Self-Stick Roofing And Why You Shouldn’t Use It – Part II

In a previous article, we took a look at cheap and very low quality materials sometimes used on low slope or flat roofs.

The outline of our discussion follows below:

  • Why shortcuts are so common
  • Why short-cuts detract value
  • Better options and alternatives

In the last article, we took a look at how the membrane lays on top of successive or substrate layers of membrane in the lap installation of a planar roof system, generally in a low slope or near horizontal plane at the field of the membrane, meaning at the larger portion of open area of a roof system. Today re are looking at some of the same problems with adhesion, typical where there is no melted emulsion, as would be found in a typical modified bitumen system, and the issues associated with lack of emulsion, especially at locations where the membrane has to be formed or shaped to fit a multi-planar substrate.  A multi-planar substrate may sound like a sci-fi term but it simply means a roof substrate that isn’t just a a flat two-dimensional surface.  These types of areas and contracts apply at pipe, duct, and chimney penetrations through a roof membrane.

why self-stick flat roofing is not recommended

Why shortcuts are so common

It’s not as common to find cheap shortcuts like this in Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and the majority of historic neighborhoods of Washington DC, however once in a while we find that some homeowners or building owners think that they got a very low price roof installed only to find out it’s later leaking and the real issue is that a self-stick type roof was applied instead of a real torch-down granulated modified bitumen membrane (or an even stronger membrane like TPO).

Often, other roofing contractors provide very little information and details in their estimates regarding the type of work that they are proposing or planning to do and often clients are only looking for short-term really cheap alternatives to regular low slope roofing.  (Low-slope roofing, both commercial and residential, is very expensive.  And still years after the pandemic, materials costs stay significantly inflated after spiking upwards during the pandemic because of manufacturer and retail price gouging, meanwhile the same corporations blame low-skilled worker wage increases for the price inflation, yet they are / were simultaneously bragging, in earnings calls about record profits throughout the pandemic.  Anyone who takes a clear and sober look at that data can see that real increases in construction building materials trace directly back to egregious corporate profits.  Earnings calls are open to the public, so its not a secret.)

There is very little regulation and oversight in the construction industry and DCRA has a notorious history of hyperfocusing on a few particular items and omitting the diligence and oversight required to manage the construction of a municipality in the vast majority of other items in the industry.  The vast predominant portion of contractors do not follow the simplest of AHJ rules.  All of these realities are reasons why it’s important to use a good contractor who cares about quality, like Dupont Roofing.

The picture below shows a plumbing vent pipe penetration through a low-slope roof, covered with a self-stick granulated “roofing” material.   There are definitely concerns about the lap joints found in a typical field installation of a self stick type membrane, but the concerns are exponentially compounded when the membrane is used to wrap penetrations where the typical planar field is broken by opposing or differing angles such as at vent pipe penetrations, duct work penetrations, and chimney penetrations.   In this type of context, the limitations of a self stick material are compounded because the thin material, without pliable or meltable torch adhered emotion lacks the ability to be flexible enough to wrap around convex or concave or angled surfaces.

self stick roofing hurts home value

Why short-cuts detract value

Cutting corners and using cheap alternative materials, even if allowed by the building code, can still be a bad idea, particularly when it comes to roofing and waterproofing. Cheap materials often have inferior quality, meaning they may not last as long as higher-quality alternatives. Roofs and waterproofing systems are critical components of a building’s envelope and require durability to withstand environmental elements over an extended period. Choosing cheaper materials can result in premature deterioration, leaks, and costly repairs or replacements.   Lower cost and lower quality materials may be more prone to manufacturing defects or inconsistencies in quality control. This can lead to compromised performance, such as poor adhesion, inadequate waterproofing, or vulnerability to leaks. Defective materials can result in significant water damage, mold growth, and potential structural issues.  

Lower-cost materials often come with limited manufacturer technical support This means that if issues arise, the manufacturer may not provide adequate support or assistance for repairs or replacements. This can leave the building owner or occupant with the burden of dealing with the consequences and costs.  As cheap materials are more likely to deteriorate or fail prematurely, they can result in increased maintenance and repair expenses. The savings initially gained from using cheaper materials can quickly be overshadowed by the ongoing costs of addressing issues and maintaining the building’s integrity.  

