Roofing and the Wet Suit Waterproofing Membrane System

(Released on December 26)
About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners

About The Everything Building Envelope Podcast: Everything Building Envelope℠ is a dedicated podcast and video forum for understanding the building envelope. Our podcast series discusses current trends and issues that contractors, developers and building owners have to deal with related to pre and post construction. Our series touches on various topics related to water infiltration, litigation and construction methods related to the building envelope.

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Derek: Welcome to the “Everything Building Envelope” podcast. I’m Derek Segal, and I’m a building envelope consultant with GCI. We’ve got a very special guest today. Matt Leslie is joining us. Welcome, Matt.

Matt: Thank you, Derek. It’s good to be here.

Derek: Excellent. I think you’re gonna get a lot out of today’s podcast. It’s gonna be exciting. Matt’s got an innovative, excellent product to talk about. And before we get started with that, Matt, would you tell us a little bit about how you came to be where you’re at today in the industry and your journey, you know, to get to this point.

Matt: Sure. Sure. Of course, that’s a 40-year journey, which I’ll do my best to cut down into a few seconds. But it started long ago in the mid-’50s when my father was in the business. And so I grew up in the family, in the industry. And then in the early days, I was in the supply end of the roofing industry. Was in that for several years, 15, 16 years and then transitioned into the contracting end and I’ve been doing that for as many years since. A couple of years ago, I became aware and familiar with this product we’re gonna talk about today by the name of WetSuit that has led my partner and I to opening up Poseidon Sales and we’ve kind of carried the torch of WetSuit in promoting its benefits and uses around the country.

Derek: That sounds really good. I must say, for those of you that don’t know my background, having been in the roofing end of the industry since 1992, you know, new products and new technologies is always an exciting attribute. And we’re always looking for, you know, something just a little bit better, especially given the way the weather has been over the last few years and the intensity of storms. So with that said, and I am holding a sample of the product, WetSuit, real interesting name. It brings to mind scuba diving, swimming in the ocean. Any info on how the name came about? Was the guy in the diving industry or how did the name come to be WetSuit?

Matt: Yeah. That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer for that particular origination of the name. But it’s an interesting story in that the gentleman and creator and founder of this product and company, Neptune Coatings, the manufacturer of WetSuit, he was already retired, chemist by profession and had already retired, and was continually hearing from his friends during his weekly golf outings that they were having trouble keeping their balconies watertight over the long term. And he finally got tired of, you know, hearing their complaints. He said, “Guys, give me a few weeks. Let me see if we can create something for you.” And frankly, out of his garage, was born the product WetSuit. So not so much aware of where the name came from, but the story behind the product is amazing. And he literally produced the product for several years out of his garage for his buddies.

Derek: Garage?

Matt: Yeah.

Derek: Wow, that’s amazing.

Matt: Yep.

Derek: So yeah, I spoke a little bit about weather ability and I think, you know, all of us can agree that over the past two years, I mean, we had… I think we started off with Harvey that hit Texas. We went from there to Maria that, you know, impacted Puerto Rico. We then got Irma that pretty much impacted the entire state of Florida. And then Michael, obviously, really created some serious damage up in the panhandle of Florida. And I think we can all agree that, you know, the intensity, the duration of these things, the amount of rainfall has just been astronomical. I mean, we’re looking for a product that can stand up to nature’s fury which seems to be kind of always on the increase. How is this product different to other products and how is this gonna give me more peace of mind and a property owner the peace of mind, you know, during these weather phenomenon that happen, to know that his building is in good shape and he has nothing to worry about?

Matt: Well, it’s interesting because the storms have actually created an opportunity for WetSuit. WetSuit, when it was created in 2001, it was created as a long-term solution for a total building envelope, waterproofing, and roofing solution. The product can be used from below grade to roofing and everything in between, but it was created as a long-term solution. But as a result of the storms and some problems that are inherent with the storms and their damage and then the repair that’s subsequent to that, we’re finding that as an example, high wind event might just pull off a portion of a roof. Maybe just a corner of a couple of hundred square feet, but conventional methods have somebody run out there and drop a blue tarp over the entire roof area, which typically is several thousand square feet and, of course, it’s costly to cover such a long area.

