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Deck Art - Transforming Flat Roofs
Architectural West - March/April 2002

Rooftop Tennis Court

Traditional flat roofing materials are as unattractive as can be. High rise office buildings, hotels and resorts are renowned for having the ugliest roofs around. What could be worse than looking out the window of your $400 plus per night room at a black, multi-patched, equipment laden, roof when what you want is to see the beautiful scenery? Hillside property owners decry the use of these products on the rooftops and walking roof decks of their downhill neighbors because those eye sores interfere with their views, and in ocean side cities the perfect view increases property values by hundreds of thousands of dollars. So view is almost everything.

Recognizing the need for more attractive flat roofing and walking roof deck materials, manufacturers have come up with many alternatives, including modified bitumen and mineral cap sheet roofing with factory stenciled, impregnated, or molded-in patterns in a limited choice of 4 or 5 patterns and/or colors. A drawback to this type of roofing is the limited selection of patterns and colors, but they certainly are an improvement over the usual flat roofing materials. Another limitation of many of these products is that they are not designed as walking roof deck materials.

Sun DeckAnother alternative to unsightly flat rooftops, particularly when the roof functions as a deck, too, is to first install a waterproof membrane with finished goods like marble, tile, stone, or concrete paving placed on top. If the finished materials are permanently adhered to the membrane there can be problems in the future, should there be a leak. Once permanently affixed to the membrane there is no telling where a failure is without destroying both the topping material and the membrane during the investigative process. Of course, if the finished materials are merely laid over the membrane they can be lifted up or removed easily; making repairs less costly. However, if natural stone, precast concrete pavers, or tile is used to improve the appearance and create a walking surface, the weight can become a factor. Unless the roof is properly engineered to handle the extra weight (five to eight pounds per square foot) on top of the existing roof, the materials can put the roof in jeopardy of major structural failure.

Another practical solution can be white elastomeric coatings applied over waterproof underlayments. However, in bright, sunny areas glare can become a consideration. Again, those pesky downhill neighbors can contribute to the discomfort of the uphill property owners because of the sever glare. Reflectively can interfere with views, especially at sunset. Everyone knows you shouldnÕt get between your neighbors and their views. Compatibility of the membrane and the finished elastomeric coating should be addressed, as well. Manufacturer warranties need to be examined for limitations such as using another product over the existing roofing material.

Popular too, are PVC (polyvinylchloride) sheet roofing materials that have either cold joints or heat welded seams. The finished appearance allows for more variety. As long as they donÕt have to be spot repaired during their lifetime they are relatively easy to maintain. But, if there is external damage to the surface, patches and spot repairs will show because they have to be cut out and replaced with new sheeting. Furthermore, seamed products are subject to separation due to shrinkage, or subsurface movement.

Good Luck SymbolThen there are hybrid products like the All Deck Coating Systems, which is both a totally integrated waterproofing membrane and finished walking surface in one. The waterbased acrylic liquid applied coating is a Class ÒAÓ fire rated roofing material over non-combustible surfaces. The uniqueness of this product is its unlimited color palette and surface finishes. Attractive, decorative patterns that simulate stone, tile, brick, pavers, and even custom graphics are easy to do, using simple, low cost tools. No two surfaces look alike because of the variety of application methods and design options such as All DeckÕs multi-colored Confetti Finish particles, and faux finishing techniques that the applicator can utilize. With All Deck, weight isnÕt a factor either, because the system weighs approximately 2 ounces per square foot. The matte finish of the system eliminates reflective glare. Repairs present no problem as they are done the same way the coating was originally applied and blended in with the existing surface; repairs disappear, leaving the same uniform surface as before.

With modern advanced technology, an innovative array of products, application methods, and customized decorative options available in the marketplace there is absolutely no reason for a flat roof/deck to look rundown, and dilapidated any longer.


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