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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Insulating Low-Slope Residential Roofs

Unless you’re careful, your low-slope roof can end up with damp sheathing

Rigid foam insulation can be installed on top of the roof deck. Most low-slope commercial roofs are insulated above the sheathing, not below the sheathing. [Photo credit: blog — Project:]
Image Credit: Images #1 and #2: blog — Project:

UPDATED on April 8, 2016

There are lots of ways to insulate a low-slope roof, and most of them are wrong. In older buildings, the usual method is to install fiberglass batts or cellulose on top of the leaky ceiling, with a gap of a few inches (or sometimes a few feet) between the top of the insulation and the roof sheathing. In some cases, but not all, there is an attempt to vent the air space above the insulation to the exterior.

It’s rare for anyone to inspect the roof sheathing — unless, of course, the boards gets spongy enough to be noticed when the building is re-roofed. If there were any way you could squeeze into the tiny attic under the flat roof, however, you would probably see evidence of mold or rot.

Defining our terms

What’s a low-slope roof? It’s a roof that is flat or almost flat. While some sources define a low-slope roof as one with a pitch that is less than 3 in 12, ASTM (in Standard E 1918-97) defines a low-slope roof as one that has a pitch that is less than 2 in 12.

This type of roof is common in urban areas (for example, on triple-deckers in Boston and row houses in Philadelphia), as well as in the Southwest. Some of these roofs have parapets — perhaps on just one side of the roof, or perhaps on three or four — while others have no parapets at all.

These roofs are either framed with deep roof trusses, or are framed with roof rafters that are separate from the lower ceiling joists (creating a cramped attic between the flat roof and the ceiling). In some of these buildings, the attic is high enough to allow a person to climb into the attic through a hatch; in others, the…

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  1. user-741168 | | #1

    Some observations that were not publishable
    Good job.

    Whenever you do research you always have the recorded findings and then some side observations — never enough for publication, but they get filed away for later (or not). We had two pertinent observations in this Arizona study, without enough support to draw publishable conclusions:

    1) Venting didn't work. It may have had a slight effect of warming the underside of the roof, but with low-slope it's all wind and no buoyancy, and at night the air is quite still. Plus, they were adding vents without adding an air space. Not helpful and not publishable.

    2) Cellulose insulation was installed in one single case. The cellulose was at the bottom of the assembly rather than at the top, of course. That assembly had no problem at all and stayed really dry. I think we underestimate the impact of even seasonal moisture storage in cellulose.

    Bill Rose

  2. jinmtvt | | #2

    I sure hope that nobody is
    I sure hope that nobody is still building "vented flat roofs" nowadays.
    steel deck + vapor membrane and exterior insualtion is the only way to do it.

  3. jinmtvt | | #3

    Martin: just a quick thought,
    Martin: just a quick thought, the same "dew point" rule/calculation applies to roofing assembly then walls ?
    If so, it would mean that some quantity of interior insulation could be possible even if within the final vapor membrane ?

    I do like the steel roof deck used a a reflective radiance material though ...would loose this property if packed up with some insulating materials ??

  4. Skylar Swinford | | #4

    Dimensional Stability

    Thanks for the great article. I noticed in the photos that the roofers/insulators are using sheets of EPS installed in staggered layers that are considerably smaller than an average 4'x8 sheet, but you didn't touch on this detail in your article. The Manual of Low-Slope Roof Systems, has a great section explaining the importance of using smaller insulation boards to improve dimensional stability. For example, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends using rigid insulation boards that are 2'x4' to reduce stress on roof membranes. Lstiburek does a great job explaining why rigid foam insulation expands and contracts in his "correction" to Foam Shrinks, and Other Lessons. The Manual of Low-Slope Roof Systems also has valuable information on inverted (IRMA) or protected membrane roof (PMR) systems that readers in more extreme climates may find interesting. Plus the manual contains more great info on the pitfalls of ventilating low-slope roofing and the authors do a great job hammering home the importance of preventing ponding with adequate slope and drainage.

    So it looks like the roofers/insulators in the photos got the smaller rigid foam boards right; however, there doesn't appear to be a structural air-barrier at the roof sheathing. Perhaps they are relying on SPF or SIGA tape below...any thoughts?

    Readers may appreciate the article: Breaking With The Code for more observations regarding the typical ineffectiveness of ventilating low-slope roof assemblies.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Response to Jin Kazama
    Q. "Does the same dew point rule/calculation apply to roofing assemblies as walls?"

    A. No. All of this is explained in my article, Calculating the Minimum Thickness of Rigid Foam Sheathing. While most of the article talks about walls, there is a section ("Is there a similar chart for unvented cathedral ceilings?") that talks about roofs.

    The reason that the recommendations differ for roofs is that rafters are usually deeper than studs. It's common for rafters to have more insulation than studs; that makes the sheathing colder, which means that the rigid foam has to be thicker.

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    Response to Skylar Swinford
    Thanks for the added information, and for the useful links.

    You're right that the roof in the photo would probably have benefited from an air barrier between the roof sheathing and the insulation (or at least taped plywood seams).

    For more information on dimensional instability in roofing foam, see my July 2000 article on the topic, "Shrinking Insulation Boards Plague Roofers." The article was published in the "Notebook" section of JLC; scroll down to the end of the section to find the article. (The article is also shown in the attached image.)

    1. nilst | | #128

      The link to your article "Shrinking Insulation Boards Plague Roofers" doesn't work. I hope to avoid that problem on a warm roof installation.

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #129

        I have updated the broken link. I have also attached an image with the relevant part of the article. Thanks for letting me know about the broken link.

        1. nilst | | #130

          I hope the shrinkage problems have been solved since that article was written. A slight decrease in R value is nothing compared to 3 inch gaps in the insulation. Thanks for the image. My eyes glaze over when told to subscribe to another publication as was the case when I clicked on the link.

  7. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #7

    Expanding on Martin's response to Jin Kazama
    Not only are the insulation depths bigger, in a roof assembly there is an extremely low-permeance exterior finish surface (the roofing material itself) that is often wet with dew/rain/snow anyway. Literally ALL drying of the assembly is toward the interior in an unvented roof.

    This can be true of wall assemblies with foil-faced foam on the exterior too. The IRC prescribed minimums are just that, MINIMUMs, not optimal, not necessarily the best. Personally I'd normally shoot for more exterior R, and a more vapor-permeable exterior R. (EPS is about permeable at R15 as XPS is at R8) When there are foil facers in the mix I prefer to go 25-50% more than the IRC prescriptive min- margin counts.

    But the moisture buffering of cellulose also counts. At IRC prescribed minimums there's a real difference in the seasonal moisture cycling of the sheathing between mineral/glass wools and cellulose (any density) for the fiber layer of the stackup. Bill Rose's second observation in the first comment is not a fluke.

    FWIW: A few years ago I dense packed a portion of the underside of 2x10 rafters 12" o.c of a north side flat roof shaded by the taller portion of the building. It has tapered EPS on top of the roof deck under a membrane that has since been replaced. Other parts of that roof had ~R10 rock wool batts between the rafters. Some of the roof decking on the portion with the batts became punky and had to be replaced during the re-roofing, but so far the dense-packed portion remains solid. This is in a building with low occupancy rates and few interior moisture sources, and though the foam/fiber ratio wouldn't cut it from a code point of view in a residential building, I'm not too worried- it seems to be doing the job.

  8. jinmtvt | | #8

    Seriously, how much more
    Seriously, how much more labor is is to make a vented roof and install cellulose/batts on ceiling than
    it would be to simply use more rigid insulation on top.
    With the current EPDM and other membrane prices and technology ...

    I am considering a balasted ( pebles ) epdm on top of a "to be determined" R value of rigid insulation
    that will be fastened to the steel deck through a peel stick membrane that will serve as inside vapor barrier.

    I don't see how one could do simpler than that labor wise.

    wood sheathing has no place in a roof, always ends up leaking somehwere and then it needs to be torned out again whereas a leak on a steel deck can usually be fixed without destroying the roof.

  9. dankolbert | | #9

    Bill's Sample of One
    I realize it would be dangerous to draw much of a conclusion from the one cellulose-insulated roof, but it certainly is interesting and begs for more investigation. Bill H. is chuckling to himself somewhere in the background.

  10. kevin_in_denver | | #10

    A 12" SIP can solve all the moisture issues and support itself
    An EPS structural insulated panel for the roof/ceiling system can really make it easy. Because of all the issues it solves, the extra cost is warranted. If the engineering is done right, the SIP will save a lot of money on roof joists and beams because of its inherent stiffness.

    A SIP is also the most elegant way to eliminate thermal bridging at the roof/wall connection.

    At R-48, however, it's a little less than optimum. Is anyone making a 12" polyurethane SIP? Or a 16" EPS SIP?

    Cover it with white EPDM, and you should be good for 50-70 years, even in hail country.

  11. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #11

    Response to Kevin Dickson
    As I wrote in the article, "The insulation methods [for low-slope roofs] are similar to those used to build an unvented cathedral ceiling." And in my article on cathedral ceilings, I wrote, "Another possibility, of course, is to build your roof with structural insulated panels (SIPs)."

    SIPs are rarely used for commercial low-slope roofs, because they are more expensive than the more common approach (installing rigid foam on top of the roof sheathing). The other problem with SIPs is the tricky matter of sealing all of those seams.

    Considering the higher cost of SIPs and the seam-sealing problem, most designers will probably stick with more conventional approaches to insulating low-slope roofs.

  12. rich_timberridge | | #12

    Low-Slope Venting: "All Wind, No Buoyancy"
    Bill, Martin:
    If we define 'low-slope' as 'flat, or nearly so', do we state a pitch < 1 in 12 ?
    And to avoid a nerd-fest on that definition, the question is this: At what pitch would we expect buoyancy / air density differential to create ventilation air movement worth considering as a mechanism for drying ? (ignoring for discussion wind pressure differentials as a factor, and assuming Joe's 6" air space as entirely inviolate/ extant, except for dust and pollen particles, and the stray African Swallow carrying coconuts.)

  13. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #13

    Response to Rich Backus
    Your question may be of interest to researchers, but probably not to builders. For builders, such hair-splitting falls into the category of "misplaced accuracy."

    If you are worried that your roof won't get enough air flow for proper venting, the solution is simple: build an unvented roof.

    For a builder, a low-slope roof is like pornography for a Supreme Court justice: you know it when you see it.

  14. johnmwalker | | #14

    Air-cooled insulation

    Isn't free ventilation pulling perimeter air up and through "dog-houses" reducing the insulation value of the fiberglass/cellulose insulation layer? Moving air is the enemy of effective insulation...

  15. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #15

    Response to John Walker
    Q. "Isn't free ventilation pulling perimeter air up and through "dog-houses" reducing the insulation value of the fiberglass/cellulose insulation layer?"

    A. The degree to which wind-washing degrades the performance of air-permeable insulation depends on many factors. Ideally, the incoming ventilation air is introduced above the top of the insulation layer; if this is the case, then a ventilated low-slope roof is no different (at least in theory) from a ventilated attic.

    In a classic ventilated attic, wind-washing does slightly degrade the performance of the insulation near the soffit vents -- especially if the insulation is fiberglass, and especially if there is no wind-washing dam. If a wind-washing dam has been installed, or if the builder has chosen cellulose insulation instead of fiberglass, the thermal degradation caused by wind washing is much less.

    In general, there are three ways to minimize the negative effects of wind-washing:
    Choose cellulose, not fiberglass
    Install wind-washing dams near soffits
    To make up for possible wind-washing effects, make the insulation a little bit deeper than you otherwise would.

  16. MarcYoung | | #16

    Open vs closed-cell foam on underside of a low-slope roof
    Good morning.

    Planning an addition in Montreal, Canada, with a low-slope roof (Soprema modified bitumen roofing on plywood or OSB on engineered joists).

    Was planning on spraying about 6 inches of closed-cell foam on the bottom of the plywood deck (as air and vapor barrier).

    I am being told that 12 inches of open-cell foam on the bottom of the plywood deck (as air barrier) with a paint vapor barrier may be a better option.

    The logic, as I understand, is that if there is a leak in the roof and closed cel foam was used, the owner will have no idea of the problem. The moisture will be trapped above the foam and the plywood runs the risk of rotting.

    However if open-cell foam was used with a paint vapor barrier, if a leak occurs, there is a much better chance that the owner will see a stained ceiling and take action before rot sets in

    Any thoughts/comments? Thanks in advance!

  17. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #17

    Response to Marc Daniels
    I strongly urge you to choose the closed-cell spray foam.

    In your climate, open-cell spray foam (which is vapor-permeable) allows interior moisture to reach the roof sheathing by diffusion. Over the course of the winter, the sheathing can get wet enough to begin rotting.

    One solution that was recommended in the past (even I recommended it until I learned why it is bad advice) is to spray vapor-retarder paint on the underside of the cured spray foam. The only problem with this solution is that it doesn't work.

    Engineers at the Building Science Corp. conducted tests that showed that vapor-retarder paint only works when you spray it on gypsum drywall (a smooth surface). When you spray the paint on an uneven porous surface like cured spray foam, it is worthless as a vapor retarder. The interior vapor goes right through the paint.

    One possible solution (if you really want to use open-cell spray foam) is to cover the cured foam with a layer of gypsum drywall, and then to spray the drywall with vapor retarder paint.

    Better yet, just choose closed-cell spray foam.

    More information here: Creating a Conditioned Attic.

  18. MarcYoung | | #18

    Response to Martin Holladay

    Thank-you Martin.

    I was not clear in my description. As for the open cell foam option, the plan was to fix drywall to the bottom of the engineered joists and then apply a vapour barrier paint to the drywall. The idea being that if there is a roof leak, the moisture would travel through the plywood roof deck and through the open cell foam and down to the drywall. The owner would then be aware of a leak and would able to fix before rot sets in.

    I would prefer to use closed cell foam. The concern in this case is that if there is a roof leak, water would be trapped in the plywood deck by the closed cell foam. The owner would have no idea of this until the plywood deck would rot out.

    Further thoughts?

  19. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #19

    Response to Marc Daniels
    The question you raise is a thorny one. Many people have proposed the same theory: that roof leaks will show up faster if you use open-cell foam rather than closed-cell foam.

    Maybe. However, I have my doubts that the situation is as simple as the theory proposes.

    I used to work as a roofer, and I know from experiece how hard it can be to trace a roof leak by looking at ceiling stains.

    Some roof leaks show up as ceiling stains or ceiling drips immediately. Those are the easy cases.

    Far more common are the roof leaks that start slow and aren't noticed for a year. This happens all the time, even with conventional building materials like wood framing and cellulose insulation. When the ceiling stain finally appears, it can be 20 feet sideways from the leak. Water moves, and water does tricky things. Many building materials are absorbent, complicating the situation.

    It's even possible that closed-cell foam, being more waterproof, is more likely to protect vulnerable building materials from damage than open-cell foam.

    The fact is, there are too many variables to make a clear-cut ruling on this issue. The bottom line: no matter what type of roofing, sheathing, or insulation materials you use, you want to repair any roof leaks as fast as possible. Sometimes fast repairs are possible because the owners are paying attention, and sometimes fast repairs are possible because of luck.

    Other times, even when you think you're paying attention, a hidden roof leak can do considerable damage before anyone notices.

    Finally, if you are really worried about this issue, there is a simple solution: design a building with a ventilated, unconditioned attic, and go up in the attic with a flashlight regularly to inspect the roof sheathing.

  20. MarcYoung | | #20

    Response to Martin Holladay
    Thanks again - very much appreciated!

  21. Morlin | | #21

    Insulating a cool, self-drying, vented, low-slope roof
    I own a mid-century modern home in the Seattle area with a 1/12 pitch roof over vaulted ceilings separated by 2x6 joists with R13 batt insulation, venting at the soffit and ridge, and a condensation issue that started after the modified bitumen roof was replaced last June with a white TPO membrane. I've been reading all of Martin's articles and I'm still not satisfied that I have the best solution. It seems that the root of my condensation problem is that we've lost sight of the self-drying properties of a torch down or modified bitumen roof assembly because we're so focused on cool roofs using membranes with lifetime material warranties. If you read some of these articles below, you'll see that the heat absorbing properties of these older roof systems are part of the design. You may also notice the precautions for colder climates in the U.S. Department of Energy Guidelines fo Selecting Cool Roofs.
    Unfortunately, I put complete trust in my roofer and now I have a leak free lifetime roof that condensates inside and doesn't dry out very quickly. In my search for a solution, I've found that most, if not all, of the technical documentation for TPO membrane are focused on commercial roof assemblies and they require an "adequate" insulation layer above the roof deck. It seems to make sense that some insulation above the roof deck would be appropriate when replacing a modified bitumen roof with a cool membrane roof to make up for the difference in solar reflectance and thermal emittance properties. However, residential roofers tend to dismiss the need for insulation above the roof deck as a waste of R value. What do you think? If I re-roof again this summer, should I go back to modified bitumen or should I add a layer of insulation above the roof deck and use a darker color of TPO or PVC? I've also considered replacing the batt insulation, either with a dense packed blow-in-blanket system followed by 3" of rigid insulation above the roof deck or maintaining the vented system with 4" of closed cell spray foam above the ceiling, or 4" of rigid insulation sealed in above the ceiling. These other options are a lot more expensive and are still not foolproof. I've already ruled out the option of removing the ceiling to fix the problem from underneath because it's too disruptive.

  22. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #22

    Response to Confused Homeowner
    The problem you are experiencing is described in my article, under the subhead, "If you forget to vent the attic, lots of things can go wrong."

    In those paragraphs, I describe how white membrane roofing stays colder than dark roofing, encouraging condensation. Building scientist William Rose describes this type of roofing as a "sky-powered cooling coil," while "the fiberglass insulation is like a dirty condensate pan. The roof sheathing gets so cold that it is sucking wetness out of dry air."

    Soffit-to-ridge venting doesn't work on a low-slope roof, as my article explains. For all intents and purposes, your roof assembly is unvented. The solution, as you correctly realize, is to install rigid insulation above your roof sheathing.

    Since your roofer recommended a defective roof assembly, your roofer should fix the problem at no charge to you.