They’re penetrating the good roof with several hundred nails to hold the tarp in place, and then the tarps are not resistant to ultraviolet rays and strong winds and they end up getting blown off, you know, after the initial fix and then they’re back up there doing the same thing again. Where with WetSuit, we’re finding that the contractors can go in and spray just the affected area, which might be a couple of hundred square feet, not a couple thousand, they can get in, get out quick, make the building watertight. The product adhesion properties are above and beyond anything in the business. I mean, the downside to WetSuit is once it gets on something it stays there. But for wind events, that’s a good thing. So they can run in and fix a smaller area, do it much faster and the product is UV stable over the long period of time. In laboratory testing, we’ve shown no degradation from ultraviolet rays over a period of as much as 35 years.

Derek: That’s impressive.

Matt: Yeah, it really is a remarkable material.

Derek: So with storms, you know, obviously you mentioned one type of storm, which is a high wind event. Obviously, the other catastrophic-type events that we’ve been seeing a lot more of, especially out west in Colorado, and usually we see that around Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas. But we’ve been seeing more and more of it. I think Colorado, Denver got hit two or three times over the last year by massive hail. Is this something that will, you know, be able to absorb these large hailstones, these hard structural hailstones? Is this something that WetSuit can stand up to and resist?

Matt: There’s a multitude of physical properties with WetSuit that put it above and beyond anything in the business and, of course, we’ve been through every test requirement by either ASTM or Factory Mutual. Specifically to your question about hail, we’ve passed Factory Mutual’s most severe hail test with no impact at all. It’s an extremely durable, flexible material. And like I said, resistant to, you know, the effects of sun over the long term. These hailstorms create a huge problem in the roofing industry and, frankly, WetSuit is completely unaffected by these things.

Derek: Fantastic. So, okay, now that we found out, you know, some of the positive benefits, I mean, is this thing… I mean, how do we put this down? Does it come in rolls? Do we have to get a crane to lift these rolls up onto the roof? I mean, being that it’s such an innovative product I would think it’s got to be unique in the way that this thing goes on. And it’s got to be, you know, better and easier to install. Is that the case or do I now have to hire, you know, double the labor or how am I going to put this product on the roof?

Matt: Well, they continue to say how amazing the material is or what a phenomenal product it is. It goes so far beyond just the product itself. The process, the logistics required in the application, this material, the crew size and the skill set required have been significantly reduced or minimized or made more efficient. Not necessarily by design, it just evolved that way over the last 18 years. But specifically with your first question about the process of application, it’s a spray application. There’s specialized equipment that’s not very expensive, just specialized because of the pressures that are required, which are very minimal, by the way, which is unusual for a spray application. But it’s a spray application, it’s extremely fast in its application, but your typical roof assembly is going to consist any more of a single-ply membrane that’s approximately 60 mils thick.

Now, they’ll vary by a little bit, by five mils, plus or minus, but basically your 60 mil thickness in a membrane is your most popular solution. WetSuit goes down in a single-pass spray application in a 60 mil application. So we have some continuity there with what the market is accustomed to, but WetSuit, because it’s a spray application, is seamless. And over my years in the business, I have found, you know, roofs will fail and leak at certain conditions, whether it’s a rooftop piece of equipment, or a transition from roof to wall or conditions like that, similar to that. However, what the common denominator in all of those conditions is the seam and it’s the seam that fails, not the membrane itself. And so by virtue of the fact that WetSuit is a seamless membrane at 60 mils, we’ve eliminated the fail point. And so now all of a sudden there is no fail point in the roof.

Derek: Right. That’s very beneficial. I gotta tell you, you know, being that I’ve been on, you know, hundreds and hundreds of roofs, what I’m seeing more of now and that you make a good point is that in a lot of cases, you know, now that the world is so technologically advanced, there is more equipment up on the roof buildings typically, we’re building up more and not out because we’re running out of space. And so really you have only one place to put all your building system equipment and that’s up on top of the roof, and I know I’ve been involved in some roof projects where it’s an absolute nightmare. You’ve got, you know, 300, 400, 500 roof penetrations, you’ve got cellular equipment, internet equipment and…

Matt: Yep, they’re a mess.

