The 7 Commandments of Roofing

If I were the Roofing God for a day, what would I change? Oh, where do I start? First of all, there would be none of this “you should,” “can,” “may” or “it is recommended” nomenclature. I would have commands: Thou shall do the following.

Freezer Buildings and Block Ice Insulation

Photos 1 and 2. When moist exterior air is pulled into the roof systems of freezer buildings, the moisture condenses and freezes. Here gaps in the insulation are filled with ice. On the interior there are icicles more than 10 feet long. The cause? Air intrusion at the roof edge under the membrane and wood blocking. Images: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

I have never opened up a roof over a freezer building that wasn’t solid ice between the insulation joints. How does this travesty occur? Ignorance? In part. Naiveté? Yes. Who is guilty? Whoever is the roof system designer. Most designers should know that there is an enormous moisture drive from the exterior to the interior. This drive is not a passive movement, but a huge, sucking pressure. It’s like there is a shop vac in the interior trying to pull in outside air. But designers fail to realize that the first sources of interior moisture intrusion into the roof system are moisture migrating out from exposed soil until the concrete slab is poured; moisture coming from the interior concrete floor slab; and latent air moisture (relative humidity) in the interior air before the freezer is operational.

We in the roofing industry are very good at keeping water out of the building. It’s the influx of air that is destroying these roofs shortly after bringing the freezer online. So how is the air getting in? Oh, let me count the ways: (1) though the unsealed membrane at the roof edge; (2) past beveled precast concrete joints at the roof edge; (3) below perimeter wood blocking at the roof edge; and (4) up through metal wall panel joints.

Photo 2.

Stopping air transport to the interior is key. Most designers believe that the roof membrane performs as the air/vapor barrier. In the field of the roof, perhaps, but their lack of knowledge about roof material characteristics and proper installation methods often leads designers astray. The perimeter becomes the weak link.

Let’s look at some common design mistakes:

1. In recent years, designers have revised roof membrane selection to reflective roof membranes, in part to garner a LEED point. The trouble is that these membranes are substantially ridged/stiff and can be difficult to turn over the roof edge, adhere and seal, so they are often barely turned over the edge and nailed off. The lack of a positive seal (that would be achieved by adhering the membrane to the perimeter wood blocking and wall) allows air to move up below the membrane.

2. When precast concrete panels are used at the walls, the joints are often beveled. What happens at the roof edge? The bevel extends right up to the perimeter wood of the coping that is straight and parallel to the outside wall face. The bevel becomes a gutter to channel wind up the wall to the underside of the gutter, gravel stop or coping. In a situation like the one outlined in No. 1 above, the wind can move in below the roof system.

3. When perimeter wood blocking is placed in a horizontal position at the roof edge, the underside of the wood blocking needs to be sealed. A non-curing, gun-grade butyl, applied in several rows, works well, such that when the blocking is secured to the wall, the underside of the blocking is sealed. Be aware of uneven substrates that will require additional sealant.

4. Metal wall panel joints are another potential problem spot. Ask a metal wall panel installer why they are only sealing one of the two exterior male–female joints and you are likely to hear, “because the exterior joint completes the vapor retarder” (which is on the exterior of the building when perfect). Technically they are correct. However, getting a perfect sealant joint to create a complete vapor retarder is not so easy. Think of how sealant is applied. The installer squeezes the caulk gun handle and the sealant oozes out in a thick bead, which can vary in thickness as the gun is drawn along. As the trigger is squeezed and the gun moves, the sealant bead decreases in diameter, and then the gun handle is squeezed again and a thick bead oozes out, and so on. At the end of the sealant application, the thinned-out bead is often not sufficient to properly seal the panels where they are engaged. Condensing water weeps out of the joints in the interior in cold storage areas and results in interior ice on freezer buildings. The sealant, whether factory applied or field applied, is not located at the exterior plane of the panel, but recessed in the outer tongue and groove joint, leaving the potential (almost a guarantee) that there will be a vertical “chimney” of about 1/16 of an inch that can channel air up under the membrane turned over the wall panel.

A quality vapor retarder (those of you thinking polyethylene, think again) placed on the roof deck will protect the thermal layers from vapor intrusion from the interior humidity, latent construction moisture, and ground moisture that accumulates before freezer draws down. It also prevents exterior air infiltration, which can result in interior “snow” and the huge icicle formations. (See Photos 1 and 2.)

Commandment #1: Thou shall place a vapor barrier at the roof deck on freezer/cold storage buildings and seal roof edge perimeters, drains and penetrations through the vapor retarder and all perimeter conditions to be airtight.

