Living Roofs Are Possible Even On Smaller Roofs – Try it on an outbuilding

Alternative Waterproof Membranes for Living Roofs

July 12, 2010 by Owen Geiger

There’s growing interest in living roofs or green roofs. The difficulty is deciding on the waterproof membrane. Rubber pond liner (EPDM) is the most waterproof and durable material, and the most common choice due to proven performance, but it’s also very expensive and made from nasty petro chemicals.

Living roof at Heartwood HomesteadsLiving roof at Heartwood Homesteads

I think a number of less toxic, more affordable materials are possible, including recycled materials in good condition. One reader suggested pool covers. Heavy duty trucker tarps are another option. You could add 6 mil poly (plastic sheeting) underneath and/or above these other materials for extra moisture protection.

For my dome, I used 2-1/2 layers of 6 mil black poly and have had no leaks so far after about three years in a rainy climate. (The half layer is a small piece on the very top.) You need to cover 6 mil poly carefully to avoid punctures. Some use old carpet or cardboard against it while adding soil. (Screen out rocks.) In our case, we simply packed soil on the plastic, starting at the bottom and working up, with no protective cardboard, etc.

Recycled vinyl billboards are another possibility, but I wouldn’t use them because of the health hazards of leaching chemicals into the soil around the house.

Roof pitch is another consideration. Steep roofs shed water faster and are less prone to leaks. But you need to strike the right balance or top soil and nutrients will wash away, and your roof will dry out too quickly.

Another consideration is the value of the structure. It’s no big deal experimenting with alternative waterproof membranes on a simple $2,000 guesthouse. But you might want to use better materials or multiple layers on expensive homes.

Photo credit: Heartwood Homesteads


More Tomorrow.


Time Out For LEAN – Update on Dead Bird Island

I post stuff from LEAN when it seems pertinent.

View alert on or

“Dead Bird Island” Testing Results

Report by: Wilma Subra

Results of sampling performed by the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper in Terrebonne Bay on August 19, 2010

On August 19, 2010, in Terrebonne Bay south of Point-au-Chien, Modato Island was covered with vegetation, bare areas, and a large number of dead shore birds.  The area was designated by the Lower Mississippi River Keeper as “Dead Bird Island.”  The area also contained a number of shore birds in distress, nests containing eggs and a seagull that died shortly after sampling was complete.  Samples were collected along the shore of the island, 10-12 inches deep, under the vegetation matted material washed in by the tide.  The soil/sediment sample was contaminated with 48.4 mg/kg of Petroleum Hydrocarbons and 10 Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (0.039 mg/kg).

Dead Tern
A dead gull found on “dead bird island” from which samples were taken

The internal organs from a gull, found dead, on the island contained 23,302 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons (2.3%).  The Blue Crab and Hermit Crab contained 3,583 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons and 4 PAHs (0.162 mg/kg).

Taking samples in the marsh
Taking soil samples in the marsh

At the southwest end of Modato Island the sediment/soil was contaminated with higher concentrations of Petroleum Hydrocarbons and Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), 68.3 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons and 14 Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (0.051 mg/kg).

Hermit Crab
A hermit crab in a welk shell on Modato island

On the north shoreline of Lake Chien, a boom was located 40 feet in from the shore in wetlands vegetation near the high water debris mark.   In the wetlands vegetation near the high water debris mark, the soil/sediment was contaminated with 0.039 mg/kg of 18 Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons. The Fiddler Crab and Snail from this area contained 6,916 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons and 1 PAH (0.012 mg/kg).

The marsh  grass along the shoreline of Lake Chien contained 3,946 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons and 10 PAHs (0.326 mg/kg).

SaveOurGulf.orgVisit to get more information about the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from Waterkeeper organizations across the Gulf Coast and donate to Save Our Gulf!.


More tomorrow


Environmental Cartoons – Funny man..not so funny topic

I love Dan’s work for many many many years…and big thanks for letting me put this up here. I have included part of his blog post too…he can be funnier in print more than pictures.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eternal Life?

Bizarro is brought to you today by Reclaimed Souls.

To my surprise, there were quite a few readers who didn’t understand this cartoon. I didn’t get into a lengthy discussion with them so I don’t know if it was because they are so unfamiliar with recycling that they don’t recognize the triangle symbol, or if their minds were so anthropocentric that they could not make the leap between reincarnation/eternal life and recycling.

