Designing Resilient Single-Ply Membrane Roof Systems for Hot Climates

Photo 1: The Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt: The ancients learned by experience that shade in association with ventilation provided comfort.

The growing popularity of increased thermal insulation, in association with code and standard mandates, assists in mitigating exterior ambient temperatures and heat flow migration influences on building interior environments. Some have tried to mitigate these exterior influences on the interior by roof surface color alone — an incorrect precept. Roof color alone, an attribute of a single roof system component, cannot mitigate exterior influence in and by itself. Insulation, roof system design, roof deck, etc., all have a role to play.

To make matters worse, HVAC designers have not been informed as to how roof system design can detrimentally affect HVAC performance. Increased air temperatures above the roof surface, high-temperature heating of rooftop piping, and the heating of rooftop units by reflection of the roof surface have all resulted in HVAC performance well below that for which it was designed.

Photo 2. The Greeks learned to use mass to mitigate high levels of solar radiation and resultant heat flow to maintain interior comfort. Shown here is the architecture on the Greek Island of Santorini.

The roof system is made up of various components, which can include some or all of the following: roof deck; substrate board; vapor and/or air barrier; thermal insulation layers; the insulation adhesive or mechanical fasteners; spray foam insulation sealer; cover board; cover board adhesive or mechanical fasteners; roof membrane; membrane adhesive or mechanical fasteners; and roof cover of ballast or coating. Thus, the function of the roof is not a single component effect, but the sum of the whole — all components working together in association with building type, interior use, and location.

Appropriate roof system design is the result of the architect, engineer and building owner working together, taking into consideration the function of the building and the effects of the climatic and environmental conditions expected to be experienced.

This article explains the effects of roof system design on HVAC design in hot climates from the perspective of a roof system designer. It is based on a paper I delivered at the 2014 ASHRAE International Conference on Energy & Indoor Environment for Hot Climates in Doha, Qatar. Its lessons are even more relevant today, with the increase in ambient temperatures worldwide. Concerns such as heat flow, reflected ultraviolet light effects, rooftop temperatures and their potential detrimental effects on HVAC performance will be reviewed. Design recommendations and detailing suggestions for achieving long-term roof service life performance in hot climates with single-ply membranes will be explored. Proactive design recommendations for HVAC designers on how to deal with roof-borne effects will also be provided.

Environmental Concerns Lead to Changes

Societal concerns for the environment, which led to the development of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program under the auspices of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) promoted the use of “cool roofs” — now referred to as “reflective roofs” — as both a potential energy conservation and urban heat island reduction methodology. This movement led to legislative and code mandates that became drivers for massive changes in the roofing industry. Consequently, the use of reflecive roof membranes, which are defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program as roof covers with an initial solar reflectance of 0.65 or greater, have become the code-mandated choice that architects have when designing low-slope roof systems. The specifying of reflective roof membranes — albeit with little forethought in their use and implementation into a roof system — resulted in unintended consequences, such as the formation of moisture below the membrane, excessive heat production to rooftop equipment and building components, and premature failure of some roof systems.

(FIGURE 1A) Figures 1A and 1B: A vented and ballasted roof system not only shades the roof cover, but provides a ventilation layer allowing warm air to rise and dissipate from the roof, thus reducing heat gain to the interior.

The goal of cool roofing has moved over the past years from a potential energy-saving roof cover to an urban heat island mitigator. The challenge for the building design community is to realize that if energy savings is the goal, ballasted roofs are the best choice, as research shows that cool roofs actually raise the ambient temperature above the roof surface. Additionally, reflected UV rays are heating rooftop piping. Clearly in hot and sunny climates, reflective roofs are not in the best interest of the HVAC system performance.

As with any roof-cover material, the appropriate design and use of the material is required to achieve long-term success and a truly sustainable roof system. Roof-system design is equal in importance to structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical design. Therefore, it is imperative that designers who utilize single-ply cool roof systems, especially those which fall within American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Climate Zones 4 through 7 (approximately from the state of Tennessee north), take extra care to achieve a properly functioning and sustainable low-slope roof system. Efforts have recently been made to raise the mandate for reflective roof surfaces to include ASHRAE Climate Zone 4. While this author firmly believes that the selection of a roof system (no matter the climate zone) should be the decision of the architect and owner, raising the mandate to Climate Zone 4 would be imprudent and result in little if any energy savings, with increased potential for roof system failures.

Optimal HVAC Performance in Hot Climates

HVAC cooling equipment design in hot climates often utilizes over-design to compensate for the building’s thermal gain and heat on the roof. Another often overlooked aspect of rooftop equipment is the drop-off in efficiency due to cooling loss in the ductwork and piping; as a result of solar gain, heat and exacerbation from cool roof surfaces that reflect rays back up at the piping can “superheat” the pipe/duct contents.

If the roof cover temperature can be reduced, and the roof’s effects on ducts and pipes can be reduced, the efficiency of roof op equipment will rise, units can be reduced in size, and operating costs will be reduced.

Roof System Requirements

Roof system design should take into consideration the climate and micro-climates in which the roofs are to be located. This is often not the case, with architects simply selecting a roof system by its warranty length and how many LEED credits it can procure. This lack of design methodology has kept many a forensic roof consultant busy, owners frustrated, and manufacturers unsettled, as failures are frequent and mitigation costly.


The need for climatic considerations is exacerbated when the roof system will be located in geographical areas of extreme weather: high winds, extreme cold, and extreme heat. For the purposes of this paper the climatic parameters to be considered are:

  • Extreme heat
  • Intense ultraviolet radiation
  • Sand erosion

Thus, to be successful, the roof cover (membrane) must resist these forces for the term of the desired service life. This author believes in designing with long-term service life in mind. Long-term service life is the essence of sustainability, and in this author’s opinion is a minimum of 30 years.

Heat aging and deterioration of roof membranes from ultraviolet radiation has been the bane of roof covers for decades. Premature end of service life as a result of these effects has been well documented by professionals, studied by researchers, and experienced by building owners.

The effects of windblown sand across, or accumulation upon, roof membrane is less understood, but as a rough-surfaced material moving across a pliable membrane it is intuitive that this action could be egregious to the long-term performance of the roof membrane.

Consequently, to achieve long-term performance in hot climates, the roof membrane, in addition to meeting all the needs of the building and roof system, must have a history of resisting long periods of high ambient temperatures, and high surface temperatures, and be resistant to the effects of ultraviolet radiation.

Lessons From History

Learning from historical examples from indigenous peoples who had to deal with the climate with fewer tools than are available today is both prudent and wise. Cultures in the Middle East have dealt with extreme heat is several ways. The first is through shade. While exposed to the sun, hot and arid ambient climates are almost unbearable. Indigenous people first protected their skin with “galabeyas,” a traditional garment. For structures, shade became a key design element. This can be observed in many of the ancient Egyptian structures that have been uncovered and are viewable today. The Temple of Karnak along the Nile in Luxor is one fine example. (See Photo 1.)

Photo 4: At Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, architect Norman Foster utilized ventilation cavities below the metal roof systems to vent out any possible build-up of heat. Photo credit: Markus Mainka –

The Temple of Karnak also provides us with a second example of a method used as protection from the heat and sun, which is to cool via ventilation. The tall columns of the various halls provided needed structure, but also induced air movement. This concept was integral in the design of the Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia.

Wall and roof construction across the Mediterranean, not only in the European cultures, but also in the Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, and Northern African cultures, utilized thick, massive walls that could absorb the heat of the day and prevent it from moving to the interior — a cave above ground, if you will. (See Photo 2.)

Thus, we learn from history that the following were important design features in providing comfort in extremely hot and arid climates:

1. Shade

2. Ventilation

3. Mass

In translating the historical precedents in regard to roofing to today’s building needs and roof systems, the issue of shading needs to be given more consideration. In the United States, the current roof systems that offer shading are ballasted assemblies with river-washed gravel of approximately 1.5 inches in diameter (3.8 cm). Spread at a minimum of 10 pounds (4 kg) per square foot(30.5 cm2), the stone creates a shading layer over the roof membrane below. The stone ballast also creates a mass element that can absorb the sun’s energy. While the stones lying next to each other create voids and spaces, the ventilation element is small, but present. In order to achieve the ventilation element, a drainage mat (used in garden roof systems) is placed above the roof membrane and below the stone.

To complete the roof system, a roof membrane with a historical in situ record of exposure performance and resistance to UV is needed. EPDM satisfies this requirement with its carbon black component, as well as its proven performance, given this author’s experience with EPDM roofs designed 30 years ago which are still in service today. Thermal insulation layers should be multiple, and in the range of 3 inches (7. 5 cm) each.

This roof assembly can be seen in Photo 4 and is detailed in Figures 1A and 1B. It typically includes the following:

· Ballast to shade the membrane from solar heat gain and prevent reflection back at the walls and mechanical equipment. The aim is to provide a mass to gather the solar energy and not allow it to dissipate to the building interior, rooftop equipment, and/or the atmosphere.

· Drainage mat to provide a ventilation layer.

· EPDM to provide resistance to heat and UV radiation, and to provide a break in potential heat flow.

· Thermal insulation to “keep the hot out, and keep the cold in.”

There are several goals to this system, including:

1. Shade the roof membrane and thus provide a cooling layer.

2. Provide protection from the deleterious effects of heat and UV radiation.

3. Provide a ventilation plan to dissipate heat.

4. Eliminate the reflection on rooftop equipment.

5. Reduce cooling loads.

6. Provide a rooftop environment that will allow for the downsizing of rooftop equipment, and thus increase efficiency and lower energy usage.

7. Achieve a sustainable long-term roof system.

A roof system of similar concept was recently installed at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, in which metal roof panels were elevated off the roof deck to form a cavity to vent any possible heat build-up. (See Photo 4.)

Design Recommendations

The goal of architects/designers should be to design roof systems to achieve sustainable and resilient long-term service lives. Today’s society is asking that roof systems provide more than just protection from the exterior environment. For extreme climatic areas of the world, the standard of care required to be exercised by the design professional has increased. For dry and hot climates interior comfort is paramount, and the roof system can be designed to assist rooftop HVAC systems in regard to performance, energy conservation, and efficiency, as well as extending the roof system service life.

Many of the required roof system design parameters apply, but for hot climates there are several key design elements that should be given consideration. Following are the design considerations that will provide a greater opportunity for successful roof systems in hot and dry climates:

1. Ensure collaboration and coordination with the HVAC system designer. The association between potential heat flow, resultant interior heat gain and cooling demand is so closely related that it would appear obvious that the coordination of the two building system designers should be a given. Unfortunately, this is far from reality.

2. Gain an understanding that heat energy is first and foremost transmitted by solar energy, and protecting the roof membrane’s surface from the “sun’s rays” will result in diminished heat gains. Use indigenous concepts to your benefit.