The Roof Drain Conspiracy

I am convinced that there is an international conspiracy to drive me nuts. It’s called the ‘how small can we cut out the membrane at the roof drain’ contest. (See Photo 3.)

Photo 3. Believe it or not, this is not even close to the winner of “who can cut the smallest hole in the roof membrane at the drain” contest. The membrane should be cut back to within 1/2 inch of the clamping ring to allow the drain to function as designed.

When I am called in as an expert on a building collapse, the first thing I tell the attorney is, “Save the roof drains and attached roof membrane!” Why, you ask? Because I want to see if the roofing contractor competed in the contest and if the installer and the consultant/architect will be party to the repair costs. Drains are designed to create a vortex to drain water most efficiently from the roof. (Watch how a toilet flushes to gain an understanding on how a drain works with the water swirling into the drainpipe.) The shape of the water flow from the roof surface to the drain bowl to the downspout is critical. When the hole cut in the membrane is too small, it can restrict drainage. Costs often drive projects, and it is not uncommon for a roof’s structural elements to be value engineered down to the bone. With intense rainfalls (you know, the 100-year rains that are occurring two or three times per year) and on larger roof areas where large outlet pipes are used, restricted water drainage can and has resulted in structural roof collapse.

So, I’m on a roof and observe the roofing crew cutting out a small hole at the drain. Being the conscientious consultant that I am, I ask, “Can you please cut out the membrane to within 1/2-inch of the clamping ring?” The answer is almost universal: “I’ll do it later.” Usually my blood pressure rises and face turns red as I explain the importance of making sure this detail is not overlooked.

Our details call out the proper way to cut out the membrane and our field observation reports call this out to be corrected, but I am forced to remind contractors again and again — sometimes even when it’s on the punch list. So, what’s a consultant to do? I reject the pay request.

Commandment #2: Call out on your roof drain details to cut back the membrane to within 1/2-inch of the clamping ring (a cloverleaf pattern around the bolts is best), and drive home the importance of this detail to the crew members in the field.

The 12-Inch Roof Curb

Photo 4. Roof insulation thicknesses now required by code make 12-inch roof curbs obsolete. Specify 18-inch curbs. Raising this curb with 16-gauge steel was very expensive. I suggested sending the bill to the engineer.

When energy was cheap, insulation was an inch or two in thickness, and the roof was built up, 12-inch-high roof curbs worked. With the new insulation requirements and tapered insulation, 12-inch curbs can be buried. Furthermore, future code mandates may increase insulation R-value, increasing insulation heights. So, consider this a public announcement to all mechanical engineers and curb manufacturers: Eliminate 12-inch curbs and specify curbs that are 18 inches or higher. (See Photo 4.)

Commandment #3: Specify only 18-inch and above roof curbs and rails.

Flapping in the Breeze

Photos 5 and 6. The membrane left unsealed at the roof perimeter has placed this roof in great jeopardy of wind damage. It is also allowing water to flow back into the insulation.

Driving around Chicago it’s not hard to see roof edges — gutters, gravel stop, and parapets — where the roof membrane is just flapping in the wind. (See Photos 5 and 6.) This is especially a concern when the roof system is mechanically attached and the air can move directly below the membrane. The roof typically is installed prior to the installation of the windows and doors, and while the building is open, airflow in the interior can create upward pressure on the roof system from below. This force, in association with the air getting below the membrane at the roof edge and with uplift above the membrane, drastically raises the risk of wind damage. Furthermore, when the membrane is not secured at the gutter roof edge, water draining off the roof will return back to the roof edge and move into the building and insulation.

Photo 6.

Wrap the membrane over the roof edge, adhere it in place and nail it off. This will save you during the installation and prevent air infiltration once the roof is complete. The designer should also delineate the area where the air barrier meets the roof vapor retarder and/or roof membrane and define who is responsible for what. Detail this explicitly.

Commandment #4: Roof membranes shall be extended down over the edge wood blocking a minimum of 1.5 inches onto the wall substrate, fully adhered and nailed off on the day it is installed. Where applicable, seal to the wall air barriers.

Holding Roof Drains Off the Roof Deck

Photo 7. Drains held up off the deck make re-roofing difficult when a vapor retarder is called for. I have seen roofs covered with 1.5 inches of water due to high drains, with the water just waiting to relieve itself to the interior at the first vapor retarder deficiency.

