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Community and Q&A

Ice & Water Shield membrane installed under roofing is buckling

erica99 | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

After over a month of photos documenting the problem of vertically oriented ridges, my contractor has finally offered to fix the local bulges.

The roof structure below the roofing is a conditioned attic with an R-60 Deep Energy Retrofit roof (cellulose in 2×12 cavity, plus 4 in. polyiso wrap over 1st layer of sheathing, plus 2nd layer of sheathing over polyiso).

The peel and stick underlayment and roofing shingles was applied below the recommended minimum 45 degree temperature, when average was 18 degrees (high 33). We know it’s the membrane because you can stick your finger underneath the shingle and membrane at the roof edge – I know because I crawled up there and took photos myself.

How can we be sure that they caught all the areas of non-adherence? Is the only real fix complete removal and replacement?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    We don't have enough information.

    1. Did your roofer install Ice & Water Shield over the entire roof, or just at the eaves and valleys?

    2. Can you share photos? It's hard to judge whether this is a small problem or a large problem.

    3. What type of roofing was installed?

    4. What is your climate zone?

    Building codes require that all building materials be installed according to manufacturer's installation instructions. If these instructions weren't followed, that's a code violation, and it can be argued that fixing the problem is the contractor's responsibility (at the contractor's expense).

    If the Ice & Water Shield was installed incorrectly, it can be argued that the contractor must remove it and install it as the manufacturer instructs.

  2. erica99 | | #2

    Hi Martin - Please see answers below:

    1) The membrane is over the entire roof.

    2) Photos have been uploaded.

    3) Standard asphalt shingles were installed.

    4) Climate Zone 5 (suburban Boston area)

    We also feel it is ultimately the contractor's responsibility -- although there is enough blame to go ALL around: the contractor should have known better that to purchase that material for installation in February, the installer should have known not to install it in super cold weather, and the supplier should probably have given a heads-up as well. No has suggested we will be responsible, but there is definitely bickering and finger-pointing among the other parties.

    They have given us two options so far:
    1) Apparently the warranty is still valid, so we can submit a complaint to the manufacturer, and go through a lengthy process of testing, verification, etc., in order to invoke the warranty , and bring one more party into the finger-pointing. This pathway would involve replacing the ENTIRE roof and membrane. OR...
    2) Remove the shingles in the areas of the bulges, cut out the non-adhering part, and patch over with a new piece of membrane, possibly tape the edges of the pieced-in sections. Then re-shingle in kind.

    As much as we hate to trash a brand new roof (seems very wasteful), or get involved in a lengthy battle with the manufacturer we're not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling about solution #2. Part of the issue is we are installing PV panels on the entire south side of the roof. Should additional bulges appear and repairs be required after PV install, it would be OUR responsibility to remove the PVs and then reinstall. That we cannot have happen.

    So we are wondering if the cut and patch method sounds technically sound, and if there's any chance this bulging issue will continue for months or even years to come.

    Thank you!

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    If it were my roof, I would insist that the shingles and the peel-and-stick membrane be removed, and that the contractor do it again the right way.

    If I were you, I wouldn't be too happy with the specifications, though. Why was Ice & Water Shield even specified for this roof? I don't see any valleys or problem areas. The slope is adequate. Why do some architects or roofers go crazy with peel-and-stick? I hate to see Ice & Water Shield over the entire roof -- it is a vapor-impermeable membrane on the cold side of your roof assembly, and it is hard to remove and unnecessary.

    It seems to me that the proper underlayment for this type of roof is good old-fashioned asphalt felt. But I'm an old-style roofer.

  4. davidmeiland | | #4

    I agree with Martin--if you want rid of the bubbles, it all needs to come off and be re-done, and it only needs I&WS at the eaves. It is going to be very challenging work to remove all of the membrane on that pitch (assuming it has all now bonded after a hot summer).

    Cutting out sections of the membrane and patching them would be a major endeavor, too, and I would only suggest that if it were one small area.

  5. user-3549882 | | #5

    Buckling Ice & Water Shield: just some food for thought.