3. Use thermal insulation to provide a formidable barrier between the interior and exterior environments. It is not only about the cost of cooling that should be dictating the amount of insulation, but the loss of cool air and preventing heating. This author feels that the insulation amounts used on roofs of hot climates should be equal to those in cold climates.

4. Shading 1: Protecting the roof surface from direct contact by the solar radiation will provide enormous benefits.

5. Shading 2: The shading element typically will absorb (to the extent the solar radiation is not deflected), thus minimizing and/or absolving the effects of heat flow to the interior.

6. Specify roof membranes (roof covers) that have a history of in situ long-term performance in hot climates.

7. Specify roof membranes (roof covers) that have high resistance to ultraviolet radiation.

8. Specify roof membranes (roof covers) that have high resistance to heat aging.

9. Understand that the high base flashings are part of the roof system and will need to be designed appropriately. The should be protected with double layers of flashings.

10. Specify robust and durable materials: Increase the thickness of roof membranes and covers. If the membrane is reinforced, the thickness of material protection above the scrim is the critical dimension.

11. Design roof system components with the same care for the effects of the sun, solar radiation, and heat as you would the roof. For example, the use of no-hub couplings on roof drains will see the sun for several hours each day and will deteriorate over time, and will become attributable to one of those “hidden, mystery” leaks.

12. Use the historically proven method of heat disbursement: Provide a ventilation layer above the roof membrane (roof cover).

13. Design to protect rooftop HVAC equipment and walls from deflected solar radiation. Remember how you started a fire as a kid with a magnifying glass? This is the same concept.

14. When using metal components such as roof edge copings, realize that the temperature of the metal during daylight periods will work to heat age and deteriorate the roofing below. Try to incorporate a ventilation layer below the metal.

The Importance of the Roof

The design of roof systems has historically been given little forethought, and was often regulated to junior designers with little or no empirical experience, and armed with little more than a “canned” master specification that provided little more than a market-driven minimum of a roof system. Today’s buildings are much too expensive and sophisticated to allow poorly conceived and designed roof systems to prevail. With an increase in detrimental “climactic events,” roof systems demand the same level of consideration and design as do all other building systems: structural, mechanical, plumbing, communications, and building envelopes.

Hot climates are special and unique climatic environments, and as such, have special environmental conditions that need to be designed for. Using empirical and historical information, proven materials, and designing to particular in situ environmental conditions can produce roof systems that will reach sustainable levels of performance. With proper coordination with HVAC designers, the roof can rise above just a protection layer, and provide both raised interior comfort and greater HVAC cooling efficiencies. Greater emphasis on education on proper, innovative, and sustainable roof system design can be achieved if all stakeholders (manufacturers, contractors, architects, engineers and consultants) work together.

It is well past the time to move roofing system design to the forefront of building design and have it become a system that is appreciated for its crucial role in energy conservation and resilient construction.

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, Fellow-IIBEC, RRC, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit

Mission-Critical Roofs Protect Some of the World’s Most Interesting Buildings

New Acropolis Museum in Athens houses priceless art and historical artifacts. The building’s highly transparent glass façades are designed to showcase its exhibits and provide panoramic views of the historic surroundings. Photos: Owens Corning

A museum built atop ancient artifacts reflecting human activities from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. A crescent-shaped design center sheathed in a copper/aluminum alloy. A paper mill that is home to the world’s largest newsprint press, producing enough paper to cover 120 km of three-lane motorway every hour.

Each of these buildings presented a common dilemma for designers and contractors: How best to protect what’s inside? The high-value products and processes these structures house span centuries — from ancient scrolls to high-speed presses. But despite the buildings’ varied purposes, one material protects them all — cellular glass insulation.

Long trusted in Europe for its endurance and performance, cellular glass insulation is valued for a spectrum of performance criteria. These attributes include outstanding compressive strength, a moisture-impervious profile, redundancy, dimensional stability, fire resistance and sustainable composition. Collectively, these qualities provide a roofing insulation designed to weather the stressors of time, toil and the elements.

This detail shows the roof system installed on the concrete deck on Level 2 of the New Acropolis Museum including (1) the concrete deck; (2) bitumen-based primer; (3) FOAMGLAS slabs, fully adhered; (4) two layer waterproofing membranes, with polyester reinforcement; (5) adjustable BUZON pedestals; (6) marble slabs, roof finish.

Below, we take a virtual journey “across the pond” to understand how cellular glass insulation is protecting timeless treasures with modern-day processes. Returning to America, we consider how this material has found a home in the New World and consider how cellular glass can help ever-industrious America protect mission-critical buildings.

New Acropolis Museum, Athens

Standing as a model of “living history,” the New Acropolis Museum’s collections allow visitors to experientially move through human civilization from prehistoric times through late antiquity. A window onto an archeological excavation area below the floor connects modern-day discovery with ancient artifacts preserved beneath the museum.

This detail shows the roof system installed on the metal deck on Level 1 of the New Acropolis Museum including (1) the metal deck; (2) bitumen-based primer; (3) FOAMGLAS tapered slabs in hot bitumen; (4) hot bitumen; (5) two layer waterproofing membranes (first layer with polyester reinforcement); (6) FOAMGLAS fixing plates; (7) screws; (8) rubber sealing ring; (9) support; (10) non-transparent glass.

Comprised of a base, middle and top level, the museum takes the form of a cube. Viewed from the Acropolis perched above, the flat FOAMGLAS roof complements the geometric ethos of the design. Above a base level that allows viewers to watch excavation activity in real time, the middle level is a double-height trapezoidal plate accommodating galleries from the Archaic period to the Roman era. The top level is made up of a rectangular Parthenon Gallery. The gallery features a glass enclosure allowing natural light to show off sculpture while providing breathtaking views.

The cellular glass insulation in the main roofing system is placed atop a metal roof deck that includes a bitumen-based primer under FOAMGLAS tapered and fully adhered insulation. The insulation is placed below a layer of hot bitumen and two layers of waterproofing membrane which are reinforced with polyester material and covered with an embedded protection course. This surface is connected with a FOAMGLAS serrated plate, screw and rubber air- and water-sealing gasket ring to a support structure underneath non-transparent glass.

Viewed from the Acropolis perched above, the roof of the New Acropolis Museum
complements the geometric ethos of the design.

Marc Clynhens, Technical Director for FOAMGLAS and based in Belgium, was on the jobsite during the installation of the roof system. Installed during Greece’s scorching summer weather, the material was easy for workers to handle on the jobsite, according to Clynhens. “FOAMGLAS is a very rigid material, but it is easy to cut into shapes to complement a building’s unique design,” he says. For example, a dome sitting atop the roof of the Qatar National Museum required cellular glass insulation to be precisely cut to create the specific domed shape.

Of course, every project has a few unexpected challenges. While lightning protection was being installed in the New Acropolis Museum, drilling through the cellular glass insulation punctured the waterproofing layer and was sealed with silicone instead of the sealant specified by the roof membrane manufacturer. Clynhens notes this turned into a “teachable moment” for the crews. Quick troubleshooting and a revised detail resolved this issue. A conduit was installed to attach the lightning protection system.

A few other “aha” moments that had to be managed on the jobsite were slight deviations between drawings and the actual roof measurements. This is a quite common occurrence on jobsites, and as cellular glass insulation is easy to cut, adjustments can be easily made to address these deviations. The tapered roof system is well known in Europe. The FOAMGLAS team often recommends tapered insulation to reduce the weight of the roof and ensure drainage, just as we would in the United States. Since the substructure was flat, the team had to slope the insulation to meet the design of the museum’s top glass layer.

This detail shows another view of the FOAMGLAS serrated plate assembly.

Even low-profile materials support the assembly’s performance. Bitumen — a sealing and adhesive membrane material of choice since the 1960s — attaches the cellular glass insulation to the rest of the membrane. This material also complements reuse of FOAMGLAS in the future – for example, if building codes require modification to materials or if waterproofing membranes are replaced. Clynhens notes it is relatively easy to peel off the membrane from the FOAMGLAS, pour a new level of bitumen, and reattach the original insulation to the new membrane.

Europe has long been a leader in sustainable building, and the 60 percent recycled glass in FOAMGLAS supports this performance quality. Processes on the jobsite also support sustainability, with the goal always being to generate as little waste as possible. For example, Clynhens notes that FOAMGLAS production waste materials that cannot be recycled in the production process are remixed into clay for bricks.

Firstsite Design Centre, Colchester, United Kingdom

Located in Essex, about 90 minutes from London, the Firstsite Design Centre presents experiential contemporary art while paying homage to the rich artistic legacy of the local landscape. While studio and gallery spaces host workshops, lectures and events, the centerpiece of Firstsite is the Berryfield mosaic, an ancient artifact discovered in 1923 on the site where Firstsite stands. The mosaic — installed in a glass case built into the floor — was originally part of a Roman townhouse, circa 200 A.D. To protect the ancient artifacts underneath, Firstsite was erected on a concrete raft foundation, requiring no deep excavation.

Firstsite Design Centre showcases contemporary art as well as the Berryfield mosaic, an ancient artifact discovered on the site where the building stands.

While much of the site’s intrigue is underground, above-ground design elements — especially the roof — are pretty remarkable. FOAMGLAS insulation was laid onto beads of a cold adhesive on the metal roof deck with no through fasteners. Square plates for mechanical attachment were pushed into the insulation and a torch-on membrane was applied. Additional metal grips were screwed through the bitumen membrane into the metal plates below, providing the structure onto which the standing seams of Tecu Gold Sheets (a copper and aluminum alloy) could be folded and mechanically attached.

While cellular glass insulation provides a completely waterproof roof, it is also part of the intriguing façade. A FOAMGLAS slab of 100 mm was applied and adhered to the center’s plywood substrate, enhancing the façade’s resilience, while the Tecu Gold Sheets were seamed and fixed into position help achieve the aura of a golden glow.

Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge Mill, Belgium

One of Europe’s largest paper mills, Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge Mill in northwestern Belgium produces 540,000 tons of recycled paper annually and houses the world’s largest newsprint machine. The company is also a leader in renewable materials that replace fossil-based resources. In 2019, the company announced a pilot facility for enabling the production of bio-based plastics and, in 2020, the facility found a way to recycle used paper cups that will cut the carbon footprint of disposable paper cups by a compelling 50 percent.  

The roof on the Langerbrugge Mill in Belgium protects the world’s largest newsprint machine while also supporting heavy mechanical and electrical equipment on the rooftop.

The FOAMGLAS cellular glass roof topping the 22,000 m2 (236,806 ft2) area of flat roofs at the Langerbrugge Mill aligns with the company’s investment in ecologically responsible activities. From a sustainability perspective, cellular glass insulation is manufactured using more than 60 percent recycled glass. Totally inorganic, FOAMGLAS contains no ozone-depleting propellants, flame retardants or binders, and is free of volatile organic compounds. Sand is the primary ingredient used in the manufacture of cellular glass, along with some other ingredients, including limestone and soda ash.