This cartoon idea came from my dandy buddy, Richard Cabeza, who has contributed some dandy ideas to Bizarro before. As I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past, my work is also offered in a strip format and since they usually don’t entail much extra art – just a reconfiguration of the panel version – I don’t bother posting them. This one, however, adds some punch to the church atmosphere, so I’m sharing it with you. Click it for a better view.


More tomorrow


Rubber Roofs – An alternative roofing material with a bounce

We return to alternative roofs again this week. Rubber roofs last a long time BUT when they fail…they fail all at once..

*We are looking for wholesale distributors and stocking stores for our new Multi-Surface Patch Kits* click here

EPDM Rubber Roofing – The Flat Roof Solution

Due to inflexibility, weathering and failing joints, sooner or later conventional flat roofing methods will leak. If you have been struggling with a flat roof leak, or you have a flat or gently sloping roof project, you’ll be excited to discover EPDM rubber roofing. With billions of square feet installed, EPDM has been proven to give many years of leak free service. Best of all, it is simple to install yourself. is the only company dedicated to Do It Yourself residential and smaller commercial applications of EPDM roofing. Since our start in 1993, we have helped thousands of customers solve their flat roof problems. We sell

Roof-Top® EPDM and adhesives and accessories. Everything needed for application, including a installation DVD that takes you step by step through the installation process. We even have EPDM for your RV rubber roof.  Our friendly, knowledgeable sales staff is available to answer any question and help you with your materials purchase.

Click Here for Estimate Guide

If you would like to learn more about EPDM rubber membrane, please click on About EPDM at above left. If you would like to know more about the installation process, please click here.

For pricing and ordering information, click Prices & Ordering

If you would like to place an order or contact our sales staff, please call (866) 630-7660 or email


More tomorrow.


Illinois Solar Tour Oct. 3RD – Wish I could give you more

But the links don’t work so well. The place in Springfield is the FitClub Gym.

The Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is hosting a Solar Tour where home owners and businesses across the state welcome visitors to explore how to use renewable energy systems to reduce utility bills while minimizing the environmental impact of their buildings. If you’re interested in learning more about the practical application of solar power check out the ISEA website for locations and more information.

Solar Tour Website:

To find the location of an open house near you click here:

If you have questions contact Lesley McCain

Illinois Solar Tour
October 2, 2010
10 am – 3 pm
Interested in renewable energy and have questions?  Then this is the place to start learning.


More next week.


Louisiana Environmental Action Network’s Fundraiser Tomorrow

I hope everyone who can go will go…


Please join us at a special screening of the film:

SOLA Louisiana Water Stories
filmmaker Jon Bowermaster

and a

Louisiana Art Show

Rhea Gary
CC Lockwood
Jeffrey Dubinsky
Jerry Moran
Kyle Jeffrey
Natalie Clay

Stefan Andermann

…and more!

First 50 people will receive a FREE DVD of a Jon Bowermaster film!

Live Louisiana Music

at the
Manship Theater

September 24, 2010

Gallery opens at 6:00 p.m. – Film starts at 7:00 p.m.

SOLA, Louisiana Water Stories

The event will take place on September 24, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. at the Manship Theater in Baton Rouge. For more information go to:

SaveOurGulf.orgVisit to get more information about the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from Waterkeeper organizations across the Gulf Coast and donate to Save Our Gulf!



More Tomorrow


Foam Roofs – They’re better than tar and gravel

This is so cool in so many ways. No heat absorption. High insulation values. Walkable. Why would anybody do anything else.

ROOFING: Looking for an eco-friendly alternative for a flat roof?

November 11 2007

Do you have a flat roof, or an area of your roof that is flat?   Some of us do, and when you talk to almost any roofer they will give you standard options such as tar and gravel, or large asphalt sheets.  Both of which are not good for decreasing urban heat.   Well there is an option that is a bit greener.  Foam.  Yes a foam roof.

