Commercial Roof Membranes: Why Roofs Fail

Circle around a hole in a commercial roof
Hole in a Grey Commercial Roof
Circle around a hole in a commercial roof Hole in a Grey Commercial Roof

Think of a commercial roof membrane as the skin of the roof. It protects the entire surface against the elements and keeps the building (and its contents) dry. Its commonly said that 80% of roofing problems can come from just 20% of the roof’s surface. Let’s break down the two types of roof membranes: laminated and saturated.


Laminated Roof Membranes

Laminated roof membranes are frequently used in single-ply roofing systems. These membranes often consist of a base layer, a middle polyester matting layer, and a top reinforcement layer, all laminated together in a factory.

The top layer in a laminated membrane is crucial for waterproofing and defense against UV rays. Over time, this top layer deteriorates, typically at a rate of 1 to 2 mils per year, according to the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). This deterioration can compromise the integrity of the bottom layer.

Additionally, laminated top sheets are susceptible to tearing, peeling, or scratching due to wind, debris, or foot traffic, potentially exposing the bottom layer prematurely.


Exposed Scrim in Roof Membranes

Once you reach the scrim or bottom layer of the roof membrane, your roof is essentially failing. At this stage, your roof loses a significant portion of its waterproofing protection, making leaks more likely.

Let’s do the math. A typical laminated TPO roof membrane sheet has approximately 15 mils of waterproofing above the scrim in a 45-mil product. With an average deterioration rate of 1 to 2 mils per year, this roof will reach the scrim in less than 10 years.


Saturated Roof Membranes

At Simon Roofing, we believe in saturating the roof membrane for more waterproofing protection. This process ensures a consistent and continuous layer of waterproofing materials to reinforce the scrim, making it less susceptible to damage.

Wite Brite™ coating is utilized in the majority of our restoration solutions to saturate the roof membrane directly on the roof during installation. In addition, our CLP™ single-ply roof replacements incorporate the saturation process during the sheet production.

Watch our Expert Video Series with one of our R&D engineers, George Kubas, Ph.D.,  describe saturation vs. lamination.