Author Topic: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)  (Read 1069 times)

BlueHouse

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Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« on: November 28, 2018, 10:12:48 AM »
My house is 7.5 years old.  It's a rowhome with a flat roof.  There is a small puncture hole in the roof that has been temporarily sealed with caulk.  Everything after this row is not confirmed...I'm taking this from what different roofers have told me.  I have no idea how much is true. 

I'm scheduled to have solar panels installed in two weeks and before they come, I want to make sure everything up there is okay and that the

The roof is Single-ply PVC membrane. 
Roofer #1 says it's in good shape and that PVC is a really strong material that holds up to UV very well. But he gave me a quote of $1400 to seal the hole and caulk some other areas as a preventative measure.   Unfortunately, he won't do business with me now because I won't pay 50% down for a job that is almost completely labor.  He got pissed at me suggesting that I'd pay for all materials and 10% of labor up front, and won't even consider doing business with me now.   He also told me I couldn't do solar with support bar penetrations because it would void the warranty. 
Roofer #2 sealed the small puncture with caulk until he can return on a warmer day to patch the seal with the right material.  He doesn't say much else and communicates with grunts, but he's the only person who has actually DONE anything so far, so I feel like at least he might show up when he says he will.  In any case, he doesn't seem to be very concerned about money and didn't charge me anything for the temporary caulk job, and other neighbors say he hasn't charged them anything for small things.
Roofer #3 just showed me pics of ripples on the roof and said that the solar company should refuse to install with ripples because a roof has to have 7 or 8 years of life left on it in order for solar companies to install.  (I've never heard that before, other than as a good rule of thumb, but he said it as if it is written into solar code or something).  Anyway, he suggests re-roofing the entire roof, and replacing with TPO, which he says is a superior, thicker material.  The cost for that would be in the $4000 range.  These ripples are visible in the pics, but I saw pics from roofer #1 and there were no ripples noted.   Roofer #2 never mentioned ripples either, or if he did, I couldn't understand him.
Roofer #4 is on his way over now.
Roofer #5 turned out to be a shady character.
Roofer #6 was the original installer and doesn't answer the phone anymore
Roofer #7 said I have to reseal the roof even though he hasn't been on the roof yet. 
Roofer #8 said I have an EPDM roof, and that he can seal everything and lay another layer of paste and seal before the solar panels go up.  This guy seems completely trustworthy, and I would go this route (about $3500) without another thought, except that he identified the roof as a different material than Roofer #1 did.  One of these guys is wrong.
Most other roofers I've contacted have no interest in doing repair work and only want to do complete roofs. 

I am chicken to get up on the ladder to look for myself what is happening up there, so I depend on pictures.  Is it possible that one of the roofers caused the ripples in order to get me to buy a new roof?  Is it possible that extreme wind and cold is causing ripples? 
Is there some way for me to know when these guys are telling the truth? 
What can I do to get a reputable roofer and trust that they're doing the right thing?  Help!!!
« Last Edit: November 29, 2018, 06:08:15 AM by BlueHouse »

bacchi

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2018, 11:15:36 AM »
Getting 7 bids is a little overkill.

Roofer #3 sounds like a salesperson. Ask him where in the solar code the roof longevity is listed. And PVC lasts longer than TPO.

« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 11:17:15 AM by bacchi »

bluewater

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2018, 05:00:07 AM »
Chiming in to sympathize regarding roofing woes. I recently had a repair done by a company I see doing work all over the place. Lots of trucks on the road, professional looking with a neat appearance. Long story short, repair failed in short order and the promise of a year long warranty by the salesperson was undone by the 3 month warranty on the contract. Turns out Iím not the only disappointed customer. I ended up paying for another repair with a smaller company that has been around for 20+ years with a beat up old truck. Used heavily by at least one of the custom home builders in the area. My recommendation is to definitely ask around and be sure what you are promised is put iin writing. Good luck!

Jon Bon

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2018, 05:30:56 AM »
How high is the roof? How flat is the roof?

You might need to get up there and take a look for you own peace of mind. It does sound like there was lots of selling going on with the roofers. I generally hate flat roofs for this reason. A new construction 8 year old roof should not be failing. If the puncture was caused by a branch or something logic would dictate a simple patch would work.

That being said #2 sounds like your best bet. A roofer that you like/trust is a valuable thing indeed. This likely wont be your last flat roof issue.

BlueHouse

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2018, 06:09:34 AM »
I updated the original post to include this: 

Roofer #8 said I have an EPDM roof, and that he can seal everything and lay another layer of paste and seal before the solar panels go up.  This guy seems completely trustworthy, and I would go this route (about $3500) without another thought, except that he identified the roof as a different material than Roofer #1 did.  One of these guys is wrong.

How do I figure out what type of roof it is just by looking?  I'm so confused right now. 

thd7t

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2018, 06:57:49 AM »
I updated the original post to include this: 

Roofer #8 said I have an EPDM roof, and that he can seal everything and lay another layer of paste and seal before the solar panels go up.  This guy seems completely trustworthy, and I would go this route (about $3500) without another thought, except that he identified the roof as a different material than Roofer #1 did.  One of these guys is wrong.

How do I figure out what type of roof it is just by looking?  I'm so confused right now.
If your roof is white it's not EPDM.  It's possible to make white EPDM, but it's cost prohibitive, because EPDM is essentially carbon impregnated rubber, so a titanium coating is applied to turn it white.  The roofer may be using EPDM as shorthand for fully adhered single ply membrane, but you still shouldn't hire them.

PVC roofs have relatively short lives.  It's not code to have 7-8 years of roof life before adding a solar array, but it is best practice.  No reasonable roofer will want to allow through-membrane penetrations for a solar array with your roof-type.  You should ask the solar company about ballast mounted panels.

