Author: Leo - CoolFlatRoof

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Cool Roofing Blog – Our official blog were we post our roof installation reports, new roofing and green building products and technology reviews, metal roofing system comparisons, IB Roof installation tutorial, Roofing Do-it-yourself guides, and our customers’ comments about our work. Experience what a cool roof installation is like, and how we would install your roof.

Roof Learning Center provides helpful roofing guides for Do It Yourself enthusiasts. Features educational roofing articles that address common roofing problems including Ice Dam build up, failing shingles, valley roof leaks, and roof repair articles. Find out things you should know when choosing a roofing contractor.

Flat Roofing Guide:

IB Flat Roofs – IB PVC single-ply membrane roofing – Products, Installation methods, system component and benefits of installing IB Cool roof.

Flat roofing prices – Detailed guide into the price-structure of flat roof installation. Discover why there is such a discrepancy in pricing from different roofing contractors bidding on the same roofing job. Learn the consequences of hiring the lowest-bidding roofing company that does not carry any insurance, and does not stand behind their work.

Flat Roofing technology guide – Overview of different flat roofing products and systems present on the market today, and installed on flat roofs throughout New England and US.

Roofing cost calculator – Calculate the cost to install a new IB roofing system and get instant quotes for other flat roof types such as Epdm rubber, Tar and Gravel and built-up roofs. You will also be able to estimate approximate annual energy savings that you will receive if you install a cool white IB single ply roof.

Roof Repair Guide – When a flat roof leaks, it is advisable to know all your options and what to expect from temporary flat roof fixes. This flat roofing repair guide outlines the possible scenarios and costs involved in patching up a flat roof as compared to a complete replacement.

Rubber roof repair – DIY guide to fixing rubber (EPDM) roof systems.

Tar&Gravel roof repair – DIY guide to fixing Tar & Gravel / Built-Up roof systems.

Single-Ply Roofs – Brief overview of different single ply roofing membrane technologies such as PVC (Poly-Vinyl Chloride) or CPA (Co-polymer alloy) – chemically IB’s CPA is equivalent to PVC, Epdm rubber and TPO (thermoplastic olefin roof)

PVC vs. TPO roofing – Detailed comparison of major differences between seemingly identical PVC and TPO membranes. Here we discuss the major issue of TPO’s curing after just a few years in service and its consequential inability to be welded, once the membrane is cured.

Green Flat Roofing – Green roof benefits for urban heat-island effect, design and costs guide.

Flat Roofing Insulation – Recycled Insulation, ISO, Styrofoam and EPS insulation technologies.

Flat Roofing Deck – Overview of roof deck waterproofing products, leak elimination and installation methods. Choose between IB DeckShield and conventional installation using 80-mil IB membrane and wooden deck + railings system

EPDM Rubber Roofing – Overview of flat rubber roofs, contractors installing rubber for residential customers and why homeowners should avoid using rubber as a flat roofing option on their homes.

Our Services, Job Profiles & Contact information:

Connecticut Flat Roofs – Overview of installation, repair and consulting services that we provide in the state of Connecticut to homeowners and businesses. We specialize in Commercial and Residential roof replacement using IB cool roofing technology. Check out the job profiles for the roofs that we have installed in CT, including a picture gallery and a short video clip.

Massachusetts Flat Roofs – Installation, repair and consulting services for flat roofing projects in MA. We specialize in Commercial and Residential projects. Also you can view some of the flat and Metal Roofing projects that we’ve completed recently. A picture gallery of each roof installation from start to finish.

Flat Roof Installation & Consulting Services

Roofing Estimate Request

Residential Flat Roofing

Commercial Flat Roofing

Contact Us / Information

Job Profiles:

Some of the Flat Roofs we installed:

Asphalt Shingle textured flat roof – This beautiful IB Traditions roof looks like asphalt shingles, yet it will never leak and will provide energy savings for this gorgeous house in Arlington, MA

Residential Flat & Metal roof (New) This house in Old Lyme, CT had a badly-leaking tar and gravel roof, which caused rotten plywood and some framing. Now it has a Lifetime 80-mil White IB roof and Tamko metal slate.

Flat roof house 80-mil grey IB roof was installed on this residence in Wallingford, CT.

Industrial Flat Roof – TesTex Corporation manufacturing facility in Central Falls, RI

Restaurant Flat Roof – Deli / Meat market located in the tourist attraction of Hampton Beach, NH

Condominium Flat Roof – Residential condos on the East Side of Providence, RI

Apartment Building with Restaurant / Deli Beautiful brick building in the center of North Attleboro, MA had flat roof leaks for years and patching did not help. An IB roof solved all the problems!

Flat Metal Roof – Metal roof acrylic coating – Power Generation Plant in Bellingham, MA

Restaurant Metal Roof – Permanent Aluminum Roof on an IHOP restaurant in Hyannis, MA

Stone-Coated Metal Roof – Beautiful Spanish Tile metal roof on Venus De Milo Restaurant / Reception / Wedding Capitol of Rhode Island located in Swansea, MA

Solar Flat Roofing, Solar PV Guide and Rebates:

Solar flat roofs – IB SolarWise – Building-Integrated Solar PV for flat roofing

Solar PV guide – Prices, ROI, system design & installation guide includes cost break-down for residential and commercial solar systems in MA, CT and RI

Solar Rebates / Incentives – Summary of Federal Tax Credits and State rebate programs for Solar PV and other renewable energy installation in MA, CT, RI

Massachusetts Solar Rebates – Overview of all available Rebates & Incentives for Residential, Commercial and Public buildings solar PV systems

Green Construction Directory and eco-friendly resources:

Green Building Directory – Lists Eco-friendly resources, green construction web-sites, green and solar blogs and construction companies that build green buildings and use energy-saving technologies.

IB Roof Contractors in US and Canada

Green-Living Directory – Sustainability, Eco-Friendly and Renewable links.

DIY Green Home Improvement – List of websites for do-it-yourselfers with the emphasis on green technologies and energy efficiency.

Home Improvement Sites – General home improvement sites with a good number of eco-friendly categories.

Metal Roofing Directory – A list of manufacturers and contractors specializing in Cool, Recyclable and Permanent Steel, Aluminum and Copper metal roofs.

Suppliers of Metal products – Metal Buildings, Specialty metals suppliers and manufacturers

Energy Efficient Siding and Windows – Manufacturers, Distributes and Contractors installing energy-saving Wood, Aluminum and Vinyl Windows and Siding.

Green home & garden

Roofing Contractor / Manufacturers

Uncategorized / Coming Soon pages:

IB Flat Roof Warranty

Solar PV Price Calculator – An interactive tool to estimate the cost of installing Solar PV for your home or business.

IB SolarWise Pay-off / ROI guide

Flat Roof Decks and Patios

How Much Flat Roof Costs - Calculate Prices
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Leaking Roof Decks – Why they leak and how to fix problems:

Many homes in New England have walk-on, flat roof decks with living space under them, and 90 percent of these deck roofs leak, ruining your rooms.

Stains on sheet-rock ceilings, popping hardwood flooring, wet carpets and rotted framing are just some of the damages that you may sustain as a result of these leaks.

Destruction of personal property such as beds, book shelves, computers, TVs and other electronic equipment can also occur in cases of severe leaks.

Most roof decks leak because they are typically made of flat roofing materials, that were created over a century ago, and were not designed for use as roofing for residential homes and living areas.

Another reason is the original design flaw implemented by architects and/or builders, who have no experience in flat roofing, and do not have appropriate roofing technology to use.

Avoid conventional flat roof materials – they will leak!

A properly waterproofed deck should never need repairs or replacements. Even with a floating wood deck on top, you should never have to do maintenance or deal with leaks.

This CANNOT be accomplished with rubber roofing (EPDM), becuase rubber is a GLUED system. Glue breaks down with time, and even faster, when you add water to it.

However, using IB / PVC Cool Flat roofing membrane, you can waterproof your deck and forget about!

Here is what a well done roof deck looks like:

Flat Roof Deck in Wellesley, MA

Flat Roof Deck in Wellesley, MA

What causes flat roof decks to leak

Ponding Water Leaks

Very often you can find ponding water accumulating on these deck roofs. The majority of flat roofing systems existing today cannot sustain constant ponding water, and as a result water enters your house, and destroys your possessions and property.

Average Flat Roof Costs in US Average Flat Roof Costs in US
Rubber Roof
PVC Roof
TPO Roof

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Wood Deck and Railing Leaks

Often there is a wood deck installed on top of a flat roof or some sort of a railing system. To make these railings securely attached to the roof, builders often create penetrations for every railing post on the roof. The only way to “seal” these penetrations for most builders, is to use roof cement or pitch-pockets – both of these methods are considered unacceptable by the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). Yet, most builders don’t have the appropriate products, expertise, and many times, don’t care enough to make these penetrations water-tight.

This results in more leaks – usually these leaks don’t appear inside your home for years, but the hidden damages can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Water slowly enters your home and rots the beams and studs. While unnoticed for a long period of time, such leaks may sometimes result in partial or complete re-framing of your roof and/or support walls.

Creating a leak-free Roof Deck with IB roofing systems

Damages caused by leaks are very expensive to fix. Yet, you can easily solve this problem in a fairly cheap way (when compared to costs of replacing and repairs you have to incur if you let the leaks continue) with IB’s life-time roofing product. With an IB Roof, you will never have to worry about leaks again and you could finally regain full use of your roof deck or patio.

We offer two different solutions for you to permanently solve your deck leaks. Both ways utilize IB’s time-proven CPA membranes, featuring hot-air welded seams. The main difference between the two methods is the product you choose to use, and the aesthetics you desire.