Derek: That becomes a real issue because if you’ve got a leak around a pipe that’s coming through the roof and you’ve got, you know, sensitive equipment downstairs, that’s a nightmare you want to try and avoid. I definitely get that.

Matt: Yep, and that brings to mind a project that we recently completed or at least one of our contractors recently completed in Orlando. It was a pedestrian deck. So it was a… Basically, I like to refer to it as party central in an apartment complex. And so they had five different planters and they were full planters. They were false planters that had a steel grate over the top that they put their artificial turf on and some other architectural features, but the support to that steel grade was a two-inch square leg. Well, in five planters we had 300 penetrations in about 1,500 square feet.
Now, that’s just a ridiculous amount of penetrations in any roof system.

And, of course, the fact that it’s, the application of WetSuit was seamless on a square product which, you know, the people that aren’t in the roofing industry don’t understand the difficulty of getting that watertight and keeping it watertight, especially with all the structural movement that’s going to take place in any structure of any height. So not only is it seamless but because of the elasticity and the elongation of the material, which is, by the way, 2,000% elongation, the movement is irrelevant, it’s of no impact to the WetSuit product. But for the construction industry, here’s the single strongest benefit, is those 300 penetrations would take, oh, probably 20 or 30 minutes each penetration and 100 to 125 man hours and those 300 penetrations will complete in five hours.

Derek: Wow, that’s huge, because I don’t really understand that.

Matt: Tremendous efficiency in the application process, it’s seamless so we’ve eliminated the fail point, the elongation, just kind of laughs at any structural movement. And then also, you asked or kind of touched on a moment ago, Derek, about the issues of logistics and machinery. This product, it can be sprayed through up to 500 feet of hose and it can be sprayed vertically up 100 feet. So as long as we’re working on, let’s say, a 10-story building or less, we’ve got one very small staging area down on the ground, we haul one hose up with one spray gun and we get anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of surface area sprayed and waterproofed in a day’s work with just a three-man crew as compared to about a 10-man crew with your conventional methods.

Derek: You’d never get 15,000 square foot done in a day anyway on a normal roof, there’s no way.

Matt: If there’s any penetrations at all, absolutely impossible. Maybe a third of that. It’s not really a fun fact, but I’d like you to make it that way. This is a water-based material that’s spray applied and it cures to a rubber membrane in three seconds. So here’s another benefit to the tradesmen. Typically, they’re looking at a weather forecast and early in the morning there might be a forecast, especially in the South Florida market where we know we can almost set our clocks by the afternoon rain. They know that there’s a potential storm coming through and they’re very nervous about whether they send the crews or not, and then what type of work the crews do and how they expose the building to a re-roofing element. Well, frankly, with WetSuit curing in three seconds, this is fact that we can spray WetSuit right up to the moment of rain and have no re-emulsification, have no runoff and what we’ve touched is watertight the instant it’s sprayed. Again, that’s just a fun fact that three-second cure of a water-based material, but man, it provides unbelievable protection.

Derek: Okay, I’m sold. I wanna ask you one real important question for me. We’ve all heard over the last year, two years, global warming, some people think it’s fake, whatever. But I’ll tell you one thing that is a fact and that the oceans are filling up with plastics, single-use plastic, the landfills are filling up. I mean, there’s some stuff we just can’t deny. And for me, you know, the environmental impact is really critical to us and the future generations. Will this product help to protect the Earth and how will me choosing WetSuit help the environment and change the path that we seem to be on, you know, if we continue to use single-use plastic and throw debris and old roofing systems into our landfills? Tell me what benefits they will be to the long-term environmental well being.

Matt: And boy, that’s a huge problem. The amount of debris and tonnage that goes into our landfills from old roofs that have to be torn off and taken to the dump is mind-boggling. It’s billions of pounds every year. And there are occasions when because of the existence of trap moisture in an existing roof system, that there is no option but to remove what’s there, it’s just good roofing practice. However, most cases, the roof does not need to be removed. However, building code throughout the country says that you can only put two roof systems on any building and that’s really more of a weight fact. So if we get into a situation where there’s two existing roofs, the industry nationwide says get rid of everything that’s there and go fill that landfill.

