Roof Re-Cover Meets Challenges of Historic Integrity

Austin Hall is a historic landmark on the campus of Sam Houston State University. It was first occupied in October 1851. Photos: McElroy Metal

Some roofers are simply cut out to do their thing in the spotlight. Empire Roofing of Austin, Texas, executed the removal of an existing leaking stainless-steel metal roof and the installation of McElroy Metal’s 238T symmetrical copper standing seam roofing system on a historic centerpiece building on the campus of Sam Houston State University.

Historic Austin Hall in Huntsville, Texas, was re-roofed less than 10 years ago. It’s the oldest building west of the Mississippi River to have been used continuously by an educational institution. Austin Hall was first occupied in October 1851 and completed the following year.

Unfortunately, it soon became evident that there were defects pertaining to the 2009-10 roof installation and it needed to be replaced. The stainless-steel interlocking panels were not seamed or soldered as specified and in accordance with historically accurate methods, resulting in widespread water infiltration beneath the metal roof assembly. Armko Industries of Austin was contracted to determine the best plan of action for resolving these issues and restoring the Austin Hall roof, internal gutters and cupola back to a watertight condition. During the evaluation, portions of the existing roof had to be removed to verify conditions. Sam Houston State and Armko requested Empire Roofing assist the evaluation.

At the base of the cupola, the specifications called for the installation of through-wall flashing using 20-ounce copper. Photos: McElroy Metal

“Based on my initial observations, I was hired to come in and actually remove and replace some of the roof near the cupola and internal gutters to assess and verify the exact nature of the perceived defects,” says Aaron Todd, who leads the metal roofing and sheet metal division at Empire Austin. “I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but it was a lot worse than they anticipated. The flat-seam panels were installed using a Pittsburgh seam, which really isn’t designed to be a watertight seam in a low-slope (2:12) roofing application. The underlayment that was installed did a better job of keeping out water than the flat-seamed panels.”

Working together, Empire and Armko put together a plan that required the removal of the stainless-steel flat-seamed panels and the internal gutter liner. The Texas Historical Commission was involved in the renovation to ensure the new roof would be as historically accurate as possible. Plans and specifications issued by Armko Industries were to remove the existing stainless steel and to re-roof with the 20-ounce copper 238T standing seam on all roof sections, interior gutters and related sheet metal components. Specifications and details issued siding removed at the cupola walls and a new liquid-applied waterproofing membrane was applied over the new sheathing, with new siding installed to match the original siding. At the base of the cupola, the specifications and details called for the installation of through-wall flashing using 20-ounce copper. Titanium PSU-30 high-temp self-adhering underlayment covered the roofing substrate and was used as a lining in the internal gutters, under the 20-ounce copper.

Empire Roofing removed the building’s existing roof and installed McElroy Metal’s 238T symmetrical copper standing seam roofing system the historic structure. Photos: McElroy Metal

“We set up scaffolding and worked on the octagonal cupola first,” Todd says. “The design incorporates a convex curvature with all roof sections meeting at the apex. Together with my superintendent, Diego Trevizo, and our lead foreman, Uri Contreras, we measured everything we needed for the cupola roof and gave the cut list to our shop fabricators, who produced the panels and trim for the cupola roofing, the design of which was proposed by Empire and approved by the Texas Historical Commission and Armko. We also had a 10-foot mechanical brake onsite to fabricate and modify any panels as needed during the installation process. My team and I love working with copper, because aside from the obvious qualities inherent in its chemical makeup, it allows for a more thorough arsenal of seaming and joining techniques due to its unique malleability relative to most other types of commonly used metal components.”

Todd says standing seams were incorporated at each hip of the cupola to avoid the need to solder vertical joints. At the apex of the cupola, standing seams were folded down and lapped under the finial skirt. The crew sealed/riveted/soldered the finial base to the copper panels to create a watertight and wind-resistant detail at this very exposed and relatively flat area.