  23. Morlin | | #23

    Insulating a cool, self-drying, vented, low-slope roof
    Since you said, "for all intents and purposes, your roof assembly is unvented", would you recommend converting to an unvented roof assembly? I've observed that dripping and other signs of condensation damage are concentrated under roof bays that have inadequate venting. This leads me to believe that my venting does work, but it needs to be improved with additional vents above and below my chimney and skylight. I'm also afraid of what might happen in a completely unvented roof assembly if I fail to completely seal off air leaks from the ceiling.

    If I stick with venting when I re-roof, then should I keep the R13 fiberglass batts if they seem to be in decent shape? Or should I replace the batts with closed cell spray foam or rigid polyiso that has been cut to fit? Both approaches would provide the benefit of a higher R value and the disadvantage of making any future changes, such as electrical wiring, more difficult. Spray foam would create a better moisture barrier, but it's more expensive and I think it would likely involve use of harmful hydroflourocarbon (HFC) blowing agents.

  24. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #24

    Response to Confused Homeowner
    Q. "Would you recommend converting to an unvented roof assembly?"

    A. Your R-13 batts do not provide anything close to minimum code requirements for roof insulation. In your climate zone (Climate Zone 4C), the 2009 IRC calls for a minimum of R-38 insulation. The easiest way to provide the insulation you need without disturbing your interior finishes is to install rigid foam insulation on top of your roof sheathing and to seal your vent openings.

    Q. "If I stick with venting when I re-roof, then should I keep the R-13 fiberglass batts if they seem to be in decent shape? Or should I replace the batts with closed cell spray foam or rigid polyiso that has been cut to fit?"

    A. You don't want to install polyiso between your rafters. (Polyiso is best installed in a continuous layer, not cut into narrow strips as you propose.) Since R-13 is insufficient, you should choose a method of insulation that allows you to achieve R-38 or more.

    When it comes to venting this type of roof assembly, I stand by the advice given in the article. The only way you can make venting work on this type of roof is if you can maintain a gap of at least 6 inches between the top of your insulation and the underside of your roof sheathing, and if you can cut a 2 ft. by 2 ft. hole in the roof sheathing near the center of your roof, so that you can install a doghouse above the roof to act as a vent outlet.

    1. mhunt11 | | #173

      So I understand the 6" ventilation space between roof sheathing and insulation. I understand vents in eaves as well as dog house or cupola at top (versus ridge vent). But if your roof rafters are 2x8's, you allow for 6" of space between roof sheathing and insulation then the insulation will have to be installed between each roof rafter, separating each bay between the eave and the ridge (and therefore minimal flow between rafters) Does the cupola suck air out of the entire ventilated space even if each rafter space is separate from the next? Or would the cupola only suck air out of the rafter space in which it is attached directly to?

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #174

        M Hunt 11,
        If you are building a new building, you need to plan ahead -- and ideally, to include an attic (albeit a short one) that is deep enough for at least 6 inches of open space between the top of the insulation and the underside of the rafters.

        If you are talking about an existing building with 2x8 rafters, I doubt whether a vented assembly makes much sense (unless the ceiling joists are far below the rafters -- far enough for the needed ventilation space above the insulation layer). If you have a tight space with 2x8 rafters, you'll either need to install closed-cell spray foam against the underside of the roof sheathing, or a thick layer of rigid foam on the exterior side of the roof sheathing.

        1. mhunt11 | | #178

          Thank you, Martin. Is it fine to have a 100% impermeable roof? (i.e. metal panels, impermeable ice and water shield, sheathing and then closed cell spray foam on the interior?) There doesn't seem to be any way for it to dry but I suppose the hope is it never gets wet to begin with? Also, how do you repair a roof with closed cells spray foam on the interior if the decking needs to be replaced?

          1. Expert Member
            MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #179


            Martin addressed that situation in this article:

          2. GBA Editor
            Martin Holladay | | #180

            M. Hunt,
            Malcolm's link will prove useful to you.

            If you end up with rotten roof sheathing due to a roof leak, repairs are always possible--although the roofers who perform the repairs may use some foul language.

            Working from above, you can use a Sawzall to cut through the sheathing that needs to be removed, along with the associated glued-on foam insulation, as long as you are careful not to saw through the rafters or truss chords. (Directly above a rafter, the roofers would use a circular saw with the depth of the cut adjusted to the thickness of the rotten sheathing.)

  25. Morlin | | #25

    Batts, Dense Pack, and Exhaust Fans
    Thanks to your advice, my solution is becoming much clearer. I understand that I'm not required to bring my mid-century home up to 2009 IRC standards, but achieving R-38 or higher does seem like a worthy goal. One concern about sealing the vent openings is that the 3.5 inch thick R-13 batts have probably been in place for over 45 years and are likely not achieving the stated R value. They also leave two inches of available space in the 2x6 joist bays. Should I replace the R-13 batts with 5.5 inch thick R-21 fiberglass batts or with a dense packed R-24 blow-in-blanket system (BIBS)? Also, since all this insulation will make my house tighter, I'm planning to replace my contractor grade bathroom exhaust fans with Panasonic WhisperFit 80 cfm fans to help control indoor humidity levels. Since these fans are 5.5 inches high, I'm concerned about how much insulation they would displace below the roof deck. Would it make sense to build dropped soffits above my shower and bathtub for exhaust fans so that only the ducts will need to penetrate the ceiling?

  26. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #26

    Response to Confused Homeowner
    Q. "One concern about sealing the vent openings is that the 3.5 inch thick R-13 batts have probably been in place for over 45 years and are likely not achieving the stated R value."

    A. Obviously, sealing up the vent openings would not be a solution if that were the only action you performed. Clearly, you need to add R-value to the existing assembly.

    Q. "Should I replace the R-13 batts with 5.5 inch thick R-21 fiberglass batts or with a dense packed R-24 blow-in-blanket system (BIBS)?"

    A. Either choice would be an improvement over what you have, but neither choice would meet minimum code requirements. Only you can decide whether you can afford to do better.

    Q. "Since these fans are 5.5 inches high, I'm concerned about how much insulation they would displace below the roof deck. Would it make sense to build dropped soffits above my shower and bathtub for exhaust fans so that only the ducts will need to penetrate the ceiling?"

    A. No one should ever install a bathroom exhaust fan in the insulated bays of a cathedral ceiling. You have two choices: you can build a soffit under the existing ceiling, or you can install a wall-mounted exhaust fan (assuming that your bathroom has an exterior wall). The fan should be installed as high in the wall as possible.

  27. robvann | | #27

    2/12 roof--to vent or not to vent
    I am building a ranch style home in the Chicago area (zone 5) with a low slope roof (2/12). We are installing a white TPO or PVC roof. My builder recommends going with a non vented roof using closed cell insulation to seal air leaks and meet energy codes. My architect recommends going with a vented roof using blown in cellulose to meet energy codes. I was leaning toward the vented roof until the architect drew in this linear cupola that ruined the lines of the house. I was hoping to have my house featured in Fine Home Building and not Mother Earth News. But I also don't want to be featured as an example of what not to do.

    How much rigid foam do I need to install on top of the roof to prevent the condensation effect that was describe when using the white membrane roof?

    Can I go with a standard low profile ridge vent and get the needed draw on a 2/12 roof?

    Or should I go with the closed cell and pray the installer seals it all off and lays it on thick?

  28. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #28

    Response to Robert Vandermolen
    I stand by the recommendations given in the article. If you want a vented roof, you need the doghouse. If you don't want the doghouse, build an unvented roof.

    Rigid foam above the roof sheathing is a much better approach than spray foam under the roof sheathing (since the rigid foam addresses thermal bridging through the rafters). This is a standard approach for commercial construction, so talk to a roofer who handles commercial roofs.

    If you want to put all of your insulation above the roof sheathing, you can just consult the code books and do the math; I imagine that you will need at least R-38 in your climate zone. If you want to combine rigid foam above the roof sheathing with fluffy insulation below the roof sheathing, you will need to install at least R-20 of rigid foam above the roof sheathing in your climate zone.

  29. Morlin | | #29

    Weighing options to achieve similar R-Value
    I'm almost comfortable with the idea of replacing the R-13 batts in my 2x6 roof bays with dense packed insulation, either cellulose or fiberglass, plus adding at least three inches of polyiso on top. This article by Joseph Lstiburek both confirmed this approach as well as scared the heck out of me.
    Here are some of the options I've considered for increasing the total R-value of my roof assembly from least expensive to most expensive...
    1. Keep R-13 batts and add 4" of polyiso above deck
    2. Keep R-13 batts, fill cavity with dense packed fiberglass or cellulose , add 3" of polyiso above deck
    3. Keep R-13 batts, add 2" fiberglass batts, add 3" of polyiso above deck
    4. Remove R-13 batts, fill cavity with dense pack, add 3" of polyiso above deck
    5. Remove R-13 batts, add 1" of closed cell spray foam above ceiling, fill cavity with dense pack, add 3" polyiso above deck
    Would you rule out any of these options? Which option, if any, would you choose?

  30. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #30

    Response to Confused Homeowner
    As long as you follow the advice in this article -- especially concerning the minimum ratio of foam insulation to fluffy insulation -- any of your proposed options will work.

    The minimum R-value requirement for your layer of rigid foam insulation or spray foam insulation depends on your climate zone, so I can't evaluate your proposed foam thickness choices without more information.

    Your choice will also depend on whether you are willing to replace your roofing.

    In terms of performance, the best option would be option #4 -- as long as 3 inches of polyiso meets the minimum R-value requirements for this approach in your climate zone.

  31. jchwang | | #31

    No parapet wall on one side - how does insulation stay on roof?
    This might seem like a silly question, but how do insulation boards above the sheathing stay on the roofs that don't have parapet walls all the way around? Will the ballast be sufficient?

    I have a low slope roof where we've left the low side without a parapet wall, so it acts as one big scupper. Just thought about the XPS on top and wondering how I keep it from 'sliding' off? If I go with a green roof as ballast, this gets even trickier as my dirt will wash off for sure?

  32. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #32

    Response to Jerry Chwang
    Rigid insulation is attached to the sheathing with cap nails or cap screws (available at any roofing supply house). The perimeter of the roof is usually trimmed with flashing. If these concepts are new to you, you should hire a roofing contractor.

  33. Trying2BGreen | | #33

    Best option for a newly constructed low-sloped roof
    The more I read this and other sources on the subject of insulating, the more certain I am that it can be very easy to get it wrong. I have a 100 year old craftsman house in Tacoma (Marine 4C) that is in need of major updates (siding, windows, insulating, and roofing). I am about to start my remodel-redesign which includes changing the architectural style from craftsman to modern. The first phase will include complete removal of the 8/12 gable roof structure. In its place I will be constructing a shed style 1/12 roof structure with gray TPO roofing. The new attic space will have a 60” tall wall on the high side (North) and a 34” tall wall on the low side (South) leaving plenty of space to access all areas. I-joist will span between the two walls creating a 9 ½” cavity below the ¾” OSB deck. The current ceiling has R21 High Density glasswool batts between the 2 x 6 joist and it has ½” drywall below. There are numerous penetrations in the walls and ceiling, (plumbing, can lights, electrical, bathroom fan) none of which were carefully sealed by the previous owner.
    Along with replacing the roof structure, I will also be removing and replacing all of the siding and many of the windows. I will be adding 3” of exterior rigid insulation and an open rain screen. The exterior insulation will run up the walls to the roof overhangs.
    The existing attic is unconditioned and vented and shows no signs of moisture issues. Given my location and planned redesigned roof structure, what would be the least problematic approach to take after doing my best to seal all of the wall and ceiling penetrations in the attic:
    1. Add more insulation to the ceiling and keep the attic space unconditioned and vented. If so is there any benefit or harm in adding a layer of rigid insulation between the OSB deck and TPO roofing?
    2. Add 6” of rigid foam between the OSB deck and the TPO roofing making the attic space part of the conditioned volume by removing the existing batts and eliminating venting.
    3. I’ve got it all wrong and should instead do this…
    One additional note, I am trying to do all of this while my family continues to live in the house so it is important to have very limited disruption to the interior space.

  34. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #34

    Response to Ron Stanley
    I stand by the advice given in my article; the details of your house don't change my advice.

    Considering the penetrations you list, and the fact that your roof lacks a doghouse, it makes the most sense to follow the usual practices of commercial roofing and to install all of the insulation above the roof sheathing. If 6 inches of rigid foam is enough to get you to your minimum code requirements for R-value, then that's the way to go.

    Don't forget to seal your attic vents and insulate your attic walls.

  35. Trying2BGreen | | #35

    Response To Martin Holladay
    Martin thanks for the response and this article. I have read and reread this article and all of the suggested linked articles. I have been finding it difficult to determine which advice applies for my application (low sloped roof over an attic space). I did not know that a 1/12 sloped roof would not vent soffit to soffit and would require “dog houses” mid span. I shared the details of my house because the multiple references to attic size “tiny attic” and “cramped attic spaces” made me wonder if my larger attic volume changed the equation in any way. I trust your advice and will go with the unvented more commercial style roof assembly.
    If I understand the information in this article correctly (You can install a more moderate layer of rigid foam insulation (2 to 4 inches) above the roof sheathing, supplemented by a layer of vapor-permeable insulation below the roof sheathing) along with the information regarding minimum rigid insulation for unvented roofs (Table R806.5 specifies the minimum R-value for the foam installed on top of the sheathing -- R-10 for Climate Zone 4C) than can I go with 4” of rigid polyiso – R value of 23.6 according to the new LTTR on top of the deck and then move my existing R21 glasswool batts up to the bottom side of the deck for a total of R44.6? I already have enough 4” thick polyiso to cover the roof deck and it would be great if I did not need to add another 2-4 inches on top for both cost and aesthetic reasons.

    In the future, would there be a problem with adding more vapor permeable insulation to the underside of the deck? It seems some people suggest having a 2/3 outside to 1/3 inside insulation ratio. I believe this is to keep from isolating the warm side of the deck and turning it into a cold surface that could allow condensation to occur.

  36. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #36

    Response to Ron Stanley
    If you install R-23 of polyiso above the roof sheathing in your climate zone, your roof will exceed the minimum requirements for above-sheathing foam -- giving you a big margin to work with if you decide to add thicker fluffy insulation between your rafters. I think you will be fine.

    If you really want to perform the dew-point calculations to show how far you can go with your plan, here is a link to an article that tells you what you need to know:
    Are Dew-Point Calculations Really Necessary?

  37. Trying2BGreen | | #37

    moving forward with the unvented roof assembly
    The roof deck is built (3/4 inch t&g osb above 9.5 inch I-joist), the 4" polyiso is on site, and I'm looking for a few last words of advice. There was a mention in the comments and your article of placing an air barrier directly on top of the roof deck and below the rigid insulation. This is also described in, "Complex Three Dimensional Airflow Networks" By Joseph Lstiburek but not much detail about the airflow barrier is given. Also, many articles speak to using multiple layers of rigid insulation, offset, to eliminate "pathways". My plan, maybe not a good one, had been to put the insulation directly on top of the osb deck, put a layer of densdeck above the insulation, and fully adhere the tpo to that. I could change the assembly to - osb deck, air barrier, 4" polyiso, additional 1" polyiso that is faced prepared for fully adhered systems, and then tpo. My questions are: Is the air barrier recommended and if so, what type of product do you suggest? How important is it to have multiple layers of offset insulation if an air barrier is used?

    I am also having trouble finding any information on the best way to build up the outer perimeter of the roof deck to form a nailing base for fascia, gutters, and flashing. Do I just build up using 2x4's or lumber to the height of the rigid insulation?

  38. Morlin | | #38

    Mounting Solar on Low Slope Insulated Roof
    I'm hoping to install a solar array after re-roofing my low-slope roof but I'm a little worried about heat loss from the mounting brackets that would be bolted into the roof deck. I will have an R-24 blow-in-blanket-system in the 2x6 joist bays below the plywood deck and 3 inches of poly iso above the roof deck covered by a PVC membrane. How concerned should I be about thermal bridging from the mounting brackets? I suppose my alternative would be to use a ballasted system for mounting solar panels. A ballasted system would not penetrate the membrane and poly iso, but it would likely be a lot heavier since it uses bricks to hold the rack system in place.

  39. user-789337 | | #39

    Low slope unvented assembly
    Working on a townhome project. GC is onboard with doing unvented attic space below the low-slope trussed roof assembly. Climate zone 5B. Looking at using ccspf on underside of roof deck w/ white EPDM topside. Appears to be a viable assembly according to:
    but I am concerned that there is no drying potential and any roof leak will probably go unnoticed.......thoughts?.......thanks.

  40. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #40

    Response to Graham Swett
    Your chosen approach is one of the standard approaches for insulating an unvented low-slope roof assembly, and it will work.

    Most commercial roofers prefer to install rigid foam above the roof sheathing, because that approach costs less, and still allows the roof sheathing to be inspected from the interior when necessary. But you can do it your way if you want.

    You wrote, "I am concerned that there is no drying potential and any roof leak will probably go unnoticed." There are lots of things to worry about in life -- and if you're really worried about that issue, you should have built a steep roof over a ventilated attic.

  41. user-789337 | | #41

    Response to MH
    Thanks architects we are tasked with having to balance the demands of the client, the market, the planning and development dept, the building codes and a host of other factors that do not always align to allow us to take the path of least resistance. All we can do is approach the final design with intelligence so that the final built environment does not become a drain on the end user and a black-eye and potential law suit for the design/development team........thanks for contributing to the brain trust.........

  42. enos753 | | #42

    best way to insulate a converted attic with a flat roof
    Hello Martin,
    I am in the middle of converting my attic into living space when I started researching about possible ways to insulate the ceiling/roof and I was reading your article with great interest! Thank you for bringing some more light to this challenging topic!

    Despite the many good suggestions, I am still not 100% sure about the best way to tackle my particular problem. Here are a few facts:

    The house is located in St Louis, climate zone 4,
    built in 1880, with original sheating, the flat roof is Modified Bitumen with a white coating) the sloped mansard roof to side is black slate. The slate is new and the flat roof is good for another 5-7 years. The ceiling joists are 2 x 10 in size and I am planning to attach the ceiling drywall directly to save as much ceiling height as possible.

    The 2 attached pictures might give you a better idea...

    In order to get the R-30 for the ceiling, I could use fiber glass batts or rolls, but that would negate any form of ventilation between insulation and sheating. From what I understand the best option might be the insulation with rigid foam on top of the sheating....but there is still some years left on the flat roof, I am planning to put the insulation on top of the sheating while putting on a new flat roof with new sheating...

