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Another consideration was color. Ledman and St. Hilaire opted for a dark roof, believing that its heat-absorbing properties were better suited to Maine’s generally cool climate and long winters.

A number of recent studies have lauded white or light-colored roofs, including one recently published in the cool roofing blog at, for the their ability to reflect sunlight in hot climates—not only reducing cooling costs, but increasing comfort for those inside the home.

According to their analysis, a cool white roof only gained 6 thermal degrees on a clear, sunny day, whereas a black roof of rubber, rolled asphalt or tar gained 87 thermal degrees during the same period of intense sunlight.

The only problem with a white roof is that in cool or temperate climates, the savings to be gained in the summer would be countered by increased heating costs in the winter—when heat absorbed by a dark roof may be beneficial.

Recently, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found a way to have it both ways, developing what they call “Thermeleon” coating technology that changes color. Eventually, the product may be applied as a spray over flat roofs, so that in cool weather the tiles appear black, reflecting only 30% of the solar rays that hit them. As the temperature rises, the polymer responsible for the material’s dark appearance clumps into droplets, which scatter around the surface—causing the tile to turn white, and consequently reflect 80% of the solar heat that hits it.

Speaking to the planning board issues, Ledman points to his new neighbors’ homes, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920, and almost all of which are three-story, flat-roof houses.

“Everything old is new again, eventually,” states Ledman. “As a result, I think we had a plan that both we and the planning board were happy with.”

EPDM: Installation Matters
Of course, anyone who’s ever been involved with a “flat” roof project knows the name is something of a misnomer. As in the case of a pitched roof, slope is a primary concern—regardless of what kind of roofing material is being used—and the only way to truly and effectively prevent water collecting on the finished structure. The slope of a roof is determined by how many inches the roof rises over 1 foot.


David St. Hilaire has a simple answer when asked how to repair a rubber, EPDM roof.

Find the leak. Most flat roof leaks occur at the seams. Locating the source of a leak then is often just a matter of using a simple probe-tool to check all the seams to find the place where adhesive no longer holds the membrane together. Also check all roof penetrations (pipes, vents, etc.) and curbs such as skylights and HVAC units. Mark the spots where the seams are broken.

Clean the hole. According to St. Hilaire, one thing that should never be overlooked is the need to clean the damaged rubber membrane thoroughly with a weather membrane cleaner before trying to patch the hole, seam or tear. Seams should be thoroughly cleaned with a solvent-based cleaning solution, while broader areas can easily be cleaned with soap and water. The goal is to remove all existing adhesive in the leak area, as well as soot and grime that may cause a patch to fail. The procedure may have to be repeated.

Prime the perimeter. Either apply a ready made double sided adhesive strip, or brush a rubber adhesive to both surfaces of the seams. The key is to get the adhesive as far as possible under the top sheet of the membrane (most builders recommend a 6” to 8”-wide strip, if practical). Once you’ve applied adhesive, put the seams together and use the silicone roller to apply pressure to the seams.

Apply patch. You can either buy one or form one of your own—and put it into place. Use a pressure sensitive product, and then use your 2” roller to press it down.

Test and tape. Once the repaired area is thoroughly dry, it’s time to give it a test with the seam probe. You should not be able to split the seams or get under the patch with the probe. Once satisfied with the result and to further ensure the quality of the repair job, seam tape should be applied with the silicone roller, extending it by about a foot in each direction from the area of the repair.

Sounds easy enough, but then St. Hilaire adds a clinker.

“Of course the hardest part is finding the hole in the first place,” he says. “There’s just no easy way to do that. It’s something that takes a keen eye and knowledge of what you’re looking for—and if you are talking about finding a leak in a garden assembly, oh boy, now you’re in trouble.”

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