Roofers dive into new innovative solution
When Bryn Fortmuller, of Brynco Systems, Inc. in Colfax, got a call to fix the roof of a Grass Valley business, he stumbled across something that has two Nevada County contractors all worked up about diving into an innovative new roofing product.
While at the small industrial shop building on Golden Gate Terrace, Fortmuller picked up a black strip of rubber-like material and asked David Smith, president of United States Legends, “What the heck is this?”
“Oh, yeh, it’s just one of those things we do,” Smith answered. What USL does is design application systems – mostly customized spray nozzles – for manufacturers of industrial adhesives, such as 3M.
“You can’t go to a store or a manufacturer and buy nozzles to spray adhesives, because there’s nothing available,” Smith said. “So, we design them.”
Fortmuller used the rubberized material to fix the leak on Smith’s shop roof and then took a small strip of it to a restaurant where he showed it to fellow contractor Jim Pocock, president and CEO of Agape Systems, Inc. in Grass Valley.
“Look at this stuff,” Fortmuller said. The two men then proceeded to conduct their own highly technical tests: they took knives and forks and started poking holes in it.
“This is the greatest stuff we’ve ever seen,” Pocock said. “We’ve both been in construction for a long time and we’ve never seen anything like this.”
This “stuff” is Wetsuit, a water-based neoprene rubber (the same material used to make wetsuits, hence the name), that can be sprayed anywhere, creating a totally seamless and monolithic system that is water-proof, non-toxic, odorless, free of any solvents or adhesives and cures almost immediately upon application, states USL’s brochure.
“With the old stuff, they roll it out and glue it,” Pocock said. “It’s very labor intensive and you have a chance of failure.”
The two contractors are so excited about the Wetsuit roofing system that they have been actively promoting the product and have used it on a couple of roofing projects. “We’re still like partners in the applying of Wetsuit, so we work for each other sometimes.”
Smith, Wetsuit’s inventor, has 32 years of education and experience in engineering, mostly of equipment, “but being involved with equipment and materials – spraying materials – I came across an awful lot of chemistry,” he said. “So, I just kind of put one and two together, two and four, six and eight.”
While neoprene rubber isn’t new, achieving the right mixture of liquid solution to function as a spray-on roofing material is innovative. And because the Wetsuit solution transforms into a solid when mixed with water, the key piece of equipment is the external-mix spray gun.
“It comes into the gun as a liquid and ends up as a solid on the surface,” said Kelsey Smith, technical consultant at USL and Smith’s daughter.
“We’ve been playing with the chemistry for six years,” Kelsey Smith said. “Since we’ve gotten so much response and interest in it, now we’re developing a lot of marketing material.”
In the company’s brochure is a chart listing all the tests performed on Wetsuit by the American Society for Testing and Materials: elongation, flame spread, flame exposure, water vapor permeability, water vapor transmission, ponding and accelerated weathering. ASTM is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world.
“It went over really well,” Kelsey Smith said.
“Without testing, you don’t get any jobs,” David Smith added.
Currently, there are only a handful of buildings in the country using the Wetsuit roofing system; and only one in Nevada County. “My barn,” Pocock laughed. However, his company just completed a roofing project on a California Transportation building across from the state capital.
“At Caltrans, we had to take as much rock off as possible and then we sprayed it and encapsulated what rock was left,” Pocock said. “We’ll go back to put the white topcoat on.”
The white topcoat is another key component of the Wetsuit roofing system. Reflex, a water-emulsion-based paint with a high reflectance rating that drastically reduces the surface temperature, is applied after Wetsuit is fully cured.
In a recent test, the temperature of the black Wetsuit surface was about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the surface treated with Reflex dropped down to about 80 degrees, Fortmuller said. Light-colored roofs can lower air-conditioning loads by up to 40 percent, reducing energy costs as well as extending the lifespan of the roofing system, according to the Florida Solar Energy Center.
While the Wetsuit roofing system isn’t comparable to other existing roofing materials, it does pencil in at about the same cost. “We’re selling it almost at the same price as other products,” Fortmuller said, “but with a lot better warranty.”
Agape and Brynco are offering two different warranty programs on the Wetsuit roofing system: a ten-plus-five-year plan on a straight application or a 25-year plan with a once-a-year maintenance program on the larger commercial buildings.
The aforementioned benefits of this nontoxic, seamless material aren’t the only reasons these two contractors are so excited about Wetsuit. “The applicators love it because they’re not up there on their hands and knees,” David Smith said, smiling. And on a hot summer day, when roof temperatures hover around 160 degrees, anyone can see why they think Wetsuit is so cool.
Benefits of Wetsuit
– All water-based rubber product
– 100 percent solids – no solvents
– UV stable
– 1500 percent elongation
– Very high tear and tensile strength
– Class A self-extinguishing fire rating
– No harmful odors
– No fumes
– Totally seamless and monolithic system
– Unaffected by humidity
– Minimal surface preparation
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User