    My questions are: What is the best and most cost effective, interim (5-7 years) insulation until I will put the new roof on?

    Is it better to coat the flat roof with a darker coating to avoid the "cooling coil" effect?

    Should I insulate the walls or between the sloped rafters or both?

    And what type of vapor barrier is best to use in my particular case?

    I also thought about creating a space of 3 inches between insulation and sheating by using 2x4 as spacers and putting a layer of rigid foam boards2-3 inches, sealing all the gaps with closed cell foam and fill the space underneath with fiberglass, than the vapor barrier and the drywall. But I might not reach R-30..

    Thanks for any suggestions!

  43. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #43

    Reponse to Sascha Zerbin
    In Climate Zone 4, the 2009 International Residential Code calls for a minimum of R-38 ceiling insulation, not R-30.

    I suggest that you insulate along the roofline rather than attempting to insulate the kneewalls.

    Since you will be creating an unvented insulated roof assembly, you can't use fiberglass or a similar air-permeable insulation. Your only two choices are spray foam insulation or a combination of spray foam insulation and air-permeable insulation.

    For more information on this type of insulation challenge, see How to Build an Insulated Cathedral Ceiling.

  44. enos753 | | #44

    thanks for getting back so quickly!
    Hello Martin,

    the 09 IRC is amended in St Louis when it comes to insulation...

    Would it be possible to use rigid closed cell boards combined with closed cell spray foam instead of just spray foam? This way I could reduce costs by 80%!!

    And which class of vapor barrier/retarder would you recommend?


  45. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #45

    Response to Sascha Zerbin
    The method that you are proposing is called the "cut-and-cobble" approach. It is not recommended for unvented cathedral ceilings because of the risk of moisture problems and rot.

    To read more about the method, and to read warnings about its use for cathedral ceilings, see Cut-and-Cobble Insulation.

    If you decide to install spray foam insulation, you only need a vapor retarder if you choose open-cell spray foam. (Closed-cell spray foam is already a vapor retarder.) The usual vapor retarder for installations of open-cell spray foam is a layer of vapor-retarder paint installed on drywall. (The drywall is necessary for fire protection.)

    Don't attempt to install the paint on the cured spray foam -- that method won't work. It has to be installed on drywall.

  46. erth64net | | #46

    I'm getting a little worried here...
    While researching what you've called the cut-and-cobble method, I stumbled across this blog posting. After reading the article and then every comment, I'm a bit worried about our roof installation.

    We recently purchased a low-sloped (1 in 12) house in Zone 4C (Portland Oregon, Multnomah County). This 1950's house had a leaking torch-down at our roofer's advice we steered towards TPO as a replacement surface. After tearing off existing roof to the decking, what they installed was...listed in order from decking up: 2" PolyIso, FR-10 underlayment, 60Mil GenFlex TPO.

    Since we had opened the house's interior (total gut; for new electrical & plumbing, and replacing wall-insulation), our roofer then advised us to install new high-density batts in-between 2x6 joists; leaving 1" of airspace between batts and roof deck underside. We then needed to open the soffits a minimum 1", and use a 1"-2" circular saw to open up as much blocking as possible, as close to the top plates as we can get.

    From what I'm reading here, it appears our installation is likely to encounter moisture/condensation issues... Am I understandings things correctly?

  47. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #47

    Response to Gregg Berkholtz
    If you have rigid foam above your roof sheathing, you definitely don't want a ventilated air gap underneath your roof sheathing. So the first order of business is to close off the soffit vents in an airtight manner.

    The second issue concerns the decision to combine a layer of rigid foam above the roof sheathing with air-permeable insulation under the roof sheathing. This approach can work, but according to code requirements, the air-permeable insulation has to be in direct contact with the roof sheathing. Here's how the code reads: "In addition to the air-permeable insulation installed directly below the structural sheathing, rigid board or sheet insulation shall be installed directly above the structural roof sheathing as specified in Table R806.5 for condensation control."

    Your rigid foam sheathing is fortunately thick enough for your climate zone, but the gap between the fiberglass and the roof sheathing is a code violation (as well as bad practice). You should bring this fact to the attention of your contractor, who is responsible for following the building code.

  48. erth64net | | #48

    Response to Martin Holladay
    Thank you greatly for the information. The idea of an unvented roof is completely foreign to me - so your feedback greatly helps us better understand things.

    Since we have enough rigid foam sheathing above the roof deck (2"), it sounds like our best course of action is to focus on the void boxed between our rafters and roof sheathing/drywall.

    In 1/3rd of the house, we've already drywalled, so it's damage control: it appears our most reasonable path is to drill & blow-in a dense cellulose to fill the gap between fiberglass bats and roof sheathing, and then seal openings once complete.

    For the rest of the house, we had originally planned on a 1-2" airspace between batts and roof sheathing. Since that part of our project is just beginning (two roofs to deal with - one is on 2x6 & the other on 2x10 rafters), it appears we have additional options.

    Modeling after your article's recommendations:

    1) Install 5 1/2" high-density batts in the 2x6 space; filling the cavity. Then covering the rafters with plastic just before putting drywall up (this was also suggested by an insulation installer that visited today).
    2) Cut-and-cobble with spray foam to to fill the gaps between boards and rafters.
    3) Fill cavity with dense pack (e.g. a bib system)...this was the preferred recommendation of today's insulation installer.

    I get the impression that cut-and-cobble would actually leave an airspace with 2x6 rafters (we have access to 3" PolyIso boards at $10/sheet). We understand its extremely labor intensive, but at this point its cost and damage-control for us.

    There's another space where we have 2x10 rafters, still under a 1/12 flat roof. Today's insulation installer also suggested using 8 1/4" high-density batts (R30), plastic, drywall; and leaving venting/soffits open. With what I'm learning these past few days, I'm not sure how I feel about that recommendation.

    Our goal is to not tear off the roof surface, again...if at all possible.

  49. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #49

    Response to Gregg Berkholtz
    You're getting closer to understanding a good roof assembly -- you are almost there. There is one remaining problem: you definitely don't want interior polyethylene with this type of roof assembly. An interior vapor barrier is a no-no.

    While vented roof assemblies are designed to dry to the exterior, unvented roof assemblies are designed to dry to the interior. Polyethylene would interfere with the assembly's ability to dry to the interior.

    The theory behind wall and roof assemblies with exterior rigid foam is explained in this article: Calculating the Minimum Thickness of Rigid Foam Sheathing.

    On the underside of your roof assembly, it's always a good idea to pay attention to airtightness. You want your drywall layer to be airtight, but not vapor-tight. To make sure that the assembly is airtight, don't install any recessed can lights, and make sure that you seal carefully at all wiring penetrations and plumbing vent penetrations.

    There are lots of articles on the GBA site that delve deeper into these issues, including:

    Questions and Answers About Air Barriers

    Vapor Retarders and Vapor Barriers

    Forget Vapor Diffusion — Stop the Air Leaks!

    Do I Need a Vapor Retarder?

  50. erth64net | | #50

    Response to Martin Holladay
    I thought an interior vapor barrier might be a bad option, especially with a TPO roof membrane; where would any moisture escape? Although the plastic sheeting was recommended by yesterday's installation installer, so thank you very much for reinforcing my thoughts on this.

    In addition, my understanding of the bib system they recommended also sounds like it'd be a problem; their design would use tyvek to hold blow-in cellulose. What's strange is that our installer said he "cleared it with his technical/legal department" while we chatted (he was exchanging photos and TXT messages). They sounded so convincing...

    For our situation, to get something better than the ~R12 from existing 2" PolyIso above the roof deck, it sounds like packing the space with un-faced high-density insulation might just be our least-cost option, as long as we're careful to seal all top-plate/blocking edges (and any interior or top/bottom-plate holes) with expanding spray foam.

    I'll dig into your links this afternoon - the information is much appreciated!

    [Editor's note: To read the answer to this comment, and to read subsequent comments, advance to page 2 by clicking on the number 2 below.]

  51. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #51

    Response to Gregg Berkholtz
    Your most recent comments show a new misunderstanding. Unlike polyethylene, Tyvek is not a vapor barrier. Tyvek is vapor-permeable, and won't cause any problems if you install it on the interior side of your roof assembly.

    However, Tyvek isn't a good choice for holding cellulose in place when dense-packing cellulose between framing members -- because Tyvek is an air barrier. When an insulation contractor uses a blowing machine to pack insulation between your rafters, the blowing machine pushes the insulation with a huge amount of air, and that air has to go somewhere. That's why experienced cellulose contractors use an air-permeable membrane (for example, InsulWeb) as netting to hold in the cellulose. For more information on this topic, see How to Install Cellulose Insulation.

    I'm beginning to wonder whether you have selected an experienced contractor to help you, or whether you are getting advice from someone who is in over his head.

  52. erth64net | | #52

    Response to Martin Holladay
    You're right, of course, about the Tyvek - I don't know what I was thinking when typing that part out. After all, it's why we wrapped the exterior walls with that stuff...heck, my wallet is made of Tyvek; sweat still gets to the paper on hot days.

    Your point about trapped-air during the blowing process is an excellent one. In hindsight, it's an obvious question; where is all that air supposed to go during installation - although I didn't put two&two together until your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to reframe that. This is now a screening criteria as we sort through contractor proposals.

    As for finding a qualified insulation specialist, it seems we could summarize desirable professional qualifications (at least for my needs/goals), as someone whom has training/experience specific to "unvented low-sloped 1 over 12 TPO roof".

    It's too bad you're not in the Portland Oregon area - I'd be arranging an appointment with you ASAP.

  53. erth64net | | #53

    Rigid PolyISO board is a vapor barrier?
    Gosh, it's difficult to find a qualified local installer...

    Just met with another installer, he insisted that 3.25" of R-MAX R21 rigid board installed via cut&cobble (e.g. with all edges sealed by expanding foam) would be our best option to insulate rafter space under the roof deck. He was confident we'd have sufficient vapor control with just the ~2" gap between roof deck underside and cut&cobble rigid board. This advice, specifically engineering a gap between roof deck underside and cut & cobble rigid board, appears to violate code (IRC R806.5). This consult was from a local contractor insulation supply house (fairly large company; 6 regional locations...apparently made it past legal...) - bid was for materials only...

    Tonight, I came across your article discussing how rigid board acts as a vapor barrier:

    This leads me to conclude that rigid board's vapor barrier properties effectively disqualifies cut&cobble for a TPO coated low-slope roof assembly, especially when there's 2" of rigid board already above the deck sheathing.

    Looks like our best strategy is to totally scratch the cut&cobble method, and proceed with packing a 5.5" rafter space with air-permeable/unfaced insulation just prior to drywalling. Our main options seem to be:
    1) 5.5" high-density R21 batts.
    2) 6.5" R22 batts (e.g. to counter insulation settling effects?).
    3) dense-pack blow-in insulation.

    As for the rest of your points, there's a clear need to be mindful of:
    1) Never use a "vapor barrier" paint on unvented roof/ceiling assemblies.
    2) Use closed-cell expanding spray foam before batt installations to ensure air-tightness at all wall and top-plate penetrations into the ceiling (e.g. electrical wiring & plumbing vents). Also ensure air-tightness around any ceiling penetrations (such as code-required single light/junction box per room...maybe a switched outlet is a better option...).

    As for meeting insulation code, R33 (2" Poly + R21 batts) certainly exceeds the requirements for a 1950's structure remodel, so I believe we're doing great there.

  54. anicolici | | #54

    1963 Low Slope Roof & Silver Coat
    Hello Mr. Holladay, thank you for answering questions and keeping this thread active. We recently bought a 1963 home in the Pacific Northwest that has a low slope roof. It currently has a torch down roof that appears to be fiberglass based (you can easily see the fibers throughout the rolled-out sheets). My roofer recently installed a vent for our range hood fan and while he was up there I asked him about the condition of the roof. He said it was decent but that it was getting old and would need replacement in a couple of years. As a way of extending its life, possibly for another 5 years or so, he suggested silver coating the roof to keep the temperature and UV down as well as to seal any current small cracks/etc.

    Previous to this, the inspector we used during the purchase of the house noted after peeking into what areas of the tiny attics were accessible (parts of the house have no attic due to vaulted ceilings) that the condition of the trusses and sheathing were good for a house that age and he noted no excess moisture or any mold. I have since verified this above the kitchen after installing some can lights and additional insulation (only 2" rock wool was originally installed) in the small attic there as well as in the adjacent family room w/ a vaulted ceiling. The roof is vented throughout - a continuous saw-fit vent runs down the length of the low ends of the roof and this connects to each of the cavities in the vaulted ceiling areas as well as to the small attics that exist. I'm not entirely certain about the vaulted areas but in the attics there are a few mushroom vents near the top of the roof. I am not sure how air escapes the vaulted ceiling areas as there don't seem to be vents in those areas... (There may be a cavity common to those areas at the peak of the roof and above the glue-lam beam that runs down the spine of the house on the inside and this may connect to the attic spaces...)

    My question has to do with the silver coat and your mention of cold roofs causing moisture buildup. If I apply a silver coat to this roof to extend its life, I am worried that its temperature would drop dramatically, causing condensation from this point forward in time, leading to mold and structural damage due to moisture buildup. Would you agree with this concern or do you think the venting is probably sufficient?

    Thank you.

  55. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #55

    Response to Adrian Nicolici
    I don't have a clear understanding of your ceiling insulation.

    Since you tell me that you have a cramped but vented attic, I assume that the insulation is against the ceiling, with air above the insulation, and that there is no insulation against the roof sheathing. Is that correct?

    You wrote that the house originally had 2 inches of rockwool -- again, I'm assuming that the insulation was installed on top of the ceiling -- and that you have installed "additional insulation." What type of insulation did you add? Where was it installed?

    It sounds like you have an imperfectly vented low-slope roof with fibrous insulation above the ceiling. If you install a reflective coating to make your sheathing colder, the sheathing could certainly begin to rot.

    Rather than investing in a coating to lower the temperature of your roofing and your roof sheathing, you would be better off sealing your roof vents and installing rigid insulation above the roof sheathing, followed by new roofing.

  56. anicolici | | #56

    1963 Low Slope Roof & Silver Coat
    > no insulation against the roof sheathing. Is that correct?


    >again, I'm assuming that the insulation was installed on top of the ceiling -- and that you have installed "additional insulation." What type of insulation did you add? Where was it installed?

    Correct - on the ceiling. Additional insulation was more rock wool on top of the old, still on the ceiling. but only in areas with an attic.

    >If you install a reflective coating to make your sheathing colder, the sheathing could certainly begin to rot.

    Yes, I think you are right. I will stay away from this option.

    >Rather than investing in a coating to lower the temperature of your roofing and your roof sheathing, you would be better off sealing your roof vents and installing rigid insulation above the roof sheathing, followed by new roofing.

    This does seem to be the frequent fix from what I've read and its on my list when the roof will eventually need to be replaced. For now, to extend the life of my current roof, I think I will simply coat with something like Gaco silicone coating which comes in dark colors and will not reflect the heat away from the roof but still seal nicely and protect against UV. A cheap short term fix:

    How much insulation would I need to install on top of the existing roof after sealing the vents in order to keep the previously vented spaces from getting too cold and condensing moisture? I would like to minimize the affect on the appearance of the house... Does regular latex paint inhibit moisture transfer back into the house? Is sealing the ceiling (no pun intended) very important after such a modification?


  57. themizz | | #57

    Spray foam Roof in Philadelphia

    I am getting bids for spray foam for an unvented low slope roof in Philadelphia (zone 4). Most of the SPF contractors I speak with are pushing 10 inches of open-cell to reach R38 in the roof assembly. I was leaning towards doing around 2.5 in of closed-cell for an R15 and doing R30 in fiberglass batts on top.

    Which assembly would you prefer using? Is there a benefit to one or the other?

  58. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #58

    Response to Mike S
    I'm not quite sure why you are proposing "2.5 in of closed-cell for an R15 and doing R30 in fiberglass batts on top." I hope that was a typo. When you combine closed-cell spray foam and fiberglass batts, the fiberglass batts go on the bottom, not the top -- and the two types of insulation have to be in direct contact.

    Assuming that you get your spray foam/fiberglass sandwich in the right order, either of the two approaches you listed will work. However, the best approach always includes rigid foam above the roof sheathing -- since that approach addresses thermal bridging through the rafters.

  59. LiamK | | #59

    for the unemployed, indebted homeowner with a flat roof...
    ... We have a choice between zero insulation (the status quo) or something, albeit imperfect. My mid-century modern will be torn down whenever I sell - maybe in 10 years? Meanwhile, I had to gut the interior due to a leaky roof and very bad mold problem. With the drywall and ceiling off, now is the time to add some insulation. It's near Everett, WA.

    Its a 1:16 low-slope roof (nearly flat), with newish black torchdown on top, a base sheet, and shiplap roof decking. The rafters (joists, trusses) are only 2x8s (so only 7.25" vertical gap). Furring strips run perpendicular below the rafters.

    I cant afford exterior insulation and a new roof. My credit cards are maxed out. I'm doing all the work myself.

    I'd welcome thoughts on my ceiling "plan", from top down, below the decking:

    3.75" air gap below roof decking (best I can do).
    Attic foil, permeable, between rafters, draped loosely, resting on...
    3.5"Roxul R15 ComfortBatts (atop furring strips).
    3/4" air gap due to furring strips
    2" RMax polyiso rigid foam , foilbacked, taped seams, R14 (screwed into furring strips)
    1/2" gypsum (screwed through foam into rafters w 4" screws)

    It has a 25x30' main living-dining-kitchen area, 3' soffits. No ceiling vents between gypsum and roof, only grill-vents in soffits. (I can't afford new holes in roof and added risk of leaks.)

    Any suggestions? Things to watch out for? Better solutions for the same money? Thank you!

  60. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #60

    Response to Liam Knute
    Some comments:

    1. Working from the underside, it's going to be hard to drape the "attic foil" on top of the Roxul batts.

    2. I assume that the product you describe as "attic foil" is a radiant barrier that has been perforated with tiny holes in an attempt to address the problem that it is a wrong-side vapor barrier. I don't think that these perforated foil products are as vapor-permeable as the manufacturers pretend. If you want a vapor-permeable air barrier at this location, install a plastic housewrap like Tyvek.

    3. Although you plan to include an air gap between the Roxul and the roof sheathing, you don't mention whether there will be any ventilation openings to connect this air gap with the outdoors.