Nothing is more frustrating to a roofing contractor during a re-roof than removing the old roof to install a vapor retarder and finding that the roof drain has been held up off the roof deck. (See Photo 7.) This goes back to the design when the engineer and architect have no clue as to the use of proper sump pans and roof drains with extension rings — preferably threaded.

Commandment #5: Design, detail and draw the roof drain detail showing the roof deck with a sump pan provided by the roof drain manufacturer, installed by the plumbing contractor not the guys installing the roof deck), with the roof drain now flush to the roof deck, with a reversible collar (to which the extension ring threads engage), the threaded extension ring and dome.

Fill the Void, Bury the Screw, Save the Energy

Photo 8. Often a roofing contractor will leave voids like this around penetrations. Imagine the energy loss.

With the push over the past decade for energy savings/conservation, it is amazing to me that the code bodies have ignored two very highly energy consumptive or energy loss conditions: (1) voids in the thermal layer at penetrations and perimeter conditions; and (2) mechanical fasteners with plates below the roof cover. (See Photos 8-10.)

Photo 9. This photo shows multiple problems, beginning with a stud wall and a large gap at the deck. Warm air coming up the wall will cause deterioration of the water-based adhesives on the base flashing. The insulation panels are not tight to the wall or to each other. The metal strip looks pretty thin, is not a proper vapor retarder termination and will not hold the screws of the base anchor. This is a project that will continue giving work to us expert witnesses.

Some crews work to fit insulation tight to conditions. Others don’t. Eyeballing the circular cutout at vent pipes is common, resulting in fairly large voids at vent pipes. Roof edge conditions vary and significant voids can occur there, too. All of these voids need to be sealed with spray foam insulation, which should be allowed to rise and then trimmed flush to the insulation. I recommend that the spray foam be installed at each layer as subsequent insulation layers can shift the void. We have been requiring this for years without much blowback from contractors. The only issue that arose was when a contractor wanted to use polyurethane adhesive to fill voids; that was a no-go, as the polyurethane adhesive collapses down after it rises.

Photo 10. The screws and plates seen here are costing the building owner a fortune in lost energy.

Mechanical fasteners used to positively secure the insulation and membrane have become commonplace. But as I’ve noted before, we have seen roofs covered in frost with hundreds, if not thousands, of little spots of melted frost. The heat transfer through the fasteners is substantial. Research has found that on a mechanically attached roof cover, the energy loss can be over 40 percent above that of a system without exposed fasteners. As energy requirements are defined by R-value and with the potential for thermal loss due to the fasteners, I propose an R-value penalty for exposed fasteners. For example, in Chicago where the R-value requirement is 30, if you have a mechanically attached roof cover, the R-value required would be 42. That way the thermal efficiency would be equivalent and building owners wouldn’t pay the price for the designer’s lack of knowledge. Thus, as the Roofing God, I would implement this penalty and require all adhered roofs to have fasteners buried below insulation or cover board layers.

Commandment # 6: Show and note on your details the installation of spray foam insulation at penetrations, roof drains and perimeters.

Commandment # 7: All mechanical fasteners should be covered with insulation or a cover board; if not, 40 percent more R-value needs to be added to the thermal layer to compensate for the energy loss.

So, there you have the new roofing commandments that I would bestow if I were the Roofing God for a day. Let’s all work together though to bring about positive change and increase the sustainability and resiliency of our roofs. Together we can do it.

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CRP, CSI, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit www.hutchinsondesigngroup.com.

Aluminum Retrofit Drain Now Available in 22-Inch Length

Aluminator XLMarathon Roofing Products now offers an extended version of its Aluminator Retrofit Drain that is 22 inches long. According to the company, the Aluminator Drain is constructed of heavy-duty spun aluminum body, aluminum ring/dome and the ProSeal seal designed to prevent water backup issues. The Aluminator also has the option to be PVC or TPO coated for direct hot-air welding to PVC or TPO membranes.

For more information, visit www.marathondrains.com or call 800-828-8424.

Replacing a Roof Drain on a Structurally Sloped Steel Roof Deck

Figure 1. Roof drain detail. Photos: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

What is the number one goal of any building owner when it comes to the roof? They don’t want water pouring through their ceilings damaging the interior of the building. How do you keep water out of the building? By keeping the water on the exterior of the building and directing it to the roof drains or other drain locations, such as scupper or gutters. The roof drain is, on a basic level, one of the simplest details on the roof, and yet it is flashed incorrectly time and time again. This paper will walk you through the process of replacing a roof drain on a structurally sloped steel roof deck and installing the new roof system and flashing.