Standing seams were incorporated at each hip of the cupola. At the apex of the cupola, the seams were folded down and lapped under the finial skirt. Photos: McElroy Metal

Empire Roofing owns roll formers with dies to produce McElroy’s 238T and 138T symmetrical standing seam panels. “Empire’s capabilities with regard to commercial, industrial, and historical roofing projects are far reaching, and we love a good challenge,” Todd says. “If you’ve got a difficult problem, it’s our job to solve it, and we love working with innovative manufacturers like McElroy in doing so.”

Symmetrical standing seam systems do not have male and female legs, but are comprised of panels with matching left and right legs. The panels are joined with a mechanically seamed cap. The panels are non-directional, meaning they can be installed left to right, right to left, or even from the center out. The seam design on a symmetrical panel is more watertight than a double lock because there is no interruption of sealant in the seam at the clip locations. Most importantly, a symmetrical panel can be easily replaced if there is ever damage or a reason to pull a panel out of the roof at a later date.

“Through a judicious use of hydrostatic details utilizing butyl tape in lieu of solder at key areas, we were able to achieve a long-term watertight and wind-resistant roof assembly that only minimally relies on soldered joints and that can accommodate thermal movement much better,” Todd says.

Photos: McElroy Metal

Austin Hall is located on a hill among old-growth trees, so there isn’t much room to park a roll former to produce panels up to 25 feet long. It’s a relatively small project, about 6,000 square feet. “We set up our staging area in the road, about a quarter-mile from Austin Hall,” Todd says. “To minimize disruptions to daily university activities, we decided to run panels in the evening and have 3-4 guys walk the longer panels up the hill, one at a time. We rented a golf cart to transport guys down the hill to the roll former and bring smaller items up to the jobsite. We’ve got a great crew and it was ‘all hands on deck’ for this one. In one night, we produced all the panels and telescoped them to the roof on our spreader bar, which we attached to the forks of our onsite SkyTrack. We didn’t damage a single panel … that’s tough to do with copper.”

Todd was sure the roofing details would be watertight and wanted to make sure the internal gutters didn’t cause any problems. The Empire crew used sandpaper to etch the flat 20-ounce copper before it was fabricated into gutters. Once fabricated and roof-loaded, the gutter pieces were joined in 40- to 50-foot sections in the interior gutter, then lifted out and placed on sawhorses. All joints and seams were fully soldered on the sawhorses and then placed in their respective areas inside the internal gutter troughs, where the few remaining seams were joined and soldered in place. The gutters then were coated with Kemperol 2K PUR, a solvent-free, fleece-reinforced and liquid-applied waterproofing system based in polyurethane resin. Empire used a roller to apply the coating in open areas and brushed on the coating in corners.

TEAM

Building Envelope Consultant: Armko Industries, Austin, Texas, www.armko.com

Roofing Contractor: Empire Roofing, Austin, Texas, www.empireroofing.com

MATERIALS

Metal Roof System: 238T symmetrical copper standing seam roofing system, McElroy Metal, www.mcelroymetal.com

Underlayment: Titanium PSU-30 high-temp self-adhering underlayment, InterWrap, www.interwrap.com

Liquid-Applied Waterproofing System: Kemperol 2K PUR, Kemper System, www.kemper-system.com

Metal Roofing System Is the Answer for Rocky Mountain Home Retrofit

When it came time to replace the roof on this Colorado

When it came time to replace the roof on this Colorado custom home, the owner wanted a roof system that would look good and stand up to the elements. He chose the Riva Classic Copper Shingle from Vail Metal Systems. Photos: Vail Metal Systems

When the owner of a home situated in the Rocky Mountains was faced with replacing his 10,000-square-foot roof, he had a daunting set of criteria. He wanted a roof that would last longer and look better than the wood shake roof he had in place. He also wanted a roof that would be fire resistant, and one that would stand up to the elements in this harsh environment, as the home was situated high above the ski areas of Vail and Aspen in Colorado.