    4. The air gap between the bottom of the Roxul batts and the rigid foam is potentially problematic, because it allows air movement. It would be better if you could remove the existing furring strips so that the rigid foam can be directly under the Roxul batts. Then you can install the furring strips underneath the rigid foam, where they belong.

  61. LiamK | | #61

    Thanks for your reply. Very much appreciated!
    Many thanks for your reply!

    I'm wondering if it's even worth doing the rigid-foam at all (for now). Maybe I should just do only the 3.5" R14 Roxul for now. Not up to code (R30), of course, and not as energy-efficient, but up until now (for 50 years) there was essentially no insulation in the ceiling at all (just 3/4" acoustic ceiling tiles), so R14 would be better than before. And the house will be a tear-down for sure, whenever I sell it. Not sure if it's worth the time and money to do the rigid foam, I'll have to think about that.

    (I thought of using 5.5" Roxul, for higher R-value, leaving only a 1.75" air ventilation gap on top -- but even with a house that isn't too air-tight that seemed to go against what I've read.)

    Correct on #2, the 'attic foil' is a perforated radiant barrier. The goal would be to keep out some of the summer heat coming down from the black roof. (Not a big deal, but I think I could unroll it loosely on top of the furring strips, then stuff the Roxul batts up under it. Tyvek would work for vapor, but no radiant heat effect -- but I'm not sure the foil would help much, anyway.) Previously, the original vapor barrier was a paper/foil, laid with the foil side down!, nailed to the rafter bottoms, above the furring strips. (The wrong way, I think: if anything, it brought down heat into the house.)

    On #3, the only 'formal' external ventilation opening to the outdoors currently is a few (3? I haven't counted) 3"x8" rectangular vent openings in the soffits. I could add more of these? Or some in the fascia boards? (I'm trying to avoid poking new holes in the roof if I can.) The soffits and house in general are not particularly air-tight (board-and-batten exterior, ship-lap sheath/siding, no Tyvek yet, etc.), although I am slowly working with Great Stuff and caulking to seal up major cracks, but there's a long way to go (I'm not even going to try and seal the board-and-batten, so that's major 'ventilation' -- and heat-loss -- right there.)

    For the walls, given that the drywall is already removed, my intention given time and money constraints (correct me if I'm misguided!) is to staple Tyvek around each of the studs and to the interior side of the shiplap sheathing (which is covered on the exterior by cedar board-and-batten siding outside), before putting 3.5" Roxul in the walls. A nuisance, but I don't have the money or manpower right now to remove the cedar siding and put the Tyvek outside the sheathing (where it belongs).

    Just to enlighten me, if I do go with both Roxul and foam for the ceiling, what's the concern in point #4 about the 3/4 air gap (furring strips) between Roxul and rigid-foam? I'm guessing it's that with (relatively) open air movement, the insulation value is cut way down (unless it were airtight which it won't be)? That's one reason I'm thinking maybe don't bother with the rigid-foam for now (save the money until I can do an external/second-roof solution, maybe in 5 years).

    I wasn't sure if the Roxul would stay in place in the ceiling rafters, without the furring strips to hold it up, but I just tried and it does seem to work! Friction trumps gravity. :-) (I tried to attach a pic that shows a Roxul batt in place above the furring strips -- it seems to hold in place even if it is pushed well up above them.) Good to know.

    Again, thank you very much for your insights. (I know there's a lot of higher-end and maybe more interesting projects out there. Making-do is where I'm at, and I greatly appreciate your thoughts on this old house.)

  62. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #62

    Response to Liam Knute
    Q. "The original vapor barrier was a paper/foil, laid with the foil side down!, nailed to the rafter bottoms, above the furring strips. (The wrong way, I think)."

    A. You're wrong. If a builder includes an air space with a foil radiant barrier facing the air space, then the radiant barrier will raise the R-value of the air space, regardless of which side of the air space the foil is installed on.

    Q. "The only formal external ventilation opening to the outdoors currently is a few (3? I haven't counted) 3"x8" rectangular vent openings in the soffits. I could add more of these."

    A. Your plan does not comply with the recommendations in my article. These openings will not provide the ventilation you seek. If you proceed with your plan, your roof sheathing boards are at risk of moisture accumulation and possible rot.

    Q. "What's the concern in point #4 about the 3/4 air gap (furring strips) between Roxul and rigid-foam? I'm guessing it's that with (relatively) open air movement, the insulation value is cut way down (unless it were airtight which it won't be)?"

    A. Yes, that's what I am worried about. You are setting yourself up for convective air currents, or for the creation of air pathways that allow interior air to find cracks in your wall assembly or roof assembly.

  63. LiamK | | #63

    Thanks again! (Update: turns out chimney chase has 2 vents!)
    Sorry for the slow reply. I mainly want to reiterate my thanks for your reply (and the broader service you provide to so many people, on so many topics).

    In case this is of assistance to anyone who stumbles across this thread:

    On closer inspection, it turns out my roof *does* have something of a doghouse/cupola vent, embedded in the side of the 6' wide chimney chase (above the roof)! Never having looked at them closely, I'd assumed they served some chimney function. But in fact, as far as I can tell, they are there to vent out the dead air space between the roof and ceiling. The vents open down into the area where those joists rest on the edge of the chimney (as revealed by shining a light at night).

    This 1958 house was ahead of its time in some ways (I think built off of Popular Mechanics or similar designs) -- e.g., radiant heat in copper pipes embedded in concrete floor, still functional today (recently pressure-tested).

    Thanks for clarifying the foil radiant barrier.

    I wonder if the ship-lap roof deck dries out faster than does a modern plywood/OSB deck?

    The black torchdown (on a base sheet) also allows some vapor to pass through, unlike modern PVC membranes.

    Due to time and financial constraints, for now I'm forced to make a compromise and omit the rigid foam. (N.B. this is not recommended, I know.) So, only 3.5" R15 Roxul* for now, and hoping the 3.75" air gap will vent enough moisture until I can afford to do it right (new roof, rigid foam on top). Not the best, but perhaps better than zero insulation -- provided there is adequate ventilation in the joist area.

    (*Canadian 3.5" Roxul is rated R14, in the USA the same dimension Roxul is rated R15. Not sure if there are any differences in product, or if the difference is in the rating systems.)

    Thanks again, and best wishes for the holidays.

  64. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #64

    Response to Liam Knute
    Q. "I wonder if the shiplap roof deck dries out faster than does a modern plywood/OSB deck?"

    A. Yes, it probably does. It will certainly be better able to withstand a few wetting/drying cycles than OSB.

  65. alwaysaproject | | #65

    I know it's unconventional and not ideal...
    My house is a mid-century modern that seems to have done well for the previous 50+ years, but due to the severe winter we are having here - just North of Boston maybe 3 miles from the coast (so Zone 5 or 4 Marine?) we encountered an ice dam that backed up to a leak for the first time (during our tenure here).
    Obviously I don't want to encounter this problem again, but it got me thinking not only about the cause, but how to reduce our very high heating bills.
    Last year we put R-30 fiberglass rolls over anything existing in the area of the attic we can easily access...basically the middle of the house.
    The 3/4 of the house which is not cathedral ceiling has a rise of I'd say 1 foot to every 4 feet (1/4?) but 10 feet from either end there is a structural beam which pretty much blocks off those last 10 feet from normal size human access, making it pretty much impossible to get in there to insulate.
    Based on the icicle pattern outside around the time the leak occurred I suspect that the supplemental heater we had running in one of the cooler end rooms contributed to the melting causing the ice dam (it was above said cool room). So we stopped running it for the time being.
    The attic is unconditioned with hatch access and contains A/C unit and ducts. The original existing insulation is/was insufficient and typical of the time - fiberglass not extending beyond the tops of the joists. There is a ridge vent and soffit vents (although Springtime will now merit checking these out to see if the amount that appears to be there is actually there and adequate). There is also a powered vent at the top that can be switched on/off. Roof is newer with a single layer of asphalt
    I would blow cellulose into those areas, but am very concerned about accidentally shooting it right over the soffit vents and blocking them since access is so bad.
    Then I considered sliding polystyrene boards back there as best we could (thinking something is better than nothing) but saw a post somewhere indicating this could be a bad idea because of the air gap between the 2 insulations that would allow condensation to occur on the bottom of the poly board. They suggested, though, that plywood would be acceptable since it is more absorbent than the poly. So, would using, say, luan to slide more fiberglass into place back there work?
    I am trying to think outside the box a little due to the constraints we face, but do want to do right by the house. I don't want to cause a problem trying to fix one and I am not looking for a major project - interior (ripping out ceilings, etc) or exterior (decent existing roof). But maybe there is something to be done when the time does come for a new roof? Given that this was not really in the budget at all, and I'm not looking for a major project, what, if anything, can you suggest about how to proceed with this area?

  66. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #66

    Response to Insulating Dilemma
    When it comes to ice dam problems, halfway measures don't work very well. If this attic has ductwork and an air handler, and if enough snow is melting to cause leaks, it's time to seal your vents and to install thick insulation above your roof sheathing. It won't be cheap, but that's what you have to do.

    During the roofing work, have your roofing contractor remove 4 or 5 sheets of plywood or OSB so you can enter the attic from above. Have an air sealing contractor waiting in the wings. You want to seal all of your air leaks; then you want to re-install the roof sheathing, put down about 6 inches of rigid foam, a second layer of roof sheathing, and new roofing.

  67. alwaysaproject | | #67

    Halfway measures
    Thank you very much for your quick response. I will absolutely take that under advisement. I believe that having had this experience we are now better prepared (alert) to avoid the ice dams in the future. It will be a matter of keeping the snow off the edge area and watching the total amount of snow up there. We had it collect to quite a depth - I'd say maybe 3 feet in one area and no less than 2 every where. The insulating properties of the snow itself probably contributed to the melting in the area above the heater. Very unusual weather making this scenario 'possible.' It is in trying to reduce the heating costs that I am even considering what might work for "halfway measures."

  68. cview66 | | #68

    low slope roof with insufficient tapered polyiso
    Martin- I'm in St. Louis , zone 4a. The builder of my historic replica home with a very low slope roof put tapered polyiso rigid foam under a tpo membrane - sloping from 6.75" thick in the front of the house - to a half inch thick at the rear of the house. So the rear half of the 25' x48' foot deep house has less than the r-15 insulation required by code - above the sheathing. Thus allowing a cold sheathing on that half - and I assume - eventual condensation. The roof sheathing is plywood and I have 16" deep truss bays under the sheathing. The builder wants to put fiberglass bats between the truss bays to get to r 38 total. I now have insulated hvac ducts running through the truss bays - and hvac metal trunk lines running thru a dropped soffit in three rooms - which would still beopen to the truss bay "attic" above. My architect says The code reads that I need to put 2" of closed cell spray foam on thebottom of the sheathing and then i can put the bats as well. I have read dozens of pages of articles and posts and at a loss as to the best way forward. Ripping off the newly installed tpo roof to add additional polyiso on top would cost thousands acording to the roofer. So, Should I create the foam sandwich with sheathing between polyiso above and closed cell foam underneath - for the rear half of the house -- where the polyiso is not thick enough? Or should I use open cell underneath? also should i add additional fiberglass batts between the trusses - and should i worry about covering the can lights to prevent moisture from rising into that space? and whats the best way to cover them? (or maybe I should pay more to replace them with flush mount lights.)

  69. Dana1 | | #69

    Several ways to skin that cat.
    If the roof is not shaded and not pitched northward it may do just fine as-is, since the solar heating increases the average temp of the roof deck. It's usually north facing and shaded roofs that end up with problems.

    As little as 1" of closed cell foam is sufficient protection for the roof deck in the thin spots, since it is roughly 1- perm vapor permeneance, a minimal class-II vapor retarder, and provides a non-wicking first condensing surface. At 2" you'd be at about 0.5 perms, which is still sufficient drying capacity, and even less wintertime moisture uptake.

    The IRC 2012 chapter 8 prescriptive for R15 on the exterior of the fiber insulation based on an R49 total-R for zone 4A, not R38. It's the RATIO of exterior R to the that determines the average temp at the roof deck, which is what determines how much moisture will accumulate. If your total R is over R49 you have to increase the foam-R, but conversely, if it's less, you can safely go with less. So the prescriptive level is really only 30% of the total R. At R38 it means that you would only need R11.4 at the foam/fiber boundary for dew-point control with R26.6 of fiber. So with R6 polyiso and 1" of ccSPF (R6+) on the underside of roof deck you would have adequate dew point control for R28 batts under the roof deck in that section.

    A bigger issue is the air-tightness between the batts and the interior space. IRC chapter 8 prescriptives assume that there is moderately air-tight class-III vapor retarder between the air permeable fiber and the conditioned space, which is going to be tough to do can-lights and duct penetrations using gypsum board. It's worth installing a broad-sheet air tight membrane type smart vapor retarder such as Intello or MemBrain tight to the batts, above the ducts etc. Any penetrations of the membrane need to be carefully air sealed, and if the can-lights penetrate it use only air-tight fixtures. If conditioned space air (or duct leakage) convects through the fiber insulation it can move orders of magnitude more moisture to the roof deck than vapor diffusion through latex paint. If it's impossible to install the smart vapor retarder on the roof deck side of the ducts in an air-tight manner, it may be worth using open cell foam rather than fiberglass, even in locations where there is adequate foam above the roof deck.

  70. cview66 | | #70

    response to D Dorsett #70
    Thank you so much for responding. I need to make decision asap on this (by this weekend!).
    The roof is not shaded at all and is pitched ever so slightly at 1/8" per foot - to the west.
    So if i wanted to go R49 total R, then i would need to increase the ccsf to R-14.7 which would be 2 inches thick? And could then put R34 of fiberglass batts between the trusses for R 49 total (since the polyiso at a half inch gives me virtually nothing on top - for the rear third of the house)

    Re: your 2nd paragraph/concern: The insulated hvac flex ducts run through the open webs of those trusses -so I don't see how I could possibly get anything solid across ABOVE them. Though I could attach something across the bottom of the trusses and soffits-- before the drywall ceiling gets put on under that. But I guess that wouldn't help? So you are suggesting I use open cell sf under the whole front half of the roof as well - in stead of Fiber - to reach my total R value of R49? And also attach the open cell layer to the closed cell layer in the back half of the roof too? Is there no other acceptable option? i was really trying to minimize the use of foam if possible - though I know I need to use some at least in the rear half. Thank you - I very much appreciate your input.

  71. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #71

    Response to Michael Quinn
    Before I answer some of your questions, I want to provide general advice to GBA readers.

    Here's that advice: Don't be like Michael, and find yourself figuring out your insulation details at the last minute, after you have chosen your roof framing members, framed your roof, installed ductwork, specified and installed your above-sheathing rigid foam, and installed your roofing. At that point, you have painted yourself into a corner, and it's far too late of a time to scratch your head and try to figure out how to insulate your roof assembly. All insulation details need to be determined at the planning stage, before your foundation hole is dug.

    You have somewhat of a mess. Your ducts are in the wrong place. You forgot to come up with a plan to install an air barrier on the underside of your insulation. Your above-sheathing insulation layer is too thin.

    If your ducts are in the way, you may need to temporarily remove your ducts so that you have full access to the underside of your roof sheathing. Then you can call in the spray foam contractor to install enough spray foam to keep your roof sheathing out of the danger zone. Then you need to come up with a plan to install an air barrier, and to leave enough room between the air barrier and the cured spray foam for enough fluffy insulation to reach R-49.

    Once that's all done, you can re-install your ducts -- if they fit.

  72. cview66 | | #72

    Response to Martin #72
    Yes I agree. i should have never trusted my builder and architect without digging into all of this further myself - months ago. My education has grown by volumes since reading articles on this site and others - only too late. (I would have never gone with the low slope roof if I knew what I know now.) How is it that virtually no one seems to understand these dynamics (I've talked to numerous builders, architects, and roofers locally)? Nevertheless, the duct work was placed above the ceiling on the 2nd floor after I decided to put a separate zoned furnace and a/c system on the 2nd floor (from advice from articles on this website) instead of the builder's proposal to put in one large HVAC system with long duct runs, electronic baffles and zones - in the basement - for all floors. So that "smart" decision, in turn, has totally complicated my roof insulation situation. Lesson learned the hard way. But where else could I have put the ducts for the 2nd floor zone- this was the only option I was given.

    In any case - the spray foam can be applied above the flex ducts without issue. I have 8" above those in the 16 " truss bays. What I don't understand is the air barrier. So you are saying that all of my ducts - supply and return air - should have been put in a soffit below my 16" high attic, by lowering the ceiling (which we already did in the 2 bathrooms and laundry/furnace room)? (and If i lowered the ceiling in other rooms I coud achieve this.) And then foam should have been applied first - and then drywall should have been attached to the bottom of those trusses to completely seal that attic space. And then the lights and hvac ducts go below in the soffit?

    At this point I am just looking at how to make the best of a bad situation.

    Alternatively I guess I could have the roofer install doghouses on the top of the roof and side vents in the walls above the fluffy insulation - to create a vented attic - but then I lose the insulatiing value of the polyiso on top and I still have the ducts to deal with?

  73. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #73

    Response to Michael Quinn
    Only you can decide what to do. I certainly recommend that anyone who is building a house with ducts should:
    (a) Make sure that the ducts are installed inside the home's conditioned space; and
    (b) Plan where the ducts will go at the design stage.

    Moving ducts at this stage can certainly be tricky.

    It's hard to know the best way to install an air barrier under your fluffy insulation layer without making a site visit and looking at your roof assembly.

  74. cview66 | | #74

    response to #74
    Thank you. Conditioning this attic space would not be an appropriate option in this case - via the use of foam under the sheathing, and a "loose" ceiling? I think I may be confusing the techniques.

  75. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #75

    This is tough without the visual...
    If the ducts are surrounded by fiber insulation a duct leak could insert a disasterous amount of moisture behind the air barrier & vapor retarder over the course of a winter. If encapsulated in open cell foam they really can't.

    If you don't have an air barrier fairly tight to the interior side of the fiberglass it's too risky. Installing the air-barrier on the interior side of the 16" trusses it leaves a huge bypass/convection channel behind the air barrier, potentially thwarting it's function if it ever develops an air leak.

    Filling the trusses full of fiber it would limit the convection rates due to the air-retardency of the fiber, but you'd be at R55-R60 below the roof deck, which would require proportionally more R above the roof deck.

    Have you painted yourself into a tight enough corner yet?

