Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Being Attentive to the Details

Bearing in mind that nothing is ever as simple as it seems can save you a good deal of heartache. What I mean is that behind every act, every process, there are levels of complexity lurking to bite you in the butt if you're not mindful of them. I'll give you a good example.

Last week I discovered a leak in our new back rubber roof. After some rooting around I think I narrowed the source. I believe the leak is happening where one of the handrail posts plunges into the roofing material. Given that I can't pull the railing apart I figured I could simply caulk all around the outside, so that no water would ever be able to get under the post's decorative trim to reach the failure point again.

Maybe, I think, there's a caulk better suited than others to the task. After all there's acrylic, silicon, blends of each and a half dozen or so other varieties. I started doing research after a trip to the hardware store revealed that some caulks specifically mention that they shouldn't be used on rubber while others are silent in both directions. Overall I found one type of caulk recommended for rubber roofing systems. Butyl caulk. And because of its VOC content, Butyl caulk has been banned in Maryland. You can't buy it and you can't have it shipped in.

So what do I do? I'm not sure specifically what can or can't be used other than Butyl. I went today to a roofing supply distributor. They recommended Geocel, a brand name representing many different products, one of which, their 2300 caulk, I bought. Again though it was silent on its safety with rubber roofs.

I did more research. Turns out you cannot use silicon-based caulks on rubber. It will dry and flake of. And...Geocel 2300...no good either, it turns out, from what I can piece together. While the Geocel website is somewhat mute on the point (it doesn't list rubber in the 2300's list of potential materials, but it also doesn't warn you against it) I found another reference elsewhere on EPDM rubber roofing that Aromatic Hydrocarbons can be very damaging. Geocel 2300 contains Aromatic Hydrocarbons. So that's out. Geocel does sell a sealant called 4500 however that specifically mentions rubber roofing applications as safe uses for the product.

So tomorrow I'm heading back to ABC to hopefully swap my 2300 for 4500, if they have it. How did they, the experts, manage to sell me the wrong product for my application? The didn't think deeply enough into the details.

It's negative in one sense, I guess, but you really should approach everything as a potential pitfall. Keeping a keen eye out for the myriad of ways things can go wrong will help you avoid making a lot of costly mistakes. Always know, as deeply as possible, what you're doing before you start. You'll still screw things up sometimes, but generally not as badly as you could have otherwise. So in the end it's really a very positive way to approach life. It's a cliche, but it's true. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

After all, who knew how complicated getting the right caulk for my job was going to be? And if I'd used just any caulk I could have created a really horrible situation.

The devil's in the details, after all.*

*This too is cliched. And it is also true.

1 comment:

  1. Could you repair your rubber roof with more rubber (in liquid form)? This stuff sounds pretty good too: http://www.eternabond.com/articles/rubber-roof-repair.htm