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Roof Process and Product Advancements

Posted on 15 December, 2015 at 12:21 Comments comments (68)
Updated 2/4/2019
Like most things in life, roof products evolve continuously. Manufacturers compete with one another, using the latest science and technologies to one-up each other improving their particular products' durability, efficiency and sustainability.
In turn, its very important for contractors to stay informed on these products and are properly trained on the various applications of each.
In this article, I'll share some recent improvements made for various roof types to help you make more informed decisions on any upgrades or repairs you make to your home or building's roof.
Tile Roof Products:
 With few exceptions, Roof Tiles themselves have generally remained unchanged over the past several decades. And why not? Cement tiles especially are pretty durable and can last half a century or more. The big improvements have recently been made for these roofs where it counts most- Underlayments and adhesives. While undamaged tiles will repel over 95-99% of rainwater, its a given that some moisture will make its way through the hundreds of seams, gaps and mini archways. Cracks and breaks caused by wind lift and human traffic will dramatically increase rainwater penetration. Its also important to note that when water enters through 1 broken tile, it will continue to run beneath every tile below that one.
Underlayments most commonly used on these roofs since their inception have been various grades of rolled asphalt sheeting. The basic makeup of this asphalt sheeting is very similar to heavy cardboard, which is then treated with an asphalt coating. Some of the better grades add a fiberglass mix to their cardboard. In any case, the big drawback to using these asphalt "felts" is that the asphalt wears down with time. Add the extra moisture due to damaged tiles and that asphalt layer wears away rather quickly, leaving only disintegrating cardboard "protecting" your roof.
For some time now, roof product manufacturers have been experimenting with better alternatives as tile underlayments. Initial products they rolled out weren't very successful due to higher cost, installation complexity and other reasons. Within the past several years however, most manufacturers have introduced new types of composite underlayments which are much more able to withstand the most extreme conditions. The most common names are GAF's "Tiger Paw", Tyvek's Pro-Tech, Titanium,  OC's "Deck Defense", "Feltex" and many more. The primary advantage is that none of them will crack or break down when subjected to weather extremes as asphalt products do. Material cost of these per sf is only slightly higher than regular felt. Installation is fairly easy but its important to note, these new products have specific installation guidelines as well as which fasteners and proper nail spacing to be used. Its imperative that the installer understands these specifications and follows them precisely in order to maintain that advantage.
Some other improvements to tile roof applications made in the last decade or so have been made with regard to adhesives and cement. Most tile colors and types become obsolete over time and it sometime becomes nearly impossible to locate exact tiles to match. That's why it helps to repair rather than replace tiles that are simply cracked and not shattered. The new tile repair adhesives are made specifically for this purpose and have upgraded additives which adhere to tiles and resist weather conditions. They can be found in a variety of colors to more closely resemble most tiles. While these can't be found in most local home improvement stores, roofing supply stores are usually happy to help you find the product and color you'll need. They are also the best source to find the latest, modified roof cements and membranes if your underlayment simply needs repair.

Flat Roof Products and Coatings:
Advancements have been made over the past several years to roof coatings and patching materials, especially with the elastomeric variety. Almost none of these coatings can be equated to simply "painting" your roof deck surface any more. The better patch compounds are light years ahead of the old roof caulks that initiated the trend in the 1980's.
The better coatings of today contain additives homogenized within them to give much better adhesion and superior tensile flexibility during seasonal expansion/ contraction of asphalt base products they protect. All this leads to much greater solar reflectivity, durability and a higher resistance to breaks and "alligator" type cracking, which in turn means a much longer life span and spacing in between coats.
Different brands use different additives - some use polymers, others "Siliconized Beads", "EPDM" rubber additives and a few others. All of which were engineered after many years of scientific and field testing. There are even several new roof repair products on the market now which can be used in pouring rain and even underwater!
What has gone unchanged throughout these years is that the contractor or installer need to be well versed in the proper preparation and installation techniques of any of these new products before attempting to use them. Some have specific mixing requirements before or during their use as well drying times between patching and additional coats. Its also important to monitor temperature and weather conditions, following manufacturer recommendations for each.
Another thing that has NOT changed, even with all these advancements, is the need to properly prep and clean the surface to which these materials will be applied. Even the best materials will tend to flake off after awhile if its applied to a surface that's already loose or flaking. And very few products will adhere well to a dirty surface. Please be sure your installer is properly preps and cleans your roof prior to any new work being done or you will be re-doing it again in the very near future!
Aside from the surface coatings, there have been several welcome advancements in low-sloped roofing technology as well. Most notable is the new generation of self-adhered rolled products, which have almost ended the need for "Torch-down" rolled roofing. When self-adhered rolls were introduced a couple decades ago, they came with problems which made them impractical for large-scale use. primarily their lack of long-term adhesion, need for costly, specialized base material and lack of retention during seasonal contraction and expansion.
However, those issues appear to have all been addressed with several newer products recently rolled out. On these, adhesives are now far superior even to torched rolls! Granules and even the center core on these new type rolls are embedded with new synthetics or composites which add retention, strength and durability which add up to a much longer lasting surface. Just be forewarned, while most SAP rolled products look alike, not all brands use this vital new technology. Please do your research.