    With 2" of cc foam against the roof deck you have sufficient vapor retardency to fully protect the roof deck, then it becomes a matter of limiting the amount of moisture in the fiber. If you can move the ducts outside the trusses you can fill the rest up with cellulose blown in netting, and apply MemBrain detailed as an air barrier on the interior side of the trusses. It wouldn't meet the letter of code, but it would be pretty safe. The cellulose would redistribute and buffer any moisture that got by the MemBrain, but can release it more quickly than it takes it on. When the roof deck warms up in spring since the MemBrain becomes vapor open as the cellulose released it's adsorbed moisture into the cavity air on warmer hours of the day, raising the relative humidity to well over 50% for those hours. The high cavity-air humidity opens up the "smart" vapor retarder. When the cavity air moisture is re-adsorbed overnight in early spring the vapor retarder becomes vapor tight again taking on very little extra moisture from the conditioned space air. It dries nearly an order of magnitude faster than it takes on moisture under those conditions.

    This can work with air-tight can lights sealed tightly to the MemBrain, but isn't a great idea if the ducts are in the insulation layer. There are some pretty low-profile LED surface-mountable fixtures that might be easier & better than sticking with the recessed light approach.

    If the ducts can't move 2" of closed cell foam, against the entire roof deck, followed by 8-9" of open cell foam (installed in two lifts) gets you to code min in a less-risky fashion than using an air-permeable fiber. The open cell foam would load up with some moisture where it meets the closed cell foam over a winter, but if you keep it under 35% RH in the winter it won't load up too much. If you wanted to guarantee that it doesn't load up much, you could flip the stackup, and install the open cell directly against the roof deck with 2" of closed cell applied to the interior of the open cell, but the open cell foam surface won't be very smooth, and it's hard to get the thickness of the closed cell right if going that route- it's not really a great solution.

    There's no easy way out, but don't pull the trigger on any of it until you've really thought this out and priced it out. None of the options are cheap, and a rushed decision at this point could cost quite a lot to rectify later. Finding somewhere else for the ducts would be great if you can, since it simplifies the rest, making it more likely that it'll be done well.

  76. cview66 | | #76

    Response to 76
    Thank you again Dana. I will definitely look at moving the insulated 6" flex supply ducts out of the truss bays but the uninsulated (so far) metal trunk and return ducts are in a soffit under/attached to the bottom of the trusses in 3 small rooms. Those would be much harder to move. What if I forgo the fiber bats altogether and just use the cc and oc foam to reach my r value across the whole roof (more in the back where the polyiso is lowest). ...And as u suggest in your first paragraph - encapsulate the ducts in the foam as well. I could also replace the can lights with flush lights.

  77. cview66 | | #77

    Response to 76
    Ps I will post a pic

  78. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #78

    Just use spray foam?
    Considering the way you have painted yourself into a corner with this roof assembly, just going to 100% spray foam may be the best solution.

  79. cview66 | | #79

    Response to 79
    Agreed. Thank you both.

  80. BrianIndy | | #80

    Builder Installed Insulation

    I wanted to get you to weigh in the situation we have in a new house where things are already closed up. We have a low sloped roof built with tapered trusses that vary in depth from probably about 14" to maybe 24" at the high end. The roof assembly is unvented. There is 2" of rigid insulation installed over the entire roof surface and the builder then installed 12" of r-38 batt insulation at the ceiling level (not the underside of the roof decking). It also appears that the side walls of the attic are not insulated above the 12" batt insulation line. The ceiling is penetrated by some can lights and a skylight. We are trying to determine if this condition is satisfactory for our Indiana climate and if it will cause any problems down the line. If not, we are trying to determine the best, most minimal approach to remedying the situation. Any input would be much appreciated.

  81. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #81

    Response to Brian Burtch
    Your builder made a number of errors. It's up to your builder to fix these errors, at the builder's expense.

    If the builder wants to use a combination of rigid foam insulation above the roof sheathing and air-permeable insulation underneath the roof sheathing as part of an unvented approach, then the air-permeable insulation must be in direct contact with the roof sheathing. You can't leave a big air gap between the two insulation layers. This is a code requirement; according to the 2012 IRC, Section R806.5, "Air-impermeable and air-permeable insulation. The air-impermeable insulation shall be applied in direct contact with the underside of the structural roof sheathing as specified in Table R806.5 for condensation control."

    That was error #1.

    Error #2 was your builder's choice to install only 2 inches of rigid foam insulation above the roof sheathing. That is insufficient to keep the roof sheathing above the dew point in your climate zone. In Climate Zone 5, the building code requires this type of foam insulation to have a minimum R-value of R-20 (about 5 or 6 inches of EPS, 4 inches of XPS, or 3.5 inches of polyiso). This is a code requirement, so your builder's use of 2 inches of rigid foam is a code violation.

    Error #3 was the failure to insulate the attic walls.

    Errors #4 and #5 probably weren't code violations -- and in fact I'm speculating about them. But from a building science perspective (not a code perspective), the recessed can lights were a big mistake. (They are a cause of air leaks.) And I'm speculating that the skylight chase has insufficient wall insulation. (That's a guess.)

    The situation can be remedied from above or below. If you want to remedy the situation from above, the roofing can be removed and an adequate amount of rigid foam can be installed above the roof sheathing. That would be R-49 of rigid foam (about 12.5 or 14 inches of EPS, 10 inches of XPS, or about 8.5 inches of polyiso).

    If you want to remedy the situation from below, you'll need to demolish the ceiling and throw away the batts. Then install R-39 of spray foam against the underside of the roof sheathing.

    In either case -- whether you remedy the errors from above or below -- you'll need to insulate the attic walls.

    For more information on this topic, see How to Install Rigid Foam On Top of Roof Sheathing.

  82. BrianIndy | | #82

    Builder Installed Insulation

    I was pretty sure this was the case, but just wanted to confirm...sounds like we have some major fixing to do. Now, I have another question. If we were to do another house in the future, it would be sufficient to do R-20 foam above the roof deck with the remaining r-value to be batt insulation fastened to the underside of the decking, correct? Thank you again for the help.

  83. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #83

    Response to Brian Burtch
    Q. "If we were to do another house in the future, it would be sufficient to do R-20 foam above the roof deck with the remaining R-value to be batt insulation fastened to the underside of the decking, correct?"

    A. Yes. I would also recommend that you include a good air barrier directly below the fiberglass insulation -- something like gypsum drywall, Tyvek, or MemBrain.

  84. BrianIndy | | #84

    Builder Installed Insulation
    The challenge with the air barrier is the ceiling would likely be constructed with tapered trusses to achieve the slope needed for the flat roof drainage. I'm not sure we would be able to get a continuous air barrier directly below the fiberglass insulation because of these truss members interfering.

  85. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #85

    Response to Brian Burtch
    You wrote, "I'm not sure we would be able to get a continuous air barrier directly below the fiberglass insulation."

    All the more reason for choosing a better insulation system! Fiberglass batts have a lot of disadvantages.

    Ideally, the insulation details are determined at the planning stage, before any construction begins. It's important to specify trusses that are compatible with the type of insulation one prefers -- or, alternatively, to choose an insulation type that works well with the type of trusses one prefers.

  86. user-154926 | | #86

    Look before your leap
    I recently purchased a mid-century modern home with a leaking flat roof in Jacksonville, FL. My GC replaced it with a two layer product (Elastoflex SAV Base Sheet and Polyglass Modified Roofing). We discussed installing iso board insulation on top of the deck to insulate and add slope, but alas, this didn't happen, and I didn't realize he had pulled it from the proposal until after installation. Shame on me. The "attic" is vented around the entire exterior with soffit openings, but there is no doghouse to increase ventilation. Instead, the middle of the roof has a small hut atop that contains two air handlers and ductwork. I plan on air-sealing this hut and creating a conditioned space to reduce duct work sweating and increase general energy efficiency in the HVAC systems, but I'm unsure what to do with the remaining roof.

    Do I just live with poor insulation and keep the vented roof? I've pulled ceiling drywall down in several sections, and the original batt insulation if compressed, dirty, and covered with debris that the roofers dropped between gaps in the roofing deck. Is it worth cutting holes across the ceiling in order to blow in insulation? I'm afraid I may have no real options other than suffer the consequences of poor planning.


  87. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #87

    Response to Laramie Hartmann
    All of the different approaches to insulating a low-slope roof are described in my article.

    Apparently, you have a poorly insulated roof. If you want to beef up the insulation layer, you need to follow the advice given in the article.

    If you want a vented roof assembly, you need (a) to make sure that there is room in your attic to install a thick layer of new insulation, plus a minimum of 6 inches of space between the top of the insulation and the underside of the roof sheathing, and (b) you will have to install a cupola or doghouse as described in the article.

    If you can't do that because of lack of attic space, you will need to seal the attic vents and install insulation above your existing roofing. That would be painful, of course, because your roofing is new.

  88. Regulajo | | #88

    Low slope design with SIPS
    I'm designing a home with a low slope .5/12 or 1/12 unvented roof with exposed timber or gluelam beams inside, and possibly a SIPS roof in snow country, Heber, Utah at about 6,000 ft. elevation. The roof material will likely be a white Sika Sarnafil membrane.
    Do I need any level of Polyiso above the SIP panel and below the Sarnafil roofing, or what would you suggest in this application?

  89. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #89

    Response to Steve Wilson
    I don't have enough experience to answer your question definitively. If this were my roof, however, I would want to make sure that (a) the R-value of the SIPs at least meets minimum code requirements (R-49), and (b) that the SIP seams are carefully sealed on the interior with tape, as well as with spray foam, and (c) that there is a ventilation channel above the SIPs.

    I would consult with the SIP manufacturer to discuss the design of this roof.

    For more information on installing rigid foam above SIPs, see How to Make a SIP Roof Better.

  90. Regulajo | | #90

    ventilation channel above the SIPs.

    Thanks for your quick response. On your comment 'C' above, are you suggesting a 'cold roof' system, where furring strips are placed on top of the sips OSB and then another layer of OSB on the furring strips with the roofing material on top of that, thereofore leaving a channel where air can move freely?

    I will also get all the info from the SIPs manufacture I can as per your suggestion.

    Thanks again,

  91. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #91

    Response to Steve Wilson
    Yes, I am suggesting a cold roof. I've heard too many reports of SIP failures -- SIPs with rotten OSB at the seams, especially near the roof ridge -- to advocate installing a SIP roof in a cold climate without ventilation channels above the SIPs. The ventilation channels provide a margin of safety, reducing the chance of OSB rot.

  92. Trishamegan | | #92

    Mushroom Vents
    Hi Martin. I hope I can pick your brain on this one...We have a row house in Chicago. The drawing indicate (it seems it was built as drawn) that we have a 1/4" per foot modified bitumen roof. We don't have soffits or ridges (just parapets on three sides and a gutter along the back). The roof structure is min 16" wood roof trusses at the low gutter end and they get bigger at the front. We have R49 Green Fiber blown in cellulose insulation in the trusses. There is no vapor barrier (as the insulation suggested) and there is two layers of 5/8" drywall at the ceiling. We have mushroom vents at 1 sq. ft. of net free area for every 300 sq. ft. of attic floor space. My questions are: 1) I've read online that we need 1sf vent for 150 sf of floor space but there is an exception if you vent ridges and soffits and have a vapor barrier it can be 1:300. It doesn't really address flat roofs. Do you typically see the 1:300 on flat roofs like the drawings indicate? and would adding more vents be better? 2) The parapets are so low (typically 6") that we can't add rigid and keep the min parapet height required by code and to make things worse I don't think zoning would allow us to add a doghouse if it was taller than the parapets because the building already had to get a zoning height exception. 3) If all we have are the mushroom vents, is there any requirements about where they should be located on a flat roof? The drawings didn't show their locations (only the net vent area required). Thanks in advance!

  93. TJMdesigns | | #93

    Low Slope Venting
    In Michigan, the issue our firm has run into on commercial projects (R-2, type 5A multi-family) is in regard to section 1203.2 "Attic Spaces" of the 2012 IBC. Multiple jurisdictions have indicated that even though we are utilizing 4" or more of polyiso rigid insulation on the exterior side of the roof sheathing (low slope roof) the 24" open web/ parallel chord roof trusses form an attic space and they have been requiring us to vent the low slope application. What w have been doing is using intake and exhaust vents similar to the Air Vent Pop Vent and Aura Vent to provide the required intake and exhaust. It our professional opinion that when providing the insulation on the outside of the roof sheathing this is not required, however the AHJ seems to differ in opinion. What are your thoughts?

  94. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #94

    Response to Tim Miller
    4 inches of polyiso has an R-value of R-20 to R-24, amounts that will work in southern Michigan -- but only if you install an additional interior layer of about R-29 of insulation on the interior side of the roof sheathing. You didn't tell us whether you are doing that. The interior insulation needs to be in direct contact with the underside of the roof sheathing.

    This type of roof is an unvented roof assembly. Obviously, it makes no sense to introduce cold exterior air on the interior side of your insulation layer -- so your local building department is wrong.

    You may also be wrong, however, if you have (a) forgotten to install any interior insulation, or (b) installed the insulation on the attic floor, with an air space between the top of the interior insulation and the roof sheathing.

    Note that the attic walls also need insulation.

  95. downjerseyarch | | #95

    ducts in unvented roof
    I'm working on a 4 story wood frame building with low slope roof trusses. We are putting all the insulation on the plywood roof deck (rigid foam insulation). We are using an air-tight drywall approach for the ceiling air barrier on the underside of the trusses. I can't seem to find any info on any advantages/disadvantages to putting the ducts in the truss space vs. in soffits under the drywall ceiling. Have there been any studies into possible losses, inefficiencies in placing the ductwork in the truss space? I can't locate anything, except some vague cathedral ceiling graphic which seems to indicate about a 2% efficiency loss, but I don't know where that number came from. Thank you.

  96. Phildm | | #96

    Re-Roof insulation upgrade advice
    My late '60's flat roof, 2 story home is getting to the point of needing roof maintenance. It currently has an EDPM roof with no added external insulation as far as I know. There is no attic. As far as I can tell there is fiberglass insulation between the ceiling joists which I would guess are 2x8. The attic is "vented". This consists of some slots under the soffit. I do not know of anything else.

    I have 3 plastic bubble skylights. They are great for light but not much else. I would like to upgrade those as part of any repairs. Some fixed Velux ones seem a good option.

    During the humid part of Indiana summer (zone 4/5) it "rains" in the bathroom on the second floor and in the middle of the house. Obviously reaching dew point. We live in a woods and do not have to use AC much. Have not seen other issues.

    First off, I would seal off the soffit vents. Then I am looking at 2 options.
    1. adding 4 inches of Polyiso outside and going back with some kind of rubber roof
    2. Using SPF to get both insulation and re-roof.

    I appreciate any relevant questions or considerations I need to take into account. I figure now is the time to start shopping. Thanks in advance for your expertise.

  97. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #97

    The polyiso solution is greener.
    3lb spray polyurethane is blown with a high global warming potential HFC245fa (about 1000x CO2). Polyiso is blown with pentane (about 7x CO2).

    At 4" the polyiso would be in the R22-ish range. With R20+ above the roof deck it would be fine to fill the 2x8 bays full-up with blown fiber insulation and close off the venting, so long as there isn't a true vapor barrier on the interior side, such as 6 mil polyethylene.

  98. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #98

    Response to Phil Mason (Comment #97)
    Either approach will work from a building science perspective. If you choose to install spray polyurethane foam, you are correct: the spray foam, if installed above the roof sheathing, can act as both insulation and roofing. (Of course, your spray foam contractor has to choose a roofing foam for this application, and the cured foam has to be protected from sunlight with a liquid-applied coating or a layer of small stones).

    Dana Dorsett is correct that, from an environmental and "green building" perspective, the polyiso option is preferable to the spray foam option.

  99. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #99

    Response to Kenneth O'Brien (Comment #96)
    Q. "I can't seem to find any info on any advantages/disadvantages to putting the ducts in the truss space vs. in soffits under the drywall ceiling."

    A. If all of your insulation is above the roof sheathing, and if you have a roofing membrane above the insulation, then you already have an airtight insulated roof assembly. It's perfectly OK to put the ducts in the "attic" (truss space) if you want, since these ducts are inside the home's thermal envelope. You don't have to build interior soffits.

    Note that your drywall ceiling doesn't even have to be airtight. After all, your roof assembly is already airtight.

    Remember to insulate the "walls" of your attic -- in other words, the "rim joist area" of your roof trusses.

  100. qthisup | | #100

    How far should the rigid foam extend past the wall elevation
    Our planned low slope (1:12) roof will have 2' overhangs on three sides and a 6' overhang on the front elevation. For ease of install we'd probably cover the entire 2' overhangs with the rigid foam, however is there any merit/need in covering the larger 6' overhang with foam as well?
    Or could one bring the insulation beyond the vertical elevation of the underlying exterior wall insulation (in our case R6 Roxol over sheathing) and level the roof with with 2x timber to the level of the adjacent rigid foam.
    This would essentially result in a hollow unvented and uninsulated space sandwiched between the soffit (Cedar T&G) and top roof sheathing (ply). The top roof sheathing will likely be covered in torch on or EPDM.
    Thanks very much for your thoughts.

    [Editor's note: To read the answer to this comment, and to read subsequent comments, advance to page 3 by clicking on the number 3 below.]

  101. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #101

    Response to Quinn Sievewright
    Q. "Could one bring the insulation beyond the vertical elevation of the underlying exterior wall insulation (in our case R-6 Roxul over sheathing) and level the roof with with 2x timber to the level of the adjacent rigid foam?"

    A. Yes, you could do that.

    -- Martin Holladay

  102. qthisup | | #102

    Thanks Martin.

  103. Jon_R | | #103

    Unvented question: I get that
    Unvented question: I get that adding the right amount of rigid foam over moisture susceptible sheathing keeps the sheathing warm and so minimizes or eliminates condensation at the sheathing (caused primarily by exfiltrating air). But then I see references to then adding a second layer of moisture susceptible sheathing immediately over the foam, with no ability to dry to the exterior (and very little to the interior). Doesn't this revert to the same issue (eg, cold, wet, rotting OSB)?

  104. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #104

    Response to Jon R
    The upper layer of sheathing is not as vulnerable to accumulating moisture for a simple reason: it's almost impossible for warm, humid interior air to come in contact with this upper layer of sheathing.