Compressive strength is another consideration in the industrial environment. The Langerbrugge Mill’s rooftop supports mechanical and electrical equipment that demand extreme loadbearing capacity. The lowest compressive strength of this type of cellular glass insulation is in the range of 50-70 PSI and can go much higher. High compressive strength complements its dimensional stability. The pure glass composition provides a low coefficient of thermal movement, comparable to concrete and steel. Such stability means there is no warping, dishing or shrinking of the insulation, even as the temperature fluctuates over seasons. Cellular glass provides a stable foundation for the roofing membrane, minimizing the stress arising from constant stretching that can allow a membrane to deteriorate over time.

Industrial operations present considerations when it comes to fire and moisture resistance as well. Noncombustible, cellular glass does not burn, spread fire, produce flames or present a fire risk in the building structure. Printing and biomass processes create a high vapor pressure, which cellular glass is well-suited to manage, given its ability to manage moisture.

The “layered” roof assembly consists of a prefab concrete slab, concrete topping, adhesive primer, cellular glass insulation fully adhered and sealed at the joints with hot bitumen, and two layers of bituminous waterproofing to complete the roof.

Stateside Proven Performance

In Europe, where space is limited and humans have been building for millennia, cellular glass insulation has earned a reputation for its endurance. But its qualities are not without precedent in North America. Cellular glass’s performance attributes captured attention in the mid-20th century, but fell out of the spotlight as less-expensive foam products were introduced. However, when considering the longevity of FOAMGLAS insulation across a building’s life and its ability to maintain performance in harsh conditions, FOAMGLAS could potentially be a more economical choice than less-expensive insulating options.

The Jardine Water Purification Plant next to Chicago’s Navy Pier processes almost a billion gallons of water each day.

Still, for mission-critical projects, cellular glass insulation has been a trusted material for projects ranging from the roof of a Chicago water treatment plant processing one billion gallons of water daily, to the rotunda in New York City’s iconic Guggenheim Museum.

The longevity of cellular glass was exposed, literally, during a re-roofing of the Jardine Water Purification Plant next to Chicago’s Navy Pier. Each day, the plant processes almost a billion gallons of water (that’s about a million gallons per minute) from Lake Michigan. Considered critical to the city’s infrastructure, it falls under the protection of the Department of Homeland Security.

The building’s roof was designed with cellular glass insulation to withstand the harsh conditions of Chicago’s climate, as well as the corrosive conditions that accompany water treatment processes. The insulation’s effectiveness in meeting performance expectations came to light in 2012 when the plant’s original concrete and coal-tar pitch roof, spanning 10.3 acres, began to show signs of moisture infiltration after nearly a half-century in use. As the roof was disassembled, the cellular glass insulation was found to be completely intact, installed in place and performing without flaw — even in extreme conditions for nearly 50 years.

When Performance is Paramount

In Europe, America and around the globe, designers have many choices today when it comes to roofing options. Quality is non-negotiable and performance levels are high in today’s roofing materials. But when a project is mission-critical, and performance is paramount — such as buildings that house timeless treasures or cover one-of-a-kind equipment or processes — cellular glass insulation provides a level of performance that stands up to the tests of time, climate and designers’ trust.  

About the author: Tiffany Coppock, AIA, NCARB, CSI, CDT, LEED AP, ASTM, RCI, EDAC is the Commercial Building Systems Specialist at Owens Corning where she provides leadership in building science, system development, testing, and documentation.

Roofing: The Industry’s Voice

Episode 1: “Postcards From Europe: Mission Critical Roofs”
Chris King, editor of Roofing, talks to Tiffany Coppock and Marc Clynhens about the innovative roof assemblies on mission-critical structures including the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece; the Firstsite Design Centre in Essex, England; and the Stora Enso Langerbrugge Mill in Belgium. Listen here or down below.

The Top 40 Products of 2020

The following product roundup features the Top 40 products of the year, as chosen by the readers of Roofing magazine. The products were selected based on the number of reader requests for sales leads through the Reader Action Card in the print issue and the number of clicks on the website,, including those generated through our monthly e-newsletter. The product generating the most leads from each print issue is also featured as our “Roofers’ Choice” product. If you have a new product you’d like us to consider for a future edition of our Materials & Gadgets section, please email Editor-in-Chief Chris King at

Shingles With Mechanically Fused Common Bond

GAF’s Timberline HDZ shingles feature LayerLock technology, which mechanically fuses the common bond to offer the new StrikeZone nailing area — up to 600 percent larger than Timberline HD shingles. According to the company, the shingles are designed for strength and powerful wind uplift performance. Contractors can offer homeowners a GAF WindProven limited wind warranty with no maximum wind speed limit when installing GAF shingles with LayerLock technology and four qualifying GAF accessories.

Shingle Underlayment With Slip-Resistant Film

Carlisle WIP Products’ WIP GRIP Premium Shingle Underlayment features a slip-resistant top film that improves roofers’ safety on wet and dry installations. The underlayment is comprised of a flexible, 55-mil-thick, rubberized asphalt, fiberglass-reinforced membrane. It can be used on critical roof areas such as eaves, ridges, valleys, dormers, and skylights; it may also be used as covering for the entire roof to prevent moisture or water entry.

Standing Seam Roof Clamp

Dynamic Fastener’s Standing Seam Roof Clamp installs over the clip on a completely seamed, attached roof section a minimum 4 feet or further from the edge with no damage to roof panels or finished seams and no roof penetrations. The clamp accommodates seams up to 1 inch wide, and the unique “flip” design of the DFSSRC-03 allows for fit on both the Butler MR24 and Butler VSR-style seams just by removing the bolts, turning one side of the clamp around the ring and replacing the bolts.

Acoustical Smoke Vent

The Bilco Company’s Type ACDSV Smoke Vent is specifically designed to provide fire and smoke protection for applications where exterior noise intrusion is undesirable, such as in auditoriums, concert halls, and theaters. The new ACDSV carries an OITC-46 sound rating to guard against low-frequency outdoor sounds such as traffic and airplane noises, and an STC 50 sound rating. In addition, the product has also received an ISO-140-18 sound rating when tested against rainfall sound.

One-Component Liquid-Applied Flashing

CertainTeed’s SmartFlashONE is a one-component, UV-stable, fluid-applied resin for steep and low-sloped roof flashing details and repairs. According to the company, SmartFlash ONE can be applied without a primer and resealed for future use, offering labor efficiency. The product is available in a 5-gallon pail or a 1-gallon pail. The 1-gallon pail is also available as part of a Flash Pack which includes resin, fleece and application accessories.

Rotating Deck Anchor

The FallTech Rotating Deck Anchor is designed for maximum versatility and safety with a 360-degree self-orienting D-ring for use in temporary fall arrest or restraint applications. The reusable anchor is designed for installation onto exposed #10 rebar and threaded rod and is secured with user-supplied rebar wing nut or hex nut. It features a plated stainless steel anchoring plate, steel plated D-ring and bushing, and its 360-degree self-orienting D-ring is designed to follow the user’s movement.

Heavy-Duty Snow Retention System

PMC Industries offers the Snow Titan, a heavy-duty snow retention system designed for areas with heavy snowfall. According to the company, the product installs quickly and easily, saving time and minimizing labor costs. The system utilizes non-penetrating AceClamp sliding-pin clamps and snap-in ice flags. Snow Titan’s new triangular-shaped rail structure is strong enough to tackle up to 48-inch spans, and can be configured in either one- or two-rail setups depending upon the roofing pitch and expected snowfall.

Lead-Free Roof Flashing Membrane

MFM Building Products offers the GreenWeld PVB armored flashing system, a high-performance PolyVinyl Butyral (PVB) membrane enhanced with an aluminum scrim for superior flexibility, strength and weathering. The membrane is comprised of recycled PVB and can be used in residential and commercial roofing applications including flashing for pipe penetrations and through-wall flashings. It is easy to cut and use, heat-weldable, non-toxic, sustainable, flexible, lightweight, and comes with a 20-year warranty.

Perimeter Safety System

The FallBan Cableguard System provides a temporary or permanent safety barrier around the perimeter of the roof. Horizontal steel cables are anchored to the roof and attached to vertical steel stanchions spaced at 20-foot intervals and then tightened to form a barrier to protect anyone on the roof from accidental falls. The system features stainless steel adjustable threaded parts, making it easy to install. FallBan is made in the United States and patented in both the United States and Canada.

Bath and Dryer Vent

Lifetime Tool introduces the Lifetime Bath-Dryer Vent for shingle roofs. The proprietary design enables the housing structure to mount to the plate without rivets, fasteners and sealants. The vent assembly is crimped into the seamless deep-drawn plate with an EPDM gasket, and the shingle vent plate is 24-gauge galvanized Kynar with 4 inches of flashing on the sides, 6 inches at the top and 3.5 inches at the bottom. In independent laboratory testing, the Lifetime Bath-Dryer Vent exceeded 110 mph in the ASTM T166-18 – Wind Driven Rain Test.

7-Inch Gutter Guards

Leaf Solution’s 7-inch Xtreme Gutter Guards complement the company’s product mix of 5-inch and 6-inch gutter guards for residential or commercial installation. Xtreme features .42 stainless-steel mesh to block debris including leaves, pine needles, oak tassels, shingle grit and pollen, yet allows water to flow freely into the gutter. A durable substrate backing reinforces the mesh, horizontally and vertically, from stretching or sagging and simplifies installation. The product is available for fascia or under-shingle mount in mill silver or black.

Monumental Glass Skylight System

EXTECH/Exterior Technologies Inc.’s SKYGARD 2500 Series aluminum-framed, monumental glass skylight system is available in pyramid, single slope and ridge configurations. The skylight complements commercial, institutional and industrial building designs. The SKYGARD 2500 skylight system accepts glass up to 1-5/16 inches thick, including monolithic or insulated glass units. The skylight system has passed industry-standard testing for air infiltration per ASTM E-283 to 12 psf and water infiltration per ASTM D-331 to 15 psf.

Slate-Look Metal Roofing Panel

EDCO Products introduces Generations Slate, a roofing panel that combines the company’s popular ArrowLine Slate Roofing panel with its advanced HD coating technology to produce an authentic slate appearance. Manufactured with the strength of steel and a multilayered PVDF cool chemistry finish, Generations Slate can reduce energy bills and does not support mold and algae growth. The product is backed by a lifetime warranty.

Ladder Safety Device

The Ladder Lock Pro allows roofing contractors to lock ladders in place to perform work on the roof. The product attaches directly to the roof itself when a new roof is being installed. The Ladder Lock Pro is made of lightweight aluminum and installs in minutes by attaching the upper ladder step to the rooftop using three screws. The products can be purchased in angled or flat configurations to accommodate different types of roofs. The device attaches to any upright ladder using a locking pin. Once the locking pin is in place, it can be attached to the roof using three screws.

