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Will A Rooftop Pipe Support Damage A Single-Ply Rooftop Membrane?
Common types of Single-Ply Roofing Membranes
First, let’s talk about single-ply membranes and what they are. Single-ply membranes are sheets of rubber and other synthetics that can be ballasted or chemically adhered to insulation to create a layer of protection for your commercial facility. Single-ply membrane roofing materials are used on flat or low sloped roofs. They have grown in popularity over the past 2 decades due to the long service life dependability and ease of installation.
There are three main types of single-ply membranes for commercial roofing. Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM), Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO), and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Each roofing membrane has its own pros and cons.
Every time you penetrate your roof’s membrane, you add another weak link to the roofing system. With penetrating rooftop pipe supports, the contractor will seal around the puncture, however, these sealants are not foolproof and are at risk of premature leaking in the future.
Non-penetrating rooftop pipe supports are a good way to avoid any puncture in your roof membrane and extend the life of your roof, including single-ply membrane roofs. Typically, a non-penetrating rooftop pipe support will sit freely on the membrane to support the pipe, conduit, duct, etc. Some pipe supports will require a supplemental pad or sacrificial barrier to sit between the support and the membrane, always refer to the state or provincial regulations and follow the engineer’s recommendation.
Depending on what the pipe support is carrying, there could be friction rubbing on the rooftop membrane due to vibration. Water running through plumbing lines can cause the pipe support to vibrate which can cause micro rubbing. Over time this can potentially damage the membrane by causing a weak spot. Laying down a slip sheet in between the rooftop pipe support and the roofing membrane will work as a sacrificial barrier and is a cost-effective way to help prevent this.
One way to avoid rubbing and friction is to plan to install the proper pipe support for the equipment. If there is a water line that could rock back and forth on the support, choose a pipe support that has a roller to move with the pipe. Better yet, choose a support with a rubber roller that will also dampen ay vibrations that the pipe may have.
Pipe Support Shape
Each pipe support manufacturer has its own unique shape to its brand. The shape can affect the risk level that the support can cause to the membrane. Supports with beveled edges are less likely to damage the roof membrane as opposed to supports with sharp edges.
Non-penetrating pipe supports can be made from different materials such as recycled rubber, virgin rubber, recycled plastics virgin plastics, and wood. Each material has some strengths and weaknesses that the contractor should be aware of. Rubber supports typically can sit freely on a membrane with little to no risk of damaging the supports.
Mold injected plastic supports can increase the risk of a puncture with the edges and corners. Many roofing consultants will recommend a supplemental rubber pad to sit between the support and the membrane as added protection to the roof. Some supports have Styrofoam as the base of the support, and this has the potential to cause a chemical reaction with the roofing membrane.
Chemical Reactions – Membrane to Styrofoam
All rubber and synthetic single-ply roofing membranes will have a list of materials that will have a chemical reaction with the membrane. It is imperative that the contractor/engineer understands the materials being used in both the roofing membrane and the pipe support and reads the safety material data sheet for the roofing membrane. As mentioned earlier, Styrofoam can react with some membrane materials.
Stagnant Water and Mold Growth Causing Damage
As you probably know, even flat roofs have some slope to help shed water. A pipe support can block the drainage of water causing it to pool. Once water pools or “ponds” there is an increased risk of damage to the membrane.
Roof systems are not designed to hold water. Ponding water on a roof can:
Before purchasing and installing a pipe support, always consider the following:
Improper Leveling Of Rooftop Pipe Supports
When installing your pipe supports below your pipes, ducts, cable tray, etc., be sure that the support is flat and square to the roof. Gaps between the support and the roof may result in unwanted rocking or other movements. This can also lead to inadequate load distribution which can damage both the roof membrane and/or the rooftop pipe support.
Pressure thrusts can sometimes dislodge previously leveled supports when pipes are filled for the first time. If you are installing pressurized systems, be sure to inspect the pipe supports once they are under pressure to be sure they are still sitting correctly. Once they have been confirmed to be sitting level and are sturdy, add this to the roof maintenance checklist.
So, will a pipe support damage your single-ply roof? The answer is no. As long as you doing your due diligence focusing on the factors that include penetration, rubbing, support shape and material, chemical reactions, ponding water, and making sure that the supports are square to the roof, you will have a leak-free roof for many years to come.
At Clearline Technologies, we have decades of experience in designing and manufacturing rooftop pipe supports that will not only do the job intended, but also outlast the roof that they are being installed on. From roller supports to crossovers and rooftop walkways, out team can work with you to design the perfect system for you. Check out our full line of supports below or give us a call at 866-444-0009.