Photo 1. The sump pan and drain body have been installed. Photos: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

First off, we are going to assume that the current drainpipe is adequate to handle the existing water volume and drain its portion of the roof, and that the drain pipe is in good condition. Our new roof system will meet the current R-30 requirements for continuous insulation above the roof deck in a roof near Chicago. So, our roof system will be composed of a mechanically fastened substrate board on the steel roof deck, a self-adhering vapor retarder, two layers of 2.6-inch insulation mechanically fastened, a 1/2-inch modified gypsum cover board set in bead foam adhesive, and fully adhered EPDM membrane. (See Figure 1.) We will also assume that the roofing contractor is acting as the general contractor for our scenario.

Now that we have our parameters out of the way, what’s first? I have never met a building owner that likes construction debris inside of their conference room or classroom, so the interior needs to be protected prior to the removal of the existing roof drain. This can be as simple as some Visqueen, but the interior protection needs to be installed prior to the removal of the existing roof drain. The one question that seems to come up is, who is installing this protection? The owner? The plumber? The roofing contractor? I like to put this on the plumber. He knows when he is removing the drain and installing the new one.

Once the interior protection is installed, we need to coordinate the removal of the existing roof system and installation of the vapor retarder with the removal of the existing roof drain, as well as the installation of the new metal sump pan, drain body and lead and oakum joint to the existing drain pipe. (See Photo 1.) This all needs to be done on the same day so that the roof can drain properly and that the vapor retarder can be terminated onto the roof drain flange. This part is critical, as with experience this designer has learned that the vapor retarder can be used as the seal between the extension ring and the roof drain flange and that the O-ring can be eliminated. The sump needs to be fastened to the roof deck around the perimeter at 8 inches on center and be centered on the drainpipe. The drain body then needs to be set over the drainpipe and lead and oakum installed between the drain body and drain pipe.

Installing the New Roof

So, now we have the roof drain body and the vapor retarder installed. Now comes the new roof system. To meet our R-30 requirements, we are going to need a base layer of 2.6-inch polyisocyanurate insulation and 4-foot-wide, 1/2-inch-per-foot tapered insulation sump around the roof drain. This sump will get us to the R-30 requirements of 4 feet from the roof drain as required by the current codes. If my math is correct, that will leave 3.1 inches of insulation at the roof drain. We will need a reversible collar and threaded extension ring to accommodate this height. When setting the reversible collar onto the drain bowl, set it in water cut-off mastic. If the drain ever becomes clogged, this will help to keep water from seeping under the reversible collar and into the roof system. Next the threaded extension ring is installed. First, install some water cut-off mastic onto the treads prior to engagement with the reversible collar. Once again, this will help to prevent water from entering the roof system if the drain becomes clogged and backs up.

Photo 2. The extension ring has been set lower than the cover board (yellow) and water cut off mastic has been installed on the extension ring flange. Photos: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

One of the main questions that I receive from the roofing and plumbing contractors is, “How high should I set the extension ring?” Well, it varies per roof system, but for our scenario it needs to be set flush with the top of the tapered insulation. We set it here because we have our cover board that has yet to be installed, and when the clamping ring is installed it will be lower than the cover board. Now back to the insulation; the 2.6-inch insulation should be installed as close to the extension ring as possible, chamfered as required to fit under the flange. Next the tapered insulation sump is installed. This should be installed as close as possible to the extension ring flange and chamfered as required to fit beneath the flange. All voids between the extension ring and the insulation should be filled with spray polyurethane foam insulation.

Once we have our insulation installed, next comes the cover board. The number one thing with the cover board and roof drain is having the cover board cut perpendicularly to the roof drain flange. (See Photo 2.) Do notchamfer the cover board. Chamfering the cover board may ease the transition of the membrane onto the extension ring flange, but it creates an unsuitable substrate surface for the bonding adhesive. And in my experience, water seems to end up ponding around the roof drain and not dropping into the roof drain. This will also allow the roof’s drain clamping ring to sit flat and below the roof surface of the roof.

Photo 3. The membrane has been correctly cut in a cloverleaf pattern. Photos: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

Now that our cover board is installed, we have the membrane and its transition into the roof drain. Water cut-off mastic is to be installed on the extension ring flange. How much you ask? One tube. Load that flange up. Make two thick beads with it. I have never heard a contractor say, “Man, using all of that water cut-off mastic on the job really set me back.” It’s a small item, but it is worth it.