Redesigned PVC Drain Kit

Marathon Roofing Products offers the Economy Enpoco Pak, the assembled kit of the ULRD Roof Drain with all the components for easy installation. Available in 2-inch, 3-inch and 4-inch sizes, the Economy Enpoco Pak offers versatility and easy installation on new and existing roofs. The product features a newly designed injection-molded PVC body with stronger gussets and an overflow option; a molded polyethylene dome strainer; and ABS clamping collar (metal standard) with gravel stop.

Color Palette for Coil Coatings

Sherwin-Williams unveils an architect-inspired color palette, the Fluropon Architect Series, which was created by architects who attended the company’s “Color Mixology” event during the AIA Conference on Architecture 2019. The private event brought together hundreds of architects who helped to create newly developed colors. Sherwin-Williams selected 10 unique colors and matched them in various Fluropon 70 percent PVDF systems for exterior metal architecture. This special edition color series incorporates a wide range of colors, textures and effects.

New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits

New Hire Fall Protection and Safety Kits from Malta Dynamics are designed to simplify the process of outfitting new employees. The kits include a full body harness; short- and long-sleeve high-visibility shirts; high-visibility surveyor vest; clear and tinted safety glasses; safety gloves; white cap-style hard hat; durable bag with handles and detachable, adjustable shoulder strap. According to the company, the equipment is tested to meet safety requirements for OSHA and ANSI.

Hard Hat Liners

NoSweat is a disposable, moisture-wicking performance hard hat liner. The product is designed to stick to the inside of any hat or hard hat, wicking away sweat to help prevent headwear from becoming musty smelling while also helping workers focus on the task at hand. According to the company, NoSweat is made with hypoallergenic materials that are thin, soft and lightweight. The liners also help reduce fogging in eyewear and are made in the USA.

Lead-Free Roof Flashing

Boral Roofing’s Wakaflex, the company’s versatile lead-free flashing solution, is listed through IAPMO UES as a permanent flashing (ER-579). The product earned the distinction by undergoing and passing an extremely rigorous 2,000-hour UV exposure test. According to the manufacturer, Wakaflex contains an internal aluminum mesh, making it extremely flexible and easy to shape. It chemically seals to itself, and its Polyisobutylene material composition makes the flashing extremely resistant to all weather conditions.

Heated Apparel for Winter Conditions

Gobi Heat’s Duck Cotton Workwear jacket and vest are heated using a compact battery that is both comfortable and discreet, offering up to 9 hours of battery life. There are three heat settings: low, medium, and high. The jacket is made from 13.4 oz. Duck Cotton Material and features built-in shoulder gussets for maximum flexibility, nylon interior, elastic cuffs, and a removable hood. The company also offers heated beanies, which offer up to 7.5 hours of battery life.

Synthetic Underlayment

System Components Corporation introduces QuickSilver synthetic roofing underlayment for tile, metal, and other durable roof systems currently available in the market. According to the manufacturer, QuickSilver’s patented design offers gasketing technology that helps prevent water penetration around fasteners. The product also features low shrink construction, which mitigates shrink and lift at slope transitions. The elastomer bottom surface is designed to grip high-slope decks, improve fastener seal and help provide a safer walking surface.

[Images: reclaimed-metal-rust-standing-seam.jpg, recliames-78-corrugated-barnyard-rust.jpg]

Metal Panel Recreates Look of Reclaimed Metal

Reclaimed Metal Rust is a new pre-painted metal roofing and siding panel from Western States Metal Roofing that recreates the look of reclaimed metal. The panel features white and silver coloring with orange and reddish rust streaks throughout its design to mimic the look of old, faded galvanized that is rusting. The panel is available in Kynar 500 paint system and comes in 10 different profile finishes. It is available in coil, flats, metal roofing, siding, and wall panels.

Improved Universal Base Attachment

Green Link Engineering’s retooled KnuckleHead universal base offers an improved attachment feature for more secure installations. The universal base, which accepts a range of head designs, now features four holes, which allows for the doubling of mechanical fasteners. In laboratory tests, the four-fastener base installation increased support strength by 40 percent tested on a 12-inch strut Knucklehead configuration. The base can also be further secured and sealed using specially formulated Green Link Adhesive/Sealant.

Roof Windows

VELUX offers roof windows for in-reach applications in both top- and side-hinged options for attic and bonus room renovations. With easy maneuverability, roof windows also provide a point of egress, which can help structures comply with building codes requiring two points of escape in case of fire. With convenient side or bottom handles for easy operation and a variety of blind options, homeowners can increase the amount of natural light and fresh air ventilation in their spaces, all while enjoying panoramic views. www.VELUX

Adhesive Carts With Options for Bead Spacing

OMG Roofing Products announces that OMG BeadPro Carts, which apply canister based OlyBond500 Insulation Adhesive, now offer roofing contractors a choice of 6- or 12-inch on center bead application. The carts offer a stable platform for holding adhesive canisters and allows contractors to apply four adhesive beads spaced perfectly at 6- or 12-inches on center. Contactors simply load the cart with the canisters, secure the hoses, and apply straight line beads of OlyBond500 Insulation Adhesives.

Gauge Tool Set for Metal Clamps and Brackets

The LMCurbs gauge tool set was designed to help customers save time and money by quickly determining the type of clamp or bracket that is needed for a metal roofing application. There are two styles, one for the S-5! Utility Clamps and one for the five different profiles of the S-5! RibBrackets. These gauges will greatly reduce the need for shipping out samples to test fit. Customized laser etching is available, allowing companies to hand them out to their customers with their contact information.

Temporary Anchor Point for Metal Roofs

Metal Plus, LLC’s Universal Safety Anchor (USA) is a temporary anchor point with a unique hinge-system designed to accommodate most panels without any loose components. According to the manufacturer, the Universal Safety Anchor is easy to install: just open, close, and torque. It requires no adjusting of set screws. The patented Universal Safety Anchor was designed to eliminate problems including damage to metal panels from set screws, rusting of panels when anchor points are removed, and voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.

Utility Tray Accessory for Material Hoist

Safety Hoist Company’s Utility Tray XL is easily installed on the EH-500 and HD-400 hoist models. The pre-assembled tray is a steel fabrication and measures 44 inches wide by 25 inches deep and 12 inches high. The Utility Tray includes two Deck Extenders, which expand the carriage width to 45 inches, allowing greater support for rolled goods. Using the Utility Tray XL, contractors cab safely lift items such as tiles, buckets, tools, HVAC units and other construction materials.

Pitch Pan Kits

Mule-Hide Products Co.offersShapeShift Kits, which put everything needed to create pitch pans in one convenient package. A new addition to Mule-Hide Products’ ShapeShift line, the “grab-and-go” kits are available in two sizes to accommodate jobs of various sizes. Large kits create four 7- by 7-inch pitch pans. Small kits create four 4- by 4-inch pitch pans. Kit sections are made of high-strength polymer in white and snap together for easy assembly. ShapeShift kits can be used to create pitch pans for acrylic-coated, smooth modified bitumen, and smooth built-up roofing systems.

Box Rib Wall Panels

Petersen expands its family of PAC-CLAD Precision Series wall panels with the introduction of the Box Rib line. The four new Box Rib wall panels feature 87-degree rib angles and a variety of rib spacing patterns. The Box Rib architectural wall panels are 1-3/8 inches deep with a nominal 12-inch width. Each of the four Box Rib profiles is offered in a no-clip fastener-flange option, or a clip-fastened panel to accommodate thermal expansion and contraction. The Box Rib panels are backed by the following tests: ASTM E-330, ASTM E-1592, ASTM E-283 and 331, AAMA 501.

Telescoping Debris Disposal System

Rocket Equipment’s Trash Rocket is a self-supported telescoping debris disposal system designed for commercial and residential roofing contractors. The trailer-mounted Trash Rocket has a totally enclosed chute, which also doubles as an emergency exit for personnel. The composition of the Trash Rocket provides durability and strength with its corrosion-resistant aluminum and high-density poly chute. The folding chutes adjust to locations, rooflines, and landscapes. Adjustable outriggers provide leveling and safety on uneven terrain.

Pneumatic Nailers

SENCO added two new pneumatic nail guns with increased magazine capacity: the JoistPro 150MXP and JoistPro 250MXP. Used for fastening metal structural connectors like joist hangers, seismic/hurricane straps and rafter ties, the products feature several design innovations, including increased magazine size. The JoistPro 150MXP weighs just 5.3 pounds and holds two strips of SENCO paper-tape collated nails, cutting downtime for reloading in half. The more powerful JoistPro 250MXP features an all-new nosepiece that provides accurate nail placement into pre-punched metal framing hardware.

Swivel Metal Roof Anchor

Dynamic Fastener offers a swivel metal roof anchor for use with lifelines, rope/cable grabs or retractors. It offers continuous protection and freedom of movement with the 360 degree swivel and 180-plus degree flip movement of the D-ring, keeping the connection point in line with your work. According to the company, the unique design keeps the anchor point above the high point of the panels. The swivel metal roof anchor can be used for temporary or permanent application. It is designed to fit in the valleys of lighter R panels and capture the purlin below.

Roof Ventilation Systems

Atlas Roofing Corporation’s TruRidge and HighPoint Roof Ventilation intake and exhaust systems complement the current line of Atlas residential roofing products and are the company’s first ventilation products. The TruRidge and HighPoint systems are manufactured with a proprietary polymer that is formulated to withstand the rigors of severe weather conditions. When properly installed, TruRidge and HighPoint exceed U.S. Department of Energy recommendations and all nationally recognized ventilation building codes.

Hybrid Snow Guard System

Alpine SnowGuards unveils the Fusion-Guard, a hybrid snow guard system that offers the option of adding pipe-style snow guards to the new pad-style snow guard. According to the manufacturer, Fusion-Guard pairs the company’s newly designed pad-style snow guard with an optional pipe-style approach to managing snow. The system’s two optional 3/8-inch rods are accepted by the Fusion-Guard Rod Bracket, which fastens onto the back of the snow guard face, allowing the installer to add rods if desired during, or any time after, the initial installation.

High-Performance House Wrap

Benjamin Obdyke’s Flatwrap HP is a high-performance house wrap designed for use in non-absorptive cladding applications or in conjunction with a rainscreen for other applications. According to the manufacturer, the product offers superior durability via a trilaminate polypropylene substrate. The trilaminate design protects the water hold out layer from damage during install. Flatwrap HP can be installed as an air barrier and is also breathable with an ideal perm rating between 10 and 20 perms per building science research.

Fall Arrest Anchors

Kee Safety offers a comprehensive line of Kee Rigid Anchors fall arrest systems to provide personal fall protection. Available in stock for shipment within 24 hours, they are designed to withstand a pull-out force of 5,000 pounds applied in any direction and meet applicable OSHA, ANSI, and Cal/OSHA standards. The anchors are galvanized for corrosion resistance and durability, easy to install, and have insulated posts to stop conductivity and provide for temperature consistency on the building. The product line includes five standard options to meet a wide range of building and roof types.

