RoofViews

Commercial Roofing

How to Select a Commercial Roofer

By Dawn Killough

January 26, 2021

Contractor installing a commercial roof

Finding the right commercial roofer can be difficult. There are countless companies to choose from, and it can be tricky to figure out who will be best for your building. However, there are resources available to help you select a reputable roofing company and some questions you can ask to guide your decision.

Resources for Finding Reputable Commercial Roofers

There are several ways you can start your search for a reputable commercial roofing company. One of the most tried and true is to ask your network of colleagues, friends, and family if they have a recommendation. Referrals can sometimes be the best way to find a roofing company because you will get an honest review, especially if the person giving that review is someone you trust.

Another place you can find good commercial roofers is through the Better Business Bureau, which rates companies on their reviews from customers. Their website allows you to search your local area for the type of company you're looking for.

Finally, many roofing material manufacturers have a directory that lists contractors that are certified by the manufacturer. If you know what brand of roof you want, or you need a roof repair and know the brand of the roofing material originally used, these directories could be a great way to find a roofing contractor.

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Commercial Roofer

Once you've made your shortlist of commercial contractors, you'll want to ask each company a few questions about their business.

First thing's first: check your state contractors licensing entity. Most states require construction contractors to register with a state agency before they can provide services. Licensed contractors are often required to meet education requirements, as well as insurance and bonding requirements. It's always best to hire a licensed company.

You'll also want to see proof that the contractor has the required insurance and bonding. Most states' required insurance coverages include general liability, automobile, and workers' compensation insurance. These policies keep you protected if the contractor damages your building or property during work. States have different minimum coverages, so make sure the company you hire has adequate coverage for where you live.

Another thing to consider when hiring a roofing company is their experience with the type of roof or roofing service you want. Make sure that the company has worked on the type of roof you own and that they are experienced in the proper installation techniques. An inexperienced company may have problems with the installation, leading to potential warranty issues and leaks. Manufacturer-certified contractors are your best bet, as they are likely to have received training on the type of roofing products you are planning to install and may be more likely to be experienced in the installation of those products.

Other questions you can ask include what warranties the company offers and if they have any references from customers who had similar needs to yours. Follow up with these references to make sure they had a good experience with the roofing company.

The Importance of Manufacturer Designations

Many manufacturers provide specialized certification to companies that are qualified to install their products. While the details of each manufacturer's program may vary, most verify that the companies carry current licenses (in states that require them) and that they meet certain insurance and bonding requirements. They may also check their credit and verify their reputation by calling references and reviewing their company history.

Proper training is always important, and certified companies are provided with the latest information about products, installation methods, and proper repair techniques. This training is specific to the systems and materials that the manufacturer provides.

As an example, GAF Master Select* contractors go through an annual review process that includes making sure they have current state licenses, the necessary insurance coverages, a good reputation with their local community, and a commitment to ongoing training. Only about 1% of roofing contractors in the U.S. are certified as GAF Master Select.

The Bottom Line: Research Is Key

Selecting a contractor for your commercial project is a big decision, but some research can help you find the best contractor for your business. Knowing where to look and what to ask will help you narrow down the field. When in doubt, your best bet is to use seasoned companies, such as GAF-Factory Certified contractors,* that have extensive training and experience with projects like yours.


*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products.

About the Author

Dawn Killough is a freelance writer in the construction, finance, and accounting fields. She is the author of an ebook about green building and writes for construction tech and green building websites. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband and four cats.

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Is your Cold Storage energy use through the roof?