Jon Bon

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2018, 07:55:18 AM »
  No reasonable roofer will want to allow through-membrane penetrations for a solar array with your roof-type.  You should ask the solar company about ballast mounted panels.

This *1000

Not sure what the plan is for the solar panels but putting a bunch of holes in a flat roof sounds like a disaster. You would be chasing leaks forever. I dont care what the roofers/installers say or who comes on here and says otherwise. Putting holes in a flat roof is an tremendously bad idea.

Furthermore, I have zero experience with solar installers on a traditional roof, but I most definitely would not want that either. Any penetration in a roof (chimney, plumbing vent, satellite dish, etc) is going to leak well before the roof fails.


Pennycounter

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2018, 09:27:41 AM »
Getting 7 bids is a little overkill.

Roofer #3 sounds like a salesperson. Ask him where in the solar code the roof longevity is listed. And PVC lasts longer than TPO.

100% correct on PVC being better than TPO.

And agree if you have a flat roof, go for ballasted.

PVC should have a 20 year warranty and if properly detailed, last for 30.

Fishindude

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2018, 10:20:12 AM »
A few thoughts:
You are wasting a bunch of contractors time and money getting all those quotes.  Go with someone reputable and just trust them. 
Your white membrane could be either PVC or EPDM and a qualified roofer will easily identify it.  PVC is a little better product and will last a bit longer.  Max life of any flat roof is realistically 15-20 years.
I am a career contractor and would never recommend installing solar panels on a rooftop, and the idea of fasteners thru the roofing to hold panels in place is absolutely stupid.  Put your solar panels on a rack on the ground or do without them.
Your plan to patch the existing roof then install solar panels on top is bad considering you will be needing a new roof within ten years, so all of that stuff will have to come off and your next reroof is going to be ridiculously expensive.   If youíre dead set on going with the solar up there put them on top of a brand new roof and maybe youíll get 15-20 years before the big expensive reroof. 


BlueHouse

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2018, 06:40:41 AM »
Thanks for the input everyone.  I found out from the original builder/roofer that the roof is white EPDM. 

Also, to everyone who sees the number of roofers I've spoken with and thinks it's overkill or that I'm wasting their time, I beg to differ.  If I could find a single roofer that is willing to do a small patch job, it would have been done 3 years ago.  Instead, businesses near here advertise that they don't do repairs, only new roofs and the ones that don't come out and say that, instead insist on an estimate.  Then half of them do not want to do the job or flake out in some other way.  If anyone wants to start a really lucrative business, please just come to washington DC, because we are very willing to shell out money, but we cannot even find enough people to work for it. 

So now that I know it's white EPDM, I don't see any place on line that recommends putting a sealant over the entire roof, yet multiple roofers are now recommending this.  Are they just trying to get a bigger job out of it ($4000 instead of $1500)?



DoNorth

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2018, 07:12:02 AM »
You point out a problem that is occurring nationwide--the skilled trades are not being pursued by high school graduates at a rate that meets the demand for those trades.  I'd personally hold off on the solar, get as much mileage out of the roof as you can, and have a new roof job down the road.

BlueHouse

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2018, 07:28:40 AM »
Solar is free.  There is zero cost to me due to incentives on the federal and local level.  And the benefits seem to be pretty good.  One of the main marketing messages for solar around here is that it extends the life of the roof because there is less exposure.  (I'll have an almost flat solar installation due to the wind in my area).   


Fishindude

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2018, 09:00:20 AM »
Putting solar panels on your roof absolutely will not extend the life of your roof membrane.   Just the opposite, all of the wear points and penetrations will cause your roof system to fail much earlier than a roof with nothing on top of it.

I've probably built several million square feet of commercial and industrial buildings and something I always preached was to avoid and and all roof penetrations and roof mounted equipment that was not absolutely necessary.   Every little thing like this is a potential roof leak.

thd7t

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2018, 11:17:09 AM »
Putting solar panels on your roof absolutely will not extend the life of your roof membrane.   Just the opposite, all of the wear points and penetrations will cause your roof system to fail much earlier than a roof with nothing on top of it.

I've probably built several million square feet of commercial and industrial buildings and something I always preached was to avoid and and all roof penetrations and roof mounted equipment that was not absolutely necessary.   Every little thing like this is a potential roof leak.
Generally, I agree with this, but there are pretty good ways to ballast mount solar panels on an EPDM roof.  In particular walk mats and slip mats can be bonded to the membrane under the ballast to avoid friction with the roof.  However, it's a higher cost solution.

Definitely agree with Fishindude about penetrations.  I've done a lot of roof design, but recently put 300 kW of panels on a roof at a client's request, so I looked into this pretty extensively.

BlueHouse

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2018, 11:30:44 AM »
Putting solar panels on your roof absolutely will not extend the life of your roof membrane.   Just the opposite, all of the wear points and penetrations will cause your roof system to fail much earlier than a roof with nothing on top of it.

I've probably built several million square feet of commercial and industrial buildings and something I always preached was to avoid and and all roof penetrations and roof mounted equipment that was not absolutely necessary.   Every little thing like this is a potential roof leak.

Fishindude and thd7t, thank you!  I appreciate your knowledge and insight. 

I am going to seal up all the joints, but I think I will not do the full-roof sealant because I can't find any evidence that this is recommended ever on an EPDM roof. 

Jon Bon

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Re: Help me navigate my roofing problem. (please)
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2018, 02:43:33 PM »
Agreed with @Fishindude .

Even if the solar panels are 'free' if the only way to have them installed is 20 screws through your roof they are not worth it.

I would not take free electricity if it meant a leaky roof, because that is what will happen.