Roof installation & repair

Building Inspectors vs. Homeowners & Contractors (just a rant)

Foreword: If you are a building inspector / official, please try to understand that this rant is from a contractor’s point of view… Or at least try to be objective and unbiased.

Building permit

Pros and cons of building permits:

Why do we need building inspectors (and do we really need them)? Well, they are supposed to inspect – right? They are there to protect homeowners from shady contractors, and ensure that construction goes in accordance with state / national building codes. That’s why we also have specialty trade inspectors (electrical, plumbing, mechanical, etc). But do they really do their job? Another question – why do we need building permits? Yes, to pay the building inspector for doing his/her job of doing the inspections. Yea, right!

I will purposely omit building inspectors in charge of large construction projects, such as bridges, sky-scrapers, factories, etc. There is a lot more responsibility there, and these inspectors are a lot more knowledgeable than your average “Joe, the building inspector”.

In my time being a roofing contractor, I had to pull many permits in the last 10 years – for almost every job we did. In all this time, only once have I seen a building inspector at a job site, and he was there to harass the home-owner about the “illegal kitchen” that came with the house they just purchased. In the beginning of my career as a contractor, I needed to get permits, but did not have sufficient / adequate insurance and in some cases did not have the Home Improvement Contractor registration in a state where I was doing work. Luckily for me, I was able to get permits, and because I have dignity (I’d like to think so) I did decent work without code violations and nothing bad ever happened. I once had a “stop job” order posted at a job site, where we forgot to pull a permit. Ahh… the good old days.

When you get into serious contracting like Metal Roofing and IB Roof installations, you can’t afford not to have proper insurances and licenses. Your clients by default expect everything to be current and you to be fully insured – both worker’s comp and general liability.  And besides, it is easier to show proof of insurance than to explain why you do not have it, or better yet to ask a home owner to pull “an owners permit”. It is also much easier to get a permit in 5 minutes instead of waiting 3 days and hoping that the inspector is not a complete a$$ or is looking for a bribe – for some reason, I have a very strong suspicion that some building inspectors in Lynn, Revere, Malden and other surrounding towns in Massachusetts, purposely jerk contractors around, as if telling them – “give me $300 and you will have your permit”. I really believe so. Or they just hate people in general. But let me get back to building inspectors. Continue reading

Boston Solar Decathlon Home: Solar PV / Hot Water Panels and IB Flat Roof Installation

Boston Solar home in Washington DC

As I’m writing this, the 2009 Solar Decathlon in Washington, DC is nearing its completion. Twenty teams from around the globe are competing to build the best Solar Home, judged in ten different categories, including: architecture, engineering, net metering, living comfort as well as others. This year, Massachusetts – home to some of the greatest colleges and universities in the world – is represented by Team Boston – the joined efforts of Tufts, Boston Architectural College and a team of volunteers, all with the common goal to create green and sustainable home designs that could be readily available and affordable for actual home buyers and home builders.

2009 Solar Decathlon

Cool Flat Roofs and IB Roof Systems are proud sponsors of Team Boston’s solar home.  We provided the project with IB flat roofing materials (provided by IB Roof Systems) and a professional installation, as well as last minute roof design changes, and modifications to roof penetration placement and drainage setup. Continue reading

Pros and Cons of Roofing in the Winter



Most homeowners, who did not have a chance to replace their leaking roofs during spring and summer want to get it done in the fall – before the cold weather arrives. August, September and October are the busiest months of the year for a roofing contractor (for us at least) we get many calls and online estimate requests from homeowners looking to install a new IB Flat Roof or a Metal Roof on their home. At least 75 percent of these inquiries mention that they would like to have a new roof installed before the winter.

While we do understand your desire to have a new roof before winter weather comes, I must point out a misconception among many homeowners who believe that a roof can only be installed during the warm months. While this is partially true, due to limitations of specific roof types (technologies), for us, installing our roof systems in the winter is the same as it is in the summer – just a little colder.




Winter Roofing - Snow Removal

In fact, WINTER, is the best time for homeowners to have a new roof installed, as you will get the best roof prices, as well as a choice of the best roofing contractors. Because work is limited during the winter season, contractors compete for work and lower their prices to get the job. However, be aware that some roofs can’t or should not be installed in the winter – read on to find out what you should know about winter roofing, and which roofing materials should not be installed in the cold weather.

Which roofs can be installed in the winter and which cannot be:

Let’s take a look at the roofing systems which can be installed in the winter without compromising quality, and the systems that need to be installed in the warmer weather.I will divide roofing systems into two categories – flat and sloped roofs. Also, lets establish that by “winter” I mean temperatures below 40 degrees F.

Installation of Metal Roof at IHOP restaurant in Brighton, MA

Flat Roofs

When it comes to flat roofing, there are only two systems that can be safely installed in the winter – PVC and TPO. These are thermoplastic single ply flat roofing products, which are installed using Hot Air Welded seams, instead of various types of adhesives.

