Roofing Resources: Seven Tips You Can’t Do Without

March 7, 2011
If you’ve been newly charged with roofing maintenance, it may be time to hit the books and check out some of the roofing resources available.

Although new construction activity is slow, that doesn’t mean that our roofing problems are fewer or that we can scrimp on maintenance or staffing. Maybe there have been layoffs, or departing employees are not being replaced. Unfortunately, this means we survivors have to bridge the gap, absorbing roofing as an additional responsibility to our primary function. If you’ve been newly charged with roofing maintenance, it may be time to hit the books and check out some of the roofing resources available.

1. Update Roofs to Match PV Panels

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) International Roofing Expo recently held in Las Vegas was well attended, with many programs and exhibits that would benefit any building owner or operator. Since many readers may be thinking about installing photovoltaics on existing properties, NRCA’s all-day program included information on PV basics, installation, sustainability, codes and standards, rating systems, and contractor issues. Handouts included a booklet for building managers on Guidelines for Roof-Mounted Photovoltaic System Installations.

Many exhibitors recognized that at a roofing show, the emphasis should be on installing PVs without impairing the primary function of the roof. All sorts of boots, clamps, and pedestals were shown, with designs that minimized penetrations through the roof membrane. Membrane exhibitors encouraged owners to remove aged roof systems, install thicker membranes, and improve drainage so that the life of the roof can match the expected life of the PV systems, around 40 years.

2. Watch Out for Solar System Risks

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and FM Global provided speakers and booths to address the risks of these new systems. For example, installing a Class A PV system over an existing Class A membrane system might not meet Class A for the combined system. Still to be established are recommended minimum elevations for panel systems above the roof membrane, firebreaks, minimum distance between panels and roof edges, and the like. 

3. Know What’s On the Market

If you are not familiar with the National Roofing Contractors Association, (NRCA), this would be an excellent time to visit them at www.nrca.net. Request a copy of their 2010-2011 catalog to see what they have that might be of use to you.

If you have all kinds of roof systems or are thinking of using something new, I recommend you order the 2010 NRCA Roofing Manual CD. The CD contains all the information from the 4 published NRCA volumes:

  • Architectural Metal Flashing, Condensation Control and Reroofing
  • Steep-slope Roof Systems
  • Metal Panel and SPF Roof Systems
  • Membrane Roof Systems

4. Be Prepared to Repair

Perhaps your new responsibilities are more on the problem-solving side with leak detection and repair. NRCA’s Repair Manual has step-by-step instructions for repairing build-up, polymer-modified bitumen, thermoplastic and thermoset roof systems, plus instructions and photographs for more than 150 kinds of repairs. 

Building owners and facility managers might also be interested in the organization’s Guides for Building Owners series, which includes Steep-Slope Architectural Metal, Built-up and Polymer-modified Bitumen Roof Systems, SPRI/NRCA Manual of Roof Inspection, Maintenance and Emergency Repair for Existing Single-Ply Roof Systems, Low-slope Structural Metal Panel Roof Assemblies, and Spray Polyurethane Foam-based Roof Systems.  

5. Familiarize Yourself with Maintenance Materials

Maintaining existing roofs is a challenge, even if the owner or operator has an accurate inventory of systems and their warranties. A number of exhibitors were showing not only the traditional roof repair materials (usually solvent-based mastics and reinforcements that can be purchased locally or can be torch-applied), but also systems that are self-adhering or use reduced quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Maintenance documents you may find useful include the joint publication of NRCA with SPRI on Repair of Low Slope Roof Systems and The NRCA Manual on Roof Coatings.

6. Understand Advancements in Technology

Technology has greatly advanced on aerial surveys of roofs, using flyovers or satellite observation. This works well on roof systems that have thermal insulation below the membrane, as wet insulation shows up as thermal anomalies (that is, hot or cold spots). These systems will not work when PV panels obscure the roof membrane, or when you have inverted roof membrane systems (PMRs) or systems with no insulation. However, a new roof vector system can find leaks in membranes, even under the soil of a vegetated roof.

7. Check Out Upcoming Events and Networking Opportunities

Some notable major roofing symposia are scheduled for later this year. The International Symposium 2011, Emerging Technologies and Roof System Performance, is sponsored by NRCA in cooperation with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). It will be held Sept. 7-9 in Washington D.C. and is an excellent way to meet with your peers and network.

The 2011 symposium will provide a forum for the formal presentation of roofing industry research and the latest information about the science of emerging technologies, including reflective roof surfaces, vegetative roof systems, and roof-mounted photovoltaic systems.

In keeping with the traditions of previous international symposia, the 2011 symposium will bring together industry leaders, researchers and other industry stakeholders. Topics include high-performance roof systems, sustainable roof systems, roof systems that incorporate renewable energy, and the energy efficiency and life cycle analysis of roof systems.

ASTM Committee D-08 will hold its seventh Symposium on Roofing Research and Standards Development from Dec. 4-5 in Tampa, FL, in conjunction with its Dec. 4-7 standards development meetings. The target audience includes roofing professionals, contractors, architects, engineers, consultants, building owners, researchers, technologists, technicians, sales and marketing personnel, product development specialists, and insurers. Proceedings of past symposia are available from ASTM International.

The Roof Consultants Institute (RCI) education programs will be held in Reno, NV, starting April 9. Read more about it at: http://www.rci-online.org/international-convention-ce.html. You may also benefit from a trip to the BOMA International Conference and the Every Building Show, set for June 26-28 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Check it out here: http://www.bomaconvention.org/boma2011/public/enter.aspx.

Hope to see you at one or more of these outstanding programs!

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About the Author

Richard L. Fricklas

Richard (Dick) L. Fricklas received a Lifetime Achievement Award and fellowship from RCI in 2014 in recognition of his contributions to educating three generations of roofing professionals. A researcher, author, journalist, and educator, Fricklas retired as technical director emeritus of the Roofing Industry Educational Institute in 1996. He is co-author of The Manual of Low Slope Roofing Systems (now in its fourth edition) and taught roofing seminars at the University of Wisconsin, in addition to helping develop RCI curricula. His honors include the Outstanding Educator Award from RCI, William C. Cullen Award and Walter C. Voss Award from ASTM, the J. A. Piper Award from NRCA, and the James Q. McCawley Award from the MRCA. Dick holds honorary memberships in both ASTM and RCI Inc.

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