Frequently Asked Questions

Preventative Maintenance

A popular program we have is preventative maintenance which works very well for our clients.

Replacing a flat roof membrane for the first time is often a shock to many home owners from an expense point of view. To mitigate this high cost we give our customers another option: We offer to repair the roof instead, thereby giving you three to five additional years on your roof (as long as the roof has not already been repaired too many times).

My strongest advice to home owners is to never fix flat roof membranes themselves. A good BUR flat roofer can usually find leaks; providing no cold process liquid has been poured, because it is impossible to scrape off.

So consider applying our popular preventative maintenance program which will save you money in the long run. I will be happy to discuss this program and show you how it will help you.

What R-value do I have on my roof?

One of the most frequently asked questions before we give a quote is, "what R-value do I have on my roof?” The only way to find out is to do an extensive cut test.

  • See what kind of vapor barrier you have.
  • How much pink insulation you have in the rafters?
  • We have to determine if you have a vented roof system or a commercial type BUR system. If it is a vented system then a little more work and labor is involved if you are adding R-value. Its means pulling boards or planks, plugging off cold air venting and adding an R-28 in your rafters. We will even caulk around your existing light boxes (we use an acoustic sealant and caulk to existing vapor barrier) because when your house was built builders may not have paid much attention to detail. Whatever R-value the customer wants, we try to attain at a very reasonable cost. One of the biggest concerns we have heard from inspectors and architects over the years is the assurance that customers do not end up with two operational vapor barriers. This would trap air which becomes stagnant, giving rise to mold.

But you know each roof is unique and there is always a solution. If we cant find the solution then we call in a roofing consultant; they are not expensive for the peace of mind they give you … it is well worth the additional cost!

#1- We have a sloped tar and gravel roof, should we stay with the membrane system or add trusses and install shingles?

We receive this question a lot. I get the frustration, and expense of replacing a flat roof membrane. There are some horror stories out there of some bad roofing contractors, where the roofs only last 10 or 15 years, or the repairs haven't held or fixed anything. The bottom line is that customers have to do their history check on the prospective roofing companies. Yes you could hire a carpenter, purchase trusses, and install shingles, but we feel a customer will be way over budget going the trusses and shingle route. Rather hire a proper roofing contractor. A good SBS membrane should last well over 25 years with little maintenance.

#2- With so many roofing companies out there, how do we choose the right roofing contractor?

Edmonton really promotes the use of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Look for references and testimonials, don't rush. A good reputable roofing company will also work with a roofing inspector. Bounce around the idea that you may hire an inspector to watch over the job, and then feel out the response of the contractor. Also ask for proof of open flame insurance, WCB etc… But phone their insurance company and have them fax or email a policy number. This protects you.

#3- Can I fix my aging tar and gravel flat roof?

Yes, one can usually fix or repair a tar and gravel roof if it's less than 30 years old. After 30 years we just do our best but not impossible. So long as the home owner or a previous roofing contractor has not poured any cold process liquid over top of the gravel and asphalt then we certainly have a good chance of extending the life of your roof. The reason I say this, is that a cold process application cannot be scraped to receive a new membrane for a repair.

#4- Should my flat roof have continuous ridge venting?

It really depends on the age of your house or building. It seems some of these older flat roofs were built with and without continuous ridge vent. But understand R-value back in the day wasn't a huge priority because gas was cheap. But as home owners are doing more and more upgrades to their homes, more focus should be on vapour barrier and air flow. If a roofing contractor doesn't have an answer for you, he should consult with a proper roofing engineer /inspector. Not every flat roof requires a ridge vent but some definitely do. Every roof is different.

#5- Do I have to give start up money before the roofing contractor starts the project.

We really frown on this. This is generally a red flag for the home owner for sure. In Alberta a contractor has to have a special licence registered with the AB Government to ask for money up front. That being said some roofs are rather large so sometimes a contractor may ask for a progress payment. That's when the home owner is satisfied with progress at about 40% or 60% completion; at that point the home owner may pay some funds. Absolutely if a contractor asks for money up front before even starting and without a licence to do so, move to the next contractor down the list.

#6- Can the existing Tar & gravel stay, and simply just roof over top of the gravel with a new insulation and membrane?

No! Absolutely not. Any roofing contractor to suggest this …?! … well just move on to the next contractor. For one, we don't know what kind of shape the existing insulation is in, wood deck could have rotten boards. Second, gravel was installed at 60lbs per sq ft. Leaving this unnecessary weight then adding a new roof on top of it makes it too heavy. Not to mention harsh Canadian winters. Ethically the old membranes come off, fix or add insulation then proceed to install a new light weight SBS roof system.

#7- Roof Drains versus Scuppers?

Anytime a roof has a drain that goes through a warm house /building then out the City drainage system is always the best. These particular drains never freeze up. But in some cities and towns I heard of bi-law changes where they want the house and building owners to add scuppers instead of drains. I guess less stress on the drainage system could be one of the reasons. Simply call your town office and seek the proper contact to get the best information. Outside drainage scuppers work but not that well in the winter, because they stay frozen most of the time. A good roofing contractor will take note of the landscape to get the best drainage possible.

#8- How old should the Roofing Company be to give them business? Or better yet how can I tell how much experience they have.