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Rubber Roof Replacement in Boston, MA

Rubber roofing (EPDM) is not the best system for flat roofs, but in some instances, it just does not work right off the bet, and when it leaks, repairing such a roof is not even an option. In late July of 2009 we began work on one such roof in Roxbury, MA – a neighborhood of Boston, located 15 minutes from downtown.

IB 80-mil white flat roof installed in Boston, MA

The roof was installed by an unqualified roofing contractor who apperanly never installed a rubber roof before, nor did he care about quality at all, which you can judge for yourself from the photographs of the roof that we’ve provided. As you will be able to see, this particular roof, though small, required a lot of detail work, which was the defining factor of whether this roof would leak or not. The roofer that installed the EPDM rubber on this roof, completely skipped the flashing part, choosing to instead caulk the corners with rubber lap sealants, and in some cases used the sealant to adhere membrane seams. As a result, most seams – even those that were glued together with rubber glue, partially or completely came apart.

Rubber roof inside corner caulked with rubber lap sealant instead of corner flashing

In addition to the careless installation practice used by the contractor, the homeowner, Jim, was very concerned about insulation screws being loose under the roof and in some places penetrating it, creating more leaks. Despite all the corner cutting and improper installation, Jim had one advantage that kept his house more or less watertight, and without major roof leaks. The roof was built with a slight slope, which diverted all the water toward the wall drain, while parapet walls kept the water from spilling over the roof edges.

EPDM rubber roof - vent pipe flashing

Just as a side note, this house used to be a part of a larger building, which was partially demolished at some point in time. Its current back wall used to be a separation firewall between different sections of the building. You can easily figure this out by looking at the brick on the front and back of the house. This brings up a mystery which I cannot solve: the through-wall drain is located in the back of the house, where the old separation wall is now. Therefore, back when the house was bigger, all the water would flow to the adjacent section of the roof. Still it had to drain somewhere, otherwise the house would be completely flooded, and the roof could have actually collapsed under all that weight. I suppose there were through-roof drains, which were buried / removed during one of the re-roofs and a through-wall drain was created when the rear part of the building was removed. I will come back to this topic later on, when I’ll discuss the parapet walls on this house. Continue reading

Flat Roof Deck Installation in Wellesley, MA

This is a project profile of a flat roofing system installed over a sun-room roof in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The roof system was planned in such a way that a premium wooden deck would be installed over it, and long-lasting water-tightness was the most important aspect, while at the the same time, aesthetics were also important.

Flat roof deck in Wellesley, MA

Waterproofing a flat roof deck:

Wellesley is known for its beautiful mansions and only the best building products (such as an IB Flat roof) make their way into these homes. Having a backyard deck is a great addition to the coziness of any home, and very often such decks are built over a sun room, garage, or other living space. Therefore, having such deck completely watertight is of utmost importance. If this flat roof deck leaks, it would be very difficult to trace this leak, since a wooden deck siting on slippers over the waterproofing layer is usually built as one piece, and complete dis-assembly of the deck would be required to find and fix the leak.

Railing systems on flat roof decks:

Ground view of sun room with deck flat roof.

Each deck must have a railing system. For aesthetic and structural reasons, it is best to install the railing posts through the roof and tie them into roof rafters, rather than attach them to the outside perimeter of the deck. However, to make these through the roof posts watertight using conventional flat roofing systems, such as rubber roof, is nearly impossible in the long run.

Why IB Roof is the perfect waterproofing system for flat roof decks:

Because of such high demands for the roofing material to be watertight and long lasting, IB Flat Roof was chosen for this high end residential home. While this home was going through a complete renovation, a large addition was built in the rear of the house including a beautiful sun roof, and a beautiful premium wooden deck would be built on top of an 80-mil commercial grade PVC roofing membrane. Continue reading

Standing Seam Metal Roof Installation in Wayland, MA



Recently we finished installing an aluminum standing seam metal on a residential home in Wayland, Massachusetts. The roof is made of .032 Aluminum, coated with grey finish Kynar 500 coating. It is a 1.5″ snap-lock standing seam, attached with stainless steel clips and wood screws. Also, as you can see, there is a rail snow retention system, which I will describe in detail below. It consists of cast-aluminum mounts attached to ribs of the standing seam roof and two rows of stainless steel cross bars (rails) to hold snow and ice from sliding off the roof.

Standing seam metal roof installed in Wayland, MA

Originally, the homeowner was having bad problems with Ice dams and leaks. Originally, the roof had an “ice belt” made of copper, but it only covered the bottom 2 feet of the roof and as we discovered later, during tear-off, it was tucked under the shingles above it by only 2-3 inches. Needles to say, this copper ice-belt did not work as it was intended to, and the ice dams were still creating leaks. After a while, to solve the Ice Dams problem the homeowner installed large sheets of aluminum.

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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” – http://www.wsrca.com/bookstore/index.htm.

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]