In the world of building construction, whether it is residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, or otherwise, there are two primary considerations. Those are the foundation and the roof. There is no question as to which has the most vital role to play in a structure being deemed safe, secure, and indeed, habitable – the roof system. This is simply because leaks, damage, and improper maintenance can and will ultimately affect the foundation and the integrity of a building.
The roofing industry has changed in the United States since the Colonial Period in the 1600s when clay tile, slate, and wood were employed. Today, there are many roofing systems available along with roofing materials, but the single-ply roofing market is definitely growing in demand throughout the nation, and indeed globally, according to a March analysis of the industry by market research firm Lucintel.
The United States accounted for almost thirty-seven percent of this global market share in 2018. It is anticipated that, by 2026, the nation will account for a market of close to three billion dollars. And at the forefront will be R L Murphey Commercial Roof Systems, based in Lewisville, Texas with another location in Edmond, Oklahoma. The company was established by the husband and wife team of Rick and Sally Murphey and specializes in commercial and industrial single-ply roofing systems for flat and sloped roofs.
Rick explains that he had always wanted to own his own company after years of working in the roofing industry. He began his career in 1981 and gradually made his way through the industry acquiring positions in project management and sales.
After being a stay at home mother, Sally wanted to use her business degree and start a business alongside her husband, so the couple, “decided to start our company in 2002 … We started our first project in early 2003.” The company, with its seventy-five employees, offers services for new construction, maintenance, reroofing, sheet metal trim, soffit, fascia, downspouts, and gutters.
Rick notes that during his career, he could see that single-ply roofing was a growing trend and, “literally saw it develop from the beginning. I could see that white membrane was going to be the way of the future.” He explains that single-ply is both economically and environmentally friendly, a lot faster to produce, and clean. “It reflects the sun instead of drawing it to it, like a black roof.” In fact, in some southern states such as California, a white roof is preferred to a black roof. “They have codes in place where you really have to use the white.”
So what exactly is a single-ply roof system? Rick explains that single-ply is a flexible sheet of membrane roof covering made from materials such as ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM), thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
He adds that EPDM is more of a northern states technology produced in black sheets, whereas TPO is utilized more in the southern regions. “If you have more heating days than cooling days, use a black roof and use a higher R-value, which is a thicker insulation.”
These products are, “manufactured in a factory where it’s very strict quality control,” Rick adds. “Properly installed, it offers an inherited advantage over traditional materials due to the strength, flexibility, high durability, and cost. The cost is less expensive than a built-up roof system. It’s a cost-driven product.”
TPO is the most inexpensive because of reduced labor costs compared to EDPM, which also has additional system components. “TPO is heat welded, where you weld the product together, and you have very little components that you have to use to prepare the membrane,” Rick explains. He also states that TPO can be utilized in high slope areas, “but there are some additional requirements from the manufacturer.”
In some systems, the TPO or PVC is placed down first and then ‘ribs’ are laid down, making it look like a standing seamed roof system. “But it’s actually a TPO or PVC system. Most of the major manufacturers have this product now, and it comes in a variety of colors. It’s a very unique way of doing a high sloped roof without using metal.”
For those customers unsure about which materials or roof system to employ for their particular project, that there are assorted substrates to which membranes may be attached, such as metal decks or wood decks. “Concrete is usually used on high rises or hospitals,” whereas warehouses or industrial facilities generally employ twenty gauge metal decking.
“Usually there’s a licensed architect or engineer that determines the appropriate system,” he says. “They have to refer to the international (IBC) and state building codes.”
Aside from the various membranes to be attached to the roof’s substrate, R L Murphey employs three securing systems. Roofs may be mechanically secured with screws, concrete nails and augers; fully adhered using adhesives that are then heated; and ballasted in which the membrane is secured in place with aggregates.
Rick explains that the company did ballasted roof systems about twenty years ago, but that, “In the last twenty years, the ballasted EPDM system has turned to TPO mechanically-attached roof systems. A lot of that’s due to cost [and] efficiencies, in order to cover the job quicker.” Many companies look to this system because of the shortened completion time so that the facilities can be opened sooner.
Which system to employ really, “depends on what the project is and what the customers’ demands are,” says Rick, noting that the mechanically-attached TPO roof system “is the most dominant and in-demand system the last ten years.”
“It’s very effective,” Sally adds. “It’s production-friendly, and it’s a very good product. TPO is considered the gold standard in the roofing industry right now.”
“All the leading manufacturers have regular training sessions for their products. And we do our own in-house training. Training is a never-ending process,” Rick adds. The manufacturers with which the company has closely aligned itself also have guide books to show proper installation details and provide the information on apps for mobile electronic devices. “All of our foremen and lead men have them in case they get to a particular detail they don’t know how to do,” says Rick. “The technology makes it very simple to look at the manufacture you’re doing on that particular job.”
There are always new products being brought to market, and since R L Murphey is such a large contractor, it has the opportunity to view such products as they become available. These manufacturers, “like to show us [the latest products] so that we can sell their product,” adds Rick.
“We have very long-standing relationships,” Sally says of about the company’s relationships with manufacturers. “We’re a sixteen-consecutive-year Excellence in Single-Ply (ESP) Carlisle contractor and a long-term Johns Manville Pinnacle Council contractor.” The company was even named to Johns Manville 5280 Council as, “one of their top ten contractors in North America for two out of the three years the program has been in place.”
Such manufacturers’ programs “ensure their contractors are factory certified, properly licensed, adequately insured, have proven reputations, and are also committed to ongoing professional training,” Sally adds. This assures customers that they are, “not only getting a very good quality product but that the installing contractor demonstrates competency.”
It is essential for customers to know that projects are completed on time and within budget. Rick notes that the manufacturer does a pre-construction, in-progress, and final inspection on any project undertaken by R L Murphey Commercial Roof Systems. Prior to any project resuming, the company, “brings together the foreman, superintendent, and the project manager. We talk about the job.” Such particulars as details, materials being used, safety concerns, and any unique aspects of the project will be discussed. “The more time you spend up front, the better the job will run,” he says.
R L Murphey has completed numerous projects. Rick refers to the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA’s new business hub in Fort Worth, Texas, which was an approximately 200,000-square-foot building with a 59,000 square-foot roof, just completed. It began about eight months ago and used multiple roof substructures, including concrete and steel, among others.
“We installed a traditional, singly-ply, Carlisle, mechanically-attached system over the main part,” he says. “There’s actually a paver system over the patio decks, and it’s over the Carlisle roof system.”
Another project was Amazon’s distribution facilities in Texas in which the company, “installed roughly five million feet of TPO on three of their buildings in the last three years.”
The company also completed a project about a year and a half ago at Toyota’s research and design facility at its corporate headquarters in Frisco, Texas. “It’s a very, very high profile project here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” says Rick. And showcasing the company’s range was the Tanger Outlet Mall project in Fort Worth which had, “a lot of different challenges as far as different roof levels,” says Rick. “It was very complicated, but it was a very good job at the end.”
R L Murphey Commercial Roof Systems has received a number of accolades over the years, and Sally indicates that this is really the result of, “installing a safe, high-quality single-ply roof with the top-performing products on the market for the last seventeen years. And that’s the result of experience, a lot of hard work, and doing the right thing consistently.”
She emphasizes that, “Our vision for our company hasn’t really changed that much from the beginning. We’re a service business. We want to take good care of our customers. We’d like to be the preferred single-ply roofing company in Texas and beyond.”