rubber roofing

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

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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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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TPO Roofing – Is it Good Or Bad For the Roofing Industry And Building Owners?

Recently, the MRCA (Midwest Roofing Contractors Association) issued a warning bulletin regarding TPO roof failures caused by the sun’s UV rays. You can read more about it in our original TPO Roofing page, as well as my commentary on this bulletin.

At the same time, major roofing distributors are shamelessly pushing TPO into the market and onto the roofing contractors without much regard for home and building owners. Bear in mind that because of low prices and “same cool roof” and “welded seams” qualities as PVC roofing has, TPO is now the fastest growing commercial roofing product.

TPO Roofing Product for Residential Contractors

Here is a good example – pictures below will show you “manufacturer’s” stand showing a TPO roof designed for residential roofing contractors.

Why residential roofing contractors? Well, the way I was told, these are the roofers who can’t afford to spend $12,000 on hot-air welding equipment, so the roof manufacturer created a system that would allow these guys to jump on the TPO band-wagon.

(The TPO stand above, is displaying outside corner flashing, inside corner flashing, pipe boot, and drip-edge details. When I asked about the caulking along the seams, i was told it’s not caulking. It’s seam tape :) )

Here comes the best part! This TPO roof system is put together with … no, not hot air. Seams are primed and a seam tape is used to seal overlaps! 😀 But, it gets better – since there is no uncured flashing material in the TPO world, and these “shingle-bangers” don’t have Liesters (hot air welders) nor do they want to buy them, since the cheapest one – a hand welder – is $450 before tax. So, this manufacturer uses white EPDM uncured flashing for all detail work such as inside / outside corners, posts, curbs (skylights, chimneys, roof hatches, HVAC equipment, etc.). EPDM rubber on TPO – really?
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Green Roofing Contractors – How Are We Different From Other Roofers?

The term “green” has become very popular during the last decade and consequently overused, misused and abused. Anything and everything can be called “green” today. To make money and to attract environmentally-conscious customers, people will call themselves and their products “green”, even when it is just a blatant lie to confuse uneducated consumers. Being a roofing contractor, I will concentrate on roofing products and services. For example, many asphalt shingles manufacturers now offer “cool” and “green”  shingle products – to me it’s just a shameless tactic to sell the same NOT-GREEN crap that is painted A different color (usually some shade of white). Excuse me, but asphalts shingles are not green, period! TheY are made with asphalt, can’t be recycled and end up in landfills in 10-15 years.

Since the term green is very vague and can be interpreted in many ways, I’ll offer my vision of “green” – a green roofing contractor to be exact, which describes the way I think and try to operate our roofing business. I want to mention that when I say “green roofing contractor”, it has nothing to do with with a roofing contractor installing green roofs or roof-top gardens. To me a contractor installing roof-top vegetation is a highly-specialized landscaping company, but not a roofing contractor (unless they also install the actual flat roofing membrane to waterproof the building).

Quick navigation in this article:
What is a “green” roofing contractor and how one is different from regular roofing companies.
Learn about green benefits of Metal Roofing and IB Flat Roof


What is a “green” roofing contractor?

In my mind a green roofing contractor is a company that works hard to help protect environment and reduce its energy consumption and green-house gas production or carbon footprint. Sure, almost any company will have a carbon-footprint as it’s nearly impossible to be carbon-neutral, but there are many ways to achieve a much lower carbon footprint. Continue reading

Flat Roof in Lowell, Massachusetts

Replacing an old rubber roof with IB PVC roofing membrane in Lowell, MA.

In the beginning of Dec. 09 we installed a new IB PVC roof in Lowell, MA. This roof replaced an old EPDM rubber roof, which was installed by a hack roofing contractor about two years ago. The roof was failing miserably, due to two factors: poor roofing system design on the part of EPDM, and a horrible installation job by the contractor. I suspect that this contractor had almost zero knowledge about flat roofing and rubber installation. Before I go into the IB roof installation, I want to talk a bit about the two factors mentioned above that contributed to the roof failure.

Rubber roof failure due to EPDM flaws and limitations and faulty installation by a roofing contractor

The roof actually consisted of two sections not connected to each other. One smaller roof in the front of this historic home was about 100 sq. ft. in total, but its shape made using a rubber roof not feasible due to limitations / flaws of rubber roof system design. Another roof section was just over 300 sq. ft. and covered an enclosed porch in the rear of the house. This section had a low slope (about 2 in 12 pitch) and a hip roof design. The failure of both front and rear roof sections was the result of bad installation by the roofing contractor, EPDM membrane’s shrinkage, as well as seam adhesive failure.

When EPDM rubber roofing membrane is installed on a roof connected to a wall of a building, the membrane must be laid down with a flap going up the wall – in essence, the wall flashing and the roof covering must be done with one piece of material to eliminate leaks in the the roof to wall connection. In the case of EPDM, the field sheet of roofing membrane is only held down by glue (which happens to break down after 5-7 years). While in some cases this work out fine, very often the rubber shrinks and pulls away from the wall-to-roof connection point. This results in either the detachment of wall flashing, membrane pulling away from the corner of roof to wall connection, or in some rare cases, when the wall flashing is securely attached to the wall, the shrinking rubber roof may pull the wall with it – for example it can pull a brick parapet wall. Continue reading

Rubber Roof Repair in MA

As you may know, we specialize in the installation of IB roofs – premium grade PVC flat roofing membranes, with fusion hot-air welded seams, which ensure permanent lap bond, and as a result, leaks-free performance. At the same time, if you have a rubber roof, which is in fairly decent shape, but has developed some leaks due to lap sealant (epdm rubber glue) failure, we can repair it fairly inexpensively, as compared to installing a new IB membrane, and extend the service life of your rubber roof. Learn more about our rubber roof repair services in MA, CT and RI. We want you to know that although we repair rubber roofs, we will not install one, because for us it is an inferior roofing material with too many limitations and extremely high probability of developing leaks.

Here we will explain you how these repairs work and what you can expect, as well as show a few roof repairs in Massachusetts, which we have done recently. We also recommend that your read our Rubber Roofing guide, which explains the shortcomings of rubber roofs, and why we advise home owners to stay away from EPDM rubber roofing systems due to product limitations and an overwhelming number of dishonest roofing contractors eager to install rubber roofs, without proper knowledge of this system. Instead, we recommend installing IB Flat Roof – a PVC single ply flat roofing system with hot-air welded seams, which will not break down, as rubber roof seams tend to do after 5-7 years.

We also want to let the flat rubber roof owners know that any rubber roof repair or installation must be performed in temperatures above 40 degrees F, as the primer / adhesives will otherwise freeze or be too cold to properly dry/tack, and provide proper adhesion. Unless your roof repair is more of an emergency, we recommend postponing it until warmer temperature sets in. If your roof repair is an emergency, special measures can be taken to keep the adhesive warm, and on a sunny day black rubber will be warmer than outside temperature, so repair can be done even on a colder day. We strongly advise you against installing a new rubber roof in general, and in the winter especially. Read more info on pros and cons of winter roofing. Keep in mind that IB flat roofs can be installed in any temperature, because they are not glued, but hot air welded. Continue reading