Assembly Type 1:IB DeckShield

A fully integrated waterproofing membrane system designed for use on walk-out roof decks. DeckShield is highly slip-resistant, and not only complies with, but also exceeds ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. DeckShield can be used for a small balcony, as well as a large roof deck, and for everything in between. Hot-air welded seams make IB DeckShield a long-lasting waterproofing solution that is both eye-pleasing and safe to walk on when it is wet. Expect many compliments from your family and friends when they get to see your new roof patio with IB DeckShield.

Since IB DeckShield is made from the same material as other IB membranes, it is easy to accommodate for any roof penetrations, such as a Railing System and Roof-Wall detail. This will ensure that your roof will be water-tight and you can take full advantage of your deck or patio once again, invite your friends and family for a cookout, enjoy a cocktail, or watch the stars.

IB DeckShield Roof / Deck Assembly and Installation

DeckShield is easiest to install on new construction homes. However, it can be easily adopted for retrofit use on existing homes. IB Deck Shield is installed as a fully-adhered application on top of Dens Deck – a fiber-cement type board that is 1/4 of an inch thick, or over plywood.

The surface for installing IB DeckShield must be clean, smooth and flat. That is why in some retrofit applications use of DeckShield may be difficult or impossible. When you have an uneven surface, it is best to use the regular IB Roofing Membrane with a wooden deck over it. If you still want to use Deck Shield for a retrofit roof deck project, expect the additional costs of making your roof surface even.

Learn more about how IB Deck Shield membrane is installed, installation prices and more general information on roof deck waterproofing, using IB DeckShield membrane.

Download DeckShield brochure

IB DeckShield – a beautiful and durable decking waterproofing membrane.

Benefits of Using IB Deckshield Assembly

  • Enhances the appearance of decks
  • Eliminates annual painting and staining of wood decks
  • Durable, slip resistant waterproofing system
  • Resists mildew, chemicals, and UV rays
  • Eliminates hazardous wood splinters and unsightly concrete cracking
  • Complies with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements

Average Flat Roof Costs in US Average Flat Roof Costs in US
Rubber Roof
PVC Roof
TPO Roof

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DeckShield Colors and Texture

Assembly Type 2:IB PVC membrane with a wood deck installed over it

A more traditional way of roof deck construction, features an IB Lifetime single-ply membrane with fusion-welded seams. This method will ensure permanent water-tightness of your roof deck, combined with a deck and railings system built with your choice of wood and pattern. Download IB Roof brochure

Benefits of Using IB 80-mil Membrane with PT / Composition Deck on Top:

  • Wooden deck on top of IB 80 mil roofing membrane protects the roof from accidental mechanical damages
  • Allows you to have a more traditional wooden deck / patio
  • Composition deck assembly eliminates the need to stain / paint the wood
  • Allows extended use of outdoor grills, without worrying that you’ll burn through the roof
  • Allows for creation of beautiful deck designs and the use of steel outdoor furniture

IB 80-mil PVC roofing membrane with composition board deck assembly create this beautiful patio

A happy client enjoys her private roof-deck in Arlington, MA. Roof assembly consists of 80-mil IB Roof for waterproofing, and a diamond-shaped, low profile deck.

Roof learning Center for Do-It-Yourself Repairs, Pricing and Roofing Materials

For homeowners, it is of the utmost importance to be educated about the roofing choices they are going to make. Since roofing is one of the most expensive home improvement projects, and a roof protects arguably one of the biggest investments in your life, it is necessary to understand all your options and to know how to select the right contractor. This collection of How-To Guides and roofing technology overview is designed for homeowners, as well as building and property managers.

Flat Roofing


Benefits of Cool Flat Roofing – learn how an Eco-friendly Cool Roof will help you dramatically reduce your energy resources consumption and costs, benefit the environment, eliminate your roof repair expenses, and reduce construction waste going to our landfills.

Flat Roofing – Top 5 Biggest Myths

Green Roof – Roof-top garden design, benefits and cost overview

Flat Roof Resources

Single Ply Roofing

PVC vs.TPO roofs

Flat Roofing Materials

How to repair a rubber roof using peel and stick rubber flashing materials and EPDM primer – no more black glue and much better results!

Fixing rubber roofs – DIY guide to fixing rubber (EPDM) roof

Fixing Tar & Gravel roofs – DIY guide to fixing Tar & Gravel /
Built-Up roof systems.

Fixing Flat Roof – General overview of flat roof repair: What
to expect, repair costs, how long a roof patch will last.

Flat roof ventilation for low-slope residential and commercial roofs where a ridge and soffit vet system is present, but creates leaks from wind-drive water entering the attic trough the ridge vent. Learn about a special ridge vent assembly for low-slope roofs, which we have designed and use on all our residential roofs.

Roofing Cost Calculator – estimate roofing prices using online roofing estimate calculator. Research roofing materials and learn about roof costs for standing seam metal roofs, asphalt shingle roofs, and flat roofing materials.

Metal Roofing Articles and How-to Guides

Metal Roofing Installation – Comprehensive Do-It-Yourself HOW-TO Guide to install a Standing Seam Metal Roof. Learn how to install a Vertical Panel metal roofing system with concealed fasteners (Architectural Standing Seam Roof) using this easy-to-follow step by step guide, brought to you by Metal Roofing Professionals over at Guide includes a list of tools required, safety precautions / measures and tips & tricks used by the Pros.

Solar Metal Roofing – Overview of the benefits of using roof-integrated solar PV with Metal Roofing panels vs. asphalts shingle roofs and stand-alone Solar Boxes that require re-roofing every 12-15 years.

Roofing Installation Video – Collection of short video clips of Cool Flat Roofs installation and Metal Roof Installations. See how IB hot air welding is performed.

Solar PV Rebates & Incentives: Federal and State – MA, CT, RI

Renewable Energy is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners, small businesses and large corporations alike, especially with sky-rocketing energy costs. Solar PV (photo-voltaic) is by far the most popular renewable-energy technology, but despite such popularity, Solar is not economically feasible for most people without government support.

Solar PV technology has a huge potential to provide if not all, but a bigger chunk of US electricity, which at this moment comes mostly from fossil-fuels, such as Coal and Natural Gas, as well as some Nuclear and Hydro power. Still, fossil-fuels provide most of our ever-rising electricity demand. While gas and coal are relatively cheap compared to other energy sources, they are polluting our atmosphere with ‘green-house’ gases. Also, due to rising energy demand, the cost of gas, coal and oil keeps rising, with no end in sight in the near future.

Solar, on the other hand produces clean, ‘free’ energy in the form of electricity, heat, and light. Although benefits of solar are enormous, so is the initial capital investment, which without additional incentives becomes not so attractive to the end user. Fortunately, the US government, as well as many other governments throughout the world see great potential and need in renewable energy, and offer end-users financial rebates and incentives to promote the spread of renewable energy. This in turn, reduces the cost of such technologies.

Here we will review rebates and incentives offered by Federal, State and local governments, as well as utility companies and other organizations in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island (Note: Due to the recent budget deficit and slow economic conditions in RI, most of the State-sponsored renewable-energy incentives are temporarily suspended – we will keep a close eye on the situation and post updates as they become available).

Federal Tax Rebates for Solar PV: Commercial and Residential

Commercial Rebates

The Federal Government offers a Tax rebate for solar and other renewable-energy installed on your building. You can claim 30% Business Energy Tax Credit in the year of installation, and a 5-year accelerated depreciation thereafter. No maximum cap for Solar PV, while other technologies may have a limit.

Residential Rebates

For residential Solar PV systems, the Federal Tax Credit is 30% percent with $2000 cap.

Note: Current Federal Tax Credits for renewable-energy are set to expire on December 31, 2008. Unless they are renewed before expiration, Tax credits will be reduced to 10%.

Currently, Big-Oil companies receive over $1.5 billion/year in Federal Tax Credits from the US government for oil exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. These same companies had over $130 billion profit (net income after all expenses and taxes paid) in 2007. This money can be used to the advantage of the people of the United States in the form of a Renewable Energy Bill, which President Bush promised to veto, if it passes in the senate. We urge you to call your Senator, State Representative, Governor, and other officials as well as Presidential Candidates, and tell them that we, the people, demand support for renewable-energy.

State Tax Rebates, Incentives and Grants for Solar PV

Each State has a different Solar Rebates and Incentives Program, and to eliminate any confusion, we list them under each state’s respective page. These programs are designed for residents and businesses located in each state to take advantage of all the great benefits of Renewable Energy, and to help out the environment.

Massachusetts State Tax Rebates, Incentives and Grants for Solar PV

In 2008, Governor Patrick’s administration passed a new Solar Electric Photo-voltaic Initiative for the Commonwealth, which includes Solar rebates for residential and commercial Solar PV installations, as well as rebates for other renewable-energy technologies. This new program will allocate $68 million over the next four years (2008 – 2011). Here is a brief summary of rebates for Residential and Non-Residential (Small and Large Commercial, Non-Profit and Government) solar PV systems.

List of Massachusetts residential solar rebates:

Type of Rebate $/Watt DC
Base Incentive $2.00/Watt
PLUS: Additional to Base Incentive
Mass. made system components $0.25/Watt
Moderate Home Value $1.25/Watt
Moderate Household Income
Option A: Less than or equal to $91,552 $1.00/Watt
Option B: Less than or equal to $76,296 $2.00/Watt
Maximum possible rebate


Moderate Home Value varies by county and ranges from $300,000 to $400,000. If your home value is equal to, or less-than your county’s Moderate Home Value (determined by municipality), you are eligible for this rebate.

County Moderate Home Value
Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire $300,000
Bristol, Suffolk, and Worcester $350,000
Barnstable, Duke, Essex, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, and Plymouth $400,000

Massachusetts made system components: If any MAJOR component of your solar system was produced in MA, you are eligible for this rebate.