This piece is co-written by Jennifer Keegan, AAIA. The headaches of Cold Storage facility operations extend beyond making sure the ice cream doesn't melt. Owners and Operators are regularly challenged with: Selecting a cost-effective roof system that is going to be long-lasting Working around unsafe areas in the interior due to ice accumulation Struggling to reduce monthly energy bills For Owners who are looking to increase energy savings and safety records, your roof not only keeps the weather out, but can help resolve these operational issues. _____________ Cold Storage buildings are designed to maintain cold temperatures, much colder temperatures than a typical building. Cold storage facilities, such as blast freezers, may be required to maintain an interior temperature of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Having a structure that is properly insulated and sealed to maintain the required temperature and minimize ice build-up is important not only for the products being stored inside, but also for potential energy savings over the life of the facility. How can roofing materials impact energy savings? Think of the walls of the Cold Storage facility as a jacket, and the roof as a hat. When it is cold outside, you want to make sure that you have a jacket and a hat to insulate and keep you warm. The same idea applies to a Cold Storage facility — the roof and walls of the structure insulate the products inside. But in this case, when it's warm outside, they keep the products inside cold. Not having enough insulation, on either the walls or the roof, will make your mechanical systems work harder to maintain the interior temperatures, which increases energy use, and can result in higher energy bills. The effectiveness of roof insulation is determined by its R-value. According to Energy Star, R-value is a measure of an insulation's ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation and its effectiveness at maintaining interior temperatures. R-value is typically expressed as a value per inch of insulation, and the recommended R-value of Cold Storage spaces will vary based on the interior temperature, although they are much higher than typically recommended for a traditional building. For comparison, a traditional office building may require an R-value of 30. In the 2018 edition of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers' ASHRAE Handbook – Refrigeration, there are suggested minimum R-values for Roof Insulation between 30 and 60, depending on the cold storage type. R-values will vary by product, including factors such as thickness and density. When calculating the total R-value of a multilayered installation, adding the R-values of the individual layers will provide the total R-value in the system. Particularly in Cold Storage, it makes sense to select an insulation that provides a higher R-value per inch, such as Polyisocyanurate (Polyiso, R-5.6 per inch), Extruded Polystyrene (XPS R-5.0 per inch), or Expanded Polystyrene (EPS R-3.8 per inch). While insulations come in many thicknesses, it is a best practice to install several layers of thinner insulation rather than one or two layers of thicker insulation in order to reduce thermal bridging. Thermal bridging occurs when insulation is discontinuous between joints, allowing for air and thermal movement between the joints or gaps between boards. During installation, the use of several layers of insulation allows for staggering and offsetting the insulation joints, and blocks the passages that allow for air to bypass the insulation. Limiting thermal bridging can increase energy efficiency as it limits air movement between insulation boards. Figure 1: Lower energy efficiency resulting from air movement between boards and fasteners acting as a thermal bridge. Adding the adequate amount of insulation will prevent uncontrolled loss of the interior conditioned air, as well as assist in maintaining the required interior temperatures. Better maintaining the interior conditioned temperatures means that the cooling systems are required to run less often, which can equate to energy savings. While there may be an additional upfront cost to install an additional layer of insulation to increase the overall R-value of the roof, the cost should be minimal compared to the long-term savings of the added insulation. Of course, energy cost savings are not guaranteed and the amount of savings may vary based on climate zone, utility rates, radiative properties of roofing products, insulation levels, HVAC equipment efficiency and other factors. What about the roof membrane? While there are many choices when it comes to the type of membrane, the most common discussion revolves around the color of the membrane. For a typical building, maintaining a comfortable space involves both heating and cooling, depending on the season. For the typical building, the color selection of the membrane has a greater effect when the interior of the building is being cooled. A highly reflective (light colored) roof membrane offers extra benefits when the interior is being cooled, because it will reflect heat from the sun. Similarly, for a Cold Storage building, it is beneficial to select a lighter-colored roof in order to reflect the heat from the sun to assist in reducing the already high costs related to cooling the building. Reflecting heat from the sun will decrease the heat radiating into the interior, which means the cooling equipment will not have to work as hard to maintain interior temperatures, and will ultimately work more efficiently. What about roof attachment? We discussed the concept of thermal bridging and how energy loss occurs at discontinuities between the joints of the insulation, but thermal bridging can also occur where there are fastener penetrations through the roof system, as seen in Figure 1. Fasteners are used to attach the insulation and the membrane to the roof deck, which is referred to as a mechanically attached system. A way to reduce the thermal bridging that occurs at fastener penetrations is to bury them in the system or eliminate them altogether and install an adhered roof