- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 13 Nov 2017
Inverted roof defect - case study
An inverted roof, also referred to as a ‘protected membrane’ or ‘upside down’ roof, is where the waterproofing layer is beneath the thermal insulation layer instead of above it. This means that the temperature within the roof void is closer to that of the building’s interior, without a vapour control layer being required as with a warm roof.
BRE investigated a large building with an inverted roof that was suffering from persistent leaks, with water dripping from the underside of the roof and on to suspended ceiling tiles. When the insulation was removed from the worst-affected area, a large number of water-filled ‘blisters’ were found in the waterproof membrane.
The blisters ranged in size from 50 mm to 1 m and further investigations revealed that they were present across the entire building.
[Figure 1 – Water-filled blisters across roof surface revealed by the removal of the insulation boards]
- Liquid-applied polyurethane waterproof membrane.
- Epoxy resin primer.
- Concrete screed.
- Pre-cast concrete planks.
The building owners assumed that the blisters had formed because of pinholes and small tears in the membrane, and indeed many such defects were present. However, the majority of the blisters did not contain any defects and there appeared to be no path for water to enter them.
Following an investigation, BRE concluded that water that had been trapped in the roof build-up during construction had condensed between the top of the concrete screed and the underside of the membrane.
The epoxy primer that had been applied to the top of the concrete screed appeared to be acting like a one-way valve, allowing water vapour to pass upwards, but not allowing it to be absorbed back into the screed once it had condensed. This caused the blisters to be ‘pumped up’ with water each time a sudden downpour followed a spell of fine weather.
[Figure 2 – Sketch of condensation within a vapour-filled blister]
It is stressed that this was an unusual occurrence and not one that is normally associated with inverted roofs. Unfortunately the scope of the investigation did not allow BRE to fully investigate the circumstances that had allowed the blisters to form. But the most likely cause was a deficiency in the bond between the liquid-applied waterproof membrane and the primed surface of the concrete screed.
This article was originally published here by BRE.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Intricate inlays and beautiful patterns can be created with waterjet cutting.
Two historic quarries in environmentally sensitive areas were reopened to repair Exeter Cathedral.
The phrase ‘time at large’ describes the situation where there is no date for completion, or it has become invalid.
The Maldives is under threat from climate change. Read this report from BRE on their potential involvement in the region.
MHCLG update states there are still 124 private high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding and no remediation plan.
Starting a new built environment degree? We have a wide range of resources aimed at students.
Former railway chief James Blake says trust and control are key to successful infrastructure projects.
Do you know your Rococo from your De Stijl, your Gothic from your Post-modernist?
May outlines a new funding strategy for housing associations and says the 'stigma' of social housing needs to end.
RIBA launches a consultation on a new Plan of Work for Fire Safety.