Official wording to qualify for this rebate adder:

To qualify for this adder, the Applicant must provide evidence that either the PV modules or the inverter(s), or another significant component are manufactured by a company with a significant Massachusetts presence as determined at the sole discretion of MTC and DOER. Current companies and products on this list are:

Evergreen Solar: modules

RWE Schott: modules

Satcon: inverters

Solectria Renewables: inverters

How to Calculate your Massachusetts Residential Solar Rebates:

For our example, we will use an imaginary Family – the Simpsons – living in the Bristol County of Massachusetts. Their home value is $279,000 as determined by their City’s Tax Collector Office. The Total Household Income is $90,000/year (which is above Mass. median household income of $76,296). The system consists of SolarWise PV and an Inverter manufactured in Mass.

They plan to install a 3 kW Solar PV system that costs $8 per watt. Total Cost of this system is $24,000 (3000 watts * $8)

They qualify for:

  • $2.00/watt – Base Rebate
  • $0.25/watt – Mass. made components adder
  • $1.25/watt – Moderate Home Value adder
  • $1.00/watt – Moderate Household Income adder
  • $4.50/watt Total Rebate ($13,500)

Their cost/watt is $3.50, and the total system cost is $10,500. They also qualify for a $2000 Federal Tax Credit, which reduces final cost to $8,500.

Now, their new system will generate an average of 4000 kWh per year. At an average cost of $0.19/kWh and assuming they will sell their REC (Renewable Energy Credits) for $0.06/kWh, this solar system will save the Simpsons $1000/year (~$83/month) in electricity costs, which they would have to spend anyway. At first, it seems like the pay-off period (or the ROI) is about 9 years. But if they finance that $8,500 with a 5-year Home Equity loan, with a 5% APR, their monthly payment would be $160.41. If we subtract the $83 reduction in electric bill from $160.41 we get $77.41 monthly loan payment for five years. After that, the new solar system will be paid off and will generate FREE electricity. Any reduction in the total system output (which is common with ALL solar modules, and for IB SolarWise PV it is about 1/2% per year or 10% over 20 year warranty period) is more than offset by the inflationary increases in electricity and energy sources’ costs.

Massachusetts Commercial and other Non-Residential Solar Rebates:

While total non-residential solar PV rebates in Massachusetts are less than those for residential solar, they still cover a major part of the total cost, and considering much more attractive federal tax credits, the ROI with any commercial solar PV system is higher than that of a residential one. Here we will not get onto complicated tax-related calculations, but bear in mind the 30% federal tax credit with no limitation, and the 5-year accelerated depreciation. With that you get the reduced electric bill and of course the state rebates. Bellow, is an overview of what you can qualify for.

Note: At this point, Federal tax credits for Solar PV on other renewable-energy technologies is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2008. We assume that once the presidential election is over, the Renewable-Energy Bill will be updated and renewed for another 8 years as was proposed in the 2008 Energy Bill, but never made it through the Senate. President Bush also said that he’d veto this bill if it passed the Senate vote. (PS, the bill passed in the House of Representatives, and was 1 vote short of passing in the Senate)

Non-Residential Rebates for Incremental Capacity ($/Watt DC)

Incremental Capacity: 1 – 25 kW > 25 to 100 kW > 100 to 200 kW > 200 to 500 kW
Base Incentive $3.25/W $2.50/W $2.00/W $1.50/W
PLUS: Additional to Base
Mass. made components $0.25/W $0.25/W $0.25/W $0.25/W
Public building adder $0.50/W $0.50/W $0.25/W $0.25/W

For more information, directions, and step-by-step guides, visit the Commonwealth Solar Program which cover all aspects related to this topic in great detail, and we based this article on the information from there.

You can also read the Mass. Solar Program Handbook which is a detailed summary of Mass. solar rebates for residential and non-residential installs.

Connecticut Solar PV Rebates Overview

– Section Coming Soon

Rhode Island Solar PV Rebates Overview

Apparently, due to an excessive budget deficit in RI, there are no renewable-energy rebates available at this time. This is very unfortunate, and we try to do anything we can (which is not a lot, as this matter is in the hands of RI policy makers) to bring those rebates back. To find out what is being done, and how you can contribute to these and other renewable-energy initiatives, visit Apeiron Institute – a group of volunteers and activists of Sustainable way of life in RI and surrounding areas.

If you live or do business in RI, you are paying a Renewable-Energy charge on your electric bill. Fight for your right to access a State-sponsored Solar PV rebates program, to which you and EVERY customer of electric companies in RI contributes every month. Yet, your money goes somewhere else, while the National ‘Greed’ keeps on hiking your electricity rates. Contact the RI Governor and the members of state senate and tell them you want the Renewable-Energy Program back!


With these incentives in place and their availability through 2011, it actually makes sense for any business to have a solar PV system installed on their roof, and even more so for public entities, such as schools, city/town halls, etc. For an average commercial installation, a state rebate will range from $2.75 to $3.50 per Watt DC, and considering that the initial cost for larger, commercial solar PV installations is less than that of a residential system, it is a bargain!

With IB SolarWise PV system, the cost/Watt scales down as you increase the system size. This happens because all you do is add more solar panels, and some labor to actually weld those panels to the main IB roof, while most of the labor is on the electrical side of the installation: Connecting all panels to the Inverter, installing power shut-offs, generation meter, and connecting the system to the building’s electrical system and the main eclectic meter. Also, bear in mind that the Inverter is already there, so when you add more panels to the system, you do not need to add inverters, which reduces total cost/Watt even more (of course you need an adequate size inverter).

Solar PV Guide: Prices, Design, Installation and Pay-off Period (ROI)

Solar Photo-voltaic (PV) technology is the way of the future, for generating and supplying electric power for homes and businesses in the US and across the world. Despite the great potential of Solar PV, current cost and efficiency of solar panels makes them a green, yet expensive alternative to conventional ways of generating electricity, such as Coal, Gas and Oil operated power plants, as well as Nuclear and Hydro electricity.

The main obstacle that is holding back the wide-spread of solar PV is the long ROI (return on investment), which in some situations may exceed 10 years. Fortunately, the US federal government and local and state governments have a multitude of incentives and rebate programs for solar and other renewable energy projects.

The Purpose of this Solar PV System Design Guide is to help you squeeze the most efficiency out of your home solar system, making it collect as much sunlight, as is available throughout the year.

Solar Guide Quick Navigation:

A rack-mounted Solar Photovoltaic system installed on a flat roof

rack-mounted solar panels on flat roof

Planning a Solar PV System for a Home or a Small Business

First and foremost – you need to figure out if your site can accommodate a solar pv array, so that it operates at or near its rated efficiency. If your site conditions (roof of your home or business, backyard, etc) will limit the electricity production even by 20-25% – everything else is irrelevant, and solar is probably not for you.

Step 1 – Determining if Your Site Can Accommodate a Solar Photovoltaic System

Southern Exposure: Solar PV systems operate by converting sunlight into electricity, so the first thing they require is enough light throughout the day and year, with as little obstruction or shading as possible. If you plan to use a solar system that will be fixed (usually a roof mounted solar array), you will need to position it so that it faces South. In this case, your solar PV system will collect as much sunlight as possible, as the sun will move from East to West.

Shading: Throughout the year, the sun is positioned very differently, depending on the season – in the summer the sun is up high and in the winter it is very low. You need to consider this, as this issue has the potential to make your system very inefficient. Solar Pathfinder is used by solar professionals to determine the position of the sun during the year and to find any shading that will obstruct the sunlight to the Solar PV Panels. By using a pathfinder, you could determine whether it makes sense to have a solar system installed at your location, and if you would need to remove some of the shading – eg. cut down some trees or move your neighbor’s house 20 feet to the left :).

It is unlikely that a homeowner will have a Solar Pathfinder handy, but using just common sense, you can get a good idea if you have too much shading, or if your location is perfect for the installation of a Solar PV system.

Angle or slope for solar panels: Depending on where you live or plan to install your solar system, an angle or incline of the panels may have a significant effect on electricity production. Here in New England the sun is at about 20 degrees to the earth surface and at about 45-50 degrees during the summer. If you plan to have a fixed solar system installed in MA or at a similar longitude, an ideal angle for your panels would be 30-32 degrees. Down south, the sun is higher in the sky, so it is better to lower the angle of the solar panels. At the equator, solar panels can lay flat on the ground and will get the maximum electricity production. At the north or the south pole, they should stand up vertically.

Size of your roof: If you plan to have a ground-mounted solar system, this will be irrelevant, as there is usually enough room to have a decent size system installed. If, like most other people, you plan to have solar panels installed on your roof, depending on the number of Kilowatts you plan your future solar system to produce, you may need a considerable roof area. If you have a large roof and you are thinking about a metal roof, a Roof-Integrated Solar PV System, a standing seam metal roof with Uni-solar panels is a very good choice. It provides a long lasting roof and slick-looking yet efficient amorphous-silicon thin-film solar panels. These babies require more space to produce the same amount of electric power, but are a better choice from the perspective of roof / solar system longevity and integration.

Lets assume that now you have performed a site inspection and determined that it would make sense to have a solar system installed. Maybe you will have to trim some trees, but over all, you have a decent size south facing roof with a good 35 degrees angle, and none or very little shading going from east to west.

Example of a solar PV system integrated into a flat roofing system:

Step 2 – Figuring Out the Size (in Watts) of Your Solar PV System:

This will surprise many people, but solar PV systems are priced in Watts or Kw – NOT in Sq. Ft.

Every second person calling us about a Solar Roof, asks me: “How much is solar per square foot?”. The truth is – I cannot answer this question and frankly, no one can. The question itself is wrong, but here is the right answer: The cost of solar will be determined by the system size measured in KW. Here, I will explain how many kilowatts of solar you may need or want, and below you can find out how much it will cost.