After the membrane has been installed and the clamping ring is set, it’s time to cut a hole in the membrane to allow the water to get to the drain and off the roof. How big should the hole be? As small as possible is what some contractors might say. I ask a question to you now: what is the goal of the roof drain? If you answered to get the water off the roof as quickly as possible, you would be correct. Then why would the contractor want to cut a small hole in the roof membrane that would restrict the flow of water into the roof drain piping and off of the roof? I am dumbfounded as well. When we detail the roof drain, we call for the membrane to be cut back to within a 1/2 inch of the extension ring in a cloverleaf pattern around the clamping ring bolts. (See Photo 3.) This way there is no confusion on how far back the membrane is to be cut. Set the drain dome and the roof drain detail is complete.

So, there you have it. Now the roof can drain properly with a brand-new roof drain with no problem (fingers crossed).

Retrofit Roof Drains Feature Integrated Vortex Breaker

OMG Hercules-Plus RetroDrainsOMG Roofing Products introduces a new line of retrofit roof drains called Hercules-Plus. The drains feature integrated vortex breaker technology. Vortex breaker technology helps improve drain performance by improving water removal off the roof.

According to the manufacturer, independent performance testing shows that Hercules-Plus RetroDrains provide up to 2.5 times greater flow capacity than original Hercules Drains without vortex breaker technology. Faster water flow off the roof also means that the drains get excessive weight off the roof faster. In addition, integrated vortex breaker technology greatly reduces the chugging effect that occurs when a vortex collapses, which can overload the plumbing system.

“Ponding water weighs approximately five pounds per inch per square foot. That means one-inch of water covering 20-square feet on the roof weighs 2,000 pounds,” said Dan Genovese, product manager with OMG Roofing. “That’s an additional ton of live load added to the building’s roof, and not entirely uncommon given the number of extreme weather events we’ve seen in the past few years. The new Hercules-Plus RetroDrains can get that water – and excessive weight – off the roof faster.”

Hercules-Plus RetroDrains are available in four sizes: 3 inches, 4 inches, 5 inches and 6 inches, and with an optional TPO or PVC coated flange for direct membrane attachment. Strainer domes are made of heavy-duty cast aluminum which will not rust for long life on the roof. In addition, the safety yellow powder coat makes the Hercules-Plus strainer domes highly visible to help minimize rooftop trip hazards.

For additional information, visit www.OMGRoofing.com.

Vortex Breaker Strainer Dome Improves Drain Performance

OMG Roofing Products introduces the Vortex Breaker Strainer Dome

OMG Roofing Products introduces the Vortex Breaker Strainer Dome for retrofitting OMG Hercules Drains. The new strainer dome with built-in vortex breaker technology is designed to improve water flow from the roof. According to the manufacturer, independent studies demonstrate that when upgraded with the Vortex Breaker Strainer Dome, Hercules Drains offer up to 2.5 times greater flow capacity than Hercules Drains without vortex breaker technology. Faster water flow off the roof also means that the drains get excessive weight off the roof faster. In addition, the integrated vortex breaker technology greatly reduces the chugging effect that occurs when a vortex collapses, which can overload the plumbing system.

Vortex Breaker Strainer Domes are made of heavy-duty cast aluminum for long life on the roof. The safety yellow powder coat makes them easily visible on the roof, so they do not pose a trip hazard. The new domes are compatible with all 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-inch OMG Hercules and OMG Aluminum Classic drains, including thermoplastic coated versions, and are installed using only a screwdriver with a #2 square drive.

For additional information, please call the Customer Service team at OMG Roofing Products at (800) 633-3800.

After Years of Roof Leaks, a Laboratory That Produces Theatrical Equipment and Software Undergoes a Complex Reroofing

Founded in 1910, Rosco Laboratories is a multi-national producer of equipment, software and products for the theatrical, film, and television industries and architectural environment. As with every aging flat roofing system, water leakage was becoming a recurring problem at Rosco’s Stamford, Conn., facility. The severity of the leakage was further exacerbated by the lack of roof drainage (only two roof drains serviced the entire building) and poor deck slope conditions (less than 1/16 inch per foot).

The gypsum decking was cut out within the limits of the entire framing “bay” and infilled with galvanized metal decking. The longitudinal deck panel edge was seated atop the horizontal leg of the bulb-tee section (visible in the center of the photograph) and mechanically fastened using self-tapping screws. The ends were supported by the steel purlins. The underside of the decking was prepainted to match the ceiling finish. Supplemental structural support consisting of strips of 14-gauge galvanized sheet metal were attached to the bottom of each bulb-tee section contiguous to the repair to provide additional support for the adjacent gypsum roof decking segment.

