Month: June 2009

Industry Gossip: Solar PV Roofing (IB-PV Roof) Failures

The word on the “roofing contractor street” is such that a large PVC roofing manufacturer has problems with their Roof-integrated Solar PV systems. Apparently, the way they designed and installed these solar roofs, the electrical wiring which connects Solar PV panels to the inverter and essentially to the Electric Grid, is overheating and poses serious risks of fire. Since this information is still in rumor stage, and I doubt there will be an official announcement or acknowledgment of this, I for many reasons cannot name the manufacturer, the specifics of the problems or the source. However, there is evidence that it is real. If you are a large roofing contractor in Boston, MA area or in the rest of New England, you are getting the roofing bid lists, such as the Blue Book. Large commercial and government roofing jobs are a little out of our league, and we get plenty of work without paying huge sums of money for these bid lists (it costs anywhere from $3000/year to get periodic updates). However, in the last 3 weeks I’ve been contacted twice by two different gentlemen from Suffolk Construction. Basically Suffolk is arguably the largest GC in Boston area with $1.57 Billion in sales in 2008, has over 800 employees and are rated #313 of America’s Largest Private Companies by Forbes.

The picture below, shows a Solar roof produced by IB roof systems. This roof does NOT have overheating problems, and is intended to demonstrate what Solar Roofing is.

IB SolaWise roof integrated PV System

In any case, the two gentlemen from Suffolk, asked me to bid a new job in the pipeline of roof bidding lists:  A 4,000 squares (400,000 sq. ft.) on the IRS building in Andover, MA, and also they wanted 500 KW solar PV system that would be roof integrated – essentially they were interested in our IB Solar Wise PV system, which in some ways is similar to the one above, but without the wiring overheating of course 🙂 Continue reading moved to Blog / CSM platform

Dear visitors, It is my pleasure to announce that our main site – – is now officially running on the awesome WordPress Blog / CSM platform, which makes it run faster and offers you, our visitors great usability and ease of finding information about Flat roofing, Metal roofs, Green roof top gardens and Solar PV roofing systems. New website features include:

  • Extensive Site-wide search. With over 30 different articles about cool flat and metal roofing it used to be difficult to navigate to the right page. Now, all you have to do is type what you are looking for into the search box at the bottom of the side-bar, and you will find what you are looking for.
  • Comments & Feedback. You can now leave comments about every article that we have and also subscribe to those comments (you will get responses by email). I personally answer most of the comments you leave on our blog, and will do the same for the comments on our main site. As always, please respect us and our readers and do not post offensive commentaries. All comments are moderated by a human and all spam gets filtered. If you post a genuine comment or question, it will post and I will answer it as best as I can.
  • Blog Roll / Green blog links: If you are an author of a green or renewable energy related blog, I welcome you to add us to your blog-roll, and I will do the same.
  • Publish your green articles here: If you want to write about anything related to green construction and renewable energy, I welcome you to become one of our Authors / Contributors. You can post relevant links to your own site or blog, which will help you promote your site with search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and others.

These are just few new options that a new platform offers to make your search for roof related questions easier and more pleasant. Just a few roof related articles you may consider interesting:

IB Flat Roof: “A good roof is the one you can forget about” – such is the moto if IB Roof Systems – a great roofing materials manufacturer, who’s single-ply membranes we use exclusively for ALL our flat roof installations. We use IB roofs, because we as a contractor know that once installed correctly, an IB roof will outlast any conventional flat roofing system by 2-3 times. With a proven track record of 30+ years of real life, leak-free performance, IB roofing systems have nothing else to prove. An IB roof is a cool, truly sustainable roofing system that can be used for Green Roof-top gardens, Solar roofing and conventional flat roofing application in both residential and commercial markets.

Flat Roof Repair: Learn what to do when your flat roof begins to leak, how to choose a roofing contractor, what a roof repair will cost you and whether your should repair or replace your roof.

IB Roofing prices: Learn how much it will cost you to replace your old roof with an IB Cool Flat Roof.

EPDM Rubber Roofing: Discover the truth about rubber roofing materials, scam contractors that install residential rubber roofs without proper training / experience, and why you should definitely avoid these “super roofers”, and the inferior rubber roofing materials all together.

Rubber roof repair: Learn DIY techniques involved in fixing your leaky EPDM roofing system. This guide includes a complete list of tools & materials you will need and step-by-step instructions for Do-It-Yourself homeowners.

Home Solar systems: Comprehensive guide to designing, implementing and installing a Solar PV System on the roof of your home or small business. Lear now to position your solar panels, which inverter to use and how to minimize power losses, maximize Solar PV efficiency, and make your solar system pay for itself in as little time as possible.