PVC Spray Contact Adhesive

ICP Building Solutions Group’s Polyset PVC Spray Contact Adhesive is a portable, self-containing, single component solution designed with speed and simplicity in mind. Engineered to adhere most PVC membranes to most vertical walls and substrates for commercial low slope roofing applications, Polyset PVC Spray Contact Adhesive delivers high adhesive output with a fast setup time, helping commercial roofing professionals reduce labor time and complete jobs faster. According to the company, the adhesive can be applied in temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.

New Line of Evaporative Coolers

The Cold Front line of evaporative coolers from Big Ass Fans brings a full range of customer options for use in spaces of all sizes and applications, delivering a dramatic temperature reduction up to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Capable of covering anywhere from 600 to 6,500 square feet, the Cold Front lineup allows owners to cool at a fraction of the cost of air conditioning. All models feature locking swivel casters, automatic low-water shutoff, and an easily accessible drain plug, while the largest model adds a backlit LCD display, premium remote, occupancy sensor for hands-free operation, and an auto-dry function.

Upgraded Flashing Membrane

TAMKO Building Products LLC offers the newly-upgraded TW-105 Flashing Membrane, which features white polymer surface film technology that gives the product increased UV resistance. According to the manufacturer, this new generation of TW-105 increases the UV resistance from the original 60 days to an extended length of 180 days. TW-105 Flashing is available in 12-inch-by-40-foot rolls and each carton contains two 40-foot rolls for a total of 80 feet of length per carton. The product comes with a 5-year Limited Warranty.

Q & A: A Contractor Addresses 6 Questions About Roof Ventilation

Judd Haag is Vice President of Operations at Bone Dry Roofing and an Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Contractor. With headquarters in Indianapolis, Bone Dry serves 10 markets across the Central United States. Below, Haag speaks about the role ventilation plays in supporting a roof’s performance and occupants’ comfort.

Q: Is ventilation a bigger issue in certain parts of the country?

A: Ventilation presents different challenges depending on the climate. In hotter climates such as Texas, Florida, and Georgia, excessive heat in attics during the summer can bake shingles from the underside if not properly vented. In the North, ice dams and water infiltration are common problems that can occur due to unbalanced ventilation and inadequate insulation levels. Whether heat, humidity or cold temperatures, different regions battle different challenges, but ventilation is a common concern.

Q: As we head into winter, how does snow contribute to ice damming and lead to other problems?

A: As long as it stays cold inside the attic and the snow stays frozen on the roof, there typically is no issue. But insufficient insulation in the attic can allow heat from the home’s living area to rise up and move into the attic. If there is not enough ventilation to move heat out of the attic and replace the displaced attic air with cool air, heat will build up, causing the snow/ice on the roof to melt. As the water travels down the roof’s slope, it will refreeze above the gutter line. Meanwhile, as the warm attic air isn’t being replaced with cool air, the snow and ice up higher on the roof continues to melt. As this water flows down, it hits refrozen ice and creates a dam. The water now has nowhere to go except back underneath the shingles and down inside the living space.

Q: What visible signs on a home may suggest ice damming problems?

A: Unfortunately, it’s hard to see this type of damage without the roof being torn off. A roof replacement may turn up rotted decking close to the gutters, showing ice damming has occurred. This can be an unwelcome surprise to the homeowner. We alert the homeowner of this possibility, letting them know that some wood decking may need to be replaced based on what conditions reveal when the work gets underway. Depending on the pitch of the attic, it may be possible to see rotted decking inside from inside the attic space. Ice damming damage may show up as water stains or bubbling paint and drywall on a home’s interior. Rusted nail heads in the attic can also be a sign of improper ventilation as trapped moisture condensates, rusting and corroding the nail heads.

Q: What are some best practices for informing adequate insulation levels to support ventilation?

A: First things first, you have to get inside the attic space and see the conditions. If you turn off your flashlight, you should be able to see daylight infiltrating near the soffit intake ventilation. If you don’t see daylight, chances are good that the intake ventilation is clogged. Getting inside the attic is just as important as the exterior inspection, as 50 percent of the roof is in the attic. We tell customers that chances are, if we look only at the top side of the roof, we’ll be coming back later to address other issues. Proper installation of ventilation materials is also essential.

Tools can help inform the proper amount of insulation material depending on the dimensions of the space and the type of vent the contractor wants to install. The Owens Corning ventilation calculator will tell you how much intake you need and how much exhaust ventilation. You can do the long math, but technology and online calculators make it convenient and easy to size the material to products preferred for the job.

Q: Are there any tips contractors can offer homeowners to prevent moisture problems in the house?

A: It’s important to make sure the moisture stays in the living space or gets recycled by the home’s HVAC system. Bath fans are always good to install. Homeowners should ask their contractor to verify the bath fans are ventilated to the home’s exterior. Equipment such as humidifiers can make moisture management a challenge — especially when the humidity is cranked up at full capacity. Homeowners often say their health care provider suggested they add humidity to their environment. Moisture might be good for the human body, but it’s not so good for the house if there is no way to get it out.

Q: What’s one final piece of advice when it comes to ventilation?

A: It’s not just about exhaust ventilation. We’re seeing a lot more use of the ridge vent. But if the installer does not balance the ventilation system with the intake, the ridge vent can create a negative pressure in the attic. Air can be drawn from the living space into the attic creating even more issues than were there previously. People like the ridge vents for its aesthetic and it can give more ventilation than a box vent on most roof styles. But if you don’t add intake at the roof line, it creates too much exhaust which creates a negative pressure from inside the house and reduces the pressure equilibrium. 

Clearing the Hurdles to an Attic Ventilation Upgrade

New ventilation products on this home were installed as part of a roof replacement completed by Ameritech Services, LLC, Deptford, New Jersey. Photo: Larry Deyo, Ameritech Services

The best time to evaluate and improve the residential attic ventilation system is during the installation of a new roof. Access and installation are generally easiest at that time, so a re-roofing application is an ideal time to fix existing problems and/or increase the airflow in an under-ventilated attic . But just because the roofing contractor determines the attic ventilation system needs a fix does not mean it happens.

We asked roofing contractors who have attended our best practices in residential attic ventilation seminars this question: What keeps you from upgrading the attic ventilation system during the installation of a new roof?Other than roof or house construction obstacles such as certain types of framing, incorrectly added house additions, or vaulted ceilings that are incorrectly insulated, here are the common hurdles — and suggestions to overcome them — from roofing professionals across North America.

HURDLE: “We’ve Never Had Ventilation, So Why Now?”

Many homeowners will challenge the roofing contractor who points out that the attic does not have enough ventilation — or any ventilation at all — if it’s been that way for a long time and there aren’t any noticeable problems. They reason that there’s nothing to fix.

“They typically say, ‘Well, it has been like this forever, why does it need to be changed now?’” says Clayton Putman, commercial project manager, Elite Roofing, Denver, Colorado.

Such comments are rooted in a reluctance to make an unnecessary purchase. “Customers do not want to pay for something they didn’t think they needed before and do not think they need now,” says Dale Johnson, project manager, HomeZone Improvements, Grand Blanc, Michigan.

Tips for Clearing this Hurdle: “I have trained our team to discuss the benefits of updating the attic ventilation system and count on them to present the information to the customer well,” says Putman. Here are some talking points to help overcome the hurdle of homeowners not wanting attic ventilation they previously never had or needed.

· Just because there are no obvious signs of trouble does not mean all is fine. Has anyone checked inside the attic to see the condition of the underside of the deck and the attic insulation? Any signs of mold or condensation buildup? Are there any signs of premature shingle failure?

· The house may be more airtight than in past years and will benefit from improved attic ventilation.Since buying this house have there been energy-efficiency upgrades such as new windows, doors, or insulation? If so, the house does not “breathe” as easily as it did previously. Tighter houses benefit from attic airflow to remove heat buildup in the warmer months, moisture buildup in the colder months and fight ice dams in snow climates.

· Your new roof will meet current standards. The full terms of the warranty that comes with your brand-new shingles is tied to proper attic ventilation. Current International Residential Building Code specifies the amount of attic ventilation needed and your attic does not meet those numbers. Even if the local municipality does not enforce building code, you’re knowingly paying for an inferior roof.

HURDLE: “You’re too Expensive.”

Good luck to the roofing contractor who is thorough, diligent yet considered too expensive compared to the other contractors who have submitted estimates to the homeowner. While price certainly should be evaluated, there is more to a roof estimate than just dollars.

“Very few contractors look at attic ventilation as an important factor in a new roof, so they do not include it in their estimate; and most of the contractors think there is a one-size-fits-all solution. As a result, their estimates are less expensive than mine,” says Matt Cooper, general manager, Redemption Roofing, Conroe, Texas.

Is less expensive better?

“Homeowners question my reasoning for additional attic ventilation since most other contractors do not mention the need. The homeowners almost feel as if I am trying to take advantage of them rather than make their roof ‘system’ a best practices/optimal operating one,” says Sabrina Johnson, president, KDCO Home Improvement Inc., Akron, Ohio.

Not understanding the overall project contributes to the price objections from homeowners. “Improperly educated customers make it challenging to upgrade the attic ventilation system,” says Greg Pike, project consultant, Campo Roofing, Twinsburg, Ohio.

If homeowners understood that all the exhaust vents in the world on their roof are useless without proper intake vents, perhaps price concerns would be reduced. “The main cause that prevents me from upgrading is the homeowner not wanting to pay for improved intake ventilation,” says Richard Turner, owner, R.J. Turner Remodeling, LLC., Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Tips for Clearing this Hurdle: “I will explain the importance of proper attic ventilation and provide documentation (brochures, website links, etc.) detailing why adding intake ventilation is critical,” says Turner. Here are some talking points to help overcome the hurdle of homeowners who believe the roof estimate is over-priced because the contractor included proper attic ventilation.

· Make sure we’re comparing apples to apples. A roofing estimate without intake and exhaust vents is not the same as a roofing estimate with a balanced system of attic ventilation. Those are two very different roofs that will deliver very different performances. I’m recommending a complete roofing system for longevity.

· Your new roof needs attic ventilation to perform properly. Anyone can install a roof covering. I’m installing a roof system that includes balanced attic ventilation to fight heat buildup in the summer, which will lighten the burden on your air conditioning system and improve the comfort in the living space. It will help fight the moisture buildup inside the attic from the 2 to 4 gallons of water vapor the average family of four generates indoors daily by occupying the house (cooking, cleaning, laundry, perspiration, breathing, etc.). And in snowy climates, attic ventilation helps keep the roof temperature fairly even so that ice dams are reduced.

· Our company has a great reputation. I’m not sure why the other contractors did not mention attic ventilation, but they should have. Our company always does because it’s needed for a properly installed roof. We’ve been in business here locally a long time and enjoy a solid reputation. We stand behind our projects which includes a comprehensive estimate for an entire roofing system.