The gypsum decking was cut out within the limits of the entire framing “bay” and infilled with galvanized metal decking. The longitudinal deck panel edge was seated atop the horizontal leg of the bulb-tee section (visible in the center of the photograph) and mechanically fastened using self-tapping screws. The ends were supported by the steel purlins. The underside of the decking was prepainted to match the ceiling finish. Supplemental structural support consisting of strips of 14-gauge galvanized sheet metal were attached to the bottom of each bulb-tee section contiguous to the repair to provide additional support for the adjacent gypsum roof decking segment.


Rosco representatives employed traditional methods to control and/or collect the moisture within the building by use of several water diverters. This technique was effective but Rosco representatives soon recognized this was not a viable long term solution as the physical integrity of the roof structure (deck) became a principal concern to the safety of the building occupants.

The Fisher Group LLC, an Oxford, Conn.-based building envelope consulting firm was retained by Rosco in March 2009 to survey the existing site conditions and determine the need for roofing replacement. The existing roofing construction, which consisted of a conventional two-ply, smooth-surfaced BUR with aluminized coating, exhibited numerous deficiencies (most notably severe alligatoring) and was deemed unserviceable. Construction documents, including drawings and specifications and a project phasing plan were developed by Fisher Group to address the planned roof replacement.

Bid proposals were solicited from prequalified contractors in June 2010, and F.J. Dahill Co. Inc., New Haven, Conn., was awarded the contract on the basis of lowest bid.

Existing Conditions

The building basically consists of a 1-story steel-framed structure constructed in the 1970s. It is a simple “box”-style configuration, which is conducive to manufacturing.

In conjunction with design services, destructive test cuts were made by Fisher Group in several roof sections as necessary to verify the existing roofing composition, insulation substrate, moisture entrapment, and substrate/deck construction. A total of four distinct “layers” of roofing were encountered at each test cut. The existing roofing construction consisted of alternating layers of smooth- and gravel-surfaced, multi-ply felt and bitumen built-up roofing. The bitumen contained throughout the construction was fortunately asphalt-based. Succeeding layers of roofing were spot mopped or fully mopped to the preceding layer (system). The combined weight of the roofing construction was estimated to be upwards of 20 to 22 pounds per square foot when considering the moisture content. This is excessive weight.

The roof insulation panels were set into ribbons of low-rise polyurethane foam insulation adhesive. The adhesive was applied in a continuous serpentine bead, spaced 6 inches on-center throughout the field of the roof.

The roof insulation panels were set into ribbons of low-rise polyurethane foam insulation adhesive. The adhesive was applied in a continuous serpentine bead, spaced 6 inches on-center throughout the field of the roof.


It is interesting to note that a minimal amount of roof insulation was present in the existing construction. Insulation was limited to a single layer of 1/2-inch-thick fiberboard. Additional insulation would need to be provided as part of the replacement roofing construction to increase the roof’s thermal performance and comply with the prescriptive requirements of the Connecticut State Energy Conservation Construction Code.

The structural substrate, or decking, is conventional in nature, comprised of poured gypsum roof decking. The roof decking incorporates 1/2-inch gypsum formboard loose laid between steel bulb-tee supports spaced about 32 inches on-center. The poured gypsum roof decking in this instance was utilized as the structural substrate and for insulating purposes. Poured gypsum roof decking has a minimal insulating value of perhaps R-2 to R-3, which is obviously considered to be minimal by present standards.

A representative number of bulk material samples were obtained by Fisher Group from the existing roofing construction as necessary to determine the material composition. The sampling included field membrane roofing plies, coatings and cements, and associated roof penetration and perimeter flashings. Laboratory analysis revealed that the second, third and, in some instances, fourth roofing “layers” (field membrane plies) contained varying amounts—5 to 10 percent—of asbestos (chrysotile) which would necessitate full abatement of the roofing construction.

PHOTOS: The Fisher Group LLC

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Concise Details and Coordination between Trades Will Lead to a Quality Long-term Solution for Roof Drains

PHOTO 1: Roof drains should be set into a sump receiver provided and installed by the plumbing contractor.

PHOTO 1: Roof drains should be set into a sump receiver provided and installed by the plumbing contractor.

The 2015 IECC roof thermal insulation codes have forced roof system designers to actually think through the roof system design rather than rely on generic manufacturers’ details or the old built-up roof detail that has been used in the office. Don’t laugh! I see it all the time. For the purpose of this article, I will deal with new construction so I can address the coordination of the interrelated disciplines: plumbing, steel and roof design. In roofing removal and replacement projects, the process and design elements would be similar but the existing roof deck and structural framing would be in place. The existing roof drain would need to be evaluated as to whether it could remain or needs to be replaced. My firm typically replaces 85 percent of all old roof drains for a variety of reasons.

