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Can You Walk on Polycarbonate Roofing?


Weight bearing capacity of polycarbonate roofing.

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Polycarbonate sheets are tough and can usually withstand just about any abuse. You can use them on patios, greenhouses, and anywhere you want some natural light – just don’t step on the sheets while you’re installing them.

You should never walk on polycarbonate roofing unless it’s well-supported underneath. While polycarbonate roofing can sustain a lot of abuse, it’s not meant to support the weight of a person. The surface is slippery and you will likely fall. Further, you can dent and scratch it if you walk on it.

Below, we’ll take a look at the benefits that polycarbonate roofing offers. We’ll also provide a deeper explanation about why polycarbonate roofing can’t withstand much direct weight.

Why Can’t I Walk on Polycarbonate Roofing? 

When it comes down to it, polycarbonate is not meant to take on the weight of an adult person. Because the surface is so fragile (despite its toughness), polycarbonate can easily dent and scratch under your weight if you try and walk on it. 

Further, the surface of a polycarbonate sheet is extremely slippery. This is due, in part, to the UV-resistant film that covers the sheets. If you try and walk on polycarbonate roofing sheets, you will likely fall and injure yourself. Don’t take the risk and end up falling off of a roof. 

Navigating Polycarbonate Installations

The best way to navigate a roof that is having polycarbonate installed is to use the roofing supports to walk around.

It is worth noting that polycarbonate with strong support underneath may be okay to walk on, but the same risks can occur: the surface is slippery and may be damaged if you walk on it.

If you must, use the frames, supports, and other structures to avoid stepping directly on the panels. You can also put down spare planks and ladders to navigate a roof where polycarbonate is being installed.

I’ve watch professional installers walk on ladders that were laid on the roof but there is still risk of the ladder slipping on the smooth surface.

A polycarbonate roofing installation isn’t like a standard roof install – you have to take extra care with these lightweight panels.

Overall, installing a polycarbonate roof is nothing like installing a regular roof. There are several additional steps you have to take to protect the roofing during the installation process, but it’s still less of a hassle than lugging heavy roofing materials up and down a ladder.

What is Polycarbonate Roofing?

Polycarbonate sheets are made of a thermoplastic material that easily withstands UV rays, snow, rain, cold, and heat. Most polycarbonate sheets used for roofing are clear, which makes them perfect for places where you want natural light such as greenhouses (source). 

This material is both extremely tough and exceedingly fragile at once, which makes it a bit of a conundrum. It is difficult to break polycarbonate roofing. However, it is extremely easy to dent the surface, scratch the surface, or ruin the UV-resistant film that usually covers the surface of a polycarbonate sheet. 

These lightweight panels are easy to transport, but one should be careful when transporting them to make sure that they don’t get damaged. Polycarbonate is the same material that is used to make audio CDs and DVDs, so it is tough but easy to damage if you don’t take the proper care.

Benefits of Polycarbonate Roofing

There are many reasons why someone might choose to use polycarbonate roofing for their patio, shed, or other small building.

  • It’s lightweight. If you’re using polycarbonate to put a roof on a structure that may not have the best foundation or support, you’ll probably appreciate how light it is. Compared to other heavy roofing materials, polycarbonate weighs relatively little and isn’t a chore to install.
  • It’s UV-Resistant. Some less expensive plastic roofing types may bubble and become brittle when used in sunny areas for too long. However, polycarbonate roofing is UV-resistant. Most sheets have a barely visible film coating, but it keeps UV rays from penetrating the plastic (and your roof). It may be cooler as a result, and you can avoid intense sunburns when using this material for your sunroom roof.
  • It can take a beating. Hail will probably damage your polycarbonate roofing, but that’s the only type of weather that may pose a problem. Polycarbonate can stand up to impacts without breaking, though the surface may become dented and scratched. Heat, rain, snow, and ice are no match for polycarbonate roofs.
  • It won’t discolor over time. Your polycarbonate roofing will last for a long time. Even after years of use, it doesn’t discolor or break down like ABS or other plastic roofing types might. You’ll still get the clear sunlight you want even years from now.

Drawbacks of Polycarbonate Roofing

Polycarbonate isn’t a perfect roofing material. Here’s why using a different type of plastic roofing may be better for you in the long run.

  • It’s extremely expensive. When compared to other plastic roofing types, polycarbonate is the top of the line. This is great for quality and sturdiness, but it also means that polycarbonate is extremely expensive. It’s one of the most expensive types of plastic roofing available. It will last for years, but the up-front cost may be difficult to stomach.
  • It’s unexpectedly fragile. As we mentioned above, polycarbonate is difficult to break but easy to damage. Transporting the panels incorrectly, small shipping mistakes, or any other unexpected issues may damage your polycarbonate panels and make them less effective. 

The surface of a polycarbonate sheet is very prone to scratching (much like a CD or DVD would be), so the odds of these sheets arriving with no scratches are slim to none. The surface can also be scuffed or dented easily, though it won’t shatter on impact.

  • It can only be used sparingly. While polycarbonate roofing sounds great on paper, it isn’t a suitable roofing material for a home. You can use it to cover decks, greenhouses, patios, gazebos, and even warehouses in some cases. However, it isn’t a viable material to use for your entire house.

Types of Polycarbonate Roofing

There are a few different types of polycarbonate roofing available, so let’s take a look at the options (source).

  • Foam-backed Polycarbonate Roofing. These sheets are still extremely lightweight, but the foam backing removes any hope of transparency. These panels are used mostly for industrial applications, or for the roofs of outbuildings such as sheds.
  • Clear/Solid Polycarbonate and Textured Polycarbonate Roofing. This type of polycarbonate is most commonly used for outdoor applications, as well as for most of the roofs we’ve talked about above. It allows light into your space while providing adequate protection. Textured polycarbonate sheets can give an illusion of stained glass or other materials as well.
  • Corrugated Polycarbonate Roofing. Corrugated polycarbonate is tougher and more water-resistant than solid polycarbonate. It’s also chemical resistant and thermal resistant, so it’s better in extreme weather overall.
  • Multiwall Polycarbonate Roofing. Multiwall polycarbonate sheets are made to reflect heat better than any other type of plastic roofing. Multiple walls inside the polycarbonate mean that your room is not only bright and dry – it’s also insulated. Using them in buildings where there is no standing insulating is key to lower energy costs.

Conclusion

Polycarbonate can be a great option for your patio, shed, greenhouse, or warehouse space. It’s a durable roofing material that can do wonders for your natural light levels and even your electric bills!

However, you shouldn’t try to walk across polycarbonate roofing, as it is slick and may cause you to fall. You can also damage the polycarbonate if you aren’t careful, detracting from its looks and decreasing its effectiveness.

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Paul

As a homeowner, I am constantly experimenting with making the structure of my house more energy-efficient, eliminating pests, and taking on DIY home improvement projects. Over the past two decades, my family has rehabbed houses and contracted new home builds and I've learned a lot along the way. I share my hard-learned lessons so that you can save time and money by not repeating my mistakes.

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