The elevation of this home is almost 10,000 feet, and snow loads are a major concern, as are high winds and exposure to ultraviolet rays. The homeowner needed a durable roof system that was designed for the Rocky Mountains, one that would add value to his investment.

He found the answer in Vail Metal Roof Systems. The product was originally developed in the Vail area more than 20 years ago by David Plath and his partners at Plath Construction for just these sorts of issues. “At the time, the roofs in Vail were failing in 15 to 20 years,” Plath remembers. “Maintenance cost were a huge, chronic problem for all types of roofing except cedar shakes. Clay tile was breaking at catastrophic rates. Copper standing seam roofs were being destroyed by sliding snow and ice dropping from upper roofs.”

Once installed, the copper panels

Once installed, the copper panels have an exposure that is 32 inches wide by 11 inches tall. Panels are held in place with clips that are fastened to the substrate, allowing for expansion and contraction. Photos: Vail Metal Systems

Plath’s goal was to develop a metal shingle product that was efficient to install, needed little or no maintenance, and could be priced competitively with standing seam metal roof systems. He came up with a metal shingle concept comprised of a folded panel 37.125 inches long and 13.5 inches wide, designed to look like four individual shingles side by side. When the product is installed, the exposure is 32 inches wide by 11 inches tall.

“I chose the metal shingle design because of its long history, with evidence of copper shingle roofs lasting centuries,” Plath recalls. “The copper shingle design was first tested in the winter of 1994. Our design didn’t invent metal shingle roofing, of course, but we did find a way to create a product with four metal shingles per panel. They were indistinguishable from custom, handmade metal shingles made by master craftsman.”

The Riva Series metal shingle has developed a history of meeting the needs of area homeowners since its invention, according to Plath. The company offers the product in copper and zinc, as well as steel and aluminum substrates pre-painted with PVDF coating systems in a variety of solid colors and print-coated patterns. “The durability of the roof system has been proven over many years with hundreds of installations, and we have a track record second to none in meeting these types of vigorous needs,” he says.

Replacing the Roof

For the Rocky Mountain retrofit project, the Riva Classic Copper Shingle was chosen. The original roof system had an insulation value of R-39, and the goal was to keep the house well insulated while installing the new roof system. This required a highly trained installer for the new roof, and no one had more experience than Plath Construction, the company originally co-founded by David Plath and now run by current owners Alberto Ortega and Francisco Castillo.

Ortega and Castillo worked in conjunction with Schaeffer Hyde Construction, the general contractor on the home when it was originally built. Rob Faucett of Schaeffer Hyde Construction was the project manager on the roof replacement project.

Photos: Vail Metal Systems

Photos: Vail Metal Systems

After the old roof was removed, the Vail Metal Roof system was installed. A layer of Grace Ice and Water Guard was applied to the deck, and new copper flashings and metal panels were installed per the manufacturer’s specifications. Clips were used to fasten the panels to the substrate and still allow for expansion and contraction. On this project, ridge vents were installed to control moisture buildup from the interior of the building.

The home was built with natural stone in a gorgeous landscape, and the homeowner wanted a roof system that would blend well with these architectural elements and make a strong statement as it stood up to the tough conditions. He found the right answer in the Riva Classic Copper Shingle, and he is pleased with the aesthetics and the performance of the roof, according to Plath.

At one time the product was licensed to another company, but Plath was recently thrilled to announce he is personally involved with Vail metal shingles once again as the owner of Vail Metal Systems. “Our customers love the product,” Plath says, “We have testimonials unlike anything I’ve ever heard throughout my career. It’s been my dream to manufacture this product and make it available to the industry, and relaunching Vail Metal Systems is the perfect retirement plan for a guy that doesn’t know when to slow down.”

TEAM

General Contractor: Shaeffer Hyde Construction, Avon, Colo., Shaefferhyde.com
Roofing Contractor: Plath Construction Inc., Eagle, Colo., Plathroofing.com
Metal Roof System Manufacturer: Vail Metal Systems, VailMetal.com