an urban setting, where roofs represent significant unused space. Another reason is that usually roofs are not shaded by trees, nearby buildings, etc – they are the highest point of a building with great sun exposure, which makes them perfect to install solar panels on.

Image of solar panels installed on a commercial flat roof

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Horrible Rubber Roofing

There has been a lot of discussion on our rubber roofing page (created a while ago), with many roofing contractors defending the EPDM rubber roof as a “good and proven” system, that is widely installed. While I agree that it is widely installed, I contest the notion that it is good and proven, for many reasons, which I will outline below, with examples as proof. But first, I will outline the basic premise on which I will base my statements.

Basic Premise of this “Horrible Rubber Roofing” article

Rubber roof (EPDM) is widely installed because of its relatively low cost. It is NOT as good as many roofing contractors say it is, and the reason why I call it “horrible” is a complex, but there are two major parts to it: Continue reading

Ice Dams Prevention & Ventilation of Low-Slope Roofs




Ice Dams can cause very serious and expensive to fix problems, and are usually caused by improper ventilation of your attic space and inadequate insulation of your roof. Ice Dams are a sign of heat loss in the attic, and this lost heat is money you throw out the window.

Ice dams may seem harmless at first, but they are known to cause thousands of dollars in roof leaks, structural  damages and repairs of your home. The can also create dangerous mold growth, which can cause or aggravate allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases.  Fighting ice dams can be costly, and you also need to know how to approach the problem to make your efforts more efficient so that you can permanently eliminate them.

This Ice Dams Prevention Guide will help you identify Ice Dams and eliminate either sources of the problem (preferred method, though not always feasible) or the effects, which are just as dangerous for you home.

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Revive your roof deck with IB DeckShield

How would you like to have an extra outdoor private space in your home to relax or entertain guests? A roof deck is an ideal option that will not only be enjoyable for years to come, but will also increase the value of your home.

Whether you are thinking of constructing a new roof deck or would like to improve the one you already have, it is essential for your deck to be leak free.

There are a number of issues that cause leaks in roof decks and a number of best practices that you can follow to keep leaks at bay.

Common leak causes and other issues with roof decks

One of the common reasons why roof decks leak is ponding water that forms on the roof. Ponding water occurs for a number of reasons such as inadequate roof drainage or roofing material failures. Most flat roofing materials, such as EPDM rubber, rely on adhesives to seal the seams and flashing around penetrations. Over time these adhesives break down and cause leaks. Ponding water further exacerbates this problem by increasing the rate at which seam adhesive fails. Continue reading

Flat Roof Repair in Needham, MA

We performed this PVC roof repair in Needham, Mass. in October 2011. This was the second time we repaired this 25+ years old Sarnafil PVC flat roof in the last two years. The first time we fixed this roof was exactly two years ago, in October of ’09 – check out our first overview, which covers this roof in particular, and nuances of repairing old PVC flat roofs in general.

Quick Overview of the First Repair

In October of 2009, we fixed this roof for the first time. A contractor was doing some fascia repair work there, and threw some tools onto the roof, creating a hole in the old PVC membrane. We repaired it using new IB PVC flat roofing material. First, we cleaned the old roof with warm water (to remove all dirt and small debris). Next, we rubbed it with acetone and a rough brush, to clean the membrane thoroughly, so the new patch would weld nicely. Then, we welded a PVC patch over the hole, which sealed the roof.

Old patch next to 2 new patches:

Image of PVC Flat Roof Repair in Needham, MA, done by CoolFlatRoof.com

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Flat Roofing Tapered Insulation Questions (from an email conversation with a customer)

This post is actually an email conversation with a customer, regarding Tapered Insulation and our flat roof installation in Cambridge, MA done in the summer of 2010. This email conversation is posted as is with the customer’s permission – the only editing on this post was done to remove any personal information, and spelling :). I thought this would be helpful to our readers, who are interested in tapered insulation and/or have ponding water problems with their flat roofs.

Here is the original roof video, so you have a better idea about this roof:

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What makes PVC the Best Single-Ply Roofing Membrane for Flat and Low -sloped Roofs

Senior project written by Riess Stanley
Nov 4, 2010

With economic strife on the rise, it has now become necessary to seek out ways to save money, as well as to find ways to “stay green”, and to do what you can to help the environment. Unfortunately, accomplishing both at the same time seems to be very difficult. Believe it or not, there is a smart, fairly simple, and very efficient way to succeed in these two areas in a way not often looked upon as a money saver, but rather a necessary and costly project when it doesn’t need to be; the roof. When you really get down to it, the roof is either costing too much, or saving plenty.

First off, if a building with a flat or low-sloped pitch was to have a black tar roof, it would be taking more money than one would realize. In warm weather, the black roof will absorb so much heat that an abundance of energy and money would need to be invested into cooling down the building. Moreover, all that heat beating down on the roof will make it crack, which in turn will cause it to leak once the rainy weather begins. This defeats the entire purpose of a roof. So, what is a low cost alternative for a black tar roof, that can keep the roof cool during summer months and can keep out the rain? The answer; PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) single-ply membrane. Continue reading

Flat Roof Installation in Cambridge, MA

Image of Flat Roof in Cambridge MA

We installed this flat roof near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the summer of 2010. The installation consisted of four separate roof sections on different levels of this house, which at the time was undergoing major renovations inside and out, including total new insulation in walls and between roof rafters, a new heating system with radiant floor heat, new energy efficient windows, and a new IB PVC flat roof (which we installed of course).

