When it comes to roof coating repair, the steps to fixing a damaged roof coating will depend on the type of coating, its age and the extent of the damage.
Commercial roof repair is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is important to educate yourself and make sure you choose competent contractors who know your roof and what is needed to protect your building.
In this ultimate guide to roof coating repair, we’re going to look at:
- The different types of roof coatings
- The common causes of damage
- Best practices for repair
- When to know it’s time to skip the repair and go straight to replacement
Know Your Roof Coating
There are many types of roof coatings on the market. However, you also have to consider roof coatings vs. fluid applied reinforced roofing. What’s the difference?
When people talk about applying a roof coating, they are usually referring to an application of just that, roof coatings. It usually takes two passes of rolling or spraying for roof coatings like these.
A Fluid Applied Reinforced Roofing System uses similar roof coatings. They are applied much thicker and are layered with one or more reinforcing membranes. This gives the roof coatings superior waterproofing and strength to withstand the building movement. Not to mention protection from harsh elements including standing water.
Fluid Applied Reinforced Roof Systems
Fluid Applied Reinforced Roof (FARR) systems combine the durability of reinforced polyester fabric with the continuous seal of a fluid or emulsion roof coating. These coatings can be asphalt, acrylic, silicone or aluminum. Each offers different benefits and concerns that can affect which one you choose.
As with all roof coatings, FARR systems go on in a liquid form. This means they make a seamless membrane that protects your roof from water intrusion. Meanwhile, the polyester layers add strength which further insures that the structure below is protected. In fact, some FARR systems are even FM rated for hail.
FARR systems are compatible with many types of existing roofing systems including metal, gravel and BUR. However, not all coatings are compatible with all roofs. In fact, one of the leading causes of damage comes from improper application. Including when a contractor applies the wrong coating over a TPO roof without a primer.
Asphalt roof coating is what many people think of as a “normal” roofing material. In fact, this kind of roof has been used for hundreds of years. They offer waterproofing by the thickness of application.
Asphalt emulsion coatings are a new version of this roof. They are heated in a kettle for hot mop application. In addition, it does not need to be heated and has almost no odor. Furthermore, these coatings are typically black and absorb more solar energy than white and light-colored roofs. They are designed to be top-coated with an energy-efficient coating.
Silicone is known an inexpensive option. It’s white in color and popular with energy-conscious building owners and operators. That’s because it reflects solar energy rather than absorbing it. This reduces the energy load on building HVAC systems.
Furthermore, silicone roof coatings are a great option for roofs where ponding water is an issue. That’s because the coating is not water-based. It can stand up to long exposure to water with less risk to the roof deck, insulation, and other building components below.
Unfortunately, silicone is slippery by nature. In addition, it doesn’t always adhere well to existing roof systems, repair materials, or to itself. Contractors often struggle to repair damaged silicone roofs because it’s hard to get adhesion over the repaired area, which risks future damage. Sometimes the only option is a costly roof replacement.
Acrylic can be applied on its own or it can be applied with FARR systems. Furthermore, acrylic cool roof coatings are highly energy-efficient. This reduces energy demand in the building and prevents premature roof aging.
In addition, acrylic coatings are recommended for waterproofing. While they stand up well to heavy rains, some may not do as well under ponding water. That’s because acrylics are water-based and can begin to break down if they’re not designed to stand up to ponding water. However, many manufacturers offer acrylic coatings that have been specially made to last under ponding water. Furthermore, they perform well over many years of use with proper application.
Polyurethane roof coatings provide durability and flexibility. They are good for extending the lifespan of flat commercial and metal roofs. They can be colored to suit your needs and they protect your building with a continuous waterproof membrane.
Make sure you understand what this coating is designed for. For example, aliphatic polyurethane coatings are long-lasting protective coatings on top of your existing roof. Aromatic coatings are meant to be a base layer as part of a larger project. Choosing the wrong coating can mean failure of your roof.
Polyurethane coatings are solvent-based. This helps with their waterproofness, but can also create odors during application. If you’re choosing a roof coating for buildings like hospitals or long-term facilities, polyurethane may not be your best choice.
Aluminum coating roofs are reflective. They create a reflective surface and stand up well to wear and tear from regular foot traffic.
While aluminum coatings are energy-efficient, they don’t offer the same reflectivity as acrylic coatings. They aren’t well suited for a building in the sunbelt with air-conditioned spaces that don’t have adequate insulation to keep out the heat. However, they can be an excellent lower-cost option for some buildings.
