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How To Tell If An EPDM Roof Is Wet

How to tell if an EPDM roof is wet.

EPDM (Ethylene Polypropylene Diene Monomer) is a synthetic rubber roofing surface, produced by Firestone, and if installed properly will last 15 - 20 years depending on the amount of direct sunshine it gets.

Key words:  installed properly.

Like any product, if a roofing surface is not installed well or according to manufacturer instructions, it will experience problems, sometimes early on.

Known problems associated with improper installation, or age, with EPDM can include ponding (puddles) which develop because there is not a proper slope, improperly prepared under surface onto which the synthetic rubber is glued, bubbles, tears, poor flashing, and edges which do not adhere properly.

This corner was popped up on this recently replaced front porch roof. 

It looks to have been like that for some time.

Obviously water can get underneath.

We have had a lot of rain lately, and it rained hard the night before this inspection.

In addition to this popped-up corner, there was evidence that ponding happens each time it rains.  Wrinkles could also be seen, and felt, on the surface.

The pond (puddle) had evaporated by the time of the inspection, but its location was evident.  It was clearly evident!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting until after the sun had set and the roof surface was cooled in the shade, any residual moisture remaining under the surface of the roof will stay warmer for a longer period of time.  It virtually shines through to the camera.

Looking at the digital image taken by the thermal camera on the left, the area where water sits over the surface during every rain storm is quite apparent.  The wrinkles at the edge and into the material are also evident.

Comparing the thermal image of that same location one can see the warmer spots, as indicated by the yellow and white areas, which has the same shape as the ponding areas on the left.  That roof subsurface is wet!

Wetness leads to damage, and under an EPDM surface that damage cannot be seen. 

When does it become manifest?  After the damage has progressed enough that the roof sinks in, or collapses completely the subsequent repair is dramatically more expensive. 

To catch it now, in the earlier stages, is much more cost effective!

My recommendation:  thermal cameras, and thermal imaging, can reveal unseen problems during many inspections.  Sometimes multiple problems!  They can show problems with insulation, electrical connections, mechanical systems, moisture intrusion into the house, air intrusion and evaporative cooling.  This home inspector has taken thermal images of all those things and revealed those problems to buyers before the purchase.  That is information!  The home inspector's job is to observe and report.  A thermal image, when interpreted correctly, can provide definitive information, and demonstrate issues in ways that cannot be demonstrated any other way.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 33 commentsJay Markanich • July 29 2018 10:59AM

Comments

Thank you for the post. I will bookmark this post and share it with others 

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) 21 days ago

I love seeing the photos from your thermal camera - so helpful!  Have a great day- I wish you did inspections in Montgomery County MD

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) 21 days ago

Good morning Jay. You can't fool "Mighty Mo"! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker (Wayne M Martin) 21 days ago

This would be very helpful in home inspections. 

Posted by Sheri Sperry - MCNE®, (928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR® (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) 21 days ago

People see happening and do not do anything to fix t are just asking for trouble

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) 21 days ago

Installation is everything! Doesn't matter what it is, if it's not installed correctly, there will be problems.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) 21 days ago

Again I have to comment that no one to my knoweldge does this type of imaging in Oklahoma City. This would be a valuable get on an inspection.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) 21 days ago

I'm glad it is useful to you, Gita!

Lise - I can choose from many different color palettes.  The one I ultimately choose is to best describe the issue.  I think that image does it well.

Wayne - Mo starts itching first, then I can feel him shaking in the box.  By the time I break him out and turn him on he is singing happy tunes!  Then he starts imaging!  Fabulous...

Sheri - to say the least!  I have been doing thermal imaging for 14 years now.  It's the sharpest arrow in my quiver.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 20 days ago

Ay, ay, Cap'n Fred!  And EPDM is one of the most unprofessionally installed products out there.  Years ago I went to Firestone for a CEU class that lasted 4 days.  They brought in bunches of home inspectors to teach us how things are supposed to be done so that we can go out and show that it isn't the product that failed.  Brilliant move, in my opinion.

