EPDM or membrane roof (C) Daniel Friedman Walk-On or Walkable
Roofing Types, Product Sources, Installation, Defects, Repairs

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This article describes sources and types of walk-on roof surface roofing materials, systems, installation suggestions, and product sources.

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Walkable Roof Surfaces - Design, Product Sources, Installation

Carson Dunlop's illustrations (below) compare an EPDM roof membrane installation and a PVC roof membrane installation.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Roll Roofing Problems Carson Dunlop Associates

Materials & Installation Advice for Walkable Roofing Membranes

Roll Roofing Problems Carson Dunlop Associates

As explained in Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, chapter on BEST ROOFING PRACTICES:

For rooftops that will also serve as decks (see “Rooftop Decks,” [online version coming] page 150 in the printed text Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction), one option is to use a roofing material designed for foot traffic.

Duradek (Duradek U.S. Inc.) is a sheet vinyl membrane similar to Hypalon but with a nonskid wear surface. It was developed over 25 years ago for waterproofing decks, balconies, and outdoor living spaces. For use over a living space, the manufacturer recommends its 60-mil Ultra series, which is warranted against leakage for 10 years.

Duradek is made of reinforced PVC sheet with heat stabilizers and additives for resistance to fire, UV degradation, and mildew. The wear surface is textured for slip resistance and available in a variety of colors.

Installation Tips for Walk-On Roofs

Installation is similar to other single plies and must be done by factory-certified contractors. The membrane glues to almost any clean substrate with either a proprietary contact cement or a special water-based adhesive applied with a notched trowel.

Seams are heat welded with a heat gun, the most critical step. Like other single-ply membranes, the material is self-flashing at abutting walls and penetrations.

Pros and Cons of Duradek Walkable Roofing Membranes

Duradek creates an attractive and durable no-skid deck surface that can withstand normal wear and tear, direct sun exposure, high winds, and freeze-thaw cycles. However, because the membrane is also the wear surface, it can be damaged by cigarette burns, punctures, and heavy abrasion.

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

Other Examples of Walk-on Roof Surfaces Using Pavers, Boards, Plank Walkways

Awkward entry hatch onto a low slope walk-on roof (C) Daniel Friedman

At above left is an example of an awkward roof hatch access onto a walk-on low-slope roofing.

Walk-on flat roof at Castle Point VA Facility, New York (C) Daniel Friedman

Access is necessary for HVAC system maintenance, roof drain maintenance, etc. Notice also the black roofing mastic patching around the rooftop HVAC ductwork - I expect there have been leaks into the duct system and possible mold contamination therein.

At above right is an on-roof service stair on a low slope roof at the Castle Point New York Veterans Administration health facility. Notice that raised curbs have been placed at mechanicals and at the stair bottom. See the photo at below left for details.

Walk-on flat roof at Castle Point VA Facility, New York (C) Daniel Friedman

Below is an older walk-on roof surface: painted canvas nailed on a walk-out balcony roof in Newburgh, New York. Well, ok, it used to be a walk-on roof surface. At this inspection the canvas was worn, missing in some areas, and the roof was of course leaking.

Walk on roof in Newburgh NY (C) Daniel Friedman

Shown below is the painted-canvas surface of a pre-1900 walk-on roof-balcony surface on the same building as illustrated above.

Walk on roof in Newburgh NY (C) Daniel Friedman

Below is a walk-on roof balcony from another 19th century New York building that was covered in interlocking copper shingles soldered together.

Flat copper shingle roof on a walk on balcony (C) Daniel Friedman

How about a "drive-on" roof surface. Below we illustrate the roof of a home along the Hudson River in New York.

Drive and park on roof surface (C) Daniel Friedman

And below is a New York City rooftop deck constructed over a flat membrane roof surface.

Rooftop deck in New York City (C) Daniel Friedman


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