With WetSuit, because it’s a liquid applied product, 6 ounces per square foot at 60 mils, because it’s considered by the building departments as a maintenance item, not a roof system, although it performs better than every other roof system, it’s not considered a roof system. That requirement of tearing two roofs off is not necessary with the application of WetSuit. So we’re going to have a huge impact, reducing the impact on landfills because of the amount of tear off that’s not required. So not only is it a landfill benefit, but this product has zero VOCs. For those listening that maybe don’t know what VOC stands for, that’s volatile organic compound, and that means fumes. There are no fumes coming off of this product. It’s a water-based material.

Derek: Yeah, we’ve both stood around. In fact, I drive down the street and I can smell a roof going on, you know, a mile away.

Matt: Yeah, for sure.

Derek: I mean there’s carcinogenic fumes going into the air, there’s a…

Matt: Here’s a scenario that happens, more often than not is, they’re working on a roof on a hospital and somebody forgets to turn off the intake and the glues that they use for some of the systems have a tremendous amount of a VOCs, volatile organic compounds, and they have a problem inside the entire hospital because of these VOCs. So this happens. Well, that’s a non-factor again, with WetSuit. Now, not only is it healthy from the standpoint of VOCs, this product has been approved as a tank liner for drinkable water. So it is of no consequence to the people working with it. It is of no consequence to the inhabitants of a building that’s getting the product applied to it, has a monster impact on our environment and the people that live in that environment.

Derek: Well, sounds like this is the product of today and the future. I mean, because we really… I must tell you I was recently up in the panhandle and I literally saw buildings and roofing systems that peeled off like a sardine can. The way these storms are going and might I add Irma and Harvey, Harvey was more than 52, 53 inches of rain in Houston. We’ve got to come up with better products and there’s a lot more being thrown at us and we need to be ready to defend ourselves. And I mean, the roof, as far as I’m concerned, is probably the most important building component out there because it protects everything from the top down. You know, most often people are more attuned to putting a fresh coat of paint on a building or putting some new plants and flowers around a building, and a roof is really not something they can see. So it’s out of sight, out of mind.

Matt: That’s so true.

Derek: Having seen Panama City and Panama City Beach, one really grasps the importance of a product that can withstand even a Cat 3, Cat 4 storm, because really everything depends on just how good that product is. So with that said, I mean, I’m gonna go run out right now pick up a bucket myself. I mean, can I just go to Home Depot? I need some of this stuff.

Matt: Well, no. You can’t buy it off the shelf and here’s the reason why. We, Neptune Coatings and Poseidon Sales are committed to high quality, finished, installed assembly. And as a result of that, we are very tough on our contractors in the training process, in the warranty protocol process and just the entire process of applying the material. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s so important to just do things the right way. So we’re pretty dogmatic about what we require as far as training, education, proper quality control. So no, you can’t just buy it off the shelf. So there’s some benefit there, but I did want to address also your comment about, you know, the storms and the wind events.

We have, as I mentioned before, the amount of testing that Neptune Coatings has done through ASTM and Factory Mutual is substantial to say the least. One of those series and batteries of testing has to do with wind resistance performance. And another fun fact about WetSuit, one of those tests was with the WetSuit material applied directly to concrete. Now Factory Mutual’s equipment has a certain capacity, they can measure up to a certain point and then the equipment just can’t measure any more than that. In the testing of WetSuit’s adhesion on concrete, we couldn’t reach failure. In fact, we took the testing up to Factory Mutual’s capacity. Didn’t reach failure. And so FM says, “Hey, you’re good to a 1-990 rating.”

Derek: What does that mean?

Matt: Well, and that’s where I was headed. I don’t really know exactly what it means. But here’s what I do know. Back in the day, when we started measuring things under this, you know, this 1-something standard, we started with a 1-90, and the industry kind of accepted that to mean that that would be good for a Category 1 hurricane of 90 miles an hour. Now, that’s not the exact science behind it. And I like to say this, I’m not really a propeller head so I don’t get into the scientific side of this. I trust those that do know what they’re doing and I trust their conclusions. But we’re now designing systems to about a 1-150, maybe a 1-180.

Derek: But yours is 900?

Matt: Nine ninety.

Derek: That’s crazy.

Matt: And did not reach failure.

Derek: So that’s nine times the design strength.