HURDLE: “I’m Selling the House Soon.”

For the homeowner who is selling the house soon, spending money on the property for anything viewed as non-essential is a red flag. “People selling their home will not do anything they view as ‘extra’ like attic ventilation,” says Sue May, owner, A Better Way Construction and Roofing, LLC., Lincoln, Nebraska.

Tips for Clearing this Hurdle: Broaden the conversation to include the perspective of the potential buyer of the house. Here are some talking points to help overcome the hurdle of homeowners not interested in attic ventilation upgrades because they are selling the house.

· Your potential buyer will be looking very closely. I understand you’re selling the house and want to avoid any unnecessary spending. Someone will be buying your house and wants the best value for the money. If the potential buyer does not catch the lack of proper attic ventilation, the home inspector hired by the buyer likely will. You can avoid that possibility by addressing the attic ventilation deficiencies now. Otherwise, be prepared to negotiate with the potential buyers why your attic is incorrectly ventilated and how that will impact the selling price.

HURDLE: “Insurance Will Not Pay for It.”

A storm-damaged roof is being replaced and covered in price by the homeowner’s insurance policy but the cost to upgrade or improve the attic ventilation system is not. “If insurance will not pay for the upgrade, the homeowner will not either,” says Bryan Epley, former senior director of business development and sales, Gen 3 Roofing, Centennial, Colorado.

Tips for Clearing this Hurdle: Many roofing contractors will either arm homeowners with the needed information to get the insurance company to pay or will write a letter to the insurance company on the homeowners’ behalf. Here are some talking points to help overcome the insurance policy hurdle.

· Let’s change the insurance company’s mind. Let me get this right: Your insurance company is willing to pay the cost for a new roof — which is a significant purchase totaling thousands of dollars — but will not cover the cost of a needed attic ventilation upgrade, which is a small fraction of the cost of the total roof. We’re going to help the insurance company to reconsider. First, check your insurance policy for any “code upgrade” language. You’re about to get a new roof. If it’s not installed according to today’s building code standards, tell the insurance company. Second, the full terms of the warranty for your new roof are tied directly to proper, balanced attic ventilation. You don’t have proper attic ventilation. If we don’t upgrade your attic ventilation system, your insurance company will be paying for a new roof that has a reduced warranty. Third, the official representing organization of asphalt shingle manufacturers, ARMA, says point blank in its technical bulletin for residential roofing: the roof needs balanced attic ventilation. Let’s pass that along to the insurance company.

Willing to Walk Away

For many contractors, there is no insurmountable hurdle to upgrading the attic ventilation during a roofing project because they refuse to take the roofing project otherwise. For them, there’s no other option. It’s mandatory if the homeowner hires them. They are unwilling to put their company name on a roofing project knowingly done incorrectly. And if this requirement by contractors to upgrade the attic ventilation causes them to lose the project to other contractors, they’re fine with that.

“Our company will not do a roof without making sure it’s vented correctly,” says Jeffrey Heitzenrater, president operations, Triple Peaks Roofing and Construction, Inc., Olmsted Falls, Ohio.

“Nothing prevents me from upgrading,” says Sean Jegen, owner, Gorilla Exteriors Contracting LLC, Shawnee, Kansas. “I tell the homeowner these are mandatory improvements and if we don’t do them the shingle warranty is affected.”

“We always do it right or we don’t do it,” says Chris Arrington, vice president, Arrington Roofing, Dallas, Texas.

To the quality-conscious contractors in business for the long haul, doing it incorrectly just to make some profit is not worth the risks that could be lurking around the corner: callbacks and a damaged reputation.

“Contractors need to be smart and know when to walk away from a job to avoid getting wrapped up in a possible mold remediation or shingle failure claim,” says Jeff Barnett, Barnett Roofing and Siding, Inc., Canton, Michigan.

“We always upgrade,” says Sandra Daffer, owner, Hawaiian Built Roofing, Boise, Idaho. “It’s automatically in our bid if it’s needed. If the roof is a good one for ridge vent, then we go that route. Otherwise, we’ll pursue other venting options.”

“We will not upgrade to a ridge vent if the homeowner won’t upgrade an insufficient intake airflow system for balance,” says Corey Ballweg, owner, Mid Towne Construction, Inc., Cross Plains, Wisconsin.

“We check for proper attic ventilation on every roof replacement we do. We upgrade if needed, or we refuse to do the job,” says Trevor Atwell, owner, Atwell Exterior Services LLC, Greenville, North Carolina.

“We always upgrade the attic ventilation system,” says Patrick Readyhough, president, Pond Roofing Company, Inc., Fairfax, Virginia. “We include it as part of our whole roof system,”

Turn the Tables in Your Favor

Some contractors who take the hard stance of refusing to do the roof without upgrading the attic ventilation separate themselves from their competition in a positive way that actually leads to more business.

“Many times, we are hired because we make it a point to show the homeowner attic ventilation is needed,” says Heitzenrater. “All shingle manufacturers’ warranties that we deal with point out there is no warranty after a specified time unless there is proper attic ventilation.”

“After I teach the homeowner the importance of attic ventilation, nothing prevents me from upgrading the ventilation system,” says Ron Bastian, owner, Bastian Roofing, Richfield, Wisconsin. “Both in the summer and winter the homeowner clearly understands the benefits they will acquire by me doing their roofing project.”

About the author: Paul Scelsi is marketing communications manager at Air Vent Inc. and leader of its Attic Ventilation: Ask the Expert™ in-person seminars ( He hosts the podcast “Airing it out with Air Vent” and is the chairman the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association Ventilation Task Force. He is the author of the book, Grab and Hold Their Attention: Creating and Delivering Presentations that Move Your Audience to Action.

Detailing for Resilience, Part 3

The Resilient Parapet Roof Edge

Photo 1. Installing roof edge blocking over existing roofing and the unknown conditions below comes with risk. Note the wood blocking and sheet metal lifted off the roof. Nothing you see here is good practice. Images: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

Experts cite — and codes and standards reflect — that most roof damage done by winds starts at the roof edge. From coping blow-offs, which often take the wood blocking on top the parapet wall with it, to removal of the membrane and more, evidence shows the roof edge is a key element in attaining a high-performance, resilient roof edge. (See Photo 1.)

When I was president of RCI (now IIBEC), Reid Ribble was the president of NRCA (he is now its CEO). He and I felt that the parapet was the way to go in regard to providing safety on the roof for roofing crews, HVAC crews, and maintenance crews alike. Great idea, right? You won’t believe the fight we received, and you wouldn’t believe the greatest argument came from the firefighters who might have to drop over a 42-inch parapet. When was the last time you saw a fire where the firefighters accessed the roof? I only see them pouring water on it from a hose from a lift. But I digress. Despite this argument, more and more parapets are gaining height.

What Makes a Parapet Resilient?

A parapet whose height deflects some of the straight-line winds is a great start. For our discussion, let’s start by defining what we mean by parapet: roof edge, part of the perimeter exterior wall system that extends above the roof. For this article, we will concern ourselves with those rising to a height of 30 inches or more above the roof, where the roof membrane/base flashing extends up and over the top of the parapet.

Photo 2. It is always a precarious situation when the roof membrane is left flapping in the wind. This structural steel and metal decking with IMP panels is a wind event waiting to happen.

Well, since we are talking roofing, it’s the combination of parapet wall construction and the integration of the roof cover that is crucial. Let’s take a quick look at what the parameters might be. Types of parapet construction include:

· Precast panels

· Brick – concrete masonry units

· Brick on structural metal studs (Egh — I hate this type of construction.)

· Metal panels on structural metal studs (Egh — see Photo 2. Point proven.)

· Anything on structural metal studs (Egh.)

The parapet height places several outward forces on the roofing (base flashing) that are not experienced by lower roof edges, and thus certain enhancements need to be considered:

· Proper substrate. (OK you roofers, how often do you see a wall substrate board specified where membrane will be adhered?)

Sealing the roof base flashing to the exterior wall face prevents wind from moving up behind the membrane, where I have observed coping “popping off.” A specific detail like this should be included in the drawing so that there can be no confusion as to what is required.

· For metal stud walls, heavy gauge metal plate to secure the roof base anchor attachment. (See The Hutchinson Files article “The Stud Wall and the Roof” in the January/February 2019 issue of Roofing.)

· Stoppage of air transport into the parapet construction. (This topic requires its own article on the requirements and detailing.)

· Proper anchorage of any wood blocking on top of the parapet.

Photo 3. A litany of design errors resulted in this roof failure, requiring replacement. I make no secret of my disgust with stud wall parapet construction, as I have seen way too many failures.

· Enhanced membrane anchorage.

· Membrane peel stops.

· Mid-wall securement: wall peel stops.

· Base flashing that extends up and over the parapet and adheres to the exterior cladding. (Under no circumstances should the base flashing be installed loose; it must always be adhered.)

· And for those designers out there, a positive securement of the air barrier to the roof vapor barrier or membrane.

· ANSI-ES1-compliant copings

These enhancements will also protect delaminating base flashing from pulling off the parapet wall and taking with it the roof cover. This condition is the result of poor roof edge design, air transport and condensation.

Detail Drawings

The resilient parapet should incorporate several enhancements and be specifically detailed and specified. Shop drawings and mockups are required.

Below are five examples of the types of enhancements that I suggest would help make the parapet more resilient. Details that I suggest being incorporated into the drawings include:

Photo 4. Four-foot parapet wall on metal studs run up the exterior outside the concrete floor. We were asked to observe the construction and advised to install a wall peel stop over a 16-gauge steel plate, but only this anchor strip was funded. Note the superior anchoring of the anchor strip into the 1/2-inch substrate board and a few studs.

1. Wood Blocking atop the parapet: If wood is incorporated atop the parapet (and it’s nice if you can detail it without it), it needs to be adequately anchored to the building structure. Nails are never used, and drive-in and Tapcon anchors are not sufficient. For masonry walls and pre-cast walls, I suggest expansion anchors. I like them at least at 2 feet on center (O.C.), staggered to prevent warping. Atop structural metal stud walls, first the top plate needs to be secured, the wood installed with self-tapping screws at 1 foot O.C. and then the wood blocking strapped to the studs with heavy-gauge metal —20 gauge or heavier. Joints should be scarfed at 45 degrees and screwed. If a second layer of wood is required, shim it for taper to the interior and secure with coated wood screws at 1 foot O.C. staggered, and stagger the joints. The strapping then would go over both layers.

2. Seal the membrane to the exterior edge: The roof base flashing should be extended up and over the parapet, fully adhered to both the back and top of the parapet, down and onto the face of the exterior wall. It should be adhered and nailed. (See Photo 2 and Figure 1.)

Photo 5. This shot was taken during a punch list inspection. All the base flashing is loose and required removal and replacement.

