There never seems to be enough money for needed roof improvements and maintenance despite the fact that a comprehensive maintenance program is perhaps the best way to protect a roof. When it comes to adequate maintenance, roofing tends to be one of the most overlooked areas because it is out of sight and out of mind. Unless there are water spots on the ceiling tiles or water dropping on somone's head, roofs just go unnoticed.
That should not be the case. More than any other part of a building, the roof protects an organization’s assets. And if the capital budget needs to be protected, roof coatings can help extend the life of a roof, allowing building owners and facility managers to defer the capital costs of re-roofing (and the expensive business disruption re-roofing can cause).
Even for roofs with years of service life remaining, coatings can help protect the original roof from further ultraviolet (UV) and infrared heat degradation. The heat shock that accompanies massiv swings in temperatures has a debilitating effect on watertight seals, flashings, rubber roofing and asphalt. Coatings that reflect the sun’s UV rays and infrared radiation reduce absorbed heat and prolong roof life.
Coatings that reflect heat can also help protect against the other kind of shock — opening the monthly energy bill. Particularly for flat- or low-sloped buildings with air-conditioning ducts that run through the plenum, roof coatings can substantially reduce summer cooling costs (even more true if the plenum space is uninsulated). Cool roofing studies conducted by RoofPal.com demonstrate that cool roofs (those that reflect the sun’s rays) can reduce energy costs for large buildings with moderate insulation by 10-20%.
To use roof coatings successfully, it is critical that building owners and facility managers understand the situations best suited for coating applications. Two situations are common reasons to apply a roof coating:
- To maximize roof life and minimize energy bills with a roof that reflects harmful ultraviolet light and infrared rays.
- To make a mid-life roof watertight and maintainable.
- Reflective coatings applied when the roof was installed require periodic re-coating to restore the reflective properties and prolong the life of the roof.
- Coatings also can serve cosmetic purposes. For facilities with roofs exposed to common view beneath a highway overpass, or next to high-rise structures, for example — coatings can improve roof aesthetics.
- Certain coatings also can retard flame spread. These UL-listed coatings are typically specified with the roof installation, though they can be applied later.
For all they are capable of, coatings should not be viewed as a cure-all for roof issues. If the roof is not structurally sound, it has to be replaced. You can not just coat a roof and expect miracles.
Coatings are versatile, but they are not appropriate in every instance. In some cases, roofs are significantly deteriorated and the only viable and cost-effective option is a comprehensive tear-off and re-roof.
Do not think of a coating as something that will solve all your roofing problems. If you have a roof leak, you need to fix it before you apply a coating. A coating will probably stop the leak, but that fix won’t last as long as if you fix the leak and then apply the coating.
Overall, roof coatings are a great option in the right situation. The best advice is to contact a professional roofing contractor who specializes in roof coatings to find out if your roof is a candidate.