Matt: Pretty much. Pretty much.

Derek: The industry standard.

Matt: And here’s another thing on that same subject. When it comes to roof failure by wind event, in other words, a blow off…

Derek: Mm-hmm.

Matt: Most of the time it’s not the roof membrane, that’s the problem. It’s the edge of the roof that has a piece of sheet metal and that piece of sheet metal has an edge to it, has a face to it and there’s a gap between the metal and the building. And that little tiny gap when the wind is whipping around there at about 120 miles an hour, that wind grabs that edge of metal and that’s the weak point of the roof and it peels it off from that point.

Derek: How is it different with WetSuit? [inaudible 00:23:44] I was just about to ask.

Matt: WetSuit is a self-flashing, self-terminating material and system. It can, if the architectural and design community will accept it, it can eliminate 100% of the sheet metal requirements in the construction of a roof. Without the sheet metal edge for the wind to grab, the wind will have… Not only does it have unbelievable adhesion to surfaces and substrates, but it allows us to produce a finished product that the wind has nothing to grab.

Derek: Well. it sounds like you guys have thought of everything. That’s kind of the way I started the podcast was just prefacing the podcast by saying that it was gonna be interesting and exciting and really, you know, blow the minds of a lot of people out there that, you know, are used to the same old same-same old, and the same challenges and stresses that come, you know, with roofs. I think at the end of the day… I mean, what we all want and what I want, is I would want as a building owner is one thing, peace of mind.

And that comes with, you know, knowing that storm is coming and knowing that you’ve done everything you need to do and you have the best product possible, especially given the fact that, you know, during Irma and Michael and Maria and Harvey, I mean, we as property owners, we all think we put our insurance policy in our drawer, we’re covered. You know, no matter what happens, I think it’s been painful for a lot of property owners to learn that you really only find out if you’re covered after something happens. I mean, you might think you’re covered, but there are a lot of trap doors in that contract of insurance that’s sitting in your drawer and if there’s anything better.

Yeah, that property owners can do above and beyond, and this system may even save them money because from what you say, I mean, goes on quicker, it doesn’t require as much manpower, you know, I can’t see why, you know, someone wouldn’t want to get some more information to find out about this. But I just wanted to say that this has been one of my best podcasts ever, [inaudible 00:25:50] called WetSuit. I encourage you folks to find out more about it and see if it’s something you’d be interested in finding out for your property.

Well, folks, I think you can all agree that I said at the beginning of the podcast, this was gonna be fantastic and really interesting. And I hope that you got a lot out of this, as much as I did. I’d like to thank Matt for being on with us. Matt, do you have any final thoughts or information you want to give to our listeners?

Matt: In closing, I’d like to tell a quick story. Of course, I’ve introduced this test data and product data around the country to dozens of designers and architects and engineers, consultants. I’ve asked them consistently to dig into the test data and share with me what they think the, if, in fact, there’s weaknesses. We’ve certainly not talked about any weaknesses today, and I’ve asked that they share weaknesses. And so far, they’ve all come back with a denial meaning that they couldn’t find anything.

I did have one humorous response from a consultant. Oh, gosh, about a year ago, he said, “You know, we really couldn’t find any weaknesses or any weak links in this product or its application and so forth.” But he said, and he said, very sincerely said, “But I would give you one piece of advice.” I said, “Well, what’s that advice?” And he said, “Don’t tell everybody the whole story because it’s too good to be true.” And I couldn’t help but chuckle. I said, “Well, I’m sorry, Sean, but I’m going to have to tell the whole story because number one, it’s my nature and number two, we expect to probably change the entire market because of it.”

Derek: Wow, that’s amazing. That sums it all up. And again, you know, I think this was a great podcast. Now, Matt, how do people get in touch with you?

Matt: Well, they should call me personally. My phone number is (561) 870-2259, or they can study some of the product data on our website which, of course, is

Derek: Fantastic. Thanks, that sounds great. Thanks to all of you, our valued listeners, our most important resource and please, you know, join us again for these informative podcasts. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and check out our fantastic website and cool videos that you can find on And once again, this is Derek Segal with GCI consultants. Thank you so much for joining us and we look forward to bringing you a bunch more fantastic, innovative and interesting podcasts. Thanks.