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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TPO Roofs And The Sorry State Of Affairs: No Tear Off

In his day Picasso was a giant and his feud with Matisse only elevated his skills. Yet these latter day giants are but on the foothills beneath the precipices of giants such as Michelangelo, van Gogh, Rembrandt, or Bernini. As all skill sets go the greats of one period, region, or style may or may not compare well with those who have come before or after. Yet we live in the moment, in our particular period and compete against those we can parlay with.

What does this have to do with roofing? Quality! For no matter how great the new systems are, when applied by ignorant, unstudied, inexperienced, and callous people, the greatness is lost. In so many words "you can't fix stupid."

We find, by planting our feet, installing products, and waiting, what the future will bring. And it always brings the same things. Alexis de Tocqueville said "History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies." That describes all trades, all people, all events, except for the rare new event. Even plaid baggies with cuffs and giant bulky shoes will return someday and I hope all photos have been vaporized.

When my puppy self landed his first large commercial project, my happiness could hardly be contained. The unthinkable happened: bomb scare. We were ordered off the building with the roof partially done. Then the two week rain began.

We had the drains plugged so rocks and asphalt would not fall in a close them off. The water level rose and came over the top of the roof at the walls where we had yet to flash. Water penetrated the system. The insulation was wet.

I thought it could be dried out but was wrong. Can't! The insulation collapses and the fasteners remain at the same level. As the roof recedes the fasteners poke through. Water in a system is terminal. As it dries all sorts of evil events occur. Mildew, stench, rot, and if the roof is tight, blistering.

These giant bubbles grow until the roof pops. Thus the roof is not tight anymore.

What does roofing have to do with painting? To me a good roof is an artwork only it performs in the real world. We have better canvasses, paint brushes, even better paint but if the wielder of these gizmos is the proverbial fool then these
accoutrement are but an assassins "apparati mortis."

That's exactly what these fools are doing everywhere. The best roof system to be developed in years has become the scourge of flat roofs. Because the single ply system can be installed relatively quickly, the roofers perform little if any preparation. Most only install a thin fanfold insulation over water logged roofs and then head on down the road.

That water will continue to be water and if was trapped under a roof, the new roof only doubly traps it.

The reason for this posting is local. One of my salesmen, who possessed little experience in flat roofs came up with a lead on a local funeral home. He wanted to give as low a bid as possible to get the job. We went to the site and cored the roof. I found the The Edwards aquifer. The roof had to be completely scrapped and the deck needed repairs.

My salesman agreed that the roof was not repairable, as that is what the owners wanted, and we parted friends. a little over a year passed and the funeral home recontacted my salesman. All attempts at repairs had failed. The water monster in the roof always clawed itself through any repairs attempted.

When my salesman asked me for advice, he did not listen. I told him that we could not perform the work like they wanted. He asked for special dispensation to contract the roof on his own. I allowed as it was his lead.

Lat week the ex-salesman returned to my office. I asked him how the job went. He described how the certified subcontractor he used had cored the roof and determined that the roof would dry out if they recovered it.

No messy smelly tear off, no dump trucks, no carpentry, no nothing except for sweeping the loose gravel, the installation of a thin separator board, and the rolling out of a TPO roof over the swamp.

How long do you think it will be before this structure collapses?

Here's what I would have done: remove everything because the roof had been leaking for decades. Someone had already put a roof and insulation over swamp number one.
The deck would have been repaired and then any number of roof systems could have been installed.

Tear off is low profit and high liability because it is low skill work. Still, the contents are exposed and any sudden down bursts can be very disastrous. The installation of insulation is also low profit because of the low skill factor. These processes reduce greatly the profit factor because they are time consuming, require a lot of liability heavy labor, and require a substantial investment in equipment.

If the property owners hadn't been so cheap they might not have been screwed. Maybe 10% to 15% increases in total contract price might have given them a great product. They received a Picasso when they could have received real art for a little more.

Jon Alan Wright

Jon Wright Roofing, Siding, and Windows

1915 Peters Rd., Suite 310

Irving, TX 75061

972.251.1818 Office

214.718.3748 Cell

972.554.8090 Fax

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