    The lower layer of sheathing, on the other hand, is vulnerable, because warm humid interior air can contact it in the winter.

    That said, some builders (especially builders in climates where ice dams are frequent) like to install a ventilation channel directly below the top layer of sheathing. This approach certainly works: it helps keep the sheathing cold during the winter (reducing the chance of ice dams) and it allows the upper layer of sheathing to dry to the exterior if it ever gets damp.

    The usual method for creating such a ventilation channel is to install 2x4s on the flat, 16 inches o.c. or 24 inches o.c., laid from the soffit to the ridge (typically, with each 2x4 above a rafter). The 2x4s are installed above the rigid foam, below the top layer of roof sheathing. This creates a ventilation channel that is 1.5 inches high.

    -- Martin Holladay

  105. Jon_R | | #105

    Thanks. So the assumption
    Thanks. So the assumption is that there is no exfiltrating air (which would bring interior air into contact with the cold upper OSB) and no fluttering roof membrane (pumping interior air in and out). Sounds reasonable (but perhaps best avoided anyway) in the case of a fully adhered membrane - sounds questionable in all other cases.

  106. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #106

    Response to Jon R
    Jon R,
    If you follow the recommendations provided on the GBA site, you'll have an air barrier under the rigid foam, and you'll probably tape the seams of the rigid foam (or install the rigid foam in two layers with staggered seams).

    So, unless you are an unusually sloppy installer, fluttering roofing membranes aren't going to pull indoor air through the foam to contact the upper layer of roof sheathing. Nor will there be any exfiltrating air.

    Again and again, GBA articles emphasize: the key to a long-lasting insulated roof assembly is an airtight ceiling.

    -- Martin Holladay

  107. Michelle Kilgore | | #107

    We want to try the "somewhat" controversial approach
    We have a 1960s split level, just outside of Philadelphia. One of the attic spaces is 34’ long x 18’ wide. It has a low slope roof where the tallest part is 3.5 feet sloping down to about 4 or 5 inches. A good 8 feet is not accessible. It is ventilated: a ridge vent running the length, 2 gable vents and “fascia vents”—i.e. where the roof meets the fascia board there is a gap in some of the bays. We are in the process of air sealing the accessible parts. The roof was replaced 3 years ago. At the time, we did not have the benefit of the knowledge we have gained here at GBA, so there is no rigid foam on the roof sheathing or any of the other measures that would have been optimal. So, we are in a position to only do as good as we can. I read this article and we are hoping to try the "(somewhat) controversial approach"—to add dense-pack cellulose for the 8 feet that is not accessible, and then add loose-fill cellulose up to R49. My questions: Do we need to add ventilation baffles on the side that we dense-pack or is it okay if the cellulose is touching the roof sheathing? Do we need to worry about blocking the “fascia vents” with this method? The 2 gable vents will be mostly covered by insulation so I was thinking of boxing them out with insulation board to keep some of the ventilation and to minimize wind washing —will that work? Are there any tips or tricks or products for air sealing top plates and other intrusions in super tight spaces without going from the outside, or from the space below? I was thinking that a Dow FrothPak could work but I doubt that we could do a thorough job from 8 feet away. Thank you in advance.

  108. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #108

    Response to Michelle K
    Q. "Do we need to add ventilation baffles on the side that we dense-pack or is it okay if the cellulose is touching the roof sheathing?"

    A. The side that is dense-packed all the way up to the roof sheathing can't possible benefit from ventilation openings. If there are any ventilation openings on that side of your roof, they will be blocked -- either deliberately, by carefully air sealing them before the insulation truck arrives, or accidentally, once the attic is dense-packed.

    On the other side of the attic, as stated in my article, ventilation openings above the top of the insulation -- as many openings as possible -- are a good idea.

  109. user-7067800 | | #109

    A (somewhat) controversial approach
    We own an apartment building with a flat roof in Chicago (climate zone 5). We have a roof tear off planned this summer. We will also have the attic space insulated with R-49 cellulose. The insulation contractor plans to do exactly what you describe in your section "A (somewhat) controversial approach".
    We have a cool roof (we painted it ourselves), and we will replace it with a cool roof. In 17 years we've had 2 or 3 incidents of condensation resulting in leaks into the top floor.
    To prevent condensation in the future, we are considering adding insulation to the roof layers (currently on the table is 4 inches for R-23). We would then not vent the attic space. Does this plan sound reasonable? If not, how can we adjust it to make it reasonable? It's a lot of extra money, but if there's a good chance it would reduce condensation, we may bite the bullet. TIA

  110. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #110

    Response to Judico
    Adding rigid foam above the roof sheathing will certainly move your roof assembly in the direction of safety.

    In Climate Zone 5, at least 41% of the total R-value of the roof assembly needs to come from the rigid foam layer for a safe installation. If the total R-value of the roof assembly is R-49, you would want R-20 rigid foam and R-29 of cellulose. That means you would have to remove some cellulose.

    If you leave the R-49 cellulose, you would need a lot of rigid foam to make the assembly work. You would need R-34 of rigid foam. That would give you a total roof R-value of R-83, with 41% of the total R-value coming from the rigid foam (since 34 is 41% of 83).

  111. JunPaul | | #111

    Thickness of top ply sheathing and XPS to rock wool seam
    Hello GBA,

    Thank you for this article. It and all the comments have been very useful.

    I'm building a warm deck over a living space. It is 3 feet deep and 30 feet wide running above the first floor on the southern edge of the house.

    -It has 1 inch ply sheathing over the joists with taped seams.
    -I plan to follow this with XPS, at a thickness suitable to my climate zone, with taped seams. (It was made without using the harmful blowing agents outlined on this website)
    - 3/8 ply sheathing screwed to the joists through the XPS
    - Glued down PCV single ply membrane with welded seams.

    I have two questions..

    Would 3/8 inch ply be suitable for light foot traffic- or should I use a thicker tongue and groove product.

    The XPS will overlap rock wool board used on the exterior of the walls. I can't tape this seam, however they will be compressed together by the (fascia) board screwed to the beams and top layer of deck sheathing nailed down to the fascia. Would this be okay? Or should XPS be used for the last bit of insulation at the junction where the wall meets the deck?

  112. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #112

    Response to User-6877107
    User 687etc.,
    First of all, can you tell us your name?

    Membrane roofing is not a walking surface. If you want a walking surface, you'll need to install sleepers above the roofing, followed by some type of deck. You'll find articles on this type of deck with a little Googling.

    I think that 3/8 inch plywood is too thin, but you should contact the manufacturer of the roofing membrane to determine their requirements for a cover board.

    I don't understand how the XPS on your roof will "overlap" the mineral wool on your walls. I think you'll need to post a sketch to clarify your question.

  113. JunPaul | | #113

    Martin, Thank you kindly for
    Martin, Thank you kindly for your reply.

    I'm Paul. Sorry for leaving out some important information.

    The PVC is a 2mm single ply membrane that is specified for light foot traffic .

    The deck itself is essentially a warm roof over a the first floor. The second floor roof cantilevers over it, protecting it from most of the rain.

    So the manufacturer recommends a 9mm thick board made from a mix mineral fiber and volcanic sand. It functions much like ply, but doesn't burn as easily. Here, in Japan, some houses are sheathed with it. Locally made ply here is much cheaper and readily available. Would 2 layers of 9mm ply staggered protect the xps from compressing under foot traffic?

    By overlap, I mean where the XPS from the roof meets the supporting wall. It has exterior rock wool board. The vapour barrier above the roof sheathing is attached to the vapour control layer . On this website it seems that usually exterior insulating foam is taped at the seam where the walls meet the roof but taping XPS to rock wool board isn't possible. Would this cause any problems?

    I have attached an simple sketch of the roof. It doesn't include the smaller details such as drip edges.


  114. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #114

    Response to Paul (Comment #114)
    If your house is in Japan, I don't think I can be of any help to you. Building materials available in Japan may be totally different from materials available in the U.S.

    Concerning the coverboard that is required under your membrane roofing, you should follow the installation instructions provided by the roofing manufacturer.

    I don't see any particular problem with the way that your rigid foam overlaps the mineral wool.

  115. JunPaul | | #115

    Thank you Martin,

    Thank you Martin,

    I understand your point about the building materials- many of the materials are different and some are the same- regardless of this, I very much enjoy reading and learning from information posted here.

  116. user-7034460 | | #116

    Venting roof without Cupola and relatively small depth

    Kind of a nuanced situation here. We have a family home in the Florida Keys (Zone 1) that had damage with the latest hurricane and one section of roof was redone in the old tar and gravel method. I know we should have insulated the roof deck but did not. The plaster below was completely destroyed and we are going to either use drywall or tongue-in-groove for the ceiling. The roof structure is deck boards above 3x6 beams. There is a 2x material used as facia all around this roof and there are not currently vents.

    The nuanced aspect is that this is a vacation home where the house is largely unconditioned - i would say 95% of the time there is no AC being used. The beams are not water damaged in any way from the roof leak nor are there signs of moisture issues (mold, etc). I'm wondering if it is worth it to add insulation. We could use mineral wool (typical 2x4 size) that would fill around half of the cavity and then add venting in each bay but I'm wondering if there is enough air flow across a flat space because cutting a cupola doesn't seem to make sense in a brand new flat roof. We haven't had problems with moisture damage as you can see but it does get extremely hot there and they are the bedrooms, so we are looking to help the space without causing damage.

    I know this is not an ideal scenario, but most remodeling scenarios are not. Any help in direction would be appreciated. -Rick

  117. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #117

    Response to User-7034460
    User 703etc.,
    First of all, can you tell us your name?

    Insulation in Florida ceilings is a code requirement. Of course, many older homes aren't in compliance with building codes. But if you post a question on GBA, asking, "Should I install insulation in my uninsulated roof," I'm going to answer "yes." It's the right thing to do, for you as well as the next owner of the house.

    If you can't afford to insulate your roof assembly, and you choose to crank up the air conditioner when necessary instead of installing insulation, that's your choice (as long, of course, as your home is in compliance with local regulations).

    If you want to insulate this type of roof assembly -- which is too shallow to vent -- from the interior, your only choice is to install closed-cell spray foam on the underside of the roof sheathing.

  118. user-7034460 | | #118

    RE: Venting roof without Cupola and relatively small depth Read
    Hi Martin,

    My name is Rick. I updated my profile so hopefully that gets put on the posts.

    Your answer regarding insulation is precisely why I am here. I would like to make the house more comfortable without causing moisture issues. I simply was supplying pictures showing that we have had zero moisture damage with the existing unvented roof assembly even with a major roof leak. Also, I think you may have misinterpreted what I was saying regarding AC use. The fact of the matter is that efficiency and economy aside, the AC is simply not effective in the summer even if you crank it.

    As an aside, we just got finished reroofing an older cathedral ceiling on a different property where the roof assembly was not vented, where they used a vapor barrier, and where the roof deck was completely rotted because of this. I consulted your article here ( and used site-built baffles out of XPS. Anyways, this has made me concerned about not merely insulating a structure, but insulating it correctly.

    I will look into closed cell foam installers or look into DIY kits I have come across in the past. However, are there any other remedies that would work? What about using ridgid foam such as XPS (something like this: I understand that R-30 is code but perhaps this could be something installed more easily - a 4" sheet with a 2" sheet would create R-30 (see

    Thank you for helping and providing a forum to discuss issues like this.

  119. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #119

    Response to Rick Ramirez
    The articles on GBA are all consistent: If you want to insulate this type of roof from the interior, your only choice is closed-cell spray foam. Once you have at least a portion of the R-value installed as closed-cell spray foam, you can complete the job using the flash-and-batt method if you want.

    If you want to use rigid foam, the rigid foam must be installed on the exterior side of the roof sheathing, not the interior. That means you'll need a second layer of roof sheathing and new roofing.

    In case you missed the articles that explain this -- even though the article where you posted this comment explain these facts -- I'll post links to more articles so that you understand the consistency of GBA advice on this topic.

    How to Build an Insulated Cathedral Ceiling

    How to Install Rigid Foam On Top of Roof Sheathing

    Flash-and-Batt Insulation

  120. nof60 | | #120

    I have a question regarding adding roof insulation to an older modular home in northern Canada, zone 8. This house currently has two roofs. The first roof is the original roof that came with the house. It has a very small slope and made of tin. There is currently batt insulation of unknown R value (put probably 10) between the ceiling and this first roof. The house underwent some remodelling at some point to give it a gable roof. I recently found out that this gable roof has no insulation and has small number of small soffit vents and nothing else. There is enough room between the two roofs to enter this space by cutting a small hole in the gable roof.
    Condensation builds up on the underside of the first roof. I want to add insulation to increase the R-value of the roof (to reduce heating costs) and also eliminate the condensation. Please see the drawing for an elevation schematic of my roofs.
    1. Where should the insulation be placed?
    2. Should I be looking to improve the ventilation of the second roof or consider the entire assembly as an unvented roof?

  121. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #121

    Since this is a low-slope roof, it is best treated as an unvented assembly, for the reasons provided in the article on this page.

    The best approach would be to cover the top side of the old roofing with closed-cell spray polyurethane foam -- as thick a layer as you can afford. If you take this advice, make sure to seal up any soffit vents with closed-cell spray foam as well.

  122. nof60 | | #122

    Thanks Martin for your response. Can I cut and cobble the top side of the old roof (including the soffits) instead?
    If I understand the article well, I would avoid putting poly on the ceiling if I do some ceiling renovations to make sure the ceiling dries inwards, correct?
    Thanks again. It's very interesting to read these articles.

  123. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #123

    Your metal roofing -- it's probably steel roofing, not tin -- can be covered with rigid foam insulation if you want. Your use of the term "cut-and-cobble" surprised me -- that term is usually reserved for jobs where the insulation is installed between framing members. Then I realized that there may be framing members installed on top of the metal roofing. Is that the case?

    If you go that route, you need to make sure that the rigid foam is protected from squirrels and other rodents. Seal up any vents to keep out the critters.

    1. nof60 | | #124

      You are correct Martin. The new roof was build on top of the old roof with 2x4 framing. I assume this was done to make the house look more "stick-built".
      XPS would work in this case because I want the roof insulation to be as air impermeable as possible, correct? It shouldn't be a problem to keep the rodents out since they currently have no way in. I discovered the roof construction not too long ago when I was removing the wood stove chimney after having installed a pellet stove.

  124. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #125

    Any of the three most common types of rigid foam -- EPS, polyiso, or XPS -- will be air-impermeable. Green builders try to avoid the use of XPS, however, because it is manufactured with a blowing agent that has a high global warming potential. For more information, see "Choosing Rigid Foam."

  125. OldDuplux | | #126

    Hi Martin et. al., I'm benefiting from the good discussion on this page. I want to describe my situation to get a second opinion on my plan to take advantage of the opportunity a new roof provides my situation.

    I own and live in a four-unit house that was built as a duplex in the 1890s in Burlington, Vermont. The roof is sloped about 4-5 degrees to the south in a single pitch. At some point, additions were made to the south side of the house that continued the original roof line lower. The attic is perhaps 40 inches tall at the north side, 16" at the original back of the house, and 2" at the back of the additions. 10 years ago, the low income weatherization program spent a couple of days air sealing the attic and a couple more in the rest of the house and the blew cellulose in the walls and the attic: dense pack in the short part of the attic and R-50 where they had enough height to do that. There are two small vents on the attic walls near the tall side of the attic.

    I plan to use EPDM for the new roof. If I'm understanding things correctly, I can reduce the risk of my existing attic by adding polyiso on top of the roof sheathing under the EPDM. Based on the table I need R-25 of foam, but I think I may need more because I have more fluffy insulation in the attic than shown in the table, reducing the warming of the sheathing. So I am thinking of R-25 to R-30, and removing the vents. There is no specific air or vapor barrier membranes, but as I said the ceiling/attic floor was sealed, and that issue is kept in mind when working with the few ceiling lights. Is this basically a good approach? Is it required or beneficial to fill the remaining attic space with more cellulose? Or at least pile it up along the walls?

    One quote came with a reasonably priced option to remove the existing roofing and I plan to do that, to see if there are any existing problems and to reduce the load on the old, over-stressed rafters. Since my existing situation may be vulnerable to moisture, I expected to use black EPDM for its drying potential, but with all that polyiso, I doubt the low angle winter sun can get heat through the insulation to the sheathing. I would think that white EPDM's smaller temperature swings would be a small benefit to durability and moisture issues, as would its lower emissivity. The insulation would also reduce the summer cooling effect of the white, but I like the idea of lower material temperatures in the summer when the sun's angle of incidence is much higher anyway.

  126. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #127

    If you follow through with your plan, you're going to end up with a roof that doesn't quite meet any model for a correctly insulated low-slope roof. In theory, if you want to combine rigid foam above the sheathing with fluffy insulation below the sheathing, you need the fluffy insulation to be in contact with the roof sheathing. You don't want any attic air between the fluffy insulation and the rigid foam.

    That said, my gut tells me that your oddball roof will be safe -- especially if the weatherization crew did a good job of air sealing the ceiling, and especially if you make sure that all the attic vents are carefully sealed.

  127. tkrueger | | #131


    I have a question regarding my current flat roof situation in SW Colorado... The current assembly from the exterior side to the interior is as follows: 60mil Gray TPO over OSB over tapered polyiso then OSB roof sheathing over 14" I joists. The underside of the roof sheathing has 1.5"-2" of closed cell spray foam (building inspector wanted an air barrier for an unvented roof) and then an R-38 batt then 1/2" drywall.

    The roof has been performing fine until a recent roof leak at the overflow drain. I noticed some interior drywall seam damage due to some water and dug into things... I have found that due to the slow leak at the overflow drain 1) the exterior OSB was saturated and 2) due to some interior dripping I removed some of the CC spray foam to find that the interior OSB roof sheathing was wet/slightly moldy in an approx. 2' radius around the leak, the balance of the OSB looked fine. Right now things on the interior have been demo'd and are being left open to dry and mitigate the mold. Given the assembly and what I've encountered how do you suggest I proceed and re-construct these areas?

  128. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #132

    In Southwest Colorado, you could be in Climate Zone 5, 6, or 7. (Here is a link to the climate zone map if you want to determine your climate zone.)

    The minimum required R-value for your foam insulation layer (in your case, that would be the thinnest part of the tapered polyiso plus the 1.5 inch of closed-cell spray foam -- something like R-20 if the polyiso tapers down to 1.5 inch, but it might be less or more) depends on your climate zone.

