Tile Talk: Getting Up To Date

Upgrades of Roofing Assemblies is Smart

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

(Editor’s Note: Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance. The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems. Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)

In general, building codes were developed to cover the minimum requirements for materials and installation practices. This methodology allows for the greatest of options when designing and building both commercial and residential projects. For steep slope roofing this has been the benchmark for best practices, installation guides, testing, and promoting of products to the consumer.

Over the last decade the costs for re-roofing on steep slope has become one of the greatest expenses for homeowners. In response, there is a transition in demand from code minimums to considering upgraded systems that will perform and provide a longer life cycle for the roofing assembly. While our concrete and clay roofing tiles will have a component life in most cases longer than the building, there are areas of focus that can help improve performance.

As the roofing professional it is a chance to work with your customers to develop upgraded recommendations that can offer longer life cycles and even improve your bottom line. As the Tile Roofing Industry (TRI) Alliance we are working with our contractor base to develop recommendations for different climate regions for consideration in both new construction and re-roof.

There is always a question about long-term underlayment performance as it provides the secondary barrier. If we look at many parts of the world, roofing tiles are installed with such craftsmanship to perform without underlayment in many cases for over a century. In the United States, we have followed the practice of other roof assemblies that provide cladding and secondary barrier as the underlayment.

One of the fastest growing markets in the United States, is providing diverse underlayment product lines. Over the years we have seen the shift from organic to synthetic and self-adherence for steep slope applications. As an industry we have tried to follow the changes and obtain performance feedback from our customer for better understanding of minimum versus upgrades in products.

While the codes address minimums for how to properly flash, there are now upgrades with flexible flashings that have mastic for adhering and sealing these roof areas to provide longer roof performance of the roofing assembly. In Florida we have developed more detailed ridge attachments that will withstand the new code uplift requirements. As other regions are adopting code determined higher wind speeds, these upgrades can help meet the higher requirements.

As the roofing professional, there needs to be greater focus on the sealing of roof penetrations. These can be plumbing stacks, vents, and accessories. Too often we are seeing the use of caulking versus the three coursing, or two-step flashing our installation guide recommends. For concrete and clay tiles we like to see a deck flashing and a top flashing on the surface of the tile. This ensures that water will not be allowed to breach the roof sheathing.

As the TRI Alliance we are currently meeting with the solar mount industry to help develop stronger guidelines for installing and properly flashing solar in either new construct or re-roof. We have seen the increase in drop deck areas with shingles to lower the panel height. These bring additional concerns for leaks, heat buildup, and overall life of shingles under the panels. We are seeing increased calls from local building officials to create a proper solar installation-training program by the solar industry. Currently most of the installers are only trained in electrical connections. The routing of wires, interface with collectors and house connections need the input of a roofing professional to not create performance issues of the roofing assembly.

One of the greatest deterrents to longer roof performance is the lack of regular roof maintenance by the building owner. In most cases the actual roof leak triggers the inspection and remedy. By offering a regular or yearly roof maintenance that can clean the valleys, check the hip and ridges, and review the sealing of all penetrations, you can correct most potential leaks before they occur.

As industry we are trying to help raise the awareness of regular roof maintenance, through working with a roofing professional. For the roofing professional this can provide a valuable service and generate a stream of income from your clients.