How many Kilowatts do I need? – This is actually simple, but pay attention to the theory behind it all.

Electricity production of your solar system depends on how many “sun-hour-days” you have in your area. In Massachusetts and surrounding states (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Southern NY) we have an average of 4.2 – 4.5 hours of sunlight (sun hours) per day annually. This accounts for rainy and cloudy days, as well as long, sunny summer days and short winter days.

Most households in the US consume on average 750 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per month. Assuming a 4.5 sun-hour-day in your area, 1 Kilowatt solar pv system should produce 4.5 kilowatt-hours of DC electricity per day. Per month, it will produce 135 kWh DC. Now, this DC electric current has to be converted to AC, so that your home appliances could use it. An inverter takes care of this part, as well as making your solar panels work at optimal production. However, as any electrical device it has resistance, so there will be power losses. An average modern inverter loses 3% of electricity due to resistance, while total power loss can be as much as 7-10% or more, depending on how well or poorly your system was designed.

Basically, to become completely independent from your Utility company you will need to produce about 750 kWh of AC electricity. With 4.5 sun-hour-days you will need 6 kW solar PV array (5.83 kW to be exact, but bear in mind that this is all relative), which is optimally designed and is placed in an optimal location – no shading, perfect angle, etc. This is the best case scenario.

So what size solar system will YOU need?

When considering installing a Solar PV system, you as home or business owner will need to know the future size of your solar system in kW ( 1 kilo watt is 1000 watts) and the cost associated with this solar system. You also need to establish your current annual electricity usage and decide if you want to reduce or completely eliminate the use of electricity that you purchase from your utility company.

First, gather your electric bills for the last 12 months, record your total electricity consumption – the number of kW-hours, and the total amount you had to pay, excluding any late fees and other miscellaneous fees. Divide your total cost by the total number of kWh – this will give you the real cost per kWh.

In Massachusetts, the average cost of electricity for residential use is 19-24 cents per kWh, and 15-17 cents per kWh for commercial use.

Designing a Solar PV system, tailored for your need

Assuming the 4.5 hours of sun per day, a 1 kW Solar PV system will produce 4.5 kWh per day, and 135 kWh in a 30-day month (4.5 x 30 days). Please keep in mind that the energy produced is in DC volts, and when it goes through the conversion into AC, you lose about 20-25% of that electricity.

Average household electric consumption is 750 kWh per month for a single family home. To cover 100% of this consumption with solar electricity, you will need about 8 kW solar PV system. 135 kWh DC x 8 = 1080 kWh – 10% = 972 kWh AC at 100% production output of solar panel. Note that ALL solar panels loose an average of 0.5% of production output per year, or 10 % through its 20-year warranty period.

Average residential solar installation is 2-4 kW system which usually eliminates 50-70% of electric power that you purchase. However, those installations are still dependent on additional electricity.

Commercial solar installations can range from 10 kW to over 1 MW (1 megawatt = 1000 kW). Commercial Solar PV systems can supply power to the building they are installed on, or they may be a so called solar farm – or a solar power plant supplying electric power directly into the electric grid. For the purposes of this guide, we will concentrate on smaller, roof-top solar installations for individual home or business use, as the topic of solar farms goes way beyond the scope of this guide, and is considered a power utility for taxes and other purposes.

Step 3 – How to Choose Equipment for Your Solar System:

This is the most difficult part, as there is no right answer to this question. However, there is a general guideline to follow, which will help you choose the longest-lasting and best performing solar panels, inverter(s), control units, production monitors, etc.

We will pretend that we are designing a 3 KW solar system for residential installation, in Massachusetts. Some of the variables will be different for your state, but this will be a good reference point for you.

Basic metrics for choosing solar equipment (or any electronic equipment for that matter) is such that you don’t want to be an early adapter. You want to buy a 2nd or even 3rd generation stuff (inverter for example), which is a very safe bet that all the bugs of first / second generations were worked out and the equipment performs at maximum efficiency. You also want to get UL rated equipment, or your electrical inspector will never sign off on the permits. A good example of such an inverter is the Sunny Boy 2500, which is a 3rd generation, tried and true work horse which also offers one of the best expandability and efficiency. This is not to say that other inverters are bad – you should use the 2nd/3rd generation metric and do your due diligence.

You also need to keep in mind that the average lifespan of an inverter is 7-10 years, while it’s cost is up there (on average you can expect to pay just under $1 per watt of the inverter’s capacity). If you plan for a big solar system, it is better to have many smaller inverters, than one big inverter. If a small inverter dies, others are still performing, and your system is only partially down, and it is a LOT cheaper to replace one $3000 unit, out of 5, than one $15,000 unit.

For our hypothetical solar system, we will choose one of the more simple inverters from Sunny Boy, rated at 3000 or 3500 watts. There is never an exact number of watts produced, and in the first year, your Solar system WILL produce about 10% more than its rated capacity. You want to utilize that and also don’t want to “overload” your inverter: this is a little confusing – an inverter will only accept as much electricity as it’s rated capacity – not more, so anything extra will just disappear.

A slightly larger inverter will allow for some future expansion of your solar system.

Cost of Solar PV Systems:

The national average cost to install a Solar PV system ranges from $9 to $12 per watt or $9000-12000 per kW DC (direct current) of solar system installed, with smaller installations being at the top of this price range, due to fixed costs such as equipment, setup, installation, permits and paperwork.

The most expensive components of the solar PV system are the solar panels themselves, however equipment such as an inverter (which converts DC into AC and feeds it into your meter) also add a considerable amount to a smaller size PV systems. Therefore, for a 3 kW residential solar system, the cost will be around $11 per watt or $33000 total system cost when using conventional solar panels.

Fortunately the $33000 price tag is not your actual cost, as many states have a wide range of rebates for solar PV installations as well as federal tax credits, available for both commercial and residential systems.

ROI and pay-off period for Solar PV

For the purposes of this guide, we will use two hypothetical solar PV systems – one being a 4 kW residential system and the other being a 25 kW commercial system. To simplify this guide and to avoid any confusion, both of those systems are installed in Massachusetts. This way we know exactly what the MA state rebates are for each system and what the local electricity costs are from N-Star and National Grid utility companies. These two utility companies have the widest presence in MA market.

Tar-n-Gravel, Built-up & Modified Bitumen Roof Repair for DIY Homeowners

Usually, when a tar and gravel roof begins to leak, it is not considered ‘repairable’. Thus, this guide is intended to help homeowners and facility managers to temporarily patch the roof and stop leaks, until complete roof replacement can be done.

Complete roof replacement is highly recommended to avoid / prevent the ‘sunk cost’ – costs that have been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree (or simply – waste your money).

An analogy can be drawn with an old car, where you keep on fixing a small thing, one after another, until something major breaks, and all the money put into fixing it, is lost.

These can be purchased at your local roofer’s supply warehouse, lumber yard, Home Depot or Lowe’s. Roofer’s warehouse is a preferred place to buy your supplies, as they will have the best selection and knowledge of products you will need.

Try Bradco Supply, ABC roofing supply, Beacon supply or Harvey Industries (in New England only). These are all either regional or national roofing supply warehouses, and they usually stock everything you may need, and also have a somewhat knowledgeable staff to answer your questions.

These are the places where most roofing contractors shop, so you should be able to find what you need!

Tools you will need:

  1. Utility knife with a few spare blades
  2. A bucket (or two) of tar
  3. Asphalt saturated fabric (cotton or fiberglass, it doesn’t matter too much)
  4. Plastic trowel for spreading the tar
  5. Few dry towels / rags.

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Tar & Gravel flat roof in Lynn, MA

tar and gravel flat roof

Finding the Leak

This is the essential step in patching of the roof. The nature of flat roof leaks makes it difficult to identify the spot where the water is coming in, since it may ‘travel’ under the roofing membrane, until it finds the lowest spot, and only then you see the stains on your ceilings.

Flat roof chimney flashing used tar and reinforced fabric. After 7 years, tar dried up and began to crack, letting water penetrate the roof.

The easiest way to find a leak is to start at the lowest spot, where the water may be collecting and sitting for days after each rain – this is called ponding water, and it is one of the most common leak spots. You will need to shovel off the loose gravel to the high spot and clear at least about 100 sq. ft of roof area. If you have ponding water under the gravel, you can use old clothes / rags and a dustpan to put it in a bucket and get it off the roof.

Now It’s Time to Do Some Repairs – a 10 Step Process

First, watch this video on step-by-step tar & gravel roof repair, and it will be easier to understand and follow the steps and procedures described below.

1 ) Once the area is clear of water and dry, look for blisters, cracks and openings in the tar, or other signs of water entering spots.

2 ) Cut out the blisters with the utility knife – make a large ‘X’ cut and then pull it back a little. Let it dry out, then open up the cracks and let them dry out also.

3 ) When everything is dry, use a plastic trowel to apply a thick layer of tar under the area you have cut, and set the sliced portions of the roof back in the tar.

4 ) Use the towels to clean up the area under the X. Sweep away all dust and dirt under, over and around the cut area. This will greatly improve the quality of your repair.

5 ) Now spread an even coat of tar over the patched area approx 1/8 inch thick or a little more, so that it goes at least 6 inches beyond the repair area.

6 ) Cut out a piece of fabric that would be enough to cover the repair area and place the piece of fabric in the tar. Use a towel to set it in, so that the fabric gets saturated with the tar until you see it coming through the fabric.

7 ) Apply another thin and smooth coat of tar over the fabric and beyond its edges.

8 ) Feather the edges into the old roof.

9 ) Put back the gravel with your hands, over the repaired area – make sure you do not use a push-broom, as that will disturb your new patch. This gravel will protect the repair from devastating sunlight.

