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The Goose-Proof Roof

This massive waterproofing job unexpectedly included waterfowl

By Jen Kramer

In business for over 25 years, the crew at R&A Contracting Inc., is quite familiar with challenging projects. They are not afraid to tackle cool roof installations on the cusp of seasonal change in St. Louis, Missouri. Their slogan, “We put the proof in waterproof” is hard-won through a series of installations in the midst of serious weather challenges.

In fact, when they won the bid to install over 41,000 square feet of spray polyurethane foam roofing topped with acrylic latex elastomeric coating onto the roof of the Alpha Packaging warehouse in St. Peters, Missouri, the team assumed that the late fall start would be the biggest challenge of the project. For better or worse, on this job, the old adage about assumptions would prove to be true.

“Alpha is a huge presence here in the area,” explains Mark “Bubba” Anderson, R&A’s Operations Manager. “And a huge presence worldwide. In fact, they have 14 plants in the United States alone, and plants all over the world. They manufacture plastic bottles for companies like Procter & Gamble, cleaning products, etc. This plant alone produces probably three or four million bottles per day. The area under the roof that we were working on is a storage/warehouse facility. The actual bottle-making facility was located directly next door.”

The 218-foot-by-188-foot metal decking roof had been covered with ISO board and an EPDM membrane, which was ballasted with two-inches of rock. Until a recent hailstorm had damaged it, the 20 plus-year-old roof had been in relatively decent shape. However, after the furious storm, it had finally reached the end of a very long life.

“Alpha is fastidious about maintenance,” Anderson says. “They noticed leaks, so it was time for an immediate replacement.” This proactive action also accounted for the less-than-optimal late fall start. “We knew we’d be fighting the weather from the beginning,” he chuckles.

“We didn’t know about the geese until we started to remove the rock.”

DON’T ROCK THE BOAT… ERR… NEST

That’s right. Geese.

But before they noticed the waterfowl, the R&A team began by prepping the roof with safety flags and safety lines in accordance with OSHA regulations. They prepped themselves by suiting up in appropriate PPE including fall protection, steel-toed boots, and 3M respirators with organic cartridges when spraying or removing rocks. “We also wore hearing protection when operating the vacuum,” Anderson says. “It is diesel-powered and it is loud.”

Goose_rocks

The crew used a VEC Magnum Loader 662 Industrial Vacuum to remove the two-inches of rock that was used as ballast to weigh down the EPDM roof. They quickly learned that they “had to strategically leave piles of rock on the roof because it was the only way to keep the EPDM membrane from blowing off because it was not adhered.” Anderson continues, relating the process a little further, “You don’t realize how much rock two inches spread over 40,000+ square feet is until you see it piled on the ground.”

The former ballast was piled on the ground instead of into a truck because Alpha, ever conscious of environmental sustainability, repurposed the rock, using it to fill in planters in the islands, in their parking lots, and around the buildings on their campus. “They saved themselves removal fees and saved the environment by not sending that rock to a landfill,” he states. “They are a very environmentally conscious company.”

That tolerance for nature soon became apparent in another – more urgent way.

“When we first started working, we noticed a nest on an overhang of a man door, just under where we started taking the rock off. Turns out, it was a Canadian Goose nest. The geese did not like that at all and thought that we were too close to their nest. They would dive-bomb us and when we were on the ground; they would chase us,” Anderson describes the unexpected jobsite “guests.”

Nature-lovers themselves, the crew ran from the geese, refusing to move the nest, trap the birds, or otherwise disturb them any more than they already were being disturbed by the project.

Goose_rocksGround

Anderson continues with a grin, “We just left them alone. We didn’t have to trap them or anything like that. We just made sure that everybody knew that they were there and then we would stay away from them. It did make for some fun times, though, people getting chased. They eventually left us alone.”

AT MOTHER NATURE’S MERCY

Rocks removed and repurposed and geese being avoided as best as possible, the R&A crew worked in sections, cutting the EPDM membrane into strips and pulling it back to expose and inspect the ISO board.

“The ISO board was inspected and probed with a Dri-Eaz Hydrosensor II to check for moisture, and replaced as needed with Structodek HD ½-inch recovery board that was mechanically fastened to the substrate in accordance with the I-90 wind uplift criteria,” Anderson says. This means that the team placed a minimum of 12 fasteners and plates per each four-by-eight sheet of board.

To get a sense of the size and scope of the roof, the R&A crew ordered 1,300 sheets of recovery board and 20,000 fasteners and plates! In order to spare their knees, they attached the fasteners using a Tall Boy long-necked screw gun.

Once in place, the recovery board had to be immediately protected with spray foam because, “we had to make sure that the entire roof was watertight each day before we left,” explains Anderson. Often, ominous clouds would cut their work short. Rain delayed, even postponed, workdays. For this reason, nothing could be left exposed. This meant that they even had to temporarily foam the edges of the EPDM that had not been removed.

They used Lapolla’s Foam-Lok LPA 2800 SPF, spray-applied at a thickness of two-inches (plus or minus ¼-inch) over the recovery board using a Gusmer H20/35 and a PMC PH-40.

When the entire roof had been inspected, replaced with recovery board (if necessary), and foamed, it was time to add the drainage-promoting crickets.

Goose_tarp

“In order to promote positive water flow to the roof’s nine existing internal drains, we needed to build up crickets on the roof,” Anderson says. “Our lead, Eric, inspected the roof and determined the drainage pattern. He then used spray paint to mark the pattern where the crickets would be placed. Then, using the foam, he built them up. They are each about three-inches at the highest point, tapering down to two inches, give or take.”

After the crickets were in place, it was time for the coatings. The R&A crew used their Graco 56-1 King sprayers to spray-apply Lapolla’s TF-1000 Thermo-Flex Acrylic Roof Coatings onto the raw foam at a rate of two gallons per 100 square feet as a basecoat. Next, the bright white topcoat was applied at the same rate, with the same equipment, to create the beautiful, energy-efficient, bright white cool roof.

“We added the metal parapet and flashing to give the roof a watertight and finished appearance, making this roof leak-proof for many years to come,” adds Anderson.

And leak-proof is important because this job was constantly interrupted by weather.

“Because of the weather this project took longer than it should have,” he continues. “We were there, on and off, for four weeks. Actually, we spent 20 days total on the jobsite. Sometimes we were there for two hours, sometimes for 10, depending on the weather. The rain and high winds really made this otherwise straightforward roof a challenge. We were constantly fighting the weather…and sometimes the geese,” Anderson adds with a chuckle. “But in the end, it is a great roof, and everyone is happy. And, no humans or geese were harmed while applying this roof!” •

Photos courtesy of R&A Contracting Inc.