This is a very good question. Every Roofing contractor starts out somewhere, this does not mean just because he is new that he will be inexperienced. I know Alberta, Nait (Edmonton) and SAIT (Calgary) run the flat roofing apprenticeship program. It's a four year course. Most good Roofing contractors have at least met this minimum requirement before they started out on their own, or with this could run a crew for a few years for a bigger company. It wouldn't hurt to ask your prospective roofing contractor to show proof of his journeyman papers. Electricians, plumbers, and HVAC trades men hold these credentials on their person usually. Roofers should be proud to do the same. I have been in business since 1998 and personally been roofing for over 30 years.

#9- When we go to re-roof our tar and gravel roof, what does one do with the old insulation?

These days everyone seems to be into recycling. We tear off and dispose of the existing tar & gravel membranes. If the existing insulation is dry and good shape, we recommend leaving it and giving you the option to add on top of it. We usually have already done a cut test or walked over your roof to determine this. If some insulation is wet then we simply isolate and remove the wet and replace with equivalent R-value.

#10- Why does there seem to be a huge spread in prices from one contractor to another?

A reputable roofing contractor pays good market value for his journeymen and apprentice roofers. His men should not be rushing to do things quickly and incorrectly. Material is expensive, and a contractor should not be cutting corners. You should get three prices, look at them all, and then choose carefully. Don't be fooled by the extremely low priced bids. Yes, it usually does mean it's too good to be true.

#11- What does SBS mean?

A modified bituminous membrane. A hybrid roofing that combines built up ply sheets with styrene - butadiene - styrene. Science out of the way, it is commonly known as torch-on roofing. It is the most common and proven membrane in the extreme harsh Canadian Winters.

#12- My roof is completely flat with water making ponds everywhere. What can I do about this to drain the rain water properly?

There are a couple of things we can do. One is to add more drains or scuppers, but this is not always effective. What we highly recommend is adding a slope package. This is done by taking measurements of the roof, marking where the drains are or about to be added. Then we look at your parapet walls to see how thick the poly styrene insulation can be applied. Some customers go with 1% slope and some go as far as 2% slope. We then send the drawing to the people who will design and custom make your insulation. Remember how thick we go on the outside walls, because we then have to build up the parapet walls with wood blocking or a pony wall to compensate for the extra thickness of insulation.

#13- There are so many different products out there for flat roofs, how do we know which product to go with?

Yes there are many products out there. Each product in my opinion has its pros and cons for certain roof applications. EPDM single ply rubber membranes are probably more suited for the bigger warehouses. PVC's single ply membranes are mostly a specialty membrane commonly put on Sun decks. Hot air welded is a good product, but you'll probably pay more in labour to install it. Tar and Gravel is and always has been a very good method. If a customer wants us to go with what has worked on his home for 35 years then we comply; he may have a very good reason. But the most common these days is the SBS modified roof membrane system. Most schools, hospitals and churches are putting this product on.

#14- Is there a risk of fire during installation of the new roof?

Whenever propane, hoses and fire are present ...there is very strict protocol, rules and guidelines to follow to minimize all risks. Updated fire extinguishers, thermal heat sensor devices and mandatory two hour fire watches after the last torch is shut off. Also take note that a roofing contractor is not permitted to torch directly on any flammable substrate. We have other materials present so this does not happen. As I mentioned in another FAQ, make sure the qualified roofing contractor has open flame insurance and an active policy account. Very important!!

#15- Will your company phase work, or will they start and finish the job without leaving?

When we start your roof, we are there to finish. It serves no purpose for us or the customer to pack up, leave and come back again. The only last thing to do and is sometimes delayed by a few days is the perimeter metal flashing. The metal is measured and custom made by a different department.

#16- During the demolition of the old membranes (Tar & gravel) is there a risk our home may leak, for example… during a thunderstorm?

We keep a very close eye on the weather. Most of the men have smart phones and have the weather network app on their phones. At day’s end when we leave the job the men have installed a two ply temporary seal over night. We always have big tarps in perfect condition on hand in case of emergencies. After all it is the prairies and one can take no chances. You have no worries with our company in that regard, I like to sleep at night as well. My men know how to leave a job tidy and sealed.

#17- When we make the decision to re-roof our Tar & gravel home, is this the time we should be thinking of adding insulation?

Yes, this is the best time to add R-value to your home. We know it's expensive, but once you have the old membranes off, you are not going to have a more opportunistic time to do so. We personally suggest a minimum 1"to 1 1/2" poly ISO insulation. It's rated as R-6 per inch, and added with your existing insulation, you should notice a magnificent difference. But you can go all the way to 3 inches or more if you want, then you really are maximising energy savings.

#18- My roof is not leaking but I see blisters or bubbles poking through the gravel. What should I do and can these be fixed?

This would be under the category of preventative maintenance. Yes these blisters can be fixed. The original roofing contractor may have trapped moisture by being caught in a sudden rainfall. We simply scrape away the gravel around the blisters by 12 to 14 inches, cut the blister out and add two new plies to the existing membranes. These should be fixed because anyone doing any kind of maintenance on the roof like shoveling snow could step on one of these blisters and create future problems.