The new 2015 IECC has made two distinctive changes to the 2012 IECC in regard to the thermal insulation requirements for low-slope roofs with the continuous insulation on the exterior side of the roof deck:

  • 1. It increased the minimum requirement of thermal R-value in each of the ASHRAE regions.
  • 2. It now requires that this minimum R-value be attained within 4 feet of the roof drain.

Item two is the game changer. If you consider that with tapered insulation you now need to meet the minimum near the drain, as opposed to an aver- age, the total insulation thickness can increase substantially.

PHOTO 2: Roof drains need to be secured to the roof deck with under-deck clamps so they cannot move.

PHOTO 2: Roof drains need to be secured to the roof deck with under-deck clamps so they cannot move.

THE ROOF DRAIN CHALLENGE

The challenge I see for designers is how to properly achieve a roof system design that will accommodate the new insulation thicknesses (without holding the drain off the roof deck, which I believe is below the designer’s standard of care), transition the roof membrane into the drain and coordinate with the related disciplines.

For the purpose of this tutorial, let’s make the following assumptions:

  • Steel roof deck, level, no slope
  • Internal roof drains
  • Vapor/air retarder required, placed on sheathing
  • Base layer and tapered insulation will be required
  • Cover board
  • Fully adhered 60-mil EPDM
  • ASHRAE Zone 5: Chicago area

FIGURE 1: Your detail should show the steel roof deck, steel angle framing coped to the structure, the metal sump receiver (manufactured by the roof drain manufacturer), roof drain and underdeck clamp to hold the roof drain to the roof deck.

FIGURE 1: Your detail should show the steel roof deck, steel angle framing coped to the structure, the metal sump receiver (manufactured by the roof drain manufacturer), roof drain and underdeck clamp to hold the roof drain to the roof deck.

Once the roof drain locations have been selected (for those new to this, the roof system designer should select the roof drain locations to best suit the tapered insulation layout), one should try to locate the roof drain in linear alignment to reduce tapered insulation offsets. The drain outlets should be of good size, 4-inch minimum, even if the plumbing engineer says they can be smaller. Don’t place them hundreds of feet apart. Once the roof drain location is selected, inform the plumbing and structural engineers.

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER COORDINATION
The first order of business would be to give the structural engineer a call and tell him the plumbing engineer will specify the roof drain sump pan and that the structural engineer should not specify an archaic, out-of-date sump pan for built-up roofs incorporating minimal insulation.

When located in the field of the roof, the roof drains should be at structural mid spans, not at columns. When a structural roof slope is used and sloped to an exterior roof edge, the roof drains should be located as close to walls as possible. Do not locate drains sever- al or more feet off the roof edge; it is just too difficult to back slope to them. Inform the structural engineer that the steel angles used to frame the opening need to be coped to the structure, not laid atop the structure. There’s no need to raise the roof deck right where all the water is to drain.

FIGURE 2: A threaded roof drain extension is required to make up the distance from deck up to the top of the insulation and must be screwed to a proper location (top of the insulation is recommended). To do so, the insulation below the drain will need to be slightly beveled. This is shown in the detail.

FIGURE 2: A threaded roof drain extension is required
to make up the distance from deck up to the top of the insulation and must be screwed to a proper location (top of the insulation is recommended). To do so, the insulation below the drain will need to be slightly beveled. This is shown in the detail.

PLUMBING COORDINATION
Now call the plumbing engineer and tell him you need a metal sump receiver (see Photo 1), underdeck clamp (see Photo 2), cast-iron roof drain with reversible collar, threaded extension ring capable of expanding upward 5 inches, and cast-iron roof drain clamping ring and dome.

Send the structural and plumbing engineer your schematic roof drain detail so they know exactly what you are thinking. Then suggest they place your detail on their drawings. Why? Because you cannot believe how much the plumbing roof-related details and architectural roof details often differ! Because details differ, the trade that works on the project first—plumbing— leaves the roofing contractor to deal with any inconsistencies.

Your detail at this point should show the steel roof deck, steel angle framing coped to the structure, the metal sump receiver (manufactured by the roof drain manufacturer), roof drain and underdeck clamp to hold the roof drain to the roof deck (see Figure 1).

PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATIONS: HUTCHINSON DESIGN GROUP LLC

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From Green to Blue: Making Roof Systems Sustainable in Urban Environments

Municipal storm-water managers historically have focused on controlling runoff from ground-level impervious surfaces, such as roadways, sidewalks and parking areas. However, the next frontier in storm-water management is rooftops. In urban storm-water management, roofs are part of the problem and potential solution. An exciting new technology to control rooftop runoff is known as blue roofs. Over the next several years, New York City alone will spend several billion dollars on green infrastructure solutions to address its storm-water-control problem, and blue roofs will be a key part of these efforts.

Blue-roof trays are held in place with stone ballast and hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events in a New York pilot project.

Blue-roof trays are held in place with stone ballast and hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events in a New York pilot project.

Blue Roofs

The roofing industry has become very familiar with the use of vegetated, or green, roofs. The vegetative layer grown on a rooftop provides shade and removes heat from the air through evapotranspiration, ultimately reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air. By reducing the heat-island effect, these buildings require less energy to cool in the summer and use fewer natural resources (oil or other fuel) in the process.

However, an even newer and less-well-known sustainable technology applicable to roofs is the blue roof. A blue roof temporarily stores rainwater in any of a number of types of detention systems on the roof. They are most applicable and provide the most benefit in highly urbanized cities that are serviced by combined sewers. Combined sewers handle sewage and rainwater runoff from roofs, streets and other impervious surfaces. On dry days, these combined sewers can easily handle the amount of sewage flowing through them to the local treatment plant. However, on days with heavy rain, these combined systems can easily overflow with rainwater and raw, untreated sewage. This combined sewer overflow, or CSO, can flow into local sensitive receptors, like streams, ponds and oceans, contaminating the natural resources and killing fish and other wildlife dependent on them.

The beauty of blue roofs is they can store much of this rainwater during and immediately after a rainstorm, temporarily preventing it from reaching the sewer system. In this way, CSOs are minimized and local natural resources are protected. When the storm is over and the sewer system has the capacity to handle it, the blue-roof retention materials are designed to slowly release the stored rainwater back into the storm-drain system.

This blue roof in New York uses a check dam to retain storm water.

This blue roof in New York uses a check dam to retain storm water.

NYC Pilot Program

Our firm, Geosyntec Consultants, along with environmental engineers Hazen and Sawyer and HydroQual and water-management firm Biohabitats, designed and implemented a groundbreaking blue-roof system in New York. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) retained the team to implement a sustainable green infrastructure retrofit pilot program to demonstrate how rooftops can reduce the frequency and volume of CSOs in the city. The objective was to design and install storm-water controls to quantify the benefits of sustainable approaches as a viable solution to reduce storm-water flows to the city’s CSO system. Rainfall of less than 1/2 inch can overload the system and result in untreated discharges. The use of sustainable green infrastructure, like blue roofs, to reduce storm-water inputs to the combined system is one of many approaches New York City is considering to help solve this problem.

Geosyntec’s role on the team was to design several storm-water pilot studies, including blue roofs. Our blue-roof designs included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets, small dams on the roof surface using check dams of angle-iron to create ponding and the most successful technique—blue-roof trays. We developed specially designed trays, held in-place with stone ballast, to hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events. If blue-roof trays were installed on all roofs in an entire drainage area to a CSO, the results would be significant in solving the CSO problem. In addition, trays are more practical because they can be spaced around existing equipment on roofs and moved during repairs and maintenance of other rooftop systems.

Geosyntec Consultants designed a blue roof that included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets.

Geosyntec Consultants designed a blue roof
that included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets.

Roof-system Protection

Protecting the integrity of a roof membrane is an important consideration for roofing and building contractors that are considering installing a blue roof. Blue-roof-tray systems offer the best protection because they rest on top of existing membranes and ballast systems and do not result in any membrane perforations that require additional waterproofing. Other blue-roof systems, like check dams or new drain inserts, may require additional waterproofing. The bottom line is if the roof membrane is old, compromised or currently leaking, any type of blue roof would be problematic until a new membrane is installed.

In addition, during the pilot projects, we took great care to inspect and test the roofs for load-bearing support—a step that should be conducted for all blue and green roof systems.

As we look to the future, roofs in urban areas will most definitely become a major part of the storm-water solution, and blue-roof technologies will evolve to become a common practice.

Learn More

NYCDEP has posted information about blue roofs and other urban green infrastructure for CSO control on its website.
The U.S. Green Building Council offers an online course about blue roofs for storm-water management.

PHOTOS: Geosyntec Consultants