    1) "We know it's the membrane because you can stick your finger underneath the shingle and membrane at the roof edge ... "

    This is a concern for me. Normally, I'd expect to see a fascia board at the roof edge for mounting of a gutter. In such cases, I'd expect the W & I shield to come down over the fascia by a few inches. That way, if there' s an ice dam at the gutter, the water would eventually fall into or behind the gutter but not be able to work its way under the roofing. If there's room to stick your finger under the membrane at the edge itself, to me this is an open path to water damage.

    2) Have the experts identified the cause of the problem of the wrinkling? I get the feeling that everyone is latching on to the "installed at too low a temperature" idea and there the conversation and analysis ends. Is this the usual result of installing at cold temps?

    Also, there seems to be a pattern to the buckling. Is this where the W & I shield is overlapped? If so, why is the buckling only vertical and not horizontal? Is there also a pattern to where the finger holes occur? Did these patterns exist before the hot weather or only after the summer heat?

    I'm only familiar with W & I installed at the eaves to about 3' up from the roof edge. While a full coverage seems superfluous, I'm not sure this should produce the problem described.

    3) This installation is not easily undone. The distasteful idea of a financial settlement would not be a surprise. If the roof edge can be made sound, who knows how long that wrinkly roof might last? (OK, OK .... it's in Boston. Maybe not.)

  6. davidmeiland | | #6

    It would be good to see a better photo of the roof. I wonder if part of the issue is expansion of the 4x8 panels on top of the insulation, due to inadequate gapping.

  7. erica99 | | #7

    Hi all- thank you for the thoughtful responses. I uploaded some additional photos, with close-ups and a couple of the roof and I&WS being installed.

    Martin -
    you are correct, it is a fairly simple roof. There is one dormer on the north side.
    To be honest, I'm not 100% certain of the reasoning to go 100% with the I&WS. MA code certainly does not require it.

    We are doing a Deep Energy Retrofit, but because we added the 2nd story, it was a modified "chainsaw retrofit." We have a conditioned attic space, with cellulose on the interior and 2 layers of rigid foam on the exterior (R-60+ total). I suspect the reasoning was that going 100% with the membrane was better(ie more reliable) than trying to tape edges (as required in the DER Builder's Guide).

    David -
    yes, it does seem like a nasty job to remove all that stuff. And wasteful, which is why we plan to get a literal sign-off from the manufacturer that the proposed fix IS acceptable, and will NOT void our warranty in any way.

    We suspect the membrane as opposed to the panels, mainly because we can see the raised areas of the membrane at the edges. However, no professionals have actually been up there to do any serious investigating as of yet.

    WD -
    We will have gutters, they're just not up yet. The rafter tails you see are are "faux" -- fabricated on the ground and attached after all the insulation and zipwall so that we don't have any thermal bridging.

    No experts (other than Martin!) have weighed in. We presented the problem, and after weeks of waiting we threw out the idea that it was installed outside the manufacturer's specs. Among the DER-certified contractor, installer, supplier, and manufacturer, no one is arguing that point, but no one has suggested any other cause either, so everyone has been running with it. I guess we won't REALLY know until someone gets up on the roof and starts peeling back shingles. If we file a complaint with the manufacturer in order to start the warranty process, they will want to do all kinds of analyses, which (we are told) is part of why it could be such a drawn out process.

    There is some patterning, though visibility appears to be highly dependent on time of day and shadowing. There are some ridges on the north side, but they are definitely more obvious on the south. They did not appear until the weather started warming up in June. There are some horizontal ridges (see the photo of the north side) -- but I think shadowing is again an issue here, and they are simply more difficult to see.

    All -
    We plan to propose that ALL the shingles be removed on the south side (where we are concerned about the PV install), so that the I&WS can be thoroughly inspected and repaired as needed. It appears that the membrane is adhering, except where the ridges are, but we can't be sure until the shingles are removed. We would be OK with selective shingle removal and repair on the north side, where the PVs will not obstruct future monitoring and potential repairs.
    Any thoughts on this approach?? We don't have any good options here, it seems. Just looking for the least evil.