system. An adhered roof system typically fastens the bottom layer of insulation to the deck level and then subsequent layers of insulation, membrane and coverboard, are adhered. By eliminating the fasteners, the path for air to travel into the roof system is also reduced. Figures 2 and 3 illustrate good and better scenarios, in terms of limiting thermal bridging and reducing air flow into the roof assembly. In Figure 2, labeled as the 'good' scenario, there are multiple layers of insulation, staggered and offset, but they are mechanically attached to the deck. While the staggered insulation layers limit some of the air flow into the roof assembly, air is still able to travel throughout the roof. In Figure 3, labeled as the 'better' scenario, only the first layer of insulation is mechanically attached and subsequent layers are adhered. By adhering the subsequent layers, air flow into the roof assembly is greatly reduced. Reducing air flow assists in maintaining interior temperatures, which can result in energy savings for the facility. Figure 2: "Good Scenario" with staggered and offset insulation and a mechanically attached roof membrane. Figure 3: "Better Scenario" with the first layer of insulation mechanically attached and subsequent layers of the roof system adhered, greatly reducing the air flow into the roof assembly. The Devil is in the Details The result of limiting air flow through the roof assembly of a Cold Storage facility is not a matter of occupant comfort, but a matter of occupant safety. In a traditional building, such as an office building, a poorly detailed roof termination could result in drafty offices or temperature complaints. 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Similar to the loss of energy created by thermal bridging, air flow through the roof created by poor detailing results in considerable loss of the cooled temperatures required in the space below. Additionally, air flow that condenses can collect within the roof assembly, including within the insulation, and freeze. Frozen insulation is a common side effect of a Cold Storage roof that is not functioning properly. Frozen insulation is exactly what it sounds like — insulation that has had moisture accumulate within it and then freezes. Frozen insulation has properties similar to wet insulation and is ineffective, since it provides virtually no insulating properties. A frozen roof is almost like having no insulation at all, and the energy used to maintain the interior temperatures goes through the roof! Proper detailing of a Cold Storage facility begins during the planning stage. 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Once air leakage occurs into a roof assembly, the damage that occurs is often irreversible. Ice accumulation on the floor can be a serious hazard for occupants and workers. The challenge of identifying where the breaches in the roof assembly occur, let alone remediation, can be difficult and costly. Remediation of the identified problems generally includes removal of frozen insulation as well as addressing the identified problem areas which are often attributed to detailing and air leakage. The associated consequence of a poorly designed and installed roof is the cost of the energy loss. Mechanical equipment having to work harder to maintain temperatures will result in higher costs due to an increase in energy use, and the effect of the equipment working harder often leads to premature mechanical failures. The benefits associated with designing and installing a proper Cold Storage roof far outweigh the risks. 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The redundancy of the two membrane layers provides a secondary protection against leaks if the single-ply membrane is breached. Additionally, the reflective single-ply membrane can result in lower rooftop temperatures. The addition of a reflective membrane over a dark-colored asphaltic membrane will greatly increase the Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) of the roof surface. SRI is an indicator of the ability of a surface to return solar energy into the atmosphere. In general, roof material surfaces with a higher SRI will be cooler than a surface with a lower SRI under the same solar energy exposure. A lower roof surface temperature can result in less heat being absorbed into the building interior during the summer months.Is a hybrid only for new construction?The advantage of a hybrid roof assembly is significant in recover scenarios where there is an existing-modified bitumen or built-up roof that is in overall fair condition and with little underlying moisture present. A single ply membrane can be installed on top of the existing roof system without an expensive and disruptive tear-off of the existing assembly. The addition of the single-ply membrane adds reflectivity to the existing darker colored membrane and increases the service life of the roof assembly due to the additional layer of UV protection. Additionally, the single-ply membrane can be installed with low VOC options that can have minimum odor and noise disturbance if construction is taking place while the building is occupied.Is the hybrid assembly hype worth it?Absolutely! The possibility to combine the best aspects of multiple roofing technologies makes a hybrid roof assembly worth the hype. It provides the best aspects of a single-ply membrane including a reflective surface for improved energy efficiency, and increased protection against chemical exposure and ponding water, while the asphaltic base increases overall system waterproofing redundancy, durability and protection. The ability to be used in both new construction and recover scenarios makes a multi-ply hybrid roof an assembly choice that is here to stay.Interested in learning more about designing school rooftops? Check out available design resources here. And as always, feel free to reach out to the Building & Roofing Science team with questions.This article was written by Kristin M. Westover, P.E., LEED AP O+M, Technical Manager, Specialty Installations, in partnership with Benjamin Runyan, Sr. Product Manager - Asphalt Systems.

