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Serving The Greater Hampton Roads Area including but not limited to;
Virginia beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Newport
news, Petersburg,
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Surrounding areas.
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Modified bitumen roofing membranes were introduced to the North American market in the mid-
seventies. Their usage has grown through the eighties and nineties and now represent a large sector of
the roofing industry in Canada. These two-ply roofing systems utilize a polymer modified base and cap
sheet. In this country the polymer of choice is SBS (Styrene Butadiene Styrene) with very little APP
(Atactic Polypropylene) in use.

Modified bitumen sheets are very versatile and may be applied in a number of different ways. The two
most common techniques for their attachment to the substrate and themselves is torch melting or fusion,
and mop applied with hot molten asphalt. Gaining acceptance is the use of cold adhesives; mechanical
attachment and self-adhesive peel and stick membranes.

The torch-applied process is generally regarded as the optimum method of attachment. The torch flame
literally melts and fuses each sheet together or to the substrate. However, torch usage brings with it an
element of risk as the open flame may come into contact with flammable surfaces and materials. Both
the Canadian Roofing Contractors Association (CRCA) and the National Roofing Contractors
Association (NRCA) do not recommend torch application directly to combustible substrates, such as
wood decks or wood-fibre roof insulation.

In fact, both organizations do not recommend the use of open flame torches near any flammable
material. In reality it is next to impossible not to find burnable materials on the rooftop. Wood, wood
shavings, sawdust, cobwebs, propane and many roofing materials are highly combustible.
















Of equal concern is the potential for “flame travel” into voids, cracks and crevices. Those areas of gap
in construction components provide a place for flame to travel into the building and come into contact
with bits of material thus promoting smoldering or fire. This smoldering may last several hours, ultimately
resulting in a fire; long after the roofing world or has left the job site. Buildings that maintain a negative
pressure exacerbate this phenomenon as an open flame is literally sucked into the structure.

No matter how experienced the applicator, flame travel to undesirable places is unavoidable. Industry
safety practices along with specialized training, including the recommendation to implement “two to four
hour fire watches” with infrared guns after the completion of torching, has improved the situation
somewhat, but in reality have proven largely ineffective.

Fires with these types of roofing systems have become alarmingly commonplace and result in very large
property losses. The insurance industry is just now woken up to the fact that torch applied systems are
responsible for several building fires. The time may come when the insurance companies may force the
roofing industry’s hand by insisting on an outright ban on torch-applied systems. Until that happens
though, we must demand that the designers of roofing systems give more thought to how they go about
specifying and detailing these materials. System design, product selection and the potential for open
flame travel must be reviewed more thoroughly before projects are tendered.
 
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