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.


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.