There is no doubt which material is king in the category of high-thermal roof insulation. Polyisocyanurate roof insulation (“iso,” “polyiso”) is, and indeed has been for a while, the magnum opus of low-slope roof insulation. After so many years of successful service, there is a tendency to take for granted that it will always be there and will always provide a sure and economical solution.
But are you willing to bet your business on it?
What’s the problem with iso, you say? Well as of today, as far as we know, there isn’t one. However, the iso industry is going through a number of changes and some rather daunting challenges. The message to roofing contractors is simple: You really need to pay attention. Your good name goes out on every piece of the roof insulation that you install, and the rest of the membrane and all the many fine details are useless if the insulation does not perform as advertised.
To their credit, the iso manufacturers have navigated their way through changes before, such as the move from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). While the transition was not without some bumps and bruises, the job got done and the iso industry survived to meet the next challenge: to eliminate all fluorocarbons and change to more environmentally friendly blowing agents by 2003.
Now 2003 may seem like a long way out, but in terms of the preparation, plant re-engineering, testing and due diligence required to make such a substantive change, it is virtually right here, right now. Some manufacturers are up to speed, having converted a broad range of their assets to the new technology. Others have yet to bring even one plant online. Their task is to bring new products to market while the old pressures of competitive pricing are as strong as ever.
Roofing contractors should retreat to basic blocking and tackling where iso is concerned. You should know which product is going on which job, starting right away. It may be a couple of years before the “new” iso shows up on your front door, but you need to be aware of it. In the meantime, you should revisit all the old rules for proper storage, handling and application of iso. When you are introduced to a new product, you may or may not be required to handle or install it differently. You simply need to have your eyes open, and cease taking this seemingly routine product for granted.
Iso manufacturers have worked very hard to give you a feeling of security with this product — no small task when you get right down to it. It will be up to them to maintain this image after changing to a new technology. More important, during the time of change when both products may be on the market at the same time, it will be incumbent upon contractor and manufacturer alike to recognize this as the “danger zone” that it could be. Roofing contractors need to communicate at a high level with manufacturers to fully understand how and where the product has changed when it changes, not after they have installed thousands of squares of it.
To keep up with changes in iso technology, we suggest you stay in touch with your iso manufacturer for specific information, or the industry association, Polyisocyanurate Manufacturers Association (PIMA) for general iso industry updates.