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Commercial Flat Roofs - Part 1

In most cases, a flat roof is considered any roof that has a 2 on 12 pitch or less, meaning it’s fairly flat or shallow. It’s important to note that a roof should never be completely flat. Ponding water will eventually erode even the strongest membranes over time.

All roofing manufacturers require some degree of drainage or they will not warranty a flat roof and repair costs can run thousands of dollars. There are many options available for commercial property owners each with their own advantages. In NJ, there are enough variations in the weather that it is very important to choose the best roofing option for their situation.

Torch Down, APP or Rubber Roofs

Another type of flat roof system is the APP or torch down system. This is also known as a method to create rubber roofs. APP (Atactic Polypropylene) is a strong, resilient, non-woven polyester mat that is coated with a special type of modified asphalt. A torch-down flat roof is easy to repair and needs little maintenance. It’s also flexible, because of the blend of asphalt with synthetic rubberized polymers. This means a torch down application is more adaptable to extreme changes of weather and other climate changes. While other types of roofing are sometimes subject to leakages in wet weather, the torch down method to make rubber roofs are known for their resistance to rain, wind, and hail. When choosing a company for this type of work, it’s extremely important to be aware of the insurance they carry. As little as 25% of flat roofing contractors carry the proper insurance necessary for torch down roofing.

EPDM, TPO and PVC Roofing

Over the last 2 decades, single ply roof systems have taken a much larger share of the commercial roofing market. As new regulations are passed each year, the roofing industry is moving towards products that do not contain asphalt and have a white surface color. The 3 most common types of single ply membranes are EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) sometimes referred to as a way to put on rubber roofs (although not accurate), TPO (thermo plastic olefin), and PVC (poly vinyl chloride). Although the chemical compositions are different, their methods of installation are the same. Single ply roof membranes have great versatility of application. The membranes are usually mechanically attached, adhered to the insulation, or held in place with stone, known as a ballast system. Single ply membranes are relatively inexpensive, and are available in very large rolls. Because the rolls are larger, this makes for a roof with very few seams, and less potential for leak spots. The single ply accessories are quite expensive, needing to be installed with great care and attention to detail. Very few commercial roofs have no joints, penetrations, or mechanical equipment on them, so such detail work is very important when considering a single ply roof system. As the name suggests, single ply systems while durable have the disadvantage of only one ply. If the system is compromised, water will get into the building, and unfortunately leaks can be challenging to locate, particularly on the ballasted systems.

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About the Author

Chuck Anania, Certified Roofing
360 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair, NJ 07042

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