how to extend the life of an existing commercial roof

The Easiest Way to Extend the Life of Your Commercial Roof

If you’re a commercial building owner, you want your roof to last as long as possible. The easiest way to do this is to restore your roof by making minor repairs and then adding coating over your existing roof.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • A typical scenario a building owner faces when thinking about roof restoration?
  • What is the protective coating?
  • What commercial roofs are qualified for a coating system?
  • The process of how the coating gets applied to your existing roof system
  • What benefits does the coating provide?
  • How much longer will the coating make your roof last?

West Roofing Systems is known for installing spray foam roofs since 1979. The coating is used to protect spray foam roofs, but it’s also used to protect and restore other roofing systems as well.

The process of using a coating to extend the life of a commercial roof is known as a silicone restoration membrane system.

Let’s get started!

How does a roofing conversation start?

A building owner will experience a problem. Usually, a tenant will file a complaint that the roof is beginning to leak, or that there are brown spots on the ceiling.

If the building owner doesn’t have a service contract with a roofing contractor or a warranty, then they will need to find another roofing contractor to take a look at the roof.

Once an experienced roofer gets on the roof, they will see where the problem areas are at, investigate water entry points, possibly pull core samples, and then perform an infrared inspection to see the amount of water that’s saturated in the insulation.


A core sample of a commercial roofing system


Once all the data is collected, there will be a list of options that the building owner can choose from.

If the roof has less than 25% saturation, a silicone restoration system can be performed.

If the roof is more than 25% saturated, it may be more cost-effective to completely tear the roof off and install a new system.

What is the protective coating?

The protective coating that increases the life of an existing roof is silicone.

Silicone is applied similar to paint, except that it’s designed for commercial roofing systems.

The best characteristic is that silicone is waterproof, which will not break down with water, and will not let water pass through into the insulation of your roofing system.


rolling on silicone restoration membrane


Silicone comes in a variety of colors, but the most used colors are white and gray. These lighter colors reflect (instead of absorbing) sunlight to keep the roof cool.

On a 90-degree day, a roof with silicone coatings may only be 5 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.

If the same roof had a black roof, the temperature would likely exceed 150 degrees.

This makes your HVAC unit work harder to combat the hot air entering your building.

Typically, energy savings of installing a silicone roof versus a darker roof is 15-35%.

Here’s a video from the Department of Energy explaining cool roofs and energy savings:

What commercial roof is qualified for a coating system?

Unfortunately, not every roof can get silicone coating installed.

Commercial roofs need to:

  • Have seams that are in good condition
  • Have less than 25% saturation in their insulation
  • Have had a service/maintenance contract over the roof’s lifetime


Seams that are in good condition

A roof that has seams that are completely ripped apart and losing adhesion is not a good candidate for a roof restoration. The reason is that if the seams are ripped apart, that means there is a large area for water to enter the insulation.

Less than 25% saturation

An infrared inspection will identify where water is present underneath the top layer of a roofing system. If more than 25% of the roof is saturated, it may be more cost-effective to replace the entire roof instead of restoring it with a silicone coating.

Had a service/maintenance contract

A commercial roof whose had routine maintenance will most likely be in good shape. Service contracts include identifying small holes and cracks and fixing them, cleaning out the drains to prevent standing water, and to adhere seams back together if adhesion is lost.

All of these repairs keep the roof in good condition, which means there’s a good foundation that’s cost-effective to restore.

How does the coating gets applied to your existing roof?

Here’s a video of a silicone restoration membrane being applied to an existing roof:

The first step is to clean the existing roof, which is done with power washing.

Once all the contaminants are removed from the roof, the next step is to remove and replace any saturated areas.

An infrared inspection will identify these saturated areas.

A similar roofing material will replace the saturated areas. For example, if TPO and Polyiso insulation are removed, brand new, dry, TPO and Polyiso will be installed on the roof.

Now that the entire roof is dry and clean, the next step is to treat the seams (if there are seams on the roof).

Seams are treated in one of two ways:

  1. Install a wet-out coat of silicone over the seams (usually 12 inches wide), then embed a polyester mesh into the wet-out coat, then let the area dry overnight.

  3. Install a butyl-backed, self-adhering tape overtop of the seams

Once the seams are treated, the silicone coating will be installed over the entire roof in one or two coats, depending on the thickness of the coating needed to achieve the warranty the building owner wants.

NOTE: If you’d like more detail into the process of a silicone restoration system, we made a 9-minute video:

What benefits do silicone roof coatings provide?

There are plenty of benefits of a silicone roof coating system, including:

  • Reduced material cost
  • Reduced labor expense
  • Reduced landfill contributions
  • Reduced energy cost


Reduces material cost

Instead of replacing the entire roof, only the saturated materials are removed and replaced. Only paying for the materials of 25% (at most) of a roof instead of 100% is a significant cost saving.

Reduces labor expense

Without having to remove everything off the roof, labor costs are greatly reduced. Also, silicone coating is easy to install, which reduces the total installation time versus any other roofing system.

Reduces landfill contributions

With only the saturated areas being removed instead of everything off the roof, the amount of materials that are transported to landfills is minimal. This also saves money in transportation costs to get those materials to the landfill.

Reduces your energy cost

A white roof versus a darker roof reduces energy savings (on average) by 15-35%. The #1 factor is that a lighter roof reflects the sun, rather than absorbing it as a darker roof does.

Higher roof temperature = a warmer building = more work for your HVAC unit = higher energy costs.

How much longer will silicone coatings make your roof last?

Manufacturer warranties come in 10, 15, and 20-year options.

For a 10-year warranty, 20 mils of silicone will be installed.

For a 15-year warranty, 25 mils of silicone will be installed.

For a 20-year warranty, 30 mils of silicone will be installed.

Each option differs in cost.

The longer the warranty, the more coating that’s installed, the more it’s going to cost.

Is a silicone coating system right for your roof?

You may be wondering if a silicone coating system is best for your commercial roof.

The best thing you can do is to get the opinion of a few roofing contractors and see what options they give you.

The thing with roofs is…there is no set right answer. The best roofing option depends on the current condition of that individual roof. 

Some roofing contractors will only propose a complete tear-off.

Some might offer you a silicone restoration system.

Some might offer a repair to what you already have and tell you the roof will last 5 more years.

It’s important to understand the “why” in their roof proposals.

Why can I get away with a repair and the roof will last for 5 more years?

See how the contractor backs up their claim, and then choose the option you trust the most.

West Roofing Systems has been giving building owners multiple options to fix their roofing issues since 1979. And we always justify the best roofing option for your building with photos, infrared inspection reports, walking the roof with you, and much more.

Want to learn more about silicone restoration membranes?

This Complete Guide to Silicone Roof Coatings answers all common questions, such as:

  • How much does a silicone restoration system cost?
  • Does the warranty come from the manufacturer of the products, the roofing contractor, or both?
  • Can you install acrylic instead of silicone?

Silicone Roof Coatings - a complete guide for building owners

Author: Greg Palya

Greg Palya is the Digital Content Manager of West Roofing Systems, Inc. He has a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Akron and an MBA in Marketing from Walsh University. When he’s not trying to increase website traffic, you can find him on the basketball court or golf course.

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