  8. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #8

    I noticed a couple of things. It looks like there is a layer of rosin paper between the roof sheathing and the peel-and-stick membrane. That's a little unusual. It would make removal of the product easier -- but is that the way the manufacturer recommends it should be installed?

    Looking at the photo, I'm fairly sure that this isn't Grace Ice & Water Shield, since I don't see the brand on the product. It must be another brand of peel-and-stick. Is it possible that this brand of peel-and-stick has a high coefficient of thermal expansion? Perhaps if it is installed on a cold day, it simply expands in the summer and buckles. That would explain why the problem is worse on the south than on the north.


  9. user-1072251 | | #9

    Had this problem many years ago when we used 15# felt - aka tarpaper - under shingles in cold weather. When the weather warmed, the whole roof "buckled". I've never seen it with I&WS, but if it's another brand, it may be possible. If, as Martin suggests there is another layer under the I&WS, it may be that layer that is the problem.

  10. user-1072251 | | #10

    GAF recommends application at temps above 40o, but if it is installed below that, they require that the material be stored in a heated area and applied when the material is over 45o.

    from GAF literature:
    "Store materials in heated area... All membrane rolls and adhesives must be stored for at least
    overnight at a minimum temperature of 55°F (12.8°C) prior to application."
    "When the air temperature is below 40°F (4.4°C) leak barrier membranes must be at least 45°F (7.2°C) at time of application."

  11. erica99 | | #11

    Hi Martin and Bob -
    You are correct, it is not the Grace product. The membrane used is GAF StormGuard 2.0. See photo.

    The reddish stuff that looks like rosin paper is actually the 2nd layer of Zip board. The first layer was taped, but not the 2nd, since it was not really considered part of the water barrier system (just something to nail to) -- they could have used OSB, but the Zip was already on hand so used it instead.


  12. erica99 | | #12

    Definitely was NOT stored in a warm location!

  13. davidmeiland | | #13

    Trying to understand the layering here. It sounds like (bottom up) ZIP nailed to the rafters and taped, 4" polyiso, another layer of ZIP fastened through the foam to the rafters, peel-n-stick membrane, shingles. I'm still curious about whether the ZIP panels were spaced 1/8" or so under the roofing.

  14. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #14

    The problem you describe is common enough that GAF has issued a Technical Advisory Bulletin warning roofers about the problem.

    The GAF bulletin states:

    "If the membrane is too cold at time of installation it may wrinkle (develop “mole runs”) that could be visible through the shingles when the roof warms up. In severe cases, the wrinkles or “mole runs” can compromise the watertightness of laps and can result in leaks."


  15. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #15

    Mole runs. What a wonderfully evocative way to describe the problem. I think I'll go read Wind in the Willows.

  16. wjrobinson | | #16

    Here's the problem IMO.

    Someone let someone build a home in the wrong weather. Why do people contract for a home to be constructed in cold weather????????????????????

    We never used to do such. We framed and roofed in time for the shingles to seal down which is early fall at the latest. Then we work inside for the colder months.

    The problem is directly the fault of all involved with going ahead with this project at the wrong time of the year period not the manufacturer and the roofer, it is the contractor and the owner who signed up for this debacle and those two pulled in the others to do less than good work.

    But I do like the sound of "mole runs." I will have to point out some soon somewhere around my neck of the woods.

  17. exeric | | #17

    AJ, it seems to me you are over simplifying the situation when you say the owner is equal in responsibility to the contractor in doing this type of construction in cold weather. Also, you are wrong to say that there is no responsibility by the roofer. Is this because as a contractor yourself it is always good to share blame when problems occur?

    There are a million little secrets for any person working within any trade that over a period of time comes to seem like it should be common sense for everyone. Sorry to burst your bubble. It does not work that way, AJ. The only time it becomes a problem that the owner is necessarily guilty for is when they override recommendations by those who are knowledgeable. That includes the roofer. It is not the roofers responsibility to decline work due to improper conditions of installation. But it is his responsibility to warn the contractor and the owner that it won't work correctly. It is probably also his/her responsibility to get the contractor or owner to have them sign a waiver of responsibility for those possible bad results.