Cedric, and his wife Mai, in Redwood Shores, CA, recently installed their foam roof as an alternative to tar and gravel.  Using a product from Sierra Spray Foam Roofing the couple simply removed the gravel from their existing room, and applied the foam product from Sierra Spray.

spray foam green roof spray foam green roof alternative
OLD ROOF                                                              NEW ROOF does not know the chemical breakdown (environmental friendliness) of the actual foam contents itself, or its sustainability, but we like the other eco-friendly positives that Cedric and Mai talk about in their blog:

  • We didn?t need to rip out the existing roof, just to remove the gravel
  • The roof is white so it is a ?cool roof?, keeping our house cooler in summer and avoiding the ?urban heating? effect of dark roofs
  • The foam material provides both water-protection and insulation, thus improving the energy efficiency of our house
  • In 10 to 15 years when the roof needs to be redone, we simply need to add another layer of foam to give it another 10 to 15 years of life!

Cedric also tells that the insulation value of the foam roof is extremely high because there is no air circulation at all — the whole roof is one piece.  The effective insulation of this roof is much higher than equivalent R value using traditional technologies that let some air circulate at the junctions between the insulation boards.   The roof can also be walked on.

Pricing:  $6 per square foot


More tomorrow.


Ceramic Roofs – An alternative roofing material for some

This is a great site and this is just some of the discussion

Posts: 79
November 01, 2009, 12:12:24 AM


I’d like it if we could talk about other types of alternative roofing, other than living roofs. Living roofs are NOT suitable to a large part of the world, including mine.  What I would like to talk about are ceramic tile roofs.

There are more than one type of ceramic tile roofs. Most people in the US think of the Medeterraininan style of curved tiles. But I would like to find info on the flat roof tiles used in areas of Northern France–type of clay used, installation, roofing bracing/trussing to support the weight (tile roofs are pretty heavy in comparison to most modern roofing materials). And can anyone tell me if a ceramic tile roof like this can be used as part of a rain cachement system?

Why ceramic tile? I’m a ceramic artist, I live in a state where earthernware clay is plentiful, and where a living roof would curl up and die, then become a fire hazard.



Joel Hollingsworth
Posts: 1724

zone 10: Oakland, CA

November 01, 2009, 03:06:29 AM

I am actually most familiar with the California style of tejas. And of course, there are also some amazing styles from Asia.

I think a ceramic roof is probably the best sort of roof for a rain collection system.  As long as none of your glazes are particularly toxic, it will work great.

It sounds like ceramic is perfect for you, but I suspect that purslane or a similar plant (spreading succulent) might work as a green roof in most hot, dry climates.


“the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.” SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.

Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603


November 01, 2009, 07:44:49 AM

ceramic seems like a great alternative. around here it would probably succumb to hailstorms though. somewhere I thought I read that there needs to be extra reinforcement of the structure to support the increased weight load.

“One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. – Dr. Michel Odent

Posts: 79
November 01, 2009, 05:39:21 PM

I’m in Oklahoma too.

Succulants wont work hetre, because we do get rain, in buckets, but only at certain times of the year–spring being the main rainy season, with fall a secondary rainy season. They would drown out. The problem in the rest of the year, when you get no precep at all from the end of May until mid-September. Lots of humidity but no rain. As well as high winds, and grass fires.

Sure, you use food-safe glazes on the tiles, same as if you’er making functional pottery.

Hail could be a problem, breaking tiles, but hail is a problem with just about any kind of roofing material. If your using highfire tiles, rather than earthernware, they might hold up better. I’m thinking about the mideaval church in Northern France that has a ceramic flat tile roof that is over 300 years old, surely that has been through more than a few severe storms, besides all the wars.

This piece of crap is screwing up and not working right. Every time I type a letter in, it bounces around so I dont know if its working or not.


Posts: 79
November 01, 2009, 05:46:45 PM

Okay, lets try this again. Apparently, the program doesn’t want to post very many lines per post. &%@#* if I know why.

Okay, yeah, the roof would need extra bracing, thats one of the things its vertually impossible to find out about. Anything to do with ceramic tile roofs, period, is impossible to learn about. Its like the alternative building community has a real blind spot where roofs are concerned. The only acceptable roof is a living roof, and I for one think that is a really short-sighted attitude. Concidering that there are numerous types of ceramic tile roofs around the world, in vernaculare archetecture, we really need to take a more serious look at this kind of roofing.


paul wheaton
Posts: 5662

missoula, montana

November 06, 2009, 12:38:00 PM

bdswagger, please take a look at this thread:

Posts: 24
November 20, 2009, 06:44:19 PM

Its Great to have an artist thinking about this. You could have all sorts of fun designing new types of roofing tile.