10 ) This is a 3 course tar and fabric patch. Add another layer of fabric, then tar and it is a 5 course.

Next Steps: Roof Repair or Replacement

Bear in mind that this repair will last you about 3-6 months, after which another repair in the same spot will be required, and at the same time more leaks will probably appear elsewhere. The purpose of such repairs is not to get rid of leaks all together, but to temporarily stop leaks, while you gather resources and information to install a new roofing system. Due to the nature of tar and gravel roofs, there is no permanent cure for roof leaks. As tar dries up, it turns into a ‘dust compound’, which helps the de-lamination of the patch from the existing tar roof. Therefore, unless you are willing to take the continuous roof leak and repair cycle, which not only has direct repair costs, but also does hidden damage to the structure of your home or building, which in effect will increase your out of pocket costs, when you finally go with a full roof replacement.

Also, if you do not feel comfortable performing these repairs yourself, we recommend that you hire a professional roofer specializing in flat roofing – not Joe, the shingler, that your friend knows. Flat roofs are completely different from regular shingle roofs, and require special training/experience when dealing with them.

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Rubber Roofing (EPDM) – Pros and Cons of Using Rubber Flat Roofs

Rubber roofing (EPDM single ply membranes) is the most common flat roofing system in New England (MA, CT, NH, RI, etc.) and the rest of US flat roofing marker. Most people refer to a flat roof as a “rubber roof”.

The main reason for such popularity of rubber roofs is the lower initial price tag. However, rubber roofs have many inherent problems.

These problems cannot be solved by technology, because of their design, as well as issues with unprofessional contractors claiming to be “rubber roofing pros“.

However, you can do the repair yourself, saving hundreds of dollars, and avoiding shady, unqualified contractors. Here is how to do it:

You can source the materials and tools from local suppliers (you will have to buy in bulk though, and have tons of extra material), or use a DIY Rubber Roof Repair Kit, specially designed for DIY homeowners, small businesses, maintenance personal, etc.

What You Need to Know About Rubber Roofing

Homeowners with flat roof homes often find themselves in a situation where their roof starts to leak rather unexpectedly – i.e. only after a few years since it was installed.

This for the most part happens to homes that have a rubber roof on them. While most flat roofs will only last 10-15 years, older systems such as Tar & Gravel, BUR (built-up) and in some cases Modified bitumen roofs.

These roof types are usually installed by roofing contractors that are somewhat specialized in their field of work – these are “the old-timers”, or former union guys that decided to try their luck working for themselves, and they actually went through special training and have years of experience.

Incorrectly installed EPDM roof in Quincy, MA – rubber glued right over shingles:

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The problem is that roofing systems they install do not last long for many reasons outside the scope of this article. By contrast, most rubber roofs are installed and repaired by roofers that have no special knowledge or training, they take on EPDM roofing jobs, because they are seemingly easy, inexpensive to install and require no special expensive equipment.

flat rubber roof Quincy massachusetts" title="Leaking rubber roof in Quincy, MA. Roofing membrane was glued directly to asphalt shingles.

If you have a leaking rubber roof in Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island we can give you a roofing price quote to replace your roof with our flat roofing material of choice – a new, lifetime PVC Flat roof manufactured by IB Roof Systems. We can also repair your rubber roof at a relatively low cost, using only the best materials that rubber systems have, and extend the life of your roof by a few years. One example of such materials are peel-and-stick flashing and seam tapes. We do not use black rubber glue as it is outdated, and leaks much faster.

BAD Rubber Roofing Video – this is why you don’t want to have a flat rubber roof:

Why Are Rubber Roofs So Popular?

Rubber roofs (EPDM) are the most used flat roofing products in the US / Canadian commercial roofing market. They we first put in service over 40 years ago, and since gained popularity among roofing contractors and their customers. The reason for such success lies in the condition of the flat roofing market at that time and the available alternatives.

Back in 1960’s oil was still very cheap, it was more than a decade before the oil crisis of the 70’s and there wasn’t that much demand for oil. The oil refining process was far from being efficient and the industry was looking to get rid of many by-products of the oil refining process.

At the same time, the flat roofing industry was the same as at the turn of the 19th century, and the most common product to use on a flat roof was either a BUR (built-up roofing, using multiple layers of tar paper, saturated in hot tar or hot asphalt) or Tar & Gravel roofing, which was essentially a BUR roof with gravel added for additional protection. Flat roofing technology has not changed for 100 years and contractors needed a new, easier to install and cleaner product, hence, EPDM rubber roofing system was born.

EPDM consists mainly of oil based by-products with some modifiers and stabilizers added to extend its service life. Rubber roofing was cheap to produce, easier to install than conventional (BUR) roofs, did not require any special equipment to put it down and the membrane could potentially last for decades, as it was UV stable and did not break down when exposed to the weather.

Because rubber roofing was cheap, quick to install, and offered a potentially long service life, and with lack of any opposition from better roofing products, it quickly became the king of flat roofing and the pioneer of the single-ply flat roofing market.

Useful resources:

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DIY epdm rubber roof repair – Our original article on how to fix a rubber roof with EPDM rubber adhesive (no peel-n-stick tapes)
Rubber roof repair guide – A part 2 of our Do-it-yourself guide teaching you how to fix EPDM rubber roofing systems with primer and seam tape.

PART 2: Avoid using “roofing pros” who do not specialize in flat roofs:

Below we will explain that one of the major problems with rubber roofs is the poor workmanship of roofing contractors who install and repair them. We will demonstrate how many roofers are “trained” in installation of EPDM single ply roofing systems, as well as results of their work (our Horrible Rubber Roofs series).

The Truth About Residential Flat Roofing Market and Contractors

Rubber Roof Contractors: It is unfortunate, but most residential flat roofs are installed by roofing contractors that specialize in asphalt shingles. Since they can easily purchase rubber roofing materials from their roofing supply warehouse, and are not required to be certified installers, nor do they need any special training or equipment, they will often undertake such projects to keep their crews busy.

Horrible Rubber Roofs Videos:

Horrible rubber roof part 1.
Location: Brockton, MA
Date taken: Summer, 2011

Horrible rubber roof part 2.
Location: Revere, MA
Date taken: Fall 2011

Horrible rubber roof part 3.
Location: Country Club in Central MA
Date taken: Summer / Fall 2011

These are just some roof inspections that we did in the summer / fall of 2011. Look – even commercial roofs are not immune to hack roofers and faulty materials (like rubber roofing), but in residential, this is much more common.

Contractors’ Lack of Knowledge and Lack of Training

To get a quality rubber roof installed, it usually has to be done by a commercial roofing company that specializes in flat roofing. However, it is often the policy of such companies not to work with residential customers, for which there are many reasons. These contractors work with large commercial and institutional customers, employ union workers who are trained roof mechanics, specializing in their particular niche. For example, a commercial roofing contractor will have separate crews doing metal roofing or slate – these guys are “roofers”, and yet another crew doing flat roofing ONLY – these are “roof mechanics”.

A residential roofing contractor usually employs just roofers, who are good at what they do all day long – install asphalt shingle roofs, and often do not have a clue about how flat roofs work. When they get a potential client with a flat roof, they go to their supplier, ask what supplier has for flat roof, and the salesman at the supply warehouse TEACHES the roofer how to install EPDM rubber. This is not creative fiction or a product of my imagination – I see this happening nearly every time, when I come in to the supply store to get something.

“Trained rubber roofing installers”: If you are lucky, you may get a roofer that has received some sort of training about rubber roof installation. For example, one of my suppliers, provides installation training programs for their roofing contractors who install only asphalt shingles. The idea behind such training seminars is to increase awareness and solicit sales of more roofing products. A manufacturer technician provides a sample installation on a 8×8 feet demo stand.

Below is an example of such “hands-on rubber roofing training”.

epdm rubber roof installation

As you can see, the roofers just sit around the demo stand while the MFG Installation technician shows them what to do. The whole demonstration took about an hour and a half, and covered thing like installing flat roofing insulation (ISO), adhering rubber to the ISO board, flashing a sky-light / chimney penetration with un-cured flashing material, installing the membrane up the vertical wall, cleaning & priming seams and installing seam tape, installing drip edge and a tape to seal the drip edge fasteners, and installing termination bar. In the same 1.5 hours we’ve also “learned” how to correctly apply yellow glue – membrane adhesive, seam primer – seam & flashing glue and how to install these systems in the winter, while violating manufacturer’s installation specs.

rubber roofing

Out of 25 or so roofing contractors present, there were about 15 or so questions particular to the installation details. 7 of them were asked by me! Bear in mind that I already knew how to install a rubber roof and attended the event to talk to my salesman, representatives of the metal roofing manufacturer and for free refreshments 🙂

In any case, each one of those 25 or so roofing contractors, willing to learn a new, and very complicated roofing system, asked an average of 0.3 questions about this system.

Rubber Roofs for Residential Customers: It was clear that my supplier and the roofing representatives were selling to Residential Roofing Contractors. Not once did they mention roof-top HVAC units, roof hatches, elevator shafts, gas/electrical pipes, roof drains, etc. They did however insist that the rubber is a good choice for a low slope shed dormer (without mentioning the poor low slope roof ventilation and ice dam prevention associated with shed dormers). They also mentioned that rubber is a good choice for a flat roof decks and patios.

Single-Ply Flat Roofing Membranes – PVC, TPO & EPDM Rubber Roofs

In our overview of Flat Roofing Technologies: Part I – BUR, Tar & Gravel and Modified Bitumen, we discussed the older and in many ways inefficient types of flat roofs, that are not only outdated by today’s standards, but also have a short life cycle expectancy. Moreover, they pose numerous obstacles when it comes to repair, as discussed in our Flat Roof Repair guide.

In Part II, we will take a look at the newer, more advanced roofing technologies, and explore the advantages and disadvantages of each single-ply roofing technology commonly used today.

