applying cool roof system to industrial building

3 Ways a Cool Roof Benefits an Industrial Building

So, picture that you’re the maintenance manager of a large industrial building. Say you make custom cardboard boxes from scratch and ship them all over the world.

Small boxes, large boxes, some with designs, some that require lighter material to reduce shipping weight, etc.

You’re messing with large machines that create the box, you have conveyor belts running everywhere, and trucks coming in and out all day long.

You think “Sometimes it gets really hot in here! I wish there were a way to make this building a little bit cooler”.

One way to do this, is to reduce the heat entering your building through the roofing system.

Let me guess, you probably had an old gravel built-up roof back in the day, then put an EPDM rubber roof over top?

Sometimes these “dark” roofs can get as hot as 150 degrees Fahrenheit on a 90 degree day.

If you’re having some roof leaks or have an older roof that you’re sick of repairing on and on and on, I want to introduce you to “cool” roofs.

Since West Roofing Systems has been installing “cool” roofs over industrial buildings since 2007 (and been in business installing spray foam roofing systems since 1979), we’ve seen the benefits these systems can provide to industrial buildings.

Let’s get started!

What is a “cool” roof?

A cool roof (no more quotes, we get the roof “cools” a roofing surface down, and doesn’t make the roof “cool”, as in slick back hair and smoking a cigarette) is a roofing system that can be installed over an existing roofing system to lower the temperature on the roof. There are many types of cool roofs, but in this post, we’ll concentrate on a liquid-applied roofing system.

The liquid is an elastomeric coating. The three most common elastomeric coatings are:

  1. Acrylic – water-based coating that’s only applied to roofs with a slope. Costs $14-$21 per gallon.

  3. Silicone – a silicone resin-based coating that performs great on flat roofs because they can withstand ponding water. Costs $27-$35 per gallon.

  5. Urethane – urethanes have the most impact resistance of any elastomeric roof coating available.  Costs $40-$65 per gallon.

In terms of costs and durability, silicone is the best bang for the buck.

The goal is to restore the roof instead of completely removing it, and getting the roof under a brand-new warranty.

Let’s get into the 3 ways cool silicone roof coatings benefit industrial buildings,

1 – A cool roof eliminates the high costs of a complete tear off

The first benefit of a cool roof is by eliminating the need to tear off the ENTIRE roof, and only tear off the areas where the insulation is saturated with water.

Per building code, you can only have two roofing systems on a commercial building.

  1. Gravel-built up
  2. EPDM

When there’s an issue, an industrial building owner has two options: Completely remove the EPDM layer and insulation and add new material down, which costs approximately $5-$7 per square foot.


Identify the saturated areas with an infrared camera. Remove only those areas and replace with insulation and EPDM, and then add silicone coating over the entire roof, which costs approximately $3 per square foot.

On your 20,000 sq. ft. industrial building, you’re talking about $100,000 vs $60,000.

You might be thinking, can I just identify the saturated areas and put new insulation and EPDM down?

Yes, you can.

But then you’d have one part of the roof that’s new and another part of the roof that’s 20 years old. Your warranty would be different on each section, which creates a headache. And how long is it going to be before the 20-year-old section needs to be replaced?

A much simpler solution is to remove the saturated areas and install a cool roof on top, so that you:

  1. Have a new 10, 15, or 20-year warranty over the entire roof
  2. You can save money by restoring (not throwing away) areas of the roof that are in good shape
  3. You’ll feel good not contributing to landfills

But doesn’t turning a black roof into a cool roof also save on energy costs?

2 – A cool roof will reduce your future energy bills

On a 90-degree sunny day, a black roof can get as hot as 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

On that same roof, on the same day, a cool roof will be around 95 degrees.

Here’s a video from the US Department of Energy explaining roof temperature and cool roofs:

A cool roof prevents heat absorption by reflecting the sun’s heat and then emitting its radiation back into the atmosphere.

With your roof temperature decreased, your HVAC unit won’t have to work as hard to combat the higher temperatures entering your building.

An industrial building can reduce its energy costs by 15-35% by installing a cool roof. If you go back to EPDM, there will be no change in your energy bills.

An average commercial building spends about $0.33 cents per sq. ft. per year on electricity used for heating and cooling. Let’s see how much this could save you if that number were dropped by 20%, down to $0.26 cents.

Building = 20,000 sq. ft.

EPDM roof = (20,000 x $0.33) = $6,600

Cool roof = (20,000 x $0.26 = $5,200

That’s a $1,400 savings per year. And since you got a 10-year warranty, your total savings would be around $14,000.

And this doesn’t include the wear and tear on your HVAC unit. Your current HVAC unit could last 15-35% longer by not working as hard?


3 – A cool roof installation minimizes business interruption

If you work at an industrial building, you don’t want anything to disrupt the business plan.

Machines run when they are supposed to, trucks come and go when they are scheduled, etc.

There is some business interruption when you’re installing a new roof system.

Roofing contractors have work trucks taking up parking spots, they might need to shut down a semi-truck loading entrance if work is going to be performed there that day, and some other interruptions.

The best way to minimize this is to get the job done quickly.

A cool roof, or a silicone restoration system, can be installed in about half the time than a complete EPDM roof replacement.

Here’s a video showing how silicone coating gets installed on a roof:

Certain variables can increase/decrease the installation speed of a silicone roof restoration, including the amount of penetrations (makes it harder for EPDM to be installed around pipes, exhausts, and HVAC units) and how much saturation there is (more saturation leads to a longer restoration project).

But all in all, the average is half the time.

Do you have any other questions about cool roofs over industrial buildings?

If so, please contact us and we’ll answer any questions you might have.

At West Roofing Systems, we’ve been installing cool roofs over industrial buildings everywhere East of the Mississippi.

So if you’d like to start a conversation about a roof quote, please let us know and we’ll call you ASAP.

If you’d like to learn more about cool roofs, please view our Complete Guide to Silicone Roof Coatings.

Silicone Roof Coatings - a complete guide for building owners

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