Where I grew up all the houses used red clay “pantile”. This tile has a S-shaped cross section, in effect each tile curls up over its neighbor to shelter the joint from weather. I am sure there are lots of alternative shapes that would still function. Have you thought about making different shaped tiles that could work together on the same structure?? you could get all sorts of new textures designed into the roof. Umm…this has got me thinking.

You might have something well worth patenting.

The main thing to think about, as far as the structure goes, is weight. A tile roof is far more heavier than the asphalt shingle you see in USA. Not only does the roof timbers have to be stronger, the walls also have to withstand the extra compression *and* the force tending to push the walls outwards.

Hence you find houses in the UK will have tile roofs and brick or stone walls. Stick built can still be found, but only for chickens! really!

I noticed in Japan that tile was used a lot, but they quite often used a glaze as well. Often a dark blue. Don’t really know why. Some of the older structures were very impressive. Massive pole barn type of construction with curving, overhanging rooves.

Keep us informed on your progress….and give us some pictures!



Joel Hollingsworth
Posts: 1724

zone 10: Oakland, CA

November 23, 2009, 02:22:01 PM

Not only does the roof timbers have to be stronger, the walls also have to withstand the extra compression *and* the force tending to push the walls outwards.

Have you ever seen Gaudí’s model of the Sagrada Familia?  It’s an amazing case of art as engineering.

The model is upside down, built of thin cords and bags of shot.  The bags of shot are filled to proportionally represent the weights of the various structural members and sheathing materials, and since the cords all follow lines of tension, the angles in the model naturally tend to those that keep all members of the finished building in compression.

It’s the sort of thing a computer model would be used for today, but I really like the elegance of the old-fashioned way.


Go there to add your voice to the discussion. More tomorrow.


Residential Energy Efficiency Can Start With The Roof

But even with the subsidies and incentives it will cost you double. So you have to ask yourself, is buying the last roof I ever will purchase worth it.

September 20, 2010

Don’t Miss Out On The $1500 Tax Credit!

Tax CreditThe $1500 tax credit for energy efficient upgrades to homes is still available. Homeowners who make energy efficient updates to their home, including the installation of a painted or coated Energy Star® labeled metal roof before December 31, 2010, may be eligible for a tax credit worth 30 percent of the installation costs (materials only), up to $1,500 per home.

To Receive The Tax Credit:

  1. Find a Contractor near you to discuss a new metal roof for your home.
  2. Confirm that the metal roof you select is a prepainted or coated Energy Star-labeled metal roof with pigmented coating/paint film specifically designed to reduce heat gain, and obtain certification from your contractor or the manufacturer
  3. Have the metal roof installed on your principal residence between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010. For further information on the requirements for tax credit eligibility click here and/or consult with your tax advisor.
  4. Fill out IRS Form 5695 Residential Energy Credits when filing your taxes for 2009 and/or 2010.

Find a metal roofing contractor in your area today to take advantage of this great opportunity for savings before it’s too late. Visit for more information or contact for questions about the tax credit.

Why Metal? Tell Us Your Metal Roofing Story and Win

For the past decade we have been telling homeowners and contractors about the many benefits of residential metal roofs. Now, we’re turning the tables, and asking you to tell us why you chose metal in our “Tell Us Your Metal Roofing Story” Facebook contest.

All you have to do is tell us why you chose metal and submit a photo of your beautiful roof via our application on the MRA’s Facebook contest page. Get 10 people to “Like” it via Facebook and you are entered in the contest. The lucky winner will be rewarded with a $500 gift card to Home Depot. Plus, we will be making a donation in the winner’s name to their local Habitat for Humanity chapter and the contractor that installed the winning metal roof will receive a free Silver Level Metal Roofing Alliance membership or $1,000 towards a Gold level membership.

Ask the Experts Photo Gallery Tax Credit
Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr Blogger
MRA - Metal Roofing is an online metal roofing information resource provided to homeowners and metal roofing contractors and manufacturers by The Metal Roofing Alliance. The Metal Roofing Alliance is committed to protecting your privacy.


More tomorrow