What is single-ply flat roofing?

There is a lot of confusion about single ply membrane roofing. Many people think that any ‘single ply’ is the answer to their flat roofing problems. This however is far from being the truth. In reality, single-ply roofing membranes have only one thing in common – that is: they are single ply, or just one layer of membrane that is a waterproofing barrier. The similarity stops there.

Membrane formulation, or the components a membrane is made of, marks the biggest difference between different single-ply products. Single ply membranes come in various widths, ranging from 6 to over 18 feet. In theory, the wider the membrane is, the less overlapping seam you have, thus reducing the possibility of leaks. The reality is different however, and most commonly used membranes do not exceed 10 feet in width.

The most crucial aspect to the reliability and longevity of single ply roofs is the method of attaching overlapping seams together. That is where 99% of flat roof leaks occur. Therefore, having permanently attached seams is the most important factor in the longevity of a flat roof installation. We will discuss it in more detail as we review different single ply roofing technologies.

Single-ply Membrane Installation Methods

Single ply membranes are installed either as fully adhered or mechanically attached systems, depending on each roof’s condition, installer’s preferences, and other factors. Underneath the membrane, there is usually a separation barrier and/or some sort of insulation board. Most common insulation is ISO or EPS foam board. Both types have an R-value ranging from 4-R to 6-R per 1 inch of insulation thickness.

Mechanically attached IB CPA/PVC Membrane on a roof of residential house in  Providence, RI.

Mechanically attached IB roof with hot-air welded seams, ensures that your roof will  be leak free for many years to come, and high wind uplift will not cause damage to your building.Mechanically attached installation uses heavy duty screws and barbed plates to hold the membrane down tightly, and is not affected by possible ISO de-lamination. The membrane is attached using 12″ O.C. pattern with perimeter sheets attached 6″ O.C. This ensures that even the hurricane-type wind will not tear off your roof. Mechanically attached installation method does not require the use of heavy and expensive ballast, and is a preferred choice, if your building is located in a high-wind area, such as along the coast line or on a high hill.

Fully adhered single ply membranes are glued to the fiberglass sheet, laminated to both sides of the ISO insulation, which is in turn attached to the roof deck. While quick and simple, the fully adhered method has one serious disadvantage. If condensation forms underneath a roofing membrane, which often happens and may be caused by improper ventilation of the roof deck, it will ‘de-laminate’ the ISO board and/or adhesive that is holding membrane in place. If the membrane becomes loose, it is prone to wind blow-off, which will leave your roof unprotected. Results of such blow-off will be catastrophic not only to your roof, but to the entire building. While this is rarely the case, it is still a possibility – a gamble you might not want to take.

More common problems with fully-adhered single-ply flat roofing systems (Mostly EPDM rubber) are defects in glue/adhesive application that cause bubbles, badly glued seams and as a result, a very unpleasant view and more often then not, roof leaks. The image bellow demonstrates a defective EPDM rubber application.

Find out more information on why you should avoid installing EPDM rubber roofing on you home and how residential roofing contractors are trained to install rubber roofs.

Three most common single-ply roofing systems

Today, when it comes to flat roof replacement, single ply roofing is the top choice. More and more contractors are switching from old systems, such as BUR, Asphalt, and Tar & Gravel to single-ply membranes, which are easier, safer and faster to install. Single ply roofing installation does not require torching, used in Modified Bitumen installation, and therefore there is no fire hazard/possibility to burn down your home / business.

There are 3 most-used single ply membrane systems present on the market today: PVC/CPA, EPDM rubber and TPO. Bellow, we provide a brief summary of each of these systems.

PVC (CPA) Roofing

  • PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride – a thermoplastic membrane, utilizing a reinforcement scrim between the two plies of equal thickness (IB roof only). Top ply contains Cool Roof pigments, UV stabilizers, and other components to extend the life of the membrane. Bottom ply contains PVC ingredients to provide consistent weld of top and bottom plies and fillers. Material Warranty Period: Up to 25 years Commercial / Lifetime Residential. PVC life expectancy: 30+ years. The reason for PVC’s superior durability and longevity are the seams, which are hot air welded and as a result will be impervious to leaks and will never come apart.
  • Special Notes: For a complete overview of IB flat roofing products for residential, commercial and restaurant use, as well as installation method and roofing accessories refer to our IB Roof products page.
  • Learn more about IB’s outstanding single ply flat roofing membrane, its advantages, and many choices for Residential, Commercial and Restaurant use.

TPO Roofing

  • TPO – Thermo Plastic Olefin – a thermoplastic membrane utilizing a reinforcement scrim between the two plies. 35/65 % thickness for top & bottom ply respectively. Top ply contains Cool Roof pigments, UV stabilizers, and other components to extend the life of the membrane. Bottom ply contains TPO ingredients to provide consistent weld of top and bottom plies and fillers. Note that the top ply is about half the thickness of the bottom ply. Yet, the top ply is the one that makes the roof long-lasting. IB PVC has a 50/50 or equal thickness of top/bottom ply.
  • Material Warranty Period: Up to 20 years Commercial / None for Residential. TPO roof system life expectancy – 7 to 20* years. Like PVC roofs, TPO systems also use the hot air welded seams technology to make the roof durable and leak free. However, problems with the membrane formulation, are a source of many issues. You should know that there is not a single TPO installation in existence in the USA, that was produced in North America and is older than about 15 years. Therefore it is unknown how long a TPO system will perform without any leaks*.
  • Special Notes: * TPO roof systems are under continuous development by numerous manufacturers, who constantly change the TPO formulation to achieve the lowest cost with acceptable performance. While it is understandable that businesses always look to save money and to reduce costs, this ongoing TPO development process is being conducted, often at the expense of the roof owner. A TPO roof from the same manufacturer will most likely NOT be the same as the one produced a few years before or after. Also, the quality of different batches of TPO membranes may be questionable, as some TPO producers release the product to the end user without getting the UL and similar approvals/certification, as the formulation changes too often. Refer to our comparison article of PVC vs. TPO to find out more about the TPO problems / short-comings.

EPDM Rubber

  • EPDM Rubber – Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer – a rubber-like black membrane, usually non-reinforced. Most common application method is a fully adhered (glued down) membrane with glued seams / flashings.
  • Material Warranty Period: Up to 40 years Commercial / None Residential. EPDM roof system life expectancy – 10 to 15 years. Although the material warranty goes up to 40 years for a 90-mil Epdm from some manufacturers, it does not cover the seams. Failing seams are the main cause of EPDM roof leaks, followed by ponding water, for which EPDM has no warranty either.
  • Special Notes: EPDM is the least expensive single ply roofing type and requires no special equipment to install it (unlike PVC and TPO which require hot-air welding equipment) and thus is the first choice for contractors entering the flat roofing market and asphalt shingle roofers, who ‘install rubber here and there’. Although many commercial roofing companies also use EPDM, they usually do not perform Residential installations so many times a home owner deals with a Part-Time flat roofing company.

Badly installed Rubber Roof:

EPDM roof bubbles - what happens when a wrong adhesive is combined with wrong roofing membrane and a wrong installation method.
Please note that there are many manufacturers of all three types of roofing, and each has their own formulation / manufacturing process / warranty conditions and periods, etc. Therefore we only provide a general summary for each of those roof types. Also, since our specialty is installation of IB roofs, when we use the term PVC or CPA we refer to IB PVC Roofs (CPA or Co-Polymer Alloy is the way IB Roof Systems refers to its PVC product. IB membranes are 100% ‘compatible’ with other PVC products).

IB SolarWise – Integrated Solar PV Flat Roofing Systems

Dear readers, we are getting an overwhelming amount of questions about IB Solar Wise PV systems, cost of solar, efficiency of IB SolarWise PV system vs. conventional Solar panels, and whether solar will work for you. To answer most of these questions we have created a comprehensive solar PV planning and design guide. Please familiarize yourself with how solar works, solar terminology and Solar PV Roofing price structure – find out how much solar PV roofing should cost – Solar PV prices.

Quick Page Navigation:

  • What is IB SolarWise PV? – Introduction to roof-integrated Solar PV system produced by leaders in flat roofing and renewable energy – IB Roofs and Uni-Solar
  • IB SolarWise video – Watch IB Solar PV roofing system in action – installation, performance and financial benefits
  • Prices of IB SolarWise PV – Estimate how much an IB Solar PV roofing system will cost for your project before any Federal Renewable Energy Tax credits and State solar rebates
  • Why should you want a roof-integrated Solar PV system? – Learn why BIPV is the way to go when you want to switch to solar PV, and probable consequences of using conventional solar systems
  • Financial benefits of IB SolarWise – Discover why IB solarwise is the least expensive solar PV system to install and maintain

IB SolarWise roof-integrated Photo-Voltaic Systems

IB SolarWise Roofing is a Revolutionary Product combining Permanent Flat Roofing and Renewable Energy in one easy-to install, leaks-proof flat roofing solution for environment and money conscious Home and Business owners, and has a pay-off period of under 5 years*, while industry standard is 7-10 years or more.

IB SolarWise utilizes Thin Film laminate Solar PV modules produced by Uni-Solar – a US manufacturer of Solar products. Both IB Roofs and Uni-Solar have been in business for over 30 years, and combining their respective experience in Flat Roofing and Solar Photo-Voltaic gives you the highest quality, Super-Energy-Efficient product for Residential, Commercial or Industrial buildings.

SolarWise is more than just a system – it is a way to integrate two different system to work seamlessly, to be leaks free and maintain its warranty, without incurring additional costs for the building owner.

IB Solar Wise helps roofing contractors and solar integrators eliminate their biggest worries – leaks and solar photovoltaic equipment damages by creating a seamless integration between two previously incompatible technologies.

