It is no secret that the raw materials it takes to produce iso are in short supply and that the price of iso is through the roof

The term "iso" refers to polyisocyanurate roof insulation and it has become the "A-topic" among everyone involved in the commercial roofing and reroofing business. Roofing contractors, manufacturers, distributors, and even building owners have spent a good deal of time over the past half-year sourcing or attempting to find iso for their customers and/or projects.

It is no secret that the raw materials it takes to produce iso are in short supply and that the price of iso is through the roof. We have not yet discovered a secret to make either of these issues go away any time soon. On the way to searching for answers, Roofing Contractor did find that there are a few things to learn, particularly from the voice of the iso industry, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA).

Polyisocyanurate Today

We spoke with Jared Blum, PIMA president, for the industry perspective. Blum cites the 5 billion board feet of iso insulation that the industry produced in 2004. That's a lot of insulation, in fact it is a record amount, and the good news is the industry expects that it will be able to produce that much in 2005. Questions still remain as to what the market will actually demand. It is still conceivable that the market demand may go up or down, but we can take some comfort in the industry's claim that it should again be able to produce a record amount of product.

Blum tells us that the supply of diphenyl methane di-isocyanate (MDI), the ingredient that is in such high demand, should improve by the end of 2005 with more production coming on stream. There are plans for new plants and production, which is great, but will take some time. PIMA's advice: Be in "constant contact (with suppliers)... be a little patient." This issue should be substantially resolved over the course of 2005.

There are other pressures on the pricing side of the equation, and those are tied to the cost of oil and the demand for trucking services. So much of the material cost of iso is dependent on oil, increases in oil prices result in immediate cost increases for polyisocyanurate producers. Add to that the cost of transportation, which continues to increase at the hands of an improving economy and the "Hours of Service" rules that took affect in January 2004.

Storage and Handling

PIMA issued Technical Bulletin #109 (TB109) relating to the storage and handling of polyiso roof insulation. Asked what might have prompted the issuance of this bulletin, Blum responded that this issue has come up in the past and this bulletin restates some standards that have been in place for a long time. The National Roofing Contractors Association has asked for PIMA's input on this issue as well.

Storage of polyisocyanurate roof insulation is part of the overall delivery system of a product that is advertised to perform at a certain level. To quote PIMA's TB109, "Polyiso roof insulation, like other roofing materials, requires a proper understanding of storage, handling and application to result in a well-constructed and satisfactorily performing roofing system." That might also be interpreted to say, "If you do not store this material properly, it may not perform properly."

This a good time for manufacturers, suppliers and contractors to all review best practices for the storage and handling of polyiso roof insulation.

I have observed a sea of improperly stored polyiso roof insulation lately. I'm not an iso cop; you just can't miss it. The problem has been exacerbated by recent supply problems. A recent example was a construction site on a major highway in metro Atlanta. There were backhoes, excavating and compacting machines, and the construction trailer. That was all except for two truckloads of polyiso roof insulation sitting on the ground under the plastic shipping bags. What kind of shape do you suppose the iso will be in by the time they actually have a roof deck to load it on?

PIMA's TB109 is available on its Web site at, and it is recommended that you review it and use it for training your troops. Here are a couple of key items you should be aware of as you do:

This Writer's Opinion

The observation of poor storage of polyiso may be anecdotal, but is real, and it is nothing new. I have to admit to being part of the problem at various times throughout my career in this business. What I am seeing lately, however, is disturbing: polyiso being stored outside uncovered, the top two or three boards cupping visibly, and not a cover beyond the shipping bag in sight. And for who knows how long?

What to do? Realize that the "lumpy" nature of the supply of polyiso is going to be with us for a while. Contingent storage space should be set aside or leased to house product. Manufacturers, contractors and distributors should get together to work these things out. Shipping truck after truck to jobsites should be discontinued, if not disallowed by manufacturers. The shipments should be timed to comply with the standard as put forward by the product makers, in this case PIMA's TB109.

Yes, it will cost extra, and someone has to pay. The extra cost should be worth it to the end user-the building owner. If they are unwilling to pay, then they should be asked to acknowledge that the material may ultimately not perform as advertised.

That is my opinion; I welcome yours.