Shingle Roofs:
These roofs have pretty much stood the test of time since the early 80's when fiberglass was added to their composition. While many shingles have remained almost unchanged for decades,- there are several notable exceptions being in the more costly, commercially used 40-50 year types. 
At the 2018 Roofing Expo, I was introduced to a new generation shingle manufactured by Malarkey Roofing Products, which has now replaced their entire Architectural shingle line. They upgraded most aspects on the new shingles from the moisture resistant backing to a new, longer lasting synthetic core and polymer technology for added granule retention, wind resistance and pliability. Even the granules themselves, featured in TIME Magazine's 50 Best Inventions of 2018, now harness sunlight to convert smog into water-soluble ions, actively reducing air pollution! While this is limited to this one manufacturer, I have no doubt the others will all soon be producing similar shingles, if some haven't by now.
Changes have also  been made in the underlayment and roof cements used along with them. Most underlayments used beneath roof shingles is not meant to be completely watertight. Its primary function is to prevent asphalt oils from seeping into the wood decking, thus drying out and wearing the shingles prematurely. However, this can create a problem, especially in high wind zones where shingles are prone to wind lift and damage over time. When this occurs, rainwater will eventually find its way in. So as not to be repetitive, the new underlayment products used in tile applications noted in the first section, are also now being used by some installers to avoid this problem. Again, these products need to be installed according to manufacturer's guidelines.
Advancements have also recently been made in asphalt type patching materials. As noted in the previous section, some of these products have been created for specific use in very wet conditions. Their adhesive qualities even surpass others made for dry conditions. A new product which I like using dries to a rubber-like finish. Its only been out 2 years but appears to maintains that same consistency after that time and I have no doubt the researchers test it thoroughly for much longer periods.

I'll conclude as I began- These materials continue to evolve and improve with continuous research and field testing. It's up to the contractor and installer to fully understand each product's specific preparation and application requirements. Once that's achieved, you can go back to enjoying your home and all its contents without giving a second thought to what's overhead protecting it!

Building Material Cancers & Proper Treatments

Posted on 18 November, 2013 at 11:44 Comments comments (80)
As a cancer survivor myself- going into my 2nd year of full remission- I now have a greater appreciation for most things in life, including some ironic lessons my Remodeling Contractor father taught me regarding building materials.
My particular cancer happened to be in my intestine and was thankfully caught early. Even so, I was told the most effective remedy was to have that section of my intestine surgically removed- which it was. The irony is, I'd learned at a young age that similar cancers found in various types of building materials need to be treated in the much same manner. The most common of these building material "Cancers" are:
Wood - Dry Rot, Insect Infestation, Rodent & Bird feces;
Steel & Iron - Rust, Corrosion;
Plastics (Incl. asphalt & plastic cement) - Sun Rot, Freeze, Plant Rot Acids;
Aluminum - Solar Ray or Acid Rain Abrasion.
The common denominator in all of these- as with other cancers- is that the best remedy is to cut out and remove the affected area.
I mostly encounter these issues in wood and asphalt materials. Wood rot is most well known to most people. But what many of you may not realize is that dry rot is an actual fungus, which usually continues to grow even when its covered. That's what makes cutting out the source so important. As for asphalt roof materials, well, we all know what happens when road crews simply cover over cracks in our streets - the repairs are only meant to be temporary. Many people may not know that colder temperatures actually cause the asphalt plastics to shrink, adding to these cracks, which then expand again during the warmer seasons. Or when bird feces, leaves and dead plants break down on these surfaces, the resulting acids can eat away at them.
Although those are the cancerous problems we mostly find, its not uncommon for us to deal with any of the other materials.
Most recently, I worked on a mobile home where previous repairmen had simply tried patching over some of these problems on the combination steel and aluminum roof. As you can guess, their solution proved to be very temporary. Adding to this particular situation is the fact that ferrous metals (Steel) and non-ferrous metals (aluminum) cannot co-exist together without a non-metallic barrier. Otherwise the molecular corrosion & breakdown of each is expedited. That's why in plumbing, if you try to marry copper and steel pipes together, you need to separate them with a "Dielectric Union". In the case of this mobile home's roof, the progression of rust and corrosion was very visible even beneath the repaired sections. In order for us to properly repair them, we had to cut away then meld new materials on much larger sections of this roof than it would've required if done right in the first place. Obviously, the cost was much higher as well, considering the job had to be done a second time unnecessarily.
After more than 35 years in the business, I'm still perplexed at times to see how many people simply choose to cover over these problems rather than take a little extra time to do the job correctly. Most especially, when its "Professional" repairmen doing so! Having personally experienced the pain and damage caused by medical cancer, I've gained a whole new perspective of just how important it is to not just gloss over these other type of problems, but to cut out their source. Just the peace of mind in knowing that the source of the problem is gone can be invaluable!  If you choose to hire someone else to remedy these "cancers" in your home or building, just make sure he or she is a qualified building material "Surgeon" as well.

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