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Building Science

Thermal Bridging Through Roof Fasteners: Why the Industry Should Take Note

What is going on here?No, this roof does not have measles, it has a problem with thermal bridging through the roof fasteners holding its components in place, and this problem is not one to be ignored.As building construction evolves, you'd think these tiny breaches through the insulating layers of the assembly, known as point thermal bridges, would matter less and less. But, as it happens, the reverse is true! The tighter and better-insulated a building, the bigger the difference all of the weak points, in its thermal enclosure, make. A range of codes and standards are beginning to address this problem, though it's important to note that there is often a time lag between development of codes and their widespread adoption.What Is the Industry Doing About It?Long in the business of supporting high-performance building enclosures, Phius (Passive House Institute US) provides a Fastener Correction Calculator along with a way to calculate the effect of linear thermal bridges (think shelf angles, lintels, and so on). By contrast, the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code also addresses thermal bridging, but only considers framing materials to be thermal bridges, and actually pointedly ignores the effects of point loads like fasteners in its definition of continuous insulation: "insulation material that is continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges other than fasteners and service openings" (Section C202). Likewise, The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings: 2020 addresses thermal bridging of a number of building components, but also explicitly excludes fasteners: "in calculating the overall thermal transmittance of assemblies…fasteners need not be taken into account" (Section 3.1.1.7.3). Admittedly, point thermal bridges are often excluded because it is challenging to assess them with simple simulation tools.Despite this, researchers have had a hunch for decades that thermal bridging through the multitude of fasteners often used in roofs is in fact significant enough to warrant study. Investigators at the National Bureau of Standards, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Research Council Canada, and consulting firms Morrison Hershfield and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH), have conducted laboratory and computer simulation studies to analyze the effects of point thermal bridges.Why Pay Attention Now?The problem has been made worse in recent years because changes in wind speeds, design wind pressures, and roof zones as dictated by ASCE 7-16 and 7-22 (see blogs by Jim Kirby and Kristin Westover for more insight), mean that fastener patterns are becoming denser in many cases. This means that there is more metal on average, per square foot of roof, than ever before. More metal means that more heat escapes the building in winter and enters the building in summer. By making our buildings more robust against wind uplift to meet updated standards, we are in effect making them less robust against the negative effects of hot and cold weather conditions.So, how bad is this problem, and what's a roof designer to do about it? A team of researchers at SGH, Virginia Tech, and GAF set out to determine the answer, first by simplifying the problem. Our plan was to develop computer simulations to accurately anticipate the thermal bridging effects of fasteners based on their characteristics and the characteristics of the roof assemblies in which they are used. In other words, we broke the problem down into parts, so we could know how each part affects the problem as a whole. We also wanted to carefully check the assumptions underlying our computer simulation and ensure that our results matched up with what we were finding in the lab. The full paper describing our work was delivered at the 2023 IIBEC Convention and Trade Show, but here are the high points, starting with how we set up the study.First, we began with a simple 4" polyisocyanurate board (ISO), and called it Case A-I.Next, we added a high-density polyisocyanurate cover board (HD ISO), and called that Case A-II.Third, we added galvanized steel deck to the 4" polyiso, and called that Case A-III.Finally, we created the whole sandwich: HD ISO and ISO over steel deck, which was Case A-IV.Note that we did not include a roof membrane, substrate board, air barrier, or vapor retarder in these assemblies, partly to keep it simple, and partly because these components don't typically add much insulation value to a roof assembly.The cases can be considered base cases, as they do not yet contain a fastener. We needed to simulate and physically test these, so we could understand the effect that fasteners have when added to them.We also ran a set of samples, B-I through B-IV, that corresponded with cases A-I through A-IV above, but had one #12 fastener, 6" long, in the center of the 2' x 2' assembly, with a 3" diameter insulation plate. These are depicted below. The fastener penetrated the ISO and steel deck, but not the HD ISO.One visualization of the computer simulation is shown here, for Case B-IV. The stripes of color, or isotherms, show the vulnerability of the assembly at the location of the fastener.What did we find? The results might surprise you.First, it's no surprise that the fastener reduced the R-value of the 2' x 2' sample of ISO alone by 4.2% in the physical sample, and 3.4% in the computer simulation (Case B-I compared to Case A-I).When the HD ISO was added (Cases II), R-value fell by 2.2% and 2.7% for the physical experiment and computer simulation, respectively, when the fastener was added. In other words, adding the fastener still caused a drop in R-value, but that drop was considerably less than when no cover board was used. This proved what we suspected, that the HD ISO had an important protective effect against the thermal bridging caused by the fastener.Next, we found that the steel deck made a big difference as well. In the physical experiment, the air contained in the flutes of the steel deck added to the R-value of the assembly, while the computer simulation did not account for this