The old rubber roof was leaking and we had to remove it, including the wet roof insulation. We installed a new 50-mil white IB Flat Roof, with 4 inches of tapered insulation (4 inches at the highest point and 1 inch at the lowest level). The tapered insulation system was utilized to eliminate ponding water on the two bigger sections of the roof. At the deepest point, there was as much as 2 inches of ponding water, and a puddle with at least 12 feet diameter. This ponding water caused both roof leaks and the roof rafters settlement.

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Flat Copper Roofing – Newton MA

In July of 2010 we installed a new IB PVC flat roofing system with custom-made copper drip edge metal, on a new construction home in Newton, Massachusetts. This house is located around the corner from Newton Center.

In this job profile we will demonstrate all stages of this roof installation, and show the new Copper Drip Edge, which IB roof systems has recently introduced and made available to its certified roofing contractors.

First, let’s go over the roof specs and details. The building on which the roof was installed is an new construction garage / guest house with two car bays on the first floor and guest rooms with a balcony / deck on the second floor. Because of height limitations in Newton, MA, the top portion of the roof had to be flat, with a little slate roofing mansard around the roof perimeter, to resemble the slate roof on the main house. The home owner chose IB PVC Flat Roof, as the roofing material for their building project.

image of Flat Roof with Copper Drip Edge in Newton, MA

The roofing material we used was an 80-mil white IB PVC membrane, mechanically attached to a wooden substrate, over 3 inches of tapered ISO insulation. All seams were hot air welded using Liester welding equipment.

Around the roof perimeter, we installed IB’s new Copper Drip edge metal with PVC coated flange, which allows us to seamlessly integrate copper with an IB roof. The PVC cover tape is welded to both the roofing membrane and a drip edge metal, leaving exposed copper to give this roof a beautiful look of a classic slate roof with copper flashing.

On the second floor, we installed the same 80 mil roof with differently shaped copper metal, over a walk-out balcony deck, and additionally flashed the roof and door opening, with IB’s pre-manufactured flashing accessories. After the membrane was installed, a floating roof deck was installed on top.
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PVC Roof Repair – Trocal and Sarnafil PVC Roofs Repaired With IB Roofing Material

Update – Oct 26, 2011: Exactly 2 years after the initial Sarnafil PVC Roof repair (read details below) I went back to that roof. This time, there were 17 new holes in the roof. I repaired it once again with IB PVC flat roofing material. Check out the full review of this latest .

Update 2: a Trocal roof repair also reviewed below – a section of that roof has completely shattered over the past winter, and we had replaced it with an IB PVC Flat Roof in the spring of 2011.

Check out the video of this new PVC Roof repair:

Original PVC Roof repair article

PVC roofing is one of the longest lasting flat roof membrane systems, and most PVC roofs installed, will last in excess of 25-30 years. PVC roofing utilizes Hot-Air welding of the seams, which allows the roof to remain watertight for many years, as there is no adhesive to fail ( as is the case with EPDM rubber roofing ). Still, even PVC roofs can leak. Sometimes because of poor installation, and sometimes because of physical damage to the roofing membrane. You may have heard about the Trocal PVC roof failures, which was the only major case of PVC roof failures (below we will explain how Trocal roofs failed).

In this article we will discuss and demonstrate the PVC roof leaks and repair procedure, based on two recent repairs we have done. First, please note that even if your PVC roof leaks – you should not be too worried – PVC roofs are rather easy to repair, and you will rarely need to replace your entire roof.

Trocal PVC Roof Repair – West Hartford, CT – Winter, 2010

As promised – a quick look into why Trocal PVC roofs failed on a massive scale, forcing the company to be sold to another large roofing materials manufacturer.

Image of shattered Trocal PVC roof

Trocal PVC roofing was one of the first commercially available PVC roofs in the US, and they worked great at first. But they had one major drawback – they were unreinforced (today, most PVC membranes are reinforced with polyester scrim sitting between the top and bottom ply of the membrane). When the ambient temperatures were below freezing, a Trocal roof could crack or shatter if you simply stepped on it. Later, all PVC manufacturers switched to reinforced membrane, and some would add special chemicals to increase the elasticity of the membrane. Today, unreinforced PVC membrane is used only for flashing accessories such as inside / outside corners, pipe flashing, etc.

Repair of a Trocal PVC Roof

Image of Trocal PVC Roof Repair

This Trocal roof sustained damage from a falling tree branch in December of 2009, and cracked along the edge. Although the roof was over 20 years old, it was still fully weldable and we were able to repair it with a new IB PVC roofing membrane in Jan. 2010. We removed the damaged section of the roof, cleaned the surface with MEK solution, installed new PVC coated IB Drip Edge metal, and welded a 50-mil white IB roofing membrane. The repair was performed in a 25 degrees outside temperature, so we had to take special care not to damage the rest of the original roof.
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