Aluminum coatings haven’t always been water-based. This made it difficult to adhere to certain substrates. However, modern formulations like 525 Silverwhite are water-based and cost-effective.
Common Causes of Roof Damage
All roofs wear over time. However, the hope is that you’ve chosen a roof coating that will stand up to the most common causes of roof damage. Here are common causes of roof damage and how to avoid them.
Water damage is often the most pressing concern when it comes to your roof, but often comes in two forms:
- Heavy precipitation
- Ponding water
If you live in an area with a lot of rain or a busy hurricane season then you want to choose a roof coating that stands up to the weather over time. However, not all roof coatings that do well in rain also stand up to the effects of ponding water. For example, a product like silicone or specially formulated acrylic will do better in ponding water.
Just like our skin, the sun’s rays can be harmful to your roof. Especially if you’re located in an area with a lot of sunlight and hot days. You want to choose a reflective coating, like acrylic, that won’t absorb solar energy the way darker colored roofs do.
Leaks and Spills
A roof can be a busy place, even if it doesn’t have human visitors very often. Certain roof coatings are better at standing up to chemicals than others.
Preventative roof maintenance program and pollution control equipment will prevent these kinds of leaks and spills from occurring. However, choosing a roof coating that will stand up to these types of chemicals will help protect your building.
While they may seem durable, not all roofs are the same when it comes to foot traffic. If your roof sees regular traffic, perhaps from a helicopter pad, you want to know you’ve chosen a coating that will last as people come and go. Options like FARR systems, with their polyester reinforcement, are a good choice in these situations.
While it would be difficult for any roof to stand up to hurricane-force winds, if your building is in an area that is facing more and more extreme weather events, you want to know your roof will do everything it can to protect your building’s interior.
Whether you’re facing extreme weather like high winds and rain, extreme cold or hail, look for products and systems with FM 4470 Class 1 approvals. FM Approvals is the only organization in the world that tests and approves roof assemblies. An FM Approved roof means that you get a tested roof assembly and not just a collection of parts that might not work together.
Best Practices for Commercial Roof Repair
Commercial roof repair can be as simple as applying a little elastomeric cement over a certain area, or as involved as removing the entire roof system and installing a new one. One is simple and fairly inexpensive, while the other can take a big chunk out of the year’s repairs budget.
The trouble is, if you don’t do a small repair well, it can become a big problem later, so it’s worth taking the time to fully understand the extent of the damage, hire a qualified contractor and make sure they’re choosing the right materials for the job.
Roof Repair Step by step
The first step in roof repair is undertaking a detailed roof assessment. Check obviously damaged areas, but also take a moment to inspect the roof in general. Small pinhole penetrations in a single ply overlay can create big leaks inside. A thermal scan can be an effective way of identifying if there are cracks that aren’t immediately visible.
Roofing projects of any sort pose specific health and safety risks. Make sure the contractor you choose can provide proof of appropriate working at heights and fall prevention and fall arrest training. Ask them if they understand the risks inherent to your roof in particular. Make sure your contractor is aware that a silicone roof can be very slippery when wet.
Next, once you and your contractor have agreed on the extent and cost of the repairs, make sure they’re using products that will last for a long time and hopefully limit the risk of future damage.
Some roof coatings require the use of a primer as part of repairs, to make sure the patch or new coating adheres properly to the substrate. Skipping this step can create even bigger headaches in the future, so make sure all repair materials are properly specified.
If the roof damage was a result of ongoing issues like ponding water, make sure you take the time to diagnose the source of the problem. Ponding water can put an unneeded load on your building’s structure, so the cause — whether it’s a blocked roof drain or a pitch in the roof that is collapsing — you want to do everything you can to prevent it in the future.
Should I Replace My Commercial Roof?
Sometimes, it may become apparent that a few spot repairs are not going to be enough to get your roof back into working order. If your roof is showing evidence of widespread aging, you may need to replace the entire roof.
A commercial roof replacement can feel like a big expensive task: A tear-off and replace involves significant disruption to your building’s tenants and workers.
Before you commit to a full replacement, make sure there aren’t more efficient and cost-effective options available to you.
Need a roof coating system? Call us!
If you’re hoping to avoid a costly roof replacement, contact Western Colloid to discuss your options. We can have a complimentary roof assessment done, and suggest potential coating solutions that can extend your roof’s lifespan indefinitely – and be easy on your budget.