Building materials and systems significantly impact the value of a property. By opting for cheaper alternatives, the overall quality and longevity of the building may be compromised. This can negatively affect the property’s market value and resale potential.  It is crucial to consider the long-term implications and potential risks associated with using cheap building materials, particularly for critical components like roofing and waterproofing. 

Investing in higher-quality materials may require a higher upfront cost, but it can offer greater peace of mind, long-term durability, and cost savings over the building’s lifespan. Consulting with professionals in the construction industry can help make informed decisions and ensure that the chosen materials meet the necessary standards and performance requirements.  Dupont Roofing can possibly help you with your building upkeep needs . 

The next picture below shows the same plumbing vent pipe installation, with a closer view of the flashing wrap at the point of penetration through the roof deck.  As well, in a future article we will talk about proper target patch installation methodology, but the required rules for installing a proper target patch have also not been followed as the self stick type material lacks the flexibility required to make the angular and/or convex bends required for a target patch installation.

alternatives to self-stick flat roofing

Better options and alternatives

Using high-performance low-slope roll roofing single-ply materials like modified bitumen and TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) membranes can indeed provide several benefits over choosing the cheapest materials available in the market. Here are some reasons why investing in these materials can be advantageous: 

Durability and longevity: Modified bitumen and TPO membranes are specifically designed to withstand the rigors of low-slope roofing applications. They offer excellent durability and resistance to weathering, UV radiation, and temperature fluctuations. These materials typically have longer lifespans compared to cheaper alternatives, resulting in reduced maintenance and replacement costs over time. 

Enhanced vapor / water protection: The primary function of roofing is to provide a waterproof barrier to protect the building from water infiltration. Modified bitumen and TPO membranes have superior waterproofing properties, ensuring a reliable and long-lasting seal against leaks. This reduces the risk of water damage, mold growth, and structural issues in the building. 

Energy efficiency: TPO membranes, in particular, have excellent reflective properties, which can contribute to energy efficiency. They can help reduce heat absorption, lower cooling costs, and improve the overall energy performance of the building. This can lead to potential savings in utility bills and contribute to sustainability efforts. 

Resistance to chemicals and pollutants: Modified bitumen and TPO membranes offer resistance to various chemicals and pollutants found in the environment. They are less susceptible to degradation caused by exposure to oils, greases, airborne pollutants, and industrial emissions. This makes them suitable for a wide range of applications, including commercial and industrial buildings. 

Reduced maintenance requirements: High-performance low-slope roll roofing materials often have long durability and life cycle periods, reducing he need for constant replacement.  In the case of TPO membranes, very low upkeep costs are required because TPO membranes do not need to be residually recoated.

AHJ compliance: Modified bitumen and TPO membranes typically meet or exceed industry standards and AHJ requirements for low-slope roofing applications. Using approved materials ensures compliance with regulations.  Additionally, reputable manufacturers often offer support to certified contractors (such as Dupont Roofing) for these materials, providing further assurance and information regarding unique issues or circumstances. 

Investing in high-performance low-slope roll roofing materials like TPO membranes can result in a more durable, reliable, and long-lasting roofing system. While they may involve a higher upfront cost compared to cheaper materials, their benefits in terms of longevity, performance, energy efficiency, and reduced maintenance expenses make them a valuable investment over the years to come. We recommended toiling owners consult with roofing professionals, like Dupont Roofing to determine the best materials for specific project requirements and budget considerations.

The upkeep, maintenance, and general care of flat and mansard roof systems should be driven by an understanding and passion for historical methodologies, waterproofing principles, engineering and building science. Washington DC, a city built with both vintage charm and contemporary modernities, residential and commercial buildings of substantial value. 

The roofs of these buildings are their defensive shield from the harsh elements of nature. To our clients, as well as all readers of this article and our blog, we emphasize the importance of quality construction and active building maintenance.  Our website includes informative resources you can use to understand and learn about best practices on preservation of your building.  If you are in need of further guidance on the roof and its associated systems for your Washington DC property, we are here to assist, where we can. Simply contact us or complete the webform below and drop us a line and we’ll respond if we can help.

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