    Currently, about 34% of your total roof R-value comes from the polyiso plus spray foam. That would be adequate if you lived in Zone 4A or 4B, but it won't work in zones 5, 6, or 7, where the foam layers need to provide a minimum of 41%, 51%, or 61% of the total roof R-value, respectively.
    (For more information, see this article: "Combining Exterior Rigid Foam With Fluffy Insulation.")

    Fixing that problem at this point is expensive, unfortunately.

    Concerning your roof leak, the repair is routine: Cut out the rotten roof sheathing and patch the area with new sheathing. Then replace the damaged rigid foam (if any), and replace the missing spray foam with canned spray foam.

  129. tkrueger | | #133

    I am in climate zone 5. To clarify- on the interior in addition to the 1.5" CC spray foam there is also an R38 fiberglass batt. This hybrid insulation system fills the 14" I joist cavity. Given this do you see other potential issues with the overall assembly as constructed?

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #134

      The potential problems are the following: moisture accumulation, mold, and rot. You need to perform one of the the following actions to correct the ratio problem:

      l. Add more rigid foam above the sheathing. This will require new roofing.

      2. Add more closed-cell spray foam under the sheathing. This will require demolition of the ceiling and temporary removal of the fiberglass.

      3. Remove the R-38 batts and replace the batts with thinner batts having a maximum R-value of R-29. This will require demolition of the ceiling.

      The basic problem is that your foam layers aren't thick enough to keep the first condensing surface above the dew point during the winter.

  130. tkrueger | | #135

    I guess the goal of all options is to obtain the correct foam to fiberglass ratio of 41% in zone 5. In option 2 if you add more foam I assume you would decrease the batt r value? Or do enough foam to eliminate a batt all together? If that's the case option 3 seems more desireable- keep the foam as is and decrease the batt. I'm guessing that batt would want to be held up and in contact with the underside of the spray foam?


    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #136

      Yes -- if you install a thinner batt, you need to come up with a way to keep the batt in direct contact with the cured spray foam.

  131. jollygreenshortguy | | #137

    Martin, I really appreciate that you're still responding to comments on this great article. My question/comment is regarding the 5th bullet point under "What if you don’t want to depend on roof venting?"
    I've done this approach on several "vaulted" sloped roofs, 2-4" or sprayed close cell foam on the underside of the sheathing, with fiberglass batt up against it. I'm happy with it.
    I'd like to use the same approach on a low slope roof with a walkable deck with plywood sheathing. But I'm concerned because the roofing membrane (TPO or EPDM) is a vapor barrier on top of the sheathing, and the spray insulation is a vapor barrier on the underside. So the sheathing is sandwiched between vapor barriers. This problem doesn't arise with sloped roofs because the roofing felt and shingles enable the sheathing to dry outwards.
    Is my concern valid?

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #138

      The approach you are using is called "flash-and-batt." For more information, see this article: "Flash-and-Batt Insulation."

      The article provides the minimum R-value of the closed-cell spray foam layer specified in the building code; this minimum R-value depends on your climate zone. Note that if you are only installing 2 inches of closed-cell spray foam (about R-13), you had better be working in Climate Zones 1 through 3 or Zone 4C. If you are working in Zone 4 A, 4B, or anywhere colder, you need thicker spray foam to avoid moisture problems (and to comply with code requirements).

      You are under a misapprehension if you think that in an unvented roof assembly, the roof sheathing when covered with roofing felt and asphalt shingles can dry to the exterior. It can't. Roofing felt and asphalt shingles prevent outward drying. If you are pleased with the flash-and-batt results you get with asphalt shingle roofs, you'll get the same results with TPO or EPDM membrane roofing.

      1. AntonioB | | #139

        Martin, thanks for the clarification about vapor permeability of the shingle/felt assembly. So the sandwiching of plywood roof sheathing between 2 vapor impermeable layers is not a concern? I have not seen any issues on the sloped assemblies I've done, as mentioned in my first comment.

  132. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #140

    Q. "So the sandwiching of plywood roof sheathing between 2 vapor impermeable layers is not a concern?"

    A. Many builders prefer to specify a roof assembly that allows the roof sheathing to dry inward. In the case of an unvented roof assembly, this can be accomplished by installing an adequately thick layer of continuous rigid foam on the exterior side of the roof sheathing.

    If, for whatever reason, you prefer the flash-and-batt approach to the approach I just subscribed, you'll end up with roof sheathing that can't dry in either direction. That's not ideal, but (a) it's done all the time, (b) it seems to work well, as long as the sheathing is dry on the day that the spray foam contractor encapsulates the sheathing.

  133. Jon_R | | #141

    > So the sheathing is sandwiched between vapor barriers.
    > between 2 vapor impermeable layers

    Not even close. <= .1 perms defines a vapor barrier and impermeable. Figure at least 6x (wet perms, whole assembly including on roof air movement) that for asphalt shingles with tar paper. In some cases, this is enough to make a difference.

    EPDM and TPO are actual vapor barriers.

    ccSPF isn't a vapor barrier (2" might even be Class III) and can provide some significant drying:

    1. Expert Member
      Dana Dorsett | | #142

      The Canadian IBC code definition of a "vapour barrier" is about an order of magnitude higher, about 1 US perm. The #15 felt example used in that first link isn't commonly used for roofs ( #30 felt is), but is a common underlayment for WALLS.

      The vapor permeance of a shingle & #30 felt layup can be pretty close to 0.1 perms even when dry, and there is no such thing drying through a rain/dew/snow wetted roof at any vapor permeance. The vapor permeance of asphalt shingles themselves is usually about 0.1 perms, so the permeance of the underlayment hardly matters, but it's more vapor tight with #30 felt than #15 felt. The amount of air space between shingles increases the average vapor permeance through the shingle layer, but it's still less than 0.2 perms for the stackup. One (among many) discussions of that lives here- see Table 3:

      Drying rates through sub 0.5-perm layers is glacially slow- slow enough to average out moisture gains/losses from interior moisture drives over whole seasons or a whole year, with very stable moisture content levels (until there is a roof leak.) The fraction of annual hours of drying toward the exterior in most locations is probably less than half, since even on clear nights with no rain the shingles often reach the outdoor dew point temperature, halting any drying potential at that temperature. And drying through sub 0.2 perm layups would be extremely slow even when there is no dew/rain/snow on the roof.

    2. jollygreenshortguy | | #148

      Jon, thanks for the reply. The fundamental issue I'm getting at is this.
      1. low-slope roof with plywood sheathing,
      2. sandwiched between an EPDM or TPO roofing membrane on top
      3. and enough ccSPF underneath to pose a significant resistance to inward drying. (BASF lists 0.35 perms for 4" of one of their ccSPF products. Potentially there could be up to 5". )

      Is there a potential for trapped moisture damage to the sheathing due to resistance to drying either out or in?

      I'm purposely not mentioning climate zone because I am looking for a solution that applies broadly, where only the relative amounts of ccSPF and batt insulation need vary.

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #149

        This is a topic for a blog I'm writing now, but the brief answer is, "This type of roof is built all the time, and won't be problematic, as long as the roof sheathing is dry on the day that the spray foam contractor installs the spray foam."

  134. Jon_R | | #143

    See below for appropriate felt perm values. The #15 to #30 difference is insignificant to the case being discussed.

    Owens Corning's report is titled "in ventilated attics" where we have similar measured in-situ data refuting it. Their dry cup testing isn't appropriate for unvented roof drying potential - which creates very different numbers. They also omitted major contributors to vapor movement - wind and thermal cycling. Maybe it's not surprising (they sell only low perm synthetic underlayment). They do write "industry standard 15-lb. felt ". For ROOFS.

  135. Homeowner_Chitown | | #144

    I have found this website to be very helpful especially to relatively new homeowners like me. I live in Chicago (CZ 5) and our home has a flat roof, surrounded by parapets - inside with engineered trusses, 18 inch space between roof deck and ceiling and only has fiberglass batts in between. There are 3 passive vents on the roof which I doubt are doing much to ventilate the space, no venting on perimeter. According to the guy who was subcontracted to do the roof, there is about 1 1/2 inches of rigid foam under the TPO (not sure how much on the lowest part of the roof where it tapers down towards the scuppers). Our home is a new build from 2014 and we have had small water stains on our ceiling (the last 2 winters) that we have pointed out to be caused by condensation after careful monitoring/observation. I have read a lot of articles online about how to properly insulate flat roofs and this article makes the best sense. I have 3 questions: 1) Do I need to air seal my ceiling plane if I go the route of converting to a "warm roof" e.g. adding more rigid foam insulation on my roof to at least R20 and add blown in fiberglass to attic (in direct contact with roof deck)? 2) If I have them pack the ceiling/roof cavity with fiberglass, do I still need to spray foam inside, around the short walls of my attic? (plus R20 above roof sheathing) And finally, 3) can somebody please recommend a builder/contractor/roofer/insulation company who will fix my problem according to building science principles as stated in this article? It can be very frustrating that there is such a disconnect between how to properly fix our homes based on science and what "reputable companies" with good reviews online recommending basically, wrong solutions. I have had 5 roofing companies and 3 insulation companies come and say either I do not have issues ("condensation is normal ", "your roof is perfect") and just blowing in either cellulose or fiberglass into my attic space and call it a day. Thank you!

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #145

      Q. "Do I need to air seal my ceiling plane if I go the route of converting to a 'warm roof'? (e.g. adding more rigid foam insulation on my roof to at least R-20 and add blown in fiberglass to attic (in direct contact with roof deck)?"

      A. Yes, air sealing the ceiling plane is always a good idea. It would also be essential for you to seal all of the roof vents you described.

      Q. "If I have them pack the ceiling/roof cavity with fiberglass, do I still need to spray foam inside, around the short walls of my attic?"

      A. If there are any exposed walls in your attic, they would need to be insulated on the interior. If the walls are entirely buried by fiberglass insulation, the spray foam would be unnecessary. Remember -- if you increase the depth of the fiberglass insulation on the interior side of the roof sheathing, you have to maintain the ratio of rigid foam R-value to "fluffy" R-value -- and that means you would probably have to thicken the rigid foam to keep your foam-to-fluffy ratio in a safe range (in order to keep your sheathing safe).

      Q. "Can somebody please recommend a builder/contractor/roofer/insulation company who will fix my problem according to building science principles as stated in this article?"

      A. Our web site maintains a "bulletin board" listing contractors -- but we haven't got any listings yet for the Chicago area. Good luck.

  136. Homeowner_Chitown | | #146

    Thank you for replying right away, Martin. I asked about air sealing because I thought if I went the warm roof route, and knowing I have a leaky ceiling plane that the attic somehow becomes part of the conditioned space and not air sealing will also allow for inward drying?

    Thank you for pointing out the rigid/fluffy insulation ratio. Now I need to figure out how to put R-29 of fluffy insulation in an 18 inch attic space.

    One final question: if I went the vented flat roof route, will doghouse vents alone on top of the roof suffice? (no perimeter vents?)

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #147

      Q. "I thought if I went the warm roof route, and knowing I have a leaky ceiling plane that the attic somehow becomes part of the conditioned space and not air sealing will also allow for inward drying?"

      A. Air leaks are always your enemy. If you want inward drying, you make sure that is possible by specifying vapor-permeable materials (like fiberglass insulation and drywall) -- not by failing to seal air leaks.

      Q. "If I went the vented flat roof route, will doghouse vents alone on top of the roof suffice? (no perimeter vents?)"

      A. Probably not. I wouldn't advocate cutting corners -- especially since you have water stains on your ceiling. If you want a vented roof assembly, you need (a) insulation that meets minimum R-values for your climate, and (b) an air gap of at least 6 inches from the top of the insulation and the underside of the roof sheathing, and (c) some perimeter vents, and (d) one or more cupola vents in the middle of the roof.

      To avoid the type of condensation problem that caused your ceiling stains, you also want an airtight ceiling. (Remember -- the problematic moisture entered your attic through air leaks in your ceiling.) If you have light fixtures in your ceiling, check those fixtures for air leaks.

  137. Homeowner_Chitown | | #150

    Thanks again Martin - one final question, as I am trying to find another option to fix my condensation issue: if I go the route of spraying closed cell foam onto my roof deck from inside - does it matter how thick the application will be (is 2-3 inches OK?) and then fill the rest of my 18 inch attic with fiberglass? Do I still need to follow ratio of rigid and fluffy insulation?

    I understand I still need to remove the passive roof vents and air seal my ceiling. This "may" be a better option for me since I need to take down my ceiling to do a better job at air sealing.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #151

      Q. "If I go the route of spraying closed cell foam onto my roof deck from inside - does it matter how thick the application will be?"

      A. Yes. You still have to follow the ratio rules, by adding the R-value of the foam layers (the R-value of the rigid foam above the roof sheathing, if any, plus the R-value of the closed-cell spray foam applied to the underside of the roof sheathing) and comparing that to the R-value of the fiberglass insulation (which will evidently be about R-60, depending on the density of the fiberglass).

      Q. "Is 2-3 inches [of closed-cell spray foam] OK?"

      A. Almost certainly not. In Zone 5, you're aiming to have at least 41% of the total R-value of your roof insulation in the form of either rigid foam, closed-cell spray foam, or a combination of these two types of foam. (For more information, see "Combining Exterior Rigid Foam With Fluffy Insulation.") If you have 1 inch of rigid foam above your roof sheathing -- I'm guessing, and I know that it's tapered -- that might be R-4 or R-5, depending on the type of rigid foam. Two inches of closed-cell spray foam would be R-13, and 3 inches would be about R-19. Add them together, and (assuming 3 inches of spray foam) you have a maximum of maybe R-24. Add that to the R-60 of fiberglass, and you have a total of R-84, of which only 29% is composed of foam. The roof fails.

      Q. "Do I still need to follow ratio of rigid and fluffy insulation?"

      A. Yes.

  138. fzzx | | #152

    We are trying to decide on the best approach to retrofit insulation in a 1930s Spanish-style home with a low-slope roof in climate zone 3 (southern California). The roof itself is also being replaced (with white TPO), so we have full access from the exterior to the attic space below. The depth of this attic space ranges between 24" and 10". There are vents in the attic walls, but no cupola/doghouse. The walls are stucco-clad with no sheathing.

    After reading this article and Martin's other article on old walls with no sheathing, we believed the safest approach would be to convert the attic to unvented, install rigid foam above the roof deck, and install rigid foam on the interior attic walls (maintaining an air gap between the insulation and the stucco).

    However, our contractor is concerned about leaving a dead air space in the attic, which is inside the thermal envelope but does not communicate with the conditioned space of the home. He recommends installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation to fill the attic space to a depth of about 12" (or to the full height of the attic where that is less than 12"). He would leave attic vents open and add insulation dams to promote some air movement in the attic, and install 2" of rigid foam above the roof deck.

    I think his idea is that the deeper part of the attic would remain vented, while the shallower part would become essentially unvented. The 2" of rigid foam would keep the roof deck warm in the shallow less-vented part. It would be wasted as insulation over the deeper part (but we still need it there to maintain the slope of the roof).

    Our questions: should we be wary of creating dead air space in the attic? Is the recommendation of our contractor a sound way to deal with the challenges of this retrofit? What kind of approach would provide the greatest margin of safety in this situation?

  139. user-7464303 | | #153

    Hi Martin (and all),

    We're building a "flat" membrane roof with a living roof buildup in Southern VT. We've opted for a warm roof buildup and tried to follow your guidelines (see attached detail.) 2 questions have come up.
    1) We have exposed 10" rafters (bottom 3.5" exposed) with 5.5" of Rockwool Comfortbatt on top of our T&G ceiling going right up to the sheathing/air tightness layer above the rafters. The question is, do we also need to make sure that there is airtightness at the T&G ceiling plane?
    2) For the flat roof, we’d like to achieve a small pitch to prevent pooling water and we are considering sloped furring strips on top of our sheathing layer below the rigid insulation board. This will introduce an air gap and I wonder, are better off trying to get a sloped insulation board? It seems like we should have airtightness on all sides of that air gap so maybe its unlikely to be an issue, but wanted to get your feedback.

    Apologies if you have already answered similar questions--I'm clearly not a good sleuth as I've just spent the past 2 hours looking without finding anything.

    Thanks very much in advance. Your advice is much appreciated!

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #154

      If you want to install shims to create a slope, the shims should be installed between the tops of the rafters and the roof sheathing -- not above the sheathing.

      You can probably get away with no air barrier at the ceiling level -- as long as you pay close attention to air barrier continuity at the interface between your wall air barrier and your roof air barrier.

      You may want to make sure that the weight of your vegetated roof doesn't crush (that is, overly compress) the mineral wool insulation.

      1. user-7464303 | | #155

        Thanks Martin!

  140. BenZone2b | | #156

    Thanks for the great article!

    I have a building with two low-slope roofs in zone 2B (Phoenix). The original building was built in 1930 out of block (CMU) exterior with no insulation anywhere. It has a traditional stick-framed addition. In my mind, that counts as two separate roofs. There is no air path between the two roofs other than in the living space (through the bedroom door).

    On the high end, we have about 24 inches of space. The low end has about 6 inches between the roof joists and ceiling joists.

    The roof has 2+ inches of sprayed foam on the exterior with white coating. The interior still has zero insulation.

    The space between the ceiling and the roof in the main building is currently vented with large holes through the CMU.

    Right now there is no ceiling drywall anywhere in the house. We plan on attaching the ceiling drywall directly to the roof joists in the addition. The rest of the house will have drywall attached to the ceiling joists like normal.

    For the main building, I'm thinking that the best way to go is to use fluffy insulation directly against the underside of the roof decking and to seal all of the vent holes. We would then put no insulation on the ceiling.

    The addition would have the entire joist space filled with fluffy insulation and all air leaks to the exterior sealed with caulk.

    We are conditioning the space with ductless mini-splits, so there will be no air ducts in the ceiling, though we do plan on installing recessed can lights. Do we need to pay attention to sealing the ceiling and can lights?

    Does this seem like a workable plan?
    What are the "code" words I should use if my inspector questions this retrofit.

  141. user-7605967 | | #157

    Does it make sense to have a non-vented roof at 2/12 slope, when using trusses as joists, with a combo of 2.5" rigid outboard & 12" batt inboard (direct contact to sheathing)? Or is it okay to have a vented roof through the top & bottom eaves soffits, while using same insulation combo, only the batt will be resting at the bottom of trusses/ceiling?

