Adrian Buttress, Managing Director of EPDM rubber roofing specialists Permaroof UK, discusses the challenge for your customers of navigating the flat roofing market and why assistance with appropriate product selection is so important for a high-quality end result.
With new products regularly coming to market, roofing contractors are often faced with a complex choice at the merchant trade counter. Whilst keeping to tried and tested favourites might feel more comfortable for them and less of a risk, it potentially means missing out on innovative solutions that will deliver better results or a more efficient installation.
Indeed, the flat roofing market is no stranger to innovation and ever-evolving products whether torch-on felt or EPDM rubber roofing. Even when a contractor specialises in one type of system, there are then hundreds of products to choose from. Having started ‘on the tools’ myself, I still see this as a real issue for the industry and something that does us no favours in terms of offering a consistent and quality service.
Despite this being something of a long-standing problem, it is actually an issue that isn’t widely discussed or addressed by manufacturers, distributors, merchants and contractors. It is crucial that this changes, as utilising various products within different systems leads to unpredictable and untested results, inevitably causing problems and failures down the line in many cases.
This does nothing to improve the reputation of the flat roofing industry, not to mention individual contractors and their businesses.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution and that is for contractors to take a ‘full system’ approach. This is hardly a revelation considering that the problem stems from overly using a mix of different products, but it’s a message that I and our training team are regularly having to communicate when talking daily to merchants and installers faced with extensive product choice.
My recommendation continues to be that installers should always stick with an industry-proven system that is fully traceable and ties in with a specification and BBA certificate. For me, this is the only way to keep a high standard of roofing in the UK.
A full system that includes a membrane, adhesive, tapes and primers guarantees that everything will work together and, importantly, can give contractors (and the end user) reassurance of performance. In an increasingly difficult and competitive market, this can go a long way to ensuring not only reputation as mentioned previously, but for considering processes and traceability, which is increasingly important on commercial projects.
The added benefit of improved traceability is something that’s becoming even more valuable following the Grenfell disaster. As an industry, we were slowly moving towards a need for greater traceability and this tragedy has helped to push the conversation along further.
Using a system where all products are purchased from one source and designed to work together harmoniously makes the resulting performance reassuringly predictable. It also means that it is likely contractors will have access to training and technical back-up to again support the highest possible installation standards.
Good things are on the horizon from brands such as Firestone, which is working to support authorised distributors and merchants, but for now, making a wise choice at the product selection stage can make all the difference.
Contractors must fully understand the capabilities of the products they are using and how they are used. I would also advise that installers only use quality materials with a CE mark, and that they insist on seeing a certificate from the supplier. There are stockists out there that think they have a full system, but the reality is that they aren’t offering a complete solution. When it comes to a warranty claim or fire incident, you can guarantee it will be the contractor being asked for the certificate.
Contractors choosing a full system from a reputable brand will also usually mean the inclusion of a warranty, which will go towards mitigating any risk they may feel about trying out a new set of products. For example, Permaroof offers a 20-year membrane warranty with every installation by a registered installer.
As well as contractors considering a change to purchasing habits and opting for a full system, there is more that distributors can be doing too. By taking responsibility for advising and educating merchants and installers directly, we feel this recommendation will be realised — ideally becoming standard practice. And as the UK operator of the National Training Centre for Firestone RubberCover, this is something we take seriously and have seen the positive benefits of first-hand.
This relates to another pitfall that I’ve seen over the last few years. The temptation of working on large commercial projects is often tempting for installers that have mastered the domestic market. Once again, this can mean that it is easy to be tempted to try different products and not the system contractors are used to.
My warning is that domestic and commercial projects are completely different animals with many differences. If installers want to capitalise on a market and build a reputation that secures a long-term supply of work, then they should decide on which side of the market they are on and stick to it.
Our ethos as a company is to provide “permanent solutions to age old problems” and the inconsistent reputation of the roofing industry as a whole is one of those problems and is why we always recommend full systems when possible. Ultimately, keeping to a full system, backed by training and technical assistance, easily solves this looming and potentially damaging issue and ensures a good result for all parties.
Permaroof is a leading importer and distributor of Firestone RubberCover roofing products. For further information online, go to https://www.permaroof.co.uk/epdm-suppliers