IB Solar Wise - building integrated PV systems that seamlessly installs with IB single-ply flat roofing membranes with no roof penetrations. Generate free electricity, and have your Solar PV system pay for itself in under 5 years!

IB SolarWise Video

Until recently, availability of IB SolarWise system, solar integrators had to rely on caulking and screws to attach solar panels to the roof surface. This created leak problems, for which solar integrators did not want to take responsibility. Roofing contractors were ‘terrified’ of solar equipment and its sky-high replacement cost in case of damage during roof repair. Now all these problems are eliminated by integrating solar PV components into a long-lasting IB roofing membrane, resulting in the elimination of leaks, reduced solar and roofing installation & materials costs and reduced requirement for dead-weight load on the structural components of the building.

IB SolarWise Prices

Here we will demonstrate a cost structure for a hypothetical 3 KW solar PV system installed on a roof of a home or a business. Do understand that this cost includes the installation of IB Roof, BIPV Solar panels, Inverter, wiring, etc., and the prices are provided “before” any Federal tax credits and State rebates for solar and other renewable energy projects.

Lets assume that our roof is an average residential roof that is 1500 sq. ft., which has a slight pitch and is positioned in a southern direction with no shading (perfect conditions for solar PV installation). Please note that the slope of the roof, shading or southern exposure do not directly affect your cost for a solar system, but these conditions will affect your system’s efficiency and total electricity output. Theoretically, on a 1500 sq. ft. roof, we can install up to 7 KW of IB Solar Panels, but for the purposes of this example we will use 3 KW system mentioned before.

There is a lot of confusion about how the solar PV systems are priced – many people assume that solar is priced by Square Foot, but that is not the case. Because Solar Panels from various manufacturers have different efficiency, the electricity produced by 15 sq. ft. panel from Manufacturer A can be double that produced by same size panel made by Manufacturer B. Therefore, all solar PV systems are priced by their output measured by Watts DC. The average industry cost for solar PV systems that are rack-mounted and installed on an asphalt shingles roof of a residential homes range from $10 to $12 per Watt DC.

IB SolarWise PV system utilizes a thin-film Solar PV laminates produced by Uni-Solar Ovonics. These solar panels have lesser efficiency than a more common crystalline silicon panels (big aluminum boxes) per sq. ft., therefore they require more space to have a large size solar array installed. However that is rarely a concern, as usually there is plenty of unused, unshaded space on the roof. Prices of IB Solar Wise PV are in the range of $13-14 per Watt DC. This is slightly more than your conventional PV panels, but it also includes a Lifetime roof, and provides a complete, watertight system, which is guaranteed not to leak, as is often the case with conventional PV systems installed on rack mounting systems, which are bolted to the roof.

The $13-14 per Watt DC figure is flexible and a lot depends on the size of the roof and the size of the solar system (number of KWatts), and in some cases can actually be on par with cost of conventional Solar systems, which do not include the roof. Each individual project will be different, so use these numbers for reference only.

Also we recommend that you read the next section of this article, discussing why you would want to have a roof-integrated solar system installed vs. a conventional solar system.

Installation of solar roofing

Solar Flat Roofing: Cautionary tale with the end in mind

Foreword: This story is fictional in nature but real in substance, and definitely happened before.

A brave, responsible, and hard-working person – Jack – decides that installing a Solar PV system is not only beneficial for the environment, but is also a sound investment. So after doing the due-diligence, he lines up a solar integrator to install a Solar System on his 7 years-old flat roof. The roof has no signs of leaks and Jack feels that there won’t be any problems.

The solar integrator knows his job well and completes the project in a timely manner, applying for and receiving all the available incentives for the client. The system performs well as expected, and generates the expected amount of electricity. All goes well.

3-5 years later, the roof begins to leak and Jack is faced with a dilemma. He needs to stop the leaks but the solar equipment is in the way. The roofing contractor who is supposed to fix the leak hesitates to move the solar equipment, which prevents him from fixing the roof. The only option is to remove the solar panels array completely, remove the old roof, install a new roof, and then put the solar array back.

Excluding the cost of re-roofing, as it is not related to the solar system, the hero of our story had to pay at least a dollar/watt for removal and a dollar/watt to put back the solar panels. Lets say he had a small commercial system of 10 kW or 10,000 watts. This means that he had to pay an EXTRA $20,000 just to take the solar system off and put it back on, so the roofing crew could do the work.

Why was this a cautionary story with the END in mind? Very simple: Jack could avoid the extra expense of $20,000 by using a roof-integrated solar system such as IB SolarWise. Cases like this one happen all too often, and not just with flat roofs. A more common example would be an asphalt shingle roof with a solar pv system, where shingles not covered by solar panels deteriorate at a normal rate and will have to be replaced about every 15 years. Lets face it: shingles rarely last more than 15 years. Consider all the roof penetrations from the solar panels’ rack mounts and the roof lasts 12 years, after which the repair process described above has to take place, unless of course you are willing to take the leaks.

IB SolarWise roof saves you money in FOUR ways

1 – IB Cool White PVC roofing membrane reflects up to 90% Sun’s heat, thus your AC does not have to work as hard as if you had a black roof. Read more about benefits of IB Cool Flat Roofs.

2 – SolarWise PV modules (solar panels) generate free electricity** by converting sunlight into Electricity you can actually use, so you do not have to buy it from your utility company, or you buy a lot less than you had to before. In some cases, your IB SolarWise PV system will produce MORE electricity than you expected, and you electric company will buy it from you at retail price, in states that have Net Metering laws (most states).

You will also be able to sell so called Renewable Energy Credits or RECs to give you even more money for extra electricity that you produce, thus speeding-up your pay-off period! But that is not all – there are also numerous incentives, grants and tax-rebates offered by Federal, State and local Governments, as well as your utility companies.

3 – IB Roof’s durability and proven performance ensures years of leaks-free operation of your roof, as well as virtually no maintenance. As a result, you save money on flat roof and interior repair, which you will otherwise incur with other flat roofing systems, notorious for constant roof leaks.

4 – IB SolarWise PV system will save you money on the installation costs. SolarWise PV is a Building-Integrated PV (BI-PV), which means it is actually a part of the IB flat roofing system. This eliminates the need to use expensive solar panel mounts, brackets and railings that take long to install, therefore adding a lot of money to the total cost of the installation.

How does IB SolarWise PV work?

IB SolarWise PV produces a DC-current, which goes into an Inverter where it becomes an AC-current. The inverter is connected to you home’s or building’s electric circuit and also to your meter. You use all the electricity you need, while ALL excess electricity goes into the Grid. Electricity that goes into the grid is purchased from you by your utility company through Net Metering, usually at retail price.

Most of the electricity produced by the SolarWise PV system occurs in the summer, when days are longer and more sunlight is available. At the same time, people will usually use a lot more electricity in the summer to run the Air Conditioning units, so depending on the “size” of your solar system, you will produce more, less or the same amount of electricity than you actually consume. However, practice shows that in the summer months, Solar systems produce more electricity than is consumed. Therefore, all excess kWh sent to the grid in the summer you will use in the winter, when a lot less sunlight is available.

Download Official IB SolarWise PV Brochure

Note: you will need a PDF Reader to open this brochure. We recommend fast and free Foxit PDF Reader.

Benefits Summary

With all the positive qualities of IB SolarWise PV system is the Best solution available for anyone looking to have an energy-efficient Cool Flat Roof and a Solar PV system. IB SolarWise PV offers the best of flat roofing and solar electricity:

  • Lowest Cost per Watt installed with simplified installation and fastest pay-off period of around 5 years!
  • Longest Service Life of both the Roofing System and Solar Modules. IB offers a 20 year Material Warranty for the SolarWise PV modules and up to 25 year Commercial Warranty with its 80-mil flat roofing membrane – the highest commercial warranty available from any flat roofing manufacturer.Homeowners will enjoy IB’s Lifetime Residential Warranty on any IB roofing product. You will not find it anywhere else, guaranteed! IB Roof Warranty Summary
  • Fully Integrated Solution eliminates the risk of roof leaks, often associated with regular Solar systems! Light Weight of about 1 lb. / sq. ft. eliminates the need to upgrade the structural components of your flat roof, which further reduces your costs.
  • SolarWise PV is BI-PV, which qualifies it for additional incentives and rebates from State and Federal government and other

Frequently Asked Questions

This section is designed to cover the topics that you are most interested in, and always ask us about.

  • Q: Can I install IB Solar Wise panels over EPDM Rubber (Modified Bitumen, Tar roof, etc)
  • A: No. IB SolarWise PV system must be installed over an IB roof. The solar panels are welded down to the IB PVC roofing membrane, which acts as a water-tight barrier and a substrate for IB Solar
  • Q: How much does a square foot of IB Solar PV cost?
  • A: IB SolarWise PV system as well as other solar systems are not priced by the square foot, but rather by $/Watt DC. Please refer to our IB Solar PV pricing section for more details
  • Q: What is the output of IB SolarWise PV module?
  • A: IB SolarWise PV modules come use 4 Uni-Solar thin-film laminates per module. Each Unisolar module is 136 Watts DC, so each IB SolarWise PV module is 544 Watts. You also have an option of getting modules that are 1/2 the physical and output size and are 272 watts.
  • Q: How many KW of IB solar can I install on my roof?
  • A: The 544 Watt IB SolarWise PV modules is 19 feet long by 6 feet wide and require 120 sq. feet of unshaded roof area. Therefore, for 1 Kilowatt of electrical output, you will need about 200 sq. feet of roof. However, since IB Solar modules come in sizes of 544 Watts, you need to calculate how many modules you want installed and how much unshaded roof area you have.

Solar PV References and Resources

To learn more information and methods of designing a solar house, visit our GreenSolar – Renewable Energy Blog. There, you will find detailed guides to creating a Net Zero Energy consumption home, that utilizes Solar and Geothermal technologies that are available on the market today.