3. Wall peel stop: Due to a variety of issues (lack of air seal, condensation, inadequate adhesive application, weight of the material, and air pressure, to name a few), the base flashing can delaminate. Delaminated base flashing create a condition that I like to refer to as “pulling tape off the floor.” With each flutter of the membrane, a little bit more is detached until the force is great enough to pull the membrane anchorage out of the plates through the membrane. Thus, a wall peel stop is required: A batten bar installed on the wall and flashed in. The location of the batten bar is dependent on the parapet height and construction; I like to start out with the mid-point and no more than 3 feet from the coping and the base anchor. (See Photos 3-5 and Figure 2 for an example of a wall peel stop.)

4. Enhanced membrane base anchorage: Manufacturers (whose requirements are often market-driven minimums) require a base anchor (for single plies) of 12 inches O.C. Not good enough. We enhance that spacing to 6 inches or 9 inches O.C., depending on the location. Very seldom do we specify 12 inches. (See Figure 2.)

Including a wall peel stop as part of the roof edge design is both prudent and, on metal stud walls of good height, a standard of care design.

5. Roof peel stop: Like the wall peel stop, I suggest a roof peel stop so that in the chance that the roof cover detaches, only a small portion of the perimeter is in jeopardy. This peel stop should be located along the perimeters. Depending on the construction, I like to locate them every 2 feet (half an insulation board). The insulation is stopped at this location and the membrane taken down to the vapor retarder/roof deck, sealed with water block, and anchored with a batten bar and screw fasteners. The remaining insulation is then set, the void spray foamed with insulation, and the new membrane taken over and adhered/welded to the main roof cover. (See Figure 3.)

A roof peel stop is another quality assurance detail that should be included as part of your resilient roof system design.

Included here are several examples of enhanced and resilient parapet roof edge detailing. (See Figures 4 and 5.) Showing the detail in depth or by exploded location will help you as the designer to know what is going on and will communicate to the contractor what is required. While the design of roof edge parapets will more often than not be different from project to project, I hope the concepts here provide the impetus for enhanced detailing.

Parapets that are tall and hollow can be particularly difficult to properly detail, given consideration of air transport, potential condensation, and membrane delamination. Including wall and roof peel stops and enhanced perimeter anchoring will at least allow a failed condition to not result in losing your roof.

It All Starts at the Edge

Resilient roof system design is needed for our clients, whether they know it or not. The survival of the roof system during enhanced climatic events starts at the roof edge, and thoughtful design and detailing of the parapet will help protect the roof — and help you sleep at night.

Noting and detailing the enhancement is required to properly communicate to the contractor what is required on masonry/precast parapets. Noting a second coat of adhesive on such porous surfaces is always a good idea.

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, Fellow-IIBEC, RRC, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit

Focused on Proper Residential Attic Ventilation, Roofing Contractors Documented These Mistakes

Since 1998 our best practices in residential attic ventilation seminars have featured the real-world situations roofing contractors are seeing. Here we cover a handful of attic ventilation mistakes contractors found in the field. (Note: Some photos show multiple mistakes but were chosen to highlight one.)

Problem: Bagged Wind Turbines Suffocate the Attic Airflow

Solution: Unbag the wind turbines.

Photo: Jake Jacobson, SF5 Construction, LLC, Little Elm, Texas

It’s impossible for a covered attic exhaust vent to work if it’s smothered under a bag. Attic ventilation is supposed to provide year-round benefits, fighting heat buildup in the warmer weather and moisture buildup in the colder weather. It’s sometimes forgotten (and maybe never known) that occupants of a house generate water vapor daily through activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, breathing, etc. It amounts to 2-4 gallons per day for the average family of four. That warm, moist air can make its way into the colder attic in the winter months, where it can condense and cause trouble as water droplets and frost.

Problem: Bath Fan Ductwork Terminating in the Attic Damages Roof

Solution: Run the bath fan ductwork either vertically through the roof or out the side gable wall.

Photo: Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exterior Services, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina

Even a perfectly balanced attic ventilation system cannot handle the quantity of moisture dumped into the attic by the bath fan. It overwhelms the system. That moisture should be vented directly to the outdoors without any pitstops into the attic. In the home pictured here, Trevor Atwell found three bathroom fans venting directly into the attic. He also found a lot of rotted sheathing.

Problem: Painted Soffit Vents Result in Reduced Intake Airflow

Solution: Buy pre-painted soffits, or paint them more carefully, or replace them with new vents.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Soffit vents have a specified amount of Net Free Area (airflow capability) when they are manufactured. For example, 9 square inches of NFA per linear foot. That amount, by the way, would balance nicely with a ridge vent (exhaust vent) that is capable of 18 square inches of Net Free Area per linear foot (9 NFA at the soffit on the left of the ridge vent + 9 NFA at the soffit on the ridge of the ridge vent = 18 NFA at the peak of the roof). But the airflow capability of the soffit is reduced if the vent openings become clogged or blocked because of a careless paint job. While house exterior colors are important, don’t sacrifice attic ventilation performance. It’s possible to have both a nicely painted soffit and it’s full, intended net free area (airflow capability).

Problem: Two Rows of Box Vents = One Path of Inefficient Airflow

Solution: Always keep attic exhaust vents in one row.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Let’s cut to the chase. If it takes two rows of attic exhaust vents to meet the attic’s exhaust ventilation needs, it’s time to find another category of exhaust (maybe horizontal ridge vent; or diagonal hip ridge vent; or a combination of horizontal and diagonal ridge vent; or a power fan). But when attic exhaust vents are aligned in two rows, the primary path of the airflow will be from one row to the next because air will allows follow the path of least resistance seeking the closest exit point from its entry point. The intake vents in the soffit or low on the roof’s edge are supposed to be the intake vents. The pictured scenario here is producing inefficient attic airflow and could cause one row of box vents to ingest weather.

Problem: Mixed Types of Attic Exhaust Vents = Problematic Airflow

Solution: Only use one type of attic exhaust vent on the same roof above a common attic.

Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Regardless what combination of two or more different types of attic exhaust vents either the homeowner demands (we’ve heard the stories) or a well-intended but misguided roofing contractor recommends (it’s happening), do not mix two different types of attic exhaust vents on the same roof above a common attic. Pictured here are wind turbines with ridge vents; box vents with ridge vents; solar powered fans with box vents; and traditional electric power fans with ridge vents. Now shown is the all-time classic: Gable-end louvers with any other type of attic exhaust.

When attic exhaust types are mixed, it short-circuits the airflow system because air always follows the path of least resistance. The air is looking for the easiest, least difficult exit path. That path is inevitably the distance between the two types of attic exhaust vents because they are closest to each other. That means the airflow will be concentrated in that area of the attic; which leaves significant areas of the attic incorrectly vented. The intake vents low on the roof’s edge or in the soffit/overhang have been pretty much bypassed. Furthermore, if one of the exhaust vents is suddenly an intake vent, does than mean it’s ingesting weather along with the air? You do not want to find out.

Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exteriors, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina.

About the author: Paul Scelsi is marketing communications manager at Air Vent Inc., the leader of its Attic Ventilation: Ask the Expert in-person seminars, and the host of the podcast “Airing it out with Air Vent.” He’s also chairman the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association Ventilation Task Force and the author of the book Grab and Hold Their Attention: Creating and Delivering Presentations that Move Your Audience to Action. For more information about the company, visit

Industry Q&A: Ryan Estis Shares Business Insights Tailored to Roofing Contractors

Ryan Estis

As an executive and consultant to some of the world’s most esteemed brands, Ryan Estis has enjoyed an insider’s view of what the world’s best companies do differently. During the Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Conference, March 9-11, 2020, in Marco Island, Florida, Ryan inspired Platinum members of the Owens Corning Roofing Contractor Network to consider their business in context with the “experience economy” driving today’s marketplace. He shared insights from global brands success that can be leveraged in local markets and offered advice on how stepping back to reflect and renew can drive an even higher level of performance.

Below are some highlights from the conversation with Ryan.

Q: What similarities do you see between running a roofing company and managing a global brand?

A: In 2020, the experience economy is driving both big brands and small businesses, including roofing companies. Today, your brand is no longer what you say it is, but how your customers define their experience with the brand. Small businesses are leveraging the strategies global companies use to create advantages in their local market and in their categories.

Q: Can you share an example of a small business applying global marketing strategies to gain an advantage?

Ryan Estis shared his insights on the world’s best companies during the Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Conference. Photos: Owens Corning

A: Sure; big brands have learned that customers do not buy on price, but only default to price in the absence of value and a consistent, high-quality product. Starbucks is a good example of a little coffee shop that evolved into a global brand based on a consistent commitment to customer excellence. Although Starbucks serves a commodity product (coffee), its customers are willing to pay a significant premium for the consistent experience of quality. This concept of consistent excellence can be codified by any small business owner and leveraged as a key point of differentiation. I think it’s actually easier for small businesses to be remarkable than for their larger counterparts to be remarkable.

Q: How do you define a “remarkable business”?

A: Remarkable is an important word in the experience economy. It means, you’re worthy of being remarked upon. You are creating an experience that is so good, so consistent, and so valuable that you’ve created a sense of urgency where customers can’t wait to tell others about their experience with your business. Applying the experience model to business growth, success arrives from growing the business through referrals and relationships.

Q: What are some challenges when it comes to being remarkable?

A: Customers have higher service expectations today. Amazon and Alexa have created an expectation that service will be more urgent, more efficient and more responsive to customers’ needs. Yet, the high-tech approach doesn’t always allow for the human element and connectivity that drive customer excellence and distinguish businesses. Looking a customer in the eye is powerful and the in-home experience of working with a customer to present roofing options provides a powerful opportunity to differentiate. And of course, attitude is critical.

Q: How does attitude drive a contractor’s success?

A: Mindset is huge. Every day, contractors — and all of us — have a chance to choose how we will show up. The choice is much less about our external circumstances and more about our resolve; determining how we want to show up. How will we treat people? How will we navigate the problems that arise each day? Customers tend to remember how we react to a problem more than the problem itself. Problems are some of the best opportunities we have to deepen the relationship and build trust. When a problem arises, we have an opportunity to insert ourselves into the problem and do something remarkable that the customer will remember and tell others about. When something goes wrong and a contractor has an opportunity to over-deliver and show up even better than expected — that’s powerful.

Q: As a former ad executive, what are some practical ways contractors can be more creative?

A: Contractors need to put time on their calendars to work not just in their business but on their business. Schedule time to think about your business and keep that appointment like you would any other important commitment. Morning is my best time to read, journal and reflect. I don’t take phone calls or meetings before 10 a.m. — I call it the 10 o’clock rule. It’s about being intentional and setting aside time to stimulate creativity. Most people are in a constant “respond and react” mode versus being in an intentional mode.

