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The outside walls of the Ledman dwelling were covered with Rboard, a rigid, GreenGuard-certified polyiso foam insulation panel with a specially coated facer on both surfaces. In finishing the roof, the St. Hilaire team came to around 1.5’ up the exterior walls of the partial third story, then secured a self-adhesive ice and water shield at the transition from the roof EPDM to the board.


“It’s a technique that I think has worked very, very well,” Ledman says. “Now, when we bring down the vinyl siding, we can overlap it a little bit and shield the transition.”


The next challenge for the team was preparing for the installation of the solar array.


Through-Bolts
“In order to avoid problems later, you have to account for the lifting potential of the solar panels and their susceptibility to high winds, and that means they have to be bolted down really, really well,” Ledman says.


To accomplish this goal, the roofing contractor installed pressure-treated 6” x 6” sleepers (below) that were bolted into the blocking underneath the roof structure— an approach that tied the solar array into the home’s 2” x 12” roofing system.


“It’s really one solid unit,” Ledman says. “And that was really the only exceptional thing we had to do.” According to Ledman, use of the sleepers—which he’ll also use to install a deck on the second-story roof, will not void his 10-year warrantee. Plus, he said, the solar panels and deck over the rubber roofing material will help to protect it from damaging UV rays.


St. Hilaire says a residential flat roof done with EPDM will typically qualify for a 10-year warranty provided by the manufacturer. However, if a roof meets certain exacting criteria, such as heavier rubber or redundant flashing or seams, it’s possible to secure up to a 30-year warranty from the manufacturer, installer or some combination of both.


When the roof needs to be replaced, much of the material can be recycled for use in pavers, walking pads, and even jogging tracks. But St. Hilaire says he prefers an alternative option—repairing the roof rather than removing it (See sidebar).


“We’ll leave it there and add more to it,” he says.


 


 


A LEAKY LEGACY
With the advent of green roof technology and more modern home styles, flat roofs are seen a lot more often on homes. But many builders still mistrust them.


After all, to this day the most famous applications of flat roofs in residential structures are those created early in the last century by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright—all notorious leakers, and the source of a trove of quotes from the master, among them, “If the roof doesn’t leak, the architect hasn’t been creative enough.”


And then, of course, the well-worn story of client Herbert “Hib” Johnson, CEO of the S.C. Johnson Wax Company in the 1930s, who called Wright to complain—from his housewarming party, no less—that the roof of his brand new 14,000-sq. ft. home was leaking right on the heads of his distinguished guests.


“Well Hib,” Wright is reported to have said, “why don’t you move your chair?”


So what’s changed? For one thing, today’s builders have a far better understanding of what’s gone wrong with flat roofs of the past—mainly issues of their incorporating materials that were joined at seams or were too easily damaged by day after day of relentless sunlight—and time has also seen the development of “better” or more appropriate flat roofing materials, such as EPDM, which effectively rubberizes the roof surface.

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