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October 2007

Commercial roofing made from recycled tires
by Irwin Rapoport Write the Author

Bob Lanphier, the owner of Rebound Rubber Recycling in Missouri, a veteran of the automobile and tire recycling business for 26 years, is looking to discarded tires to manufacture rolled flat roof systems for the commercial sector.

Lanphier holds a patent for such roofs.

“The roofs will last approximately 20 years,” he says. “It depends on the area of the country that you are in. They don’t last as long down south as they do up north due to the heat. It is about 89 percent recycled tire and 11 percent polymer content. It’s a good ratio of recycled content.”

Lanphier says the standard roof thickness should be 120 millimeters (mil), with the minimum thickness being 80 mil. Rubber roofs, he says, are competitive in today’s market.

“Before oil prices went crazy,” he says, “my cost on an 80 mil thick roof would have been about $.35 per square foot wholesale.”

In 2000 Lanphier installed a 3,000-square-foot rubber roof on one of his buildings at a tire salvage yard that he owned in Wisconsin.

“It is easier to install than tar and gravel roofs,” he says, noting that the roof components were glued to a foam board with contact cement. The roof itself is black, but the material itself can be coated with colored paint, particularly white, which reflects the heat from sun, increases the lifespan of the roof and provides cooling to reduce electricity and energy consumption.

Moreover, a layer of insulation can be placed beneath the rubber and covered up. The roof itself also acts as an insulator.

The idea for a rubber roofing system was the result of a friend telling Lanphier, during a hailstorm in Denver, Colorado, that he should use discarded tires as a material for roofs.

The property was sold two years ago and the building, which now serves as a machine shop, has a standard roof.

The roof, manufactured by a gasket producing company, was tested in 2001 by Underwriters Laboratory, which did a primary burn on the roof system.

“They burned it with a block of wood and at a specific wind speed,” says Lanphier. “It passed the spread – I was within tolerance on UL standards. It would have yielded similar results in the final burn. Anything will burn and I didn’t even add the fire inhibitors that I would have had the product been in production.”

Because the roof panel was not manufactured at a dedicated factory and available on the market, UL could not conduct the final test burn.

Due to the wrong polymer being used, some sections of the roof deteriorated after five years; but after consulting experts, the correct polymer was determined.

“It was amazing,” says Lanphier. “You could play tennis on it. It was tough. It handled five years of freezing and thawing. We experienced no problems, save for that chemical breakdown. It’s a long-term roof.”

Should holes open up, Lanphier says that they can be repaired and problems can be localized. Via a combination of annual inspections and recoating, the lifespan of the roof can be maximized.

Despite having a patent, Lanphier has not manufactured roofing systems and is currently seeking investors to establish a plant, which he says would cost between $2 and $4 million to build.

In addition to components for his roof system, Lanphier says that rubber roof shingles can also be manufactured for the residential market.

“It would be priced higher than asphalt shingles,” he says, “but they stand up to the elements and do not have the problems associated with standard roofing systems. The material I made came in four-foot rolls. With a cutter, I could create standard or custom designed shingles.”

The rubber roof components can also have interlocking systems, similar to those found in wood flooring systems.

Because he is located near St. Louis, Lanphier says that an ample supply of discarded tires should not be a problem.

“The tires are the least of the problem,” he says. “It is kind of like Field of Dreams, we build it and they come to us. There are all kinds of people who collect tires and get paid for picking them up. They are taking them to places where they have to pay to get rid of them.

“Even if you had to pay for tires,” he adds, “there are a lot of other rubber waste products that you could use to supplement your raw material supplies. There are so many other waste streams that can be tapped.”