effect. That's an item that needs to be addressed in the next phase of research. Despite this anomaly, both approaches showed the same thing: steel deck acts like a radiator, exacerbating the effect of the fastener. In the assemblies with just ISO and steel deck (Cases III), adding a fastener resulted in an R-value drop of 11.0% for the physical experiment and 4.6% for the computer simulation compared to the assembly with no fastener.Finally, the assemblies with all the components (HD ISO, ISO and steel deck, a.k.a. Cases IV) showed again that the HD ISO insulated the fastener and reduced its negative impact on the R-value of the overall assembly. The physical experiment had a 6.1% drop (down from 11% with no cover board!) and the computer simulation a 4.2% drop (down from 4.6% with no cover board) in R-value when the fastener was added.What Does This Study Tell Us?The morals of the study just described are these: Roof fasteners have a measurable impact on the R-value of roof insulation. High-density polyisocyanurate cover boards go a long way toward minimizing the thermal impacts of roof fasteners. Steel deck, due to its high conductivity, acts as a radiator, amplifying the thermal bridging effect of fasteners.What Should We Do About It?As for figuring out what to do about it, this study and others first need to be extended to the real world, and that means making assumptions about parameters like the siting of the building, the roof fastener densities required, and the roof assembly type.Several groups have made this leap from looking at point thermal bridges to what they mean for a roof's overall performance. The following example was explored in a paper by Taylor, Willits, Hartwig and Kirby, presented at the RCI, Inc. Building Envelope Technology Symposium in 2018. In that paper, the authors extended computer simulation results from a 2015 paper by Olson, Saldanha, and Hsu to a set of actual roofing scenarios. They found that the installation method has a big impact on the in-service R-value of the roof.They assumed a 15,000-square-foot roof, fastener patterns and densities based on a wind uplift requirement of 120 pounds per square foot, and a design R-value of R-30. In this example, a traditional mechanically attached roof had an in-service R-value of only R-25, which is a 17% loss compared to the design R-value.An induction-welded roof was a slight improvement over the mechanically attached assembly, with an in-service value of only R-26.5 (a 12% loss compared to the design R-value).Adhering instead of fastening the top layer of polyiso resulted in an in-service R-value of R-28.7 (a 4% loss compared to the design R-value).Finally, in their study, an HD polyiso board was used as a mechanically fastened substrate board on top of the steel deck, allowing both layers of continuous polyiso insulation and the roof membrane to be adhered. Doing so resulted in an in-service R-value of R-29.5, representing only a 1.5% loss compared to the design R-value.To operationalize these findings in your own roofing design projects, consider the following approaches: Consider eliminating roof fasteners altogether, or burying them beneath one or more layers of insulation. Multiple studies have shown that placing fastener heads and plates beneath a cover board, or, better yet, beneath one or two layers of staggered insulation, such as GAF's EnergyGuard™ Polyiso Insulation, can dampen the thermal bridging effects of fasteners. Adhering all or some of the layers of a roof assembly minimizes unwanted thermal outcomes. Consider using an insulating cover board, such as GAF's EnergyGuard™ HD or EnergyGuard™ HD Plus Polyiso cover board. Installing an adhered cover board in general is good roofing practice for a host of reasons: they provide enhanced longevity and system performance by protecting roof membranes and insulation from hail damage; they allow for enhanced wind uplift and improved aesthetics; and they offer additional R-value and mitigate thermal bridging as shown in our recent study. Consider using an induction-welded system that minimizes the number of total roof fasteners by dictating an even spacing of insulation fasteners. The special plates of these fasteners are then welded to the underside of the roof membrane using an induction heat tool. This process eliminates the need for additional membrane fasteners. Consider beefing up the R-value of the roof insulation. If fasteners diminish the actual thermal performance of roof insulation, building owners are not getting the benefit of the design R-value. Extra insulation beyond the code minimum can be specified to make up the difference.Where Do We Go From Here?Some work remains to be done before we have a computer simulation that more closely aligns with physical experiments on identical assemblies. But, the two methods in our recent study aligned within a range of 0.8 to 6.7%, which indicates that we are making progress. With ever-better modeling methods, designers should soon be able to predict the impact of fasteners rather than ignoring it and hoping for the best.Once we, as a roofing industry, have these detailed computer simulation tools in place, we can include the findings from these tools in codes and standards. These can be used by those who don't have the time or resources to model roof assemblies using a lab or sophisticated modeling software. With easy-to-use resources quantifying thermal bridging through roof fasteners, roof designers will no longer be putting building owners at risk of wasting energy, or, even worse, of experiencing condensation problems due to under-insulated roof assemblies. Designers will have a much better picture of exactly what the building owner is getting when they specify a roof that includes fasteners, and which of the measures detailed above they might take into consideration to avoid any negative consequences.This research discussed in this blog was conducted with a grant from the RCI-IIBEC Foundation and was presented at IIBEC's 2023 Annual Trade Show and Convention in Houston on March 6. Contact IIBEC at https://iibec.org/ or GAF at BuildingScience@GAF.com for more information.

By Authors Elizabeth Grant

November 17, 2023

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