Tapered Insulation And Whether Or Not You Need It


When it comes to choosing the best type of roofing to best fit your needs, there is a long list of requirements to consider. Thankfully, the market for roofing has made it so that the options are even more varied. This applies for the roofing itself, and very critically, the insulation on which the roof is placed. Just like roofing, the insulation beneath it comes in a variety of shapes and material, which can be changed to according to demand to fit functionality.

Insulation is important, as it acts as the first measure in temperature regulation for the building. Selection of the insulation material should be determined by the climate the building being roofed is in. Two important criteria to base this on are the ‘C Value’ and the ‘R Value’. The C Value refers to a material’s capacity to transfer heat; specifically, the number of BTU (British Thermal Units) that pass through a square foot of material with a 1-degree temperature difference per defined thickness. The R Value is the measure of a material’s capacity to resist the flow of heat. Metals are good heat conductors, and thus have both low R and C Values.  Even for environments that do not experience extreme variations in temperature, accounting for a building’s heat loss can make the difference in making a building safe and comfortable for long term habitation. Heat is primarily lost through the roof, making insulation a critical factor when setting up roofing insulation.

A popular roofing insulation option that is highly recommended simply because of its shape and structure is tapered insulation. A tapered roofing system is one that has a manufacturer-defined incline or slope. It is not advised to change the incline, say by shearing, but rather use differently inclined insulation panels to fit function and aesthetics.

Tapered Insulation Designs

Among the numerous ways to design a tapered insulation system, the two that take top podium positions in popularity are the two-way and four-way tapered systems. Another major component that goes into tapered insulation design are crickets. Crickets are an application of tapered design used to divert water toward drains. They are typically rhombic (diamond) or triangular, and slope downward to the drainage. Crickets have a much steeper incline than the rest of the tapered insulation, meaning that water will quickly flow off the surface.

Two-Way Tapered System

Built on a flat surface with a low point at a drain or in a drain line, two-way tapered systems have a rectangular design with a low at or near the drain, and high on the roof perimeter, or an elevated (comparatively) drain line. Once the slope has been established, crickets can be installed at the drain -or between the building’s end and the drain to help direct water flow.

Four-Way Tapered System

This configuration is both more preferred and recommended. Water is directed into drainage by typically four tapered surfaces, often inclined at 45 degrees. In most cases, it will not be necessary to install crickets to help direct water flow. This is all a part of value engineering, qualitatively dedicating resources like labor and cost toward components that would bring the greatest benefit to the project at hand, in this case being the insulation.

Benefits Of Tapered Insulation

Installing tapered insulation against other types will reap several benefits in both the short and long term. The most profound benefits to be gained from tapered insulation include:

  • The slope. Extensive engineering and research have been undertaken by many companies to come up with optimal, standardized inclines made to efficiently divert water flow and prevent it from pooling. Water is among the highest causes of roofing damage, seeping into cracks, mixing with gases and particles in the air to make alkaline or acidic mixtures, which can eat away at the roofing and insulation itself. Another hazard is when it freezes when between cracks, making them wider and causing more damage.
  • Heat retention and dissipation. Tapered insulation can be made from a variety of materials, adapted to the needs of the building and its occupants.
  • It is also light, exerting less stress in the building’s support structures, meaning that heavier material can be used to make the roof itself if needed.

Photo by: CRS

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