I’m a huge fan of the digital detox. Scheduling two or three hours of white space — where you shut the phone or e-mail off for a few hours every week or two — should not shut down your business. It’s critical to be surrounded by team members who can lend support and allow you to renew. You simply cannot do it alone, so it’s important to hire smart and then invest in that talent. Culture is critical. Your business needs to be a place where people want to come to work.

Meditation and mindfulness are important personal practices for me, along with yoga. If you can get quiet and be mindful of the present moment, there is a treasure trove of creative inspiration just waiting to be tapped.

Risk-taking and a curious mindset are also critical. At a time of such rapid change, it is critical that you learn how to become comfortable being uncomfortable. Try to stay in a state of continuous learning and reinvention. Ask what you’ve learned lately and make it a point to be curious.

Q: Change isn’t always easy. How can contractors be more receptive to change?

A: Think about what your future state might be if you make the desired change. Will you be healthier in five years? What other positive benefits of making a change will you reap? And think about the consequences of not making the change – what could happen if you don’t change?

Q: As a former ad executive, what headline would you write to inspire contractors in 2020?

“Be prepared for impact.” That simply means it’s important to develop an action plan that you can deploy. It’s all about creating momentum that drives you toward your dreams.

The Resilient Roof Curb

Photo 1: Roof damage after a storm. Thank goodness the conduit is still attached to the RTU so it didn’t blow off the roof. Images: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

Resiliency is the buzzword for this decade. Designing resilient roof systems, in my estimation, will become a standard and make its way into the codes by 2030 or before. This is the second in a series of articles based on experience and observations following extreme climatic events on how I have designed resilient roofs and/or how I would suggest various components of the roof be designed for resiliency. In this article we will look at roof exhaust curbs, typically used to support mechanical equipment. The goal is to prevent the units and/or curb from being blown out of place and across the roof. (See Photos 1 and 2.)

What are the qualities that make a resilient roof curb? This is the first question you are now thinking, so I will tell you. Resilient roof curbs should:

  • Be tall enough to be at least 4 inches above the top of the highest point of overflow drainage.
  • Be of solid and robust construction.
  • Be anchored to the roof structure.
  • Secure the unit to the curb.

There you go, go to it.

For those of you who wish a little more information, let explain.

Appropriate Height

The reason for the height is based on experience. The best way to explain this is by example. A client remained in the building during Hurricane Maria. During the storm, she opened the roof hatch and took a photo of the roof, which she sent to me. Upon viewing the photo, I thought it was the ocean. There was water as far as I could see, and there were waves and whitecaps. The drains and small roof edge scuppers had clogged with palm fronds and other debris. The water was over 10 inches in depth. Seeing that visual, I couldn’t believe the roof structure didn’t collapse. (The building was designed for Class 5 hurricanes and was very robust.) Perhaps it would have collapsed had it not been for the low roof curb height and the fact that all the curbs acted as drains once the water gained enough height. The water damaged high-value products in the building’s interior.

Photo 2: Units that leave the curb not only allow water into the interior, but units cartwheeling across the roof will damage the roof with every corner.

The scuppers should have been much larger to prevent blockage, but if the curbs had been higher than the roof edge, the millions of dollars of destroyed goods could have been saved.

Note: With so much damage to surrounding buildings, there is some thought that the water depth on this particular roof provided ballast weight to the roof and prevented wind-related roof damage from occurring. Something to ponder as a defensive option to storms with high winds.

Robust Construction

The construction of the curb is important, in that it not only needs to support the equipment on top but also to take the loads imposed on it by wind, water, snow, sliding ice, etc. The curb is recommended to be of 16-gauge metal, of fully welded construction. It should be insulated and have a metal liner of the same gauge as the exterior of the curb. For long curbs, internal reinforcing is recommended. We recently stopped specifying curbs with wood blocking at the top, an apparent holdover from BUR that needed to be nailed off. The advancement in self-tapping screws make deleting this weak link possible.

Anchorage to the Roof Structure

Keeping the curb attached to the building during storms seems like an obvious goal. The height of the equipment on the curb will determine its overturning potential; the taller the unit, the greater the overturning moment. Thus, I suggest that the curb opening be framed in steel (on steel roof structure with steel decks) as designed by the structural engineer. Coordination with other professionals involved with the building’s design is critical. The curb should be bolted to the steel framing and nuts and washers used; I suggest 16 inches on center. If a linear void exists between the steel framing and the steel deck, it should be infilled with solid dimensional lumber and sandwiched when bolted.

Securing the Unit to the Curb

Rooftop equipment blows off curbs all the time, and often part of the units, typically hoods, blow off. Sharp metal objects blowing across the roof possess a threat to the integrity of the roof and those who may be on the roof. When it is carried over the roof edge, it becomes a life safety threat!

To prevent these failures, the units need to be well secured to the curb and often strapped down. This is a major reason for the robust curb. Exhaust fans typically arrive at the construction site with predrilled pilot holes in the side flanges — often only one per side. When the curbs are 2 feet or greater in length, additional pilot holes should be drilled so that the fasteners are approximately 10 inches on center. The screws should be self–tapping stainless steel, 1/4 inch with stainless steel-clad EPDM washers.

In very high wind conditions such as hurricane-prone regions, it might also be prudent to strap the unit with 1/4-inch stainless steel stranded/twisted aircraft control cable and secure to the unit and curb with stainless steel through bolts, lock washers and bolts with the interior threads deformed to prevent harmonic vibration from loosening the nuts. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1: At a minimum, roof curbs should be bolted to structural steel and the units above strapped to the heavy-gauge metal curb.

It is hoped that in the near future, manufacturers of the curbs will have these additional support items available as an option.

Achieving Resiliency

Roofs are holistic and their surface is the sum of all their parts. Keeping the roof equipment in place during climatic events is needed to prevent the roof’s failure and interior damage. Roof system designers are encouraged to detail roof curbs and unit attachment — and then specify the correct materials and execution.

This is one more step as we build the resilient roof.

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, Fellow-IIBEC, RRC, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit

Social Media for Roofing Industry Professionals

Social media is everywhere — from TikTok videos to Instagram posts to LinkedIn professional updates. Consider these social media statistics:

  • At the end of 2019 the total worldwide population was 7.8 billion people.
  • The internet had 4.54 billion users.
  • There were 3.725 billion social media users, just under 50 percent of the world’s population.

The average person has 7.6 social media accounts and spends a staggering 142 minutes a day on social media, according to Eighty-one percent of small and medium-sized businesses are on social media, and 91 percent of retail brands have two or more social media channels.

If you work in the roofing industry either as a contractor, employee, architect, construction materials manufacturer or consultant, why does social media matter and what platforms are right for you?


To use social media effectively, you must first understand who you are trying to reach — customers, potential employees, or both. Once you figure out who you want to reach, determine which social media platforms they use. This will tell you where you want to be active. Start with the basics: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (you don’t want to spread yourself too thin). If you have the resources, YouTube and Instagram visuals broaden your potential to reach an even larger audience. According to the construction marketing association, 50 percent of construction marketers say LinkedIn and Facebook are the two most effective channels to reach members of the industry.


Facebook is a very dynamic platform, allowing you to highlight your customers, tagging them in your posts and they in turn can engage with your posts (sharing with their friends or asking your company questions, for instance). On Facebook you can also easily include contact information about your firm. (e.g., blogs, e-books).


Twitter allows organizations to talk with audiences in a way that other social networks do not. Companies use Twitter to connect with users in real time, answering questions, posting updates, and replying to other posts. You can engage on Twitter by simply “liking” or retweeting content. You can also share short tips and exercise thought-leadership as well as easily connect with other influencers. It’s also a great platform to engage in real time with people live at events.


LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site which is primarily used for professional networking. LinkedIn currently has more than 575 million registered users and 260 million active users. It is a strong platform for business development. Here, you can connect with like-minded roofing companies and suppliers, list jobs opportunities within your company, network for new projects and share news updates.

Share-Worthy Content

Once you get started, assess your content frequently. A good way to tell whether or not you’re sharing great social media content is to ask yourself this: If I didn’t work for this company, would I look at this post? If the answer is no, it’s a sign you need to revamp your content. Make social media about your audience, not just your business. That way, even if you’re in a highly specialized industry, you can still deliver share-worthy content on social media and continue to build your audience.

Finally, be sure to add visuals — photos, charts or other graphics. Humans are visual creatures, and the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” particularly holds true with social media. Adding a photo that shows your team at work on a roof or a recently completed project will certainly appeal to your audience. You can also consider unique imagery that gives your followers an inside look at your company. Using photos in your posts has been proven to significantly boost engagement.

About the authors: Louisa Hart of Precision Public Relations Inc. provides expertise in media outreach and internal communications for a wide variety of clients in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Hart has taught on the university level, at The American University in Washington, DC, and at the EW Scripps School of Communication at Ohio University.

Mittie Rooney, Principal, Axiom Communications, has expertise in the development and execution of media, relationship marketing, social marketing and public education campaigns for and providing strategic counsel to corporations, technology start-ups, trade associations and the federal government.

Social Media Tips

The following tips should be helpful, whether you are just starting out, or have years of experience navigating the social mediasphere.

1. First, can you describe the “voice” of your social media outreach? This is not necessarily a real person — it probably isn’t — but an ideal representative who can appeal to your audience, using language that they understand and referencing issues or values they share. Is this the voice of your corporate leadership? An employee? What age and gender are they? Are they a friend of the reader? Do they have a good sense of humor? You should be able to define this individual very well and know why he or she will appeal to the audience you are trying to reach. A conversational approach is usually the best way to engage your audience. Humanize your feed, and remember that you are connecting with people, one person at a time.

2. Plan before you start. And if you have already started, assess your social media strategy at least every six months. It’s tempting to let your social media accounts take on a life of their own, but they need the same attention that you give to your other communications outreach tactics. A good place to start: define three actionable, measurable objectives that clearly support your business goals.

3. Decide what constitutes success, and be ruthless about judging your results. You may have a lot of Twitter followers, but if they are not the right people to help you grow your business, then it is wasted effort. Don’t focus on “vanity” metrics. Aggregate numbers mean something, but they don’t tell you everything you need to know about the impact of your social media efforts.

4. Continue to invest in social media and make sure it is absolutely current. Set a minimum of how often you will add new content. And clearly define staff responsibilities for your social media efforts.

5. Don’t forget about video content. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Your smart phone can capture the excitement of a new product launch, or the expertise of your employees in the field. A live feed on Facebook can generate multiple times the engagement of a recorded feed.

6. Cross-promote your social media feeds. You should think of your online presence as an interrelated whole. The “voice” of each platform does not have to be the same, but these voices should talk to each other. Take one piece of content and make it work across all of your social media platforms.

7. Pay attention to hashtags. Identify a set of up to 50 that you will use repeatedly to clarify your brand identity.

8. Publish, and then republish. Most likely much of the material you will generate will be “evergreen” so don’t feel you have to come up with something new every day. In fact, material that repeats your key messages should be used several times.