Research Roof Warranties Before Hiring Roofing Contractors

Many times, consumers can have a false sense of security with a new roof system warranty, according to Kevin Krolczyk, president of Long Lake, Minn.-based Mint Roofing.

The importance of researching a roof system warranty before selecting a roofing contractor for a roof system replacement is highlighted in Krolczyk’s column, “Warranties: What you should know to truly protect your roof investment,” posted to Everybody Needs a Roof, the official consumer website of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). The column is posted on the site’s “From the Experts” page.

Krolczyk advises that all homeowners and building owners take the time to read the fine print on a roof warranty because coverage can vary greatly between manufacturers, which may make a big difference when roof issues occur.

In addition, the column reminds consumers that with most warranties, the roofing contractor who installs the roof system covers the first two years, so it is essential to hire a reputable roofing contractor who has a track record of responding in a timely manner to problems. Krolczyk emphasizes that a professional roofing contractor will provide assistance regarding aspects of a warranty that are often misunderstood.

To read Krolczyk’s column in its entirety, visit NRCA’s Everybody Needs a Roof website.

Are You ‘PV Ready’?

Commercial rooftops are an attractive platform for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity-producing systems. These low-slope roofs offer an economical and sustainable structural foundation for renewable solar energy. As an example, one of the largest roof-mounted PV systems in North Carolina has been online for several months at the Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. vault logistics facility in Thomasville. Almost 7,700 solar panels completely cover the warehouse’s 160,000-square-foot roof and produce enough power (1.8 megawatts) to offset more than 90 percent of the building’s annual energy costs.

Success stories like Old Dominion’s are becoming increasingly common in the sunny Carolinas. However, it is important to remember a roof’s function is, first and foremost, to protect the building’s contents and people from the elements. In this regard, roofing professionals need to anticipate the potential risks associated with the installation of a roof-mounted PV system (array). This sort of due diligence is particularly important when installing PV systems on existing warranted roofs.

A broad selection of membranes and thicknesses are available for consideration when a PV installation is planned. Photo courtesy of GAF, Wayne, N.J., and Protech Roofing Service, San Diego

A broad selection of membranes and thicknesses are available for consideration when a PV installation is planned. Photo courtesy of GAF, Wayne, N.J., and Protech Roofing Service, San Diego

To help in these industry efforts, members of Waltham, Mass.-based SPRI—the trade association that represents sheet membrane and component suppliers to the commercial roofing industry—have developed “PV Ready” roof assemblies and guidelines designed to provide maximum protection for the roof (and maintain its warranty coverage).

In September, SPRI’s technical committee and board of directors also approved and distributed to its members Technical Bulletin 1-13A, “Summary of SPRI Membrane Manufacturer Photovoltaic (PV) Ready Roof Systems and Services”. The bulletin contains general guidelines from SPRI related to “PV Ready” roof assemblies. This article goes into more depth about issues related to PV installations, particularly on existing warranted roofs.

Ask the Right Questions

The installation of a PV system on an existing warranted roof raises many important questions for the roofing professional and building owner. For example, will the roof accommodate the added weight of the PV array? Logistically speaking, before property owners decide on a solar-power system, they will need to determine whether their roofs are sturdy enough to support
the additional loads put on the existing roof structure by the solar array.

An average solar panel and support system typically add a minimum of 3 to 4 pounds per square foot to the existing roof. It is the responsibility of the roofing professional to ensure this additional weight does not exceed the load limits determined by the building’s designer.

From an economic (life-cycle-cost) point of view, it makes sense the service life of the existing roof membrane will come close to matching the projected service life of the PV system. If not, a complex and costly reroofing project may be required long before the solar panels need to be replaced. In general, the underlying roofing system must provide the same minimum investment horizon—generally at least 25 years—to realize the full potential of the rooftop PV system.

Most PV arrays require penetrating the roof membrane. Even non-rack-type systems may include electrical conduits, wiring and other components that may need to be flashed in a professional manner. It is essential the responsibility for this flashing work rests with the roofing contractor.

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SPRI Distributes ‘PV Ready’ Technical Bulletin

Waltham, Mass.-based SPRI’s Technical Committee and board of directors have approved and distributed to the organization’s members Technical Bulletin 1-13A, “Summary of SPRI Membrane Manufacturer Photovoltaic (PV) Ready Roof Systems and Services”. The bulletin contains general guidelines from SPRI related to “PV Ready” roof assemblies and services designed to provide maximum protection for the roof (and maintain its warranty coverage). SPRI represents sheet membrane and component suppliers to the commercial roofing industry.

“Commercial rooftops are a convenient platform for installing solar photovoltaic systems,” says SPRI Technical Director Mike Ennis. “However, it’s important to remember that the roof’s primary function is to protect the building’s contents and its people from the elements.”

Technical Bulletin 1-13 raises important considerations for the building owner, such as the added weight of a PV array and the impact of wind and fire approvals. The bulletin also lists potential PV system-specific requirements from manufacturers to maintain existing warranties; project documentation forms frequently required to install the PV system over an existing warranted roof; and general issues and additional services offered by manufacturers, such as single-source warranties for the roof system and solar integration.

SPRI gathered the information included in Technical Bulletin 1-13 from a survey of information available on websites and literature of SPRI member membrane manufacturers. As such, the bulletin serves as a summary of the PV-ready products, requirements and services currently offered by SPRI members and is available for distribution to customers.

“Each SPRI member may have its own PV ready program, and no SPRI member may necessarily be considered to have all program elements,” Ennis adds. “The building owner should always consult the manufacturer of the roof system specified for the new construction or reroofing project prior to the installation of a PV system on a warranted roof.”

In addition, Ennis writes about PV Ready rooftop considerations in “Tech Point”.