These are just some of numerous informative and practical guides that we have created to help you solve your flat or metal roofing problems, find information on roofing materials and contractors. Let us know what you think of the new platform, the design of this site, and how we could make navigation / usability better and more comfortable for you. Enjoy! Sincerely, Leo –

Single-ply Flat Roofing Systems: PVC and TPO

If you are a building owner, facility manager or even a homeowner with a flat roof that leaks, and you are interested in or got a bid from a contractor to install a new flat roofing system called TPO (Thermoplastic olefin), this is a must-read article for you, because you will not find this information anywhere else.

From The Editor: – this post has 50+ VERY interesting comments from “both sides of the aisle” so to speak. We highly recommend you read these comments, after the post.

Foreword: TPO is a hot-air welded thermoplastic single-ply roofing membrane produced by numerous manufacturers. TPO was created to be better than EPDM Rubber roofing and cheaper than PVC roofs, while it would still provide all the benefits of hot-air welded seams. It was a good plan, and now TPO membrane covers billions of square feet of roofs and represents a multi-billion dollar roofing market, but there are some problems…

In it’s fairly short life (about 15-16 years) TPO went through at least 2 generations. 1st generation of TPO roofs began to fail in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Now, some manufacturers are on their 3rd generation (or major reformulation) of their TPO products. At the same time, TPO’s main rival – PVC roofing membrane such as IB Flat Roof, has not changed its formula in over 30 years.

The video clip above below a brand new TPO roof burning on a roof of a new office building that was built in Salt Lake City, and filmed by the Fireman crew.

Why you should not get a TPO roof – TPO roof on fire video

Whether you are a customer looking for a new flat roof or a roofing contractor, I recommend that you to do some serious research on TPO before investing in it. This will serve your own benefit.

To start, you may want to check out the WSRCA (Western States Roofing Contractors Association)  “TPO roof study” –

WSRCA’s test roofs in Las Vegas, NV, Anchorage, AK, San Antonio, TX, and Seattle, WA demonstrate the product service life in diverse climates throughout the western United States. All have weathered past the four year mark, and the results are now published.

The problem is that for some reason they pulled off 2007, there is still no 2008 edition and only a 2 year old report from 2006 is available. But here is the “rumor” from trusted sources:

TPO roofs in the above study lose minimum of 1 mil of thickness per year and some TPOs lose as much as two mil per year (in 10 years that will be 20 mil – imagine that on a 45 mil membrane). The average top ply thickness is 15 mil – some are 12. Once you are down to the scrim, the roof is gone, and the UV will eat the scrim and bottom ply.

Also, there are problems with seam failures, premature curing, cracks along the seams, etc. These are TPOs made in 2001-2002 (second generation) Supposedly there is no 3rd gen. going into production, and I suspect that the reason for the 2007/2008 edition of this book not being available is because manufacturers pressured WSRCA to pull those off. I could swear that I saw an ’07 edition available on sale in January ’09, and now its not even listed.

Aside from the above, most TPOs and maybe some PVCs (to cut costs) come with a wicking scrim, so you need to do something about the edge of the weld – that is like welding twice, and there is still lots of room for error, and once the water gets to the scrim, it will delaminate the membrane… I don’t need to explain the consequences.

So, the bottom line – do you want your customers to have a 2nd/3rd gen. of repeatedly failing roof technology and put your reputation on the line for a gimmick created by greedy roofing manufacturers, who are looking for ways to reduce costs at the expense of quality (putting cheap fillers into membrane to create nominal thickness)? What is the difference between 45 and 60 mil TPO if weathering surface is 12-15 mil? Just a thicker bottom play that is made of junk in a first place.

Another thing that amazes me about TPO is the peel-n-stick seams. WHY?… The whole point of thermoplastic roofs (PVC & TPO) is the hot-air welded seam… EPDM rubber roof can be peel and stick… but TPO? All it does, is attract hacks into thermoplastic roofing market. Those who do not care about quality install, fly-by-night dudes, etc. I mean, if you as a roofing contractor go and spend $10-20K on the hot-air welding equipment you probably won’t disappear tomorrow, as you need to pay for that equipment and make some money on top of that. You as a roofing contractor are probably in it for the long run…

Instead of conclusion:

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the idea of a TPO roof is great. A cheap, naturally cool, long lasting flat roof system featuring hot-air welded seams is something of an ideal for the roofing industry to strive toward. However, the “cheap” part in TPO is why all these roof failures occurred, and will be happening on a wide scale in the near future. TPO’s problem is not the faulty design. In Europe, TPO has been around for decades and is considered to be a very good flat roofing system.

However, here in the US, roofing manufacturers put the bottom line in their accounting books above product quality and interest of their clients by manufacturing their TPO membrane using primarily cheap fillers and low quality wicking scrim, without proper testing or acquiring UL certifications. In the end, roof owners and to some degree roofing contractors become victims of corporate greed and irresponsible business practices.[PSGallery=1ondfvgxk]