Solar PV installation Prices – Detailed guide to $$/Watt price-structure of SolarWise PV and other solar systems.

Solar Rebates and Incentives Guide – Summary of Federal, State and Local tax credits, grants, rebates, incentives for installation of Solar PV systems – both for Residential and Commercial installation. Make your Solar PV profitable from the day it is installed!

Solar PV Price Estimator – Calculate the approximate PV System-size in Watts, Cost/Watt and the Price to install your SolarWise PV system, and an IB Roof of your choice.

Solar PV Pay-off / Break-Even Guide – Detailed look at how Solar PV works, Solar systems design, and how you can get Free Electricity. Speed up the pay-off period of your SolarWise PV. In some instances you can make your Solar PV profitable from the day it is installed!

IB Roof References and Resources

IB Green/Roof-top Garden Roofs – If you are Eco/Environmentally conscious, or just want more Green in your live, and have a flat roof Home or Office building, see why IB Roof is the perfect choice for your Greed Roof!

Green Resources Directory – Visit other Green / Eco-Friendly resources available online.

Flat Roofing Materials – EPDM rubber, BUR, Tar & Gravel & Modified Bitumen

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Flat Roofing systems: The purpose of a flat roof or any roof for that matter is to keep your home or building safe and dry. The roof MUST protect your investment from the elements such as rain, snow, and even the sun’s heat.

However, many flat roofing technologies on the market today have some major, inherent drawbacks that have origins in their design. In fact, most flat roofs fail to serve their main purpose just a few years after they are installed.

You are presented with so many choices for a flat roof and every roofing contractor will tell you their product is the best.

But which one do you choose and how do you know that you are getting the best deal? Here we have summarized the most common and ‘popular’ flat roofing choices. You can be the judge and decide which is best for you.

Benefits of flat roof construction:

There is a common misconception among many home-improvement contractors and residential builders / architects that flat roofs = problems.

The truth is that flat roofs are very convenient, easier to build, and cost less than pitched / sloped roofs. In some cases, a flat roof is the only way to go, for example, when you have a large size building.

Building a reliable pitched roof in those cases will require extra engineering to accommodate for additional structural weight.

IB roof replaces two sections of this textile factory roof located in Central Falls, RI. These two sections had the most leaks, which were damaging expensive machinery.

Flat roofs are also convenient for installing large HVAC equipment that otherwise would have to be installed on the ground. You can also use flat roof as a roof-top deck, patio or penthouse. Green roofs are also gaining popularity with environmentally conscious companies and organizations.

Average Flat Roof Costs in US Average Flat Roof Costs in US
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When you compare all the construction costs and environmental benefits, flat roofs by far surpass any sloped roof, for which the roof products of choice are oil-based asphalt shingles. These asphalt shingles end up in our landfills every 12-15 years, and yet more and more of them are produced.

Limitations and Disadvantages of flat roofing:

Flat roofs also have a number of disadvantages. The main one is the fact that there is no slope and all the water/snow sits on the roof. While water can be taken care of with proper drainage, snow will sit on the roof until it melts. This requires the engineers / architects to implement building components with a higher structural load. Another disadvantage that haunted flat roof installations for over a century is ponding water. Until the invention of single ply membranes such as an IB roof, there was no effective and economical way to eliminate the leaks caused by ponding water. That had to be taken care of in the initial design/construction stage. Creating a slight pitch and multiple drains was required, and still ponding water caused over 75% of all flat roof leaks.

Now the ponding water problem is solved by either implementing a slight pitch to the roof – such as in ‘space metal buildings”, using tapered insulation to direct water flow toward drains and with the creation of IB PVC / CPA roofing with hot-air welded seams, ponding water is no longer a problem in small quantities. It is still necessary to have adequate drainage system, since a lot of ponding water can cause structural damages to your house or building.

Types of flat roof: Modern and Outdated roofing technologies.

Outdated (Multiple-Ply Roofs) – some are over 100 years old:

  • Build-Up Roof (BUR)
  • Tar & Gravel
  • Bitumen (Modified Bitumen)
  • Rolled Asphalt (usually a “single-ply” install, sometimes uses tar-paper as base ply)

Modern (Single-Ply Membranes)- created within last 30 years:

  • IB Roof (PVC roofing) – IB PVC roofing membrane is one of the best low-slope and completely flat roofing products available, and that is precisely the reason why we only install IB roofs. With over 30 years of spotless reputation and leaks-free performance in many different climates – from Alaska’s frigid north-lands to Hawaii’s tropical paradise, IB roofs are protecting the buildings and everything inside, without a single material failure since 1978.

    IB roofs still feature the same chemical formula as its original design, and with hot-air welded seams, will maintain complete water-tightness over your roof.

  • Average Flat Roof Costs in US Average Flat Roof Costs in US
    Rubber Roof
    PVC Roof
    IB PVC
    TPO Roof

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  • Epdm Rubber Roof – a widely used flat roofing material, mainly popular among contractors because of its low price and no special equipment needed to install the rubber roof. Still, rubber roofs are very prone to leaks, as the seams are glued together, and adhesive tends to break down within 5-7 years. Also in the residential roofing market (and not so much in commercial) there are too many contractors who will install rubber roofing products without proper knowledge and training. As a result, we often go to rubber roof repair service calls to fix problems caused by poor workmanship, often on fairly new roofs.
  • TPO Roofing – a single ply thermoplastic roofing membrane similar to PVC roofs from a first glance. But as you start digging, you’ll find numerous problems with TPO roofs, mainly as a result of manufacturers skipping on adding important ingredients into formulation of the TPO membrane, and as a result, quietly scrapping as many as three major generations of the product.
  • SFR – Sprayed Foam Roofing (not a single-ply)

Part I: Inferior and outdated flat roofing technologies

These are very common on older buildings, although many newer buildings also have these systems installed. They are rarely installed on any commercial building today. However, they continue to be produced, and many roofers still install them on residential and small commercial roofs. This is particularly due to their low cost of material, and roofers’ lack of experience with BETTER solutions. It is sad that there are some decent roofers offering such an inferior product to their customers. I often hear something along the lines of: “I’ve been doing ‘torch-down’ for 20 years, and it is the best” – very sad – so we will briefly describe them, without getting into details.

BUR / Tar & Gravel / Torch-down: Multiple-ply roof where each ‘tar-soaked’ ply is applied with a torch (yes, open flame on your roof!), or hot mopped (preheated tar transported to the roof and applied with a mop). Gravel goes on top of this ‘sandwich’ mainly as a protection layer from foot-traffic and sun’s devastating ultraviolet rays. There are many deviations from the above procedure, but they are all within a close range of similarity.

Modified Bitumen: It is also applied with a torch in a similar manner described above. It is however a different material than tar. Modified bitumen has rubber and elastomers added into the formula, so it is stronger and more flexible.

Rolled Asphalt: Similar to asphalt shingles – tar paper is saturated in asphalt, with crushed stones glued on top of it. Rolls are installed in an overlapping pattern, with cold-mop application and nails to attach it to the roof deck. Overlapping seams are sealed with tar.

Rolled asphalt flat Roof in Providence, RI is failing prematurely - seams coming apart, seam adhesive fails, nails backing out, and as a result: roof leaks inside the house.

Problems associated with flat roofs:

The nature of flat roofs’ problems is just that they are flat. Water does not run off the roof. Proper drainage must be in place to get rid of water accumulating on a roof. Usually older roofs are not leveled, so water puddles will appear here and there after every rain, and just sit there until it dries out. This is called standing or ponding water. Most roofing systems were not designed for ponding water. In fact, most manufacturers of the roofing systems on the market today, will void out the warranty if there is ponding water on the roof (we will get to this issue later). Other major problems for flat roofs, are penetrations such as skylights, vent or exhaust pipes, chimneys, roof hatches, drains, etc. However the biggest problem with flat roofs is the seams, because they are the most common areas where leaks occur.

Average Flat Roof Costs in US Average Flat Roof Costs in US
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Seams exist on every flat roof (except tiny ‘6×10 porch-type’ roofs, which can be covered with a single sheet of roofing membrane), and are usually put together with some sort of adhesive. After a few years the adhesive breaks due to severe weather changes (here in New England, temperature can change 25 degrees or more, in a matter of one day). Another major factor affecting seams’ adhesive is condensation, which always occurs underneath the roof covering. Condensation expands both in the winter and summer. The most dramatic expansion of condensation happens in the winter time when water freezes, expands and breaks the seam. The same happens to our roads. Think of all the potholes you drive over. Those too were caused by water freezing. In the summer water heats up and also expands. When you see bubbles on the roof surface, it is the water vapor lifting the membrane. The third major factor is actually quality of workmanship and the adhesive itself. For different roofing systems the process is different, but most of them share the same shortcoming – the need for using adhesives, be it glue, hot tar, liquid resin, etc. Adhesives are also required to flash any roof penetrations listed above, but here the workmanship is actually more of a factor than the adhesive.

Conclusion – let’s get real.

It is a shame that in the 21st century we are still using 19th century technology. Even more so, because nearly 50% of roofers in the on-line construction forums will advise you to choose a clearly inferior roof. These heavy and dirty roofs, heat up to 170 degrees and make your AC run like crazy in the summer. These very roofs start leaking prematurely and are impossible to fix. Why would some one acting in good faith actually recommend these? The answer is obvious – they don’t know any better. Fortunately there is ONE modern, technologically advanced flat roofing solution available on the market today – IB Roof. In fact, this solution has been around for a few decades now, and has a proved track record of 30 years of leak-free service!

Read more: Part II – Single-Ply Roofing Membranes – PVC, TPO & EPDM Rubber Roofing.