Even now few inspectors use thermal cameras, Joe.  The good ones are expensive, and the training is too.  But still, it's a great tool.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 20 days ago

Mark - Other peoples' Active Rain blog posts are not where Rainers advertise. 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 20 days ago

Hi Jay- I love it when Mighty Mo comes into action. This is what you want from home inspections..to see what's there. This information helps buyers make their decisions. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 20 days ago

That's the idea, Kathy!  And the more info the merrier.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 20 days ago

Mighty Mo to the rescue, AGAIN!  It must be difficult for sellers to deny a problem with irrefutable evidence like this.

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) 20 days ago

Stephen - I had two skylights damaged along with my roof during a tornado a year ago.  The skylights were leaking.  The insurance company fought me on it, and I asked that the adjuster come back.  He said there was no way I could prove to him they were leaking.  I busted out Mighty Mo.  He took a picture of the thermal camera showing the wet areas and approved the replacement.  He said that was the first time a thermal camera was used to prove anything to him!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 20 days ago

               

                     Thank you, Jay. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 14 days ago

And thank you, Kathy!  I bet it gets more reads and comments there then it did on my site (it got 53 reads with 8 comments on mine)!

Which isn't a bad thing - it's good information!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 14 days ago

As you have proven in your posts, thermal imaging is an amazing tool!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) 14 days ago

Another great post explaining why we need to use the tools available for inspections. I've had buyers choose a less expensive choice, but we try to let them know how thermal imaging can identify problems. 

Posted by Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, REALTORS® in Clark County, WA (ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors) 14 days ago

It's the sharpest arrow in my quiver, Kat!

Debb - I have identified dozens of thousands of $ of damage over the years with thermal imaging, that nobody would have known about otherwise.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 14 days ago

That thermal camera of yours is the ultimate crap detector...so to speak.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) 14 days ago

Yo, Chris Ann - this is what a toilet leak into the basement ceiling below looks like with Mighty Mo.

Crap detector...

P.s.  "It" was dripping from the light on the lower left.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 14 days ago

Hey Jay, I have been absent in the Rain. Trying to be a better Rain-ier :) 

Great blog, keep it up.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) 14 days ago

Good afternoon Jay - I would certainly want that type of inspection with a thermal camera.  Having a well qualified roofer is very important.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) 14 days ago

Don't you have a mountain there named Rainier, Don?  Seems to me you're already there!

Grant - having both is very helpful!  In the case of this post, a good roofer is essential.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 14 days ago

OK, I hadn't even heard of these roofs. As usual, your info is fantastic and I'm sure will be very helpful to many! So glad Kathy shared this post!

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) 14 days ago

Sharon - EPDM was invented in the 70s and another form of it has been used on commercial buildings, like the big box stores, regularly.  The black EPDM in this post is residential grade.  More people have read and commented on the post since it was shared then when I  first posted it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 14 days ago

Well, I sure learned alot about EDPM roofing, Jay. I didn't even know what is was!! Can't say I have run across it, though, but you never know.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad (Solutions Real Estate ) 13 days ago

Jeff - in the east EPDM a common roof surface for flat and nearly flat surfaces.  That and TPO (Thermal Plastic Olefin), which is white and much thicker and made by many different manufacturers.  While I've seen TPO on residential construction, it is more common on commercial buildings. 

Many years ago I went to Firestone for a week-long CEU class on all their roofing products, including EPDM.  It was most informative!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 13 days ago

Jay, I'm glad I caught this on Kathy Streib's weekly Ah-Ha Moments. I hadn't heard of this type of roofing, but now am in the know. Thanks!

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Serving San Francisco and the Silicon Valley (Pacific Union International) 12 days ago

Ponding is something we look for in flat roofs in Arizona.  This sounds like the same elastomaric coating used in flat roofs.  GREAT POST!  It's smart to use a home inspector who understands this type of roof like you Jay.  Good for you! 

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) 12 days ago

Me too, Lottie.  More people saw and read my post because it was there then when I posted it!  People typically don't read home inspector posts, and we have a lot of information I think.

Jan - EPDM has been out since the 70s, produced by Firestone.  Elastomerics are a different material, and only last about 7 years.  Usually they are painted on.  Ponding is truly an enemy, however!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 12 days ago

Rough roofs can come in all kinds of flavors...rubber, asphalt...and Mighty Moe and Jay Markanich are just the team to get them a "healthy inspection."

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) 12 days ago

Thanks, S&D, they do. And I can give them a check up.

But do they come in purple?  Hmmmmm?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 12 days ago

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