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #158


      1 - If you vent the roof below the sheathing, there is no point in having any outboard insulation. The air in the ventilation space will be close to the same temperature as the air outside, making any insulation above it ineffective.

      2 - As the article p0ints out: ventilating low-slope roofs is difficult and ineffective. The choices available are to increase the pitch, or use an non-vented assembly.

    2. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #159

      In addition to Malcolm's excellent points, note that the ratio of rigid foam to fluffy insulation between the joists is climate-dependent. Your suggestion (which sounds like about about R-10 of exterior insulation and about R-40 or R-44 of fluffy insulation) means a total R-value for the whole assembly of about R-50 or R-54, with between 18% and 20% of the insulation in the form of rigid foam. That will work in Climate Zones 1 through 3, but not in Zones 4 through 8. (It would also work in Marine Zone 4.)

      For more information, see "Combining Exterior Rigid Foam With Fluffy Insulation."

  142. Andrew808 | | #160

    Martin, all - excellent article and comments/questions/answers!
    I have a question about insulating a roof in Hawaii -- we don't get temperatures below 75, humidity is moderate; so, wondering how much applies in our environment.

    CURRENT ROOF: 1961 single story home, 2000 ft2.
    50% of home is open beam ceiling
    50% has a very shallow attic with R-19 fiberglass insulation laying on top of the ceiling
    Roof is ¾” plywood + 2-ply bitumen peel and stick
    Our ceiling (over half the home) is leaky, with can lighting
    R19 fiberglass insulation on top of the ceiling - nothing against the underside of sheathing
    Very shallow attic space (~ 24” at peak - very challenging for humans to access)
    Soffit vents (plan to increase these) and gable vents
    We do have a powered attic fan installed on the leeward side of the home in a gable vents -- it seems to reduce humidity when on

    All canec was removed in 2016 with this roof - Canec was made from sugarcane and probably had an R-value of ~ 10

    PROBLEM: Our home is terribly hot -- 97+ degrees in the open beam portion, ~ 89 in the drop ceiling portion. The open beam area heats and cools fast, but the bedrooms with the drop ceiling actually retain heat longer and can be ~ 3 degrees warmer than the open beam area at night (I suspect that better attic ventilation may help -- more soffit vents?)

    We have two proposals from our roofer:
    Replace the open beam area plywood with 2x6” Cedar T&G (aesthetics and natural termite resistant)
    Between 1 and 3” of Polyiso Foam on top of current plywood / cedar planks

    Option 1 -- vented roof:
    Furring strips on top of foam with cuts laterally to allow heat to flow
    Openings under flashing to let air in
    Roof vents every other furring strip bay near the ridge to allow air to escape
    Roof vent would only penetrate to the foam layer, not through it
    Idea is to allow heat absorbed by the foam to escape?
    Radiant barrier - TECHSHIELD on top of furring strips
    Polyglass Polyfresca reflective capsheet on top

    Option 2 - non vented:
    Perhaps increase the foam to 3”
    Some form of ¼” decking
    Polyglass Polyfresca reflective capsheet


    We are very concerned about anything that could lead to water intrusion, damage, and mold. What is the risk of water intrusion with a vented system using roof vents?

    I noticed in comments that roofs don't vent <3:12 pitch? If so... sounds like we will not achieve the venting desired?

    How much benefit do we get from a vented system like this?

    Can we visually inspect the vents to ensure they were installed correctly?

    We hear of skylights leaking a lot -- how are these different?

    Do we get enough heat in Hawaii that the foam insulation would need to be vented?
    Do we get a significant gain from the air gap and radiant barrier?
    We had solar attic fans that were installed incorrectly, leaked, and caused water damage to our home. I understand from multiple roofers that when properly installed with a curb on low-slope roofs this should not be a problem.

    Should we consider a solar attic fan for our drop ceiling section (attic section)?

    I note from reading that in the non-vented assembly we should air seal our attic to prevent moisture on the underside of the sheathing. Is this true in our climate too?

    I like the doghouse idea -- is that just to vent the attic?
    Our proposed "vented roof" is to vent the insulation (air wash?)
    Can you achieve similar effects with properly installed solar attic fans?

    Thank you in advance for all your help and inputs!

  143. verystressedrightnow | | #161

    Moved into a recently constructed house in northern american climate with a 2 % roof sloping to a rear gutter . Went into the roof and it had mold. There is no roof overhang and hence no soffits or air intakes at all.. Cold construction flat roof with r40 ish insulation. There is generally a good gap for air circulation on top of insulation (total height is 3ft with 1 ft of insulation). Roof also contains hvac ducts though but has a vapor barrier. There are many ceiling penetration's vents and lights etc. There is venting on the top of the roof using dog house type vents but only enough for a small percentage of the total roof space (per code since this is the only ventilation..). Roof or gyprock has to come off to clear mold. Would your recommendation be to stick to cold roof design but to build an overhang all the way around for soffits. One contractor is recommending spray foam for vapor barrier, add more blown insulation and only installing exhaust vent on top of roof but more of them? My concern is this will not work because of the HVAC ducting, use of blown insulation.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #162

      If this attic has ductwork, my recommendation is to install an adequately thick layer of rigid foam on the exterior side of the existing roof sheathing, followed by another layer of sheathing and new roofing. If you take my advice, you should seal up the doghouse vent.

      For more information, see these two articles:

      "How to Install Rigid Foam on Top of Roof Sheathing"

      "Creating a Conditioned Attic"

  144. verystressedrightnow | | #163

    Thanks Martin, really appreciate the reply. The only problem with this is I would have to pay for a new roof and still remove the gyprock to remove the mold. 2500 sqft ft roof. Because of the ducting you think the ventilation will not work ? After reading the links I suppose I could do it underneath inside but then would not be as good and I would still ideally need an air gap for the snow on top of the roof to prevent melting. S0 ultimately end up having to redo the roof anyway. I got plenty of ice damming as well at the roof is 62ft long going to a rear gutter.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #164

      I'm sorry that you face significant expenses, but you have (1) moldy roof sheathing, (2) "plenty of ice damming," (3) ducts in your attic that leak heat and contribute to ice dams, (4) a leaky ceiling (with "many ceiling penetrations -- vents and lights, etc."). Everything is wrong.

      Your leaky ducts that lack enough insulation are costing you energy dollars. The heat from the ducts is melting the snow on your roof. The moisture that is causing the mold is coming from air leaks in your ceiling and from air leaks through your duct seams. It's a mess.

      If you don't want to install rigid foam on the exterior side of your roof sheathing, the other possible solution is to rip everything out, working from the interior, and then to install closed-cell spray foam from the interior, against the underside of the roof sheathing.

      This is no inexpensive solution to this mess.

  145. verystressedrightnow | | #165

    Thanks Martin understood. I think the problem with the closed cell internal method is no gap to help melting the snow on the roof and since there is a rear gutter for drainage this will be a problem? Yes it’s a mess and an expensive one unfortunately many sleepless nights only recently moved in and unaware of the problem.

  146. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #166

    You don't want a gap if you install closed-cell spray foam. And you definitely don't want to help melt the snow on the roof. Ideally, you want a roof assembly that is so well insulated that the snow doesn't melt -- it stays on the roof until spring.

    On buildings with steep roofs, a vent channel can reduce the chance of ice dams. That said, a vent channel isn't much help on a low-slope roof, because the rate of air flow would be very slow. In your case, what you want is an unvented roof assembly that is airtight and has a high R-value. If you can achieve those goals, you won't have problematic ice dams.

  147. verystressedrightnow | | #167

    Martin,.typo there, sorry I wanted to write stop melting snow, thanks for the clarification on the vent channel on a low sloped roof.

    One more question if you go for the internal method with spray foam when it comes to replacing the roof down the line is it harder to replace any rotten wood than using the foam on the top method ?

  148. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #168

    Q. "If you go for the internal method with spray foam, when it comes to replacing the roof down the line, is it harder to replace any rotten wood than using the rigid foam on the top method?"

    A. Yes.

  149. saltarch | | #169

    Just to confirm that the minimum R-value of above sheathing insulation would be the same for a against the interior side of the sheathing install, correct?
    We're looking at a low slope/ flat roof where we don't have enough parapet height to add 5" (R-20) min. insulation on top of the roof sheathing. So we're considering R-20min closed cell on the interior side of the sheathing and then filling the cavity (14" TJI) with cellulose.

    There will be a couple of inches of rigid on top of the roof sheathing to achieve the required slope, but that will vary from 1-3".
    That is how we typically treat unvented cathedral ceilings (Climate Zone 5).

  150. mhunt11 | | #170

    Hello. My name is Mary. We are adding a partial second story (so second story on back half of the house) to our 1940's bungalow in the Charlotte NC area. The roof is a 1:12 pitch with snap seam standing seam metal roof (made for 1:12 pitched roofs) with synthetic underlayment/wind ice barrier. Our problem is insulating and venting it. The roofers have already placed a ridge vent and GC plans to add vents in the eaves (exposed rafter tails, no soffits) but I am concerned that is not adequate ventilation, plus in the event of a heavy rain or rare snow, that would be risky. He also plans to insulate with R38 but not sure he throughly understands the details of how to add insulation in a low slope vented roof (hence why i'm researching). After reading this article I am thinking the following:
    1. They did not add rigid foam board above the roof sheathing (and the metal is already on) so a ventless roof is not an option. We must come up with a vented system.
    2- nix the ridge vent that runs the length of the roof and use cupolas instead? Can we keep the ridge vent cap that's already there and add cupolas? The ridge cap is already installed (although the ridge vent was not adequately cut in the OSB prior to roofing to provide enough air flow). We have roof line that extends front to back and then a room above a side garage that runs side to side. Will each ridge need one?
    3- ensure adequate ventilation at eaves (cor-a-vent or other) so air can flow in, travel above the insulation and out the cupolas
    4- ensure roof is air tight from the interior before insulating and sheetrock ... how does one ensure airtight sheathing?
    5- place r38 (code for our zone) insulation (bat?) between rafters maintaining that 6" of space between roof and insulation. Does insulation go under the joists or just between?
    6- there is no way that at the shorter side of the roof/ceiling (exterior walls) we can fit sheetrock, insulation and 6" to roof unless we lose ceiling height.... is there a condensed insulation product that reduces the total height of the insulation in order to maximize ceiling height while maintaining the 6" gap?
    7- short from removing our entire metal roof (10k), raising the ridge (25k) to change the slope we need to come up with an adequate plan that will prevent moisture, problems, rot and mold.

    Please help!

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #171

      It sounds as if your designer did not plan adequately for insulation and ventilation. That's unfortunate.

      I can't tell whether you have a shed roof, a gable roof, or some other type of roof. At one point you tell us that there are two ridges. That's confusing. Perhaps a sketch or a photo would help us understand your roof configuration.

      The short answer: Since your roof pitch is very shallow, and since there may not be enough depth between your rafters for adequate insulation and venting, you can create an unvented roof assembly with closed-cell spray foam. For more information, check out Assembly #4 in this article: "Five Cathedral Ceilings that Work."

      1. mhunt11 | | #172

        Here are some pictures. I’m afraid to use spray phone on interior as it’s so hard to ever find out if your sheathing is rotting underneath. I suppose the low slope would be a shed roof? The shingled roof in front is a gable..

        1. GBA Editor
          Martin Holladay | | #177

          With such a low slope, you need an unvented approach. Since your builder didn't install any rigid foam above the roof sheathing, you're now locked into installing closed-cell spray foam on the underside of your roof sheathing.

          Make sure that the ridge vent is carefully sealed to prevent any air leaks at the ridge.

  151. cody_fischer | | #175

    I am building a 3:12 pitch vented roof insulated with cellulose.

    Is the building science consensus still that 3:12 and greater can be vented with soffit, baffles (read not having Joe Lstiburek's 6" between cellulose and sheathing at roof perimeter) and ridge vents in the right proportions?

    Or is 3:12 actually boarder-line in terms of stack effect and should be vented with a dog house?

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #176


      3/12 roofs work fine with conventional venting at the eaves and peak. Making the channels deeper than the code mandated 1" is a good idea, but not essential.

      The reason for the distinct difference in performance between 3/12 and roofs with lower pitches is in large part because proportionally going from 2/12 to 3/12 is a much larger jump than going from say 8/12 to 9/12.

  152. mmellee | | #181

    Hello! Needing some help as we search for a solution.

    We live in a “gut rehab” 1902 converted two-flat in Chicago with a low slope roof. Just moved in this June. We had ice damming at the scuppers resulting in copious water damage through the house. In the demo process we’ve discovered that we have a condensation problem throughout the roof decking.

    We currently have a vented modified bitumen roof with no insulation above the decking, approx. 6” of “attic” cavity and then 10” of cellulose insulation. No doghouse but 3 certainly inadequate roof vents. In the ceiling we have pipes, ducts and vents, recessed lights, etc. Additionally the cellulose insulation hits the ceiling rafters, so essentially there is no airflow across/between rafters (to get to the vents), only along the lengths of the rafters.

    We have gotten tons of different advice and quotes from roofers, none of whom seem to be fully understanding the scope of the issue. I understand the ideal solution is likely an unvented roof with insulation on top. However, what I’m confused about is if this is possible in our current home. We could build a new roof with R-30 insulation above the decking. If we do so, what about the moisture that is inevitably accumulating between the ceiling and decking in that attic cavity? And insight is greatly appreciated.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #182

      M. Mellee,
      Q. "What about the moisture that is inevitably accumulating between the ceiling and decking in that attic cavity?"

      A. Assuming you don't have a roof leak, the origin of any moisture in that area is the interior air. You're right that interior air is warm and humid during the winter. That's normal. What you don't want is condensation or moisture accumulation in wood sheathing.

      Condensation or moisture accumulation in wood sheathing requires cold surfaces. If the sheathing is kept warm by exterior insulation, there are no cold surfaces during the winter -- and therefore there is no condensation or moisture accumulation.

      1. mmellee | | #183

        Thank you so much for your reply— amazing. I’ve been stressing about this for weeks and really appreciate this article and your insight.

        So if I am following correctly— if we go ahead with a properly insulated unvented roof, we don’t need to ensure that the ceiling/area between ceiling and decking is insulated/perfectly sealed to moisture/etc.? But is R30 adequate in Chicago (this is the highest quantity of above decking insulation we’ve gotten)?

        1. GBA Editor
          Martin Holladay | | #184

          M. Mellee,
          Q. "If we go ahead with a properly insulated unvented roof, we don’t need to ensure that the ceiling/area between ceiling and decking is insulated/perfectly sealed to moisture?"

          A. Your roof assembly still needs to be as airtight as possible. The air barrier might be the roofing, in which case you don't need an airtight ceiling. But pay attention to seams and the perimeter of your roof -- you want to avoid air leaks.

          Q. "Is R30 adequate in Chicago?"

          A. Once you've installed R-30 of above-sheathing insulation, I would advise you to add more insulation under (and in direct contact with) the roof sheathing. Open-cell spray foam would work, and would probably be easiest to install. You should aim for R-60 total insulation if possible.

  153. krd111 | | #185

    Thanks so much for the excellent article and all the comments. I also have read several other related articles on this site. I am planning a roof replacement and would welcome some guidance, as I have only a very rudimentary understanding of roof construction. I am at the mercy of my roofing contractor (one of only two authorized Duro-Last installers in my area), whose expertise seems to be in roofing commercial new constructions.

    I have a 1961 house in central PA (Climate Zone 5, I think) with a low-slope (1:12) Duro-Last membrane roof and cathedral ceilings. The roofing contractor offered to add some poly-iso insulation on top of the sheathing. I assumed this would be a good idea, as it seems like one of the only ways to improve the home’s efficiency, and I am considering 4” of poly-iso. (The 4” would be achieved by a layer of 2.6 and another layer of 1.5, which will run me about $7500. My roofer tells me that would achieve an R of 23.6.) After reading your article, I’m now questioning the wisdom of adding poly-iso at all (i.e., if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it....there is currently no insulation above the sheathing and we don't have any moisture problems that I'm aware of.).

    There is no way to access or inspect the space above the ceiling. During an energy audit, the inspector probed around a light fixture opening and reported, “There was no way to determine the amount of insulation in the ceiling, so R-13 is our assumption based upon the age of your home and the depth of the cathedral ceiling." I do not know whether this insulation is in direct contact with the sheathing. The ceiling is not airtight because there are light fixtures, a couple chimneys, and a bathroom fan. In terms of venting, I don’t think there are roof vents, other than those associated with plumbing (see picture). However, the house has 2-foot overhangs with soffits that alternate between solid and perforated, in all but one section of the house. Over the very wide back porch, a deep overhang (4 feet) is solid soffit, which I assume was selected for aesthetic reasons.

    So, with all this in mind, including how difficult and costly I think it would be to add insulation between the roof and ceiling, my understanding after reading this and some of your other articles is that I should not proceed with the poly-iso unless I’m willing to add 9” of it (which I surmised from the article "How to Install Rigid Foam on Top of Roof Sheathing"). In other words, adding some insulation above the sheathing can do more harm than adding none. Is that correct? Or do the vented soffits eliminate the concern about the sheathing absorbing moisture from my home’s interior? Any guidance you can provide would be most appreciated. I want to increase my home's efficiency, but not at the risk of creating moisture/mold problems.

    I have attached a few pictures for context, showing the gable end of my house, the soffit, and one of two protrusions on the roof that I assume are associated with plumbing vents.

    Many thanks,

  154. dan3405 | | #186

    Hi Martin,

    I've been trying to find more information about the Arizona wet-roof failures you mentioned in this article (and in "Night Sky Radiation"), but have had little luck.

    I haven't been able to locate a copy of your old Energy Design Update article ("In Arizona, White Roofing Causes Wet Insulation"), nor have I been able to locate any relevant papers by William Rose or John Tooley. It seems like your GBA articles are the only remaining online documents that actually mention these roof failures.

    Would you be able to share any additional documents that you have regarding these failures? I'm particularly curious about where exactly in Arizona they happened, and at what elevation.


    1. MartinHolladay | | #187

      As far as I know, I was the first -- and probably only -- journalist to investigate and report on the story about the failed roofs in Arizona. The location was Tucson.

      I am attaching the June 2006 issue of Energy Design Update. (Click on the icon below to see the pdf file.) My original article begins on page 4 of that issue.

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