    Do you have inside info that the owner is guilty of overriding warnings? If not, then you are speaking out of turn and just do not know of what you speak. There always seems to be a belligerent tone behind these comments of yours. I've seen it consistently.

  18. wjrobinson | | #18


    You are right, I did much of what you accuse me of doing.

    Builders should know if experienced at all that framing a home during the winter is not a good choice. Why does it happen? Most builders and those that want a home built then know why bad planning happens and I bet you know too. Once a customer wants a home built, the push to be done out weights smart timing. Builders need year round work. Customers push back when a builder says the project has been delayed to a bad start time so let's wait till spring now... "No, not acceptable. Also it costs more to build in some seasons verses others. It does where I live anyway. Snow removal every 3 days all winter... frozen materials, protecting materials, warming materials and people....

    Look, I am pushing back, complaining yes about customers pushing to have a project go forward with bad timing... due to delays in customers getting zoning approvals... and a million other delays... then it's November, permits in hand... yaa start now builder, get it done for me.

    Customers are involved in my world with bad timing often. Yes, we builders screw up too... human we are just as our customers are.

    Don't start a home building project the day after Thanksgiving and it will be much less likely to have an issue like was raised with this thread. (Zone 6, a cold winter snowy zone.)

    And yes, I feel it should be common knowledge that winter roofing is not the best time to roof, and that customers, roofers, contractors all know this or should know this with out too much research nor decades of building experience.

    Some of the folks involved with this roof if not all new they were not building and roofing in favorable temperatures!!

    But I see your point too Eric, peace and yes I think this is simply poor timing of a project by all involved.

  19. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #19

    Here's my take on the "poor timing" question: there is a more important principle at stake here -- namely that contractors need to install materials according to manufacturers' instructions. All too often, these instructions are only read after a problem arises.

    It's hard to be a contractor. The liability is huge. Anyone reading this thread could have made the mistake described here -- a mistake that will cost thousands of dollars to fix. When I read stories like this, I think, "I'm glad I'm not a builder any more."

    I'm going to make a guess here. It's possible that the roofer has used Grace Ice & Water Shield before at cold temperatures and never had a problem. Along comes a GAF salesman, offering StormGuard at a great price. So the roofer uses StormGuard under the same weather conditions that worked for Ice & Water Shield, only to discover that StormGuard performs differently at cold temperatures.

    This is just a guess, of course -- but it describes a possible scenario, and may serve as a warning to other builders that manufacturers' instructions have to be followed if you want to stay out of small claims court.

  20. wjrobinson | | #20

    To answer the posed question, tear off and reroof the entire roof now in warm weather, use Grace Ice and water shield. As Martin points out, follow all instructions from manufacturers.

    The other option that is a bit more relaxed is to stop looking at it, move on as the world and life has bigger battles since it is a cosmetic issue most likely and who knows maybe some critters get neat new habitat space.

    Life's short, for me today I have a huge crop of awesome tomatoes to pick and share for breakfast. and lunch and dinner and snacks.

    Let us know how all works out for you....

  21. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #21

    That's very true. Often an order from a lumberyard comes out with substitute materials, a different brand of synthetic roof underlayment for example, and when you call the salesman he says they've stopped stocking the one speced.. Most materials come to the site without, or with very rudimentary, instructions.

    That said, the decisions a contractor makes quickly and casually all have the potential to cause serious, unanticipated problems. It's something you accept when you decide to GC projects, and so is the liability that comes with it.

  22. Bob Yancy | | #22

    What is the problem causing the bulging ever identified in this thread ? GAF storm guard is film cover the tarpaper. It is a great product but there is something you have to watch out for . When installers are walking on it they can create small rips and separate the film from the tarpaper where they step . If it rains before the final roof is installed over this underlayment and those rips are present, Rainwater will run into those rips and fill them up . They will create water blisters sometimes about half the size of a boot or a man's shoe . You have to drain that water before final roof install by poking holes at the bottom of the blister and letting the water run out and then it's best to patch that area with a small piece of storm guard before putting the shingles down . Also storm guard is fantastic for concrete tile roof but I've never seen it used for composite roof just my two cents from experience albeit limited .

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