In a world where the “next great thing” seems to be unveiled on a daily basis it’s often difficult to tell if an investment will provide the value it promises. These days society seems more willing to spend money on products that often frustrate us or require “patches” to function as intended. We’ve come to adjust our expectations, or be happy with a “free accessory,” when products don’t function as well as what we have been using. So, when it comes to capital expenditures where real money and productivity are often on the line, it’s likely the wise choice is to consider a “tried and true” technology.

With asphaltic roofing this is as accurate a statement today as it was 20 years ago when single ply membranes first challenged asphalt’s premier position in roofing technology. Whether it’s built up roofing or modified bitumen, asphaltic roofing products have evolved over time to serve an ever-changing market and maintain an enduring standard of excellence.

Versatility in Product Choice and Application

While relying on the core waterproofing protection provided by asphalt, asphaltic roofing systems have consistently evolved since their earliest use in the late 1800’s. Paper and “rag” felts gave way to fiberglass mat technology in the early 1900’s and modified bituminous membranes, popular in Europe, began gaining popularity in the U.S. in the 1980’s. Today, property owners, design specialists and roofing contractors alike look to versatility in product choice and application methods in response to evolving market needs.

Wind driven rain and winds can cause severe damage to residential and commercial properties and product choice is key in assuring a long lasting durable roof system. In response to the devastation caused by hurricanes in the southeast, local building codes have encouraged or required the use of waterproofing underlayments or leak barriers to protect residential properties. Asphalt has a proven track record in its ability to resist water penetration. The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) reports that over 75% of its 25 member companies offer self-adhering underlayments or membranes with hundreds of different products to choose from. With so many different options available in the market today, availability is not an issue.

While the rise of self-adhering products has broadened the product offering available to both residential and commercial property owners, commercial property owners face their own unique set of challenges.

Disruption to daily practice that may accompany a major construction project is challenging enough, but a commercial property owner can’t afford business to stop when a roof repair or roof replacement is required. Today, asphaltic roofing systems use a variety of different application methods to meet virtually any design challenge. Common installation methods include: hot asphalt, cold adhesive, heat welding or as referenced above, self-adhering membranes and/or low or no odor asphalts. This variety of technology helps meet the needs of any application, including those where building occupants may have concerns about the inconveniences that may accompany a roofing project. Robert Almon, president of Mid-States Asphalt says: “These products are being and have been used successfully on buildings where there may be concern about asphalt odor. Such concerns may arise, for example, in high traffic, public use buildings like hospitals and schools.”

“This type of variety helps assure that the needs of building owners are met,” says Jim

Baker, Director of Industry Affairs at ARMA. “From small elevator shafts to large commercial warehouses,” continues Baker, “there are asphalt-based roofing systems and installation methods that will provide years of redundant waterproofing protection.”

Energy Saving Options

The roofing system is a vital component of a building’s thermal envelope and a major contributor to the amount of materials used over the life cycle of a building, so roofing systems deserve more than cursory treatment when evaluating building codes and incentive programs. Asphaltic roofing continues its history of building on its versatility to keep pace with evolving trends and technological advances. Baker continues, “ARMA recommends a ‘whole system’ approach when evaluating roofing systems for specific applications. But solar reflectance of roofing systems continues to receive attention from government agencies, such as in California’s Title 24 in 2008, which seeks to make buildings more energy efficient by mandating white membrane roofs (reflective coatings).”

A great deal of focus has been placed on roof reflectivity as a way to conserve energy, especially during peak cooling periods. According to Mr. Baker, “Building owners don’t have to compromise quality to meet energy efficiency requirements. With options such as reflective granules, film and factory-coated surfacings available in built up or modified cap sheets, asphaltic membranes continue to advance to meet changing market requirements.” Light-colored gravel is an excellent alterative, as it stays cleaner and thus maintains its performance longer. Building owners are encouraged, however, to check local building code authorities, as gravel is restricted in certain areas due to high winds.

Asphalt installation methods are becoming cleaner and more reliable every day. Modified bitumen materials continue to evolve, so the versatility of asphaltic membranes continues to grow with readily available, excellent quality materials available, that will continue to serve the roofing market for many years to come.

For more information about versatile asphaltic roofing systems please visit our website.