What Is the Effective Useful Life of a Commercial Spray Foam Roof?
So, you’ve heard of spray foam roofing before but are unaware of how long it can last.
I mean, what good is a roof for your commercial building if it’s not going to last very long?
From a spray foam roofing company that’s been in business since 1979, we can tell you that they can last at least 50 years.
There have been countless roofs that we’ve installed in the early 1980s that are still going strong. These roofs still have the spray foam that was installed on day one.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why can a spray foam roof last 50+ years?
- What shortens the life of a spray foam roof?
- Can bird pecking shorten the life of a spray foam roof?
- What if something damaging happens in-between maintenance checks – like a huge storm?
- What is the typical warranty length for a spray foam roof?
- How long does a BUR or Single-Ply roof last?
Let’s get started!
Why can a spray foam roof last 50+ years?
A spray foam roof can last 50+ years because there’s a sacrificial coating that’s renewable.
Since spray polyurethane foam will degrade when exposed to UV rays, a coating (usually silicone) is installed over top of the foam.
This coating will wear down naturally throughout the warranty period. Once the warranty period is over, more coating is installed and a new warranty is granted.
How does this work in a real-life scenario?
Say, today, you get a spray foam roof installed. You choose to get a 20-year warranty. On a 20-year warranty, 30 mils of coating will be installed over the spray foam roof.
After 20 years, that 30 mils of coating will wear down to about 7-8 mils coating.
In year 20, a roofing contractor will clean the roof and bring the level of coating back up to 30 mils.
Once it’s verified that 30 mils of coating are installed, a new 20-year warranty is granted.
The process can repeat and repeat, which is how spray foam is a renewable roofing system.
What shortens the life of a spray foam roof?
The number one reason a spray foam roof will not last 50+ years is if it’s not maintained.
This is like seeing how long your brand-new car would last if you never changed the oil.
It’s recommended that your spray foam roof is maintained by a contractor twice per year.
Once in the Spring (to prepare for the rainy season) and once in the Fall (before Winter comes).
Quick note: Regardless of the roofing system, it’s very important to have a contractor look at your roof before Winter. This is because if any water gets under the membrane and freezes, it will expand the exposure in your roofing system upon thawing. When the ice thaws, water can travel further into your roofing system. And when it’s Spring, the increased exposed area will create a wider area for the rainy season to create a leak in your building.
Back to routine maintenance on a spray foam roof.
During these maintenance checks, a contractor will look for:
- exposed foam
- any cracks, blisters, or punctures
- clogged drains
- ponding water
- make sure the flashings and penetrations are still watertight
And many other things to make sure the roof will perform as it’s designed to.
What happens if you ignore routine maintenance?
Most building owners who reject routine maintenance end up forgetting about their roofs.
Out of sight, out of mind.
When this happens, small issues become larger issues.
Say the drains haven’t been cleared in 5 years. What would take a service team member a few minutes to clear twice per year has become a major issue.
We’ve seen roofs completely flooded.
Roofs without maintenance degrade faster than they were designed to. Usually, the only repair option is to perform a costly complete tear-off.
Can bird pecking shorten the life of a spray foam roof?
We hear this all the time.
What happens if birds peck at my spray foam roof? Will it begin leaking?
The answer is no because of the application of granules.
When a spray foam roofing system is installed, it’s installed in levels:
Granules are embedded into the topcoat of coating while it dries and cures.
This creates a hard, rigid, and undesirable surface for bird pecking.
What if something damaging happens in-between maintenance checks – like a huge storm?
You might be thinking, yes, I have a spray foam contractor coming out in the Spring and Fall to look at my roof, but what if something happens in-between?
Huge storms that throw heavy branches can occur in the Summer.
Perhaps the HVAC guy has jabbed panels into the foam roof and created some cracks (this has happened).
Do you have to wait until Fall to get your roof looked at?
Unfortunately, any damage that happens from a third party (or act of God) such as hailstorms, thrown branches, etc. These are not covered under warranty.
If you walk the roof and see material failures, such as coating wearing away or popped blisters, this would be covered under warranty.
Spray polyurethane foam and coating manufacturers know how long their materials will last if it’s installed properly.
NOTE: If you choose to install a spray foam roof, it’s important to choose a contractor that has a dedicated, full-time service team. A full-service team can get to your roof quickly and will know the history of your roof. This is different from some contractors who will pull a guy from a job to look at your roof.
What is the typical warranty length for a spray foam roof?
Someone online asked us, “Usually I see 20 years warranties for traditional roofs, but if a spray foam roof can last longer, is the warranty period longer?”
The answer is no.
Most spray foam roofs come with 10, 15, or 20-year warranties.
But if maintenance is kept up and a recoat is performed before the warranty expires, then a new 10, 15, or 20-year warranty will begin.
How long does a Built-Up or Single-Ply roof last?
A well-maintained built-up roof can last about 40 years.
A well-maintained single-ply roof can last about 30 years.
What happens once the 30 and 40 years are up?
The inability to renew the roof is one of the biggest differentiators with spray foam and traditional roofing systems.
A spray foam roof can be recoated for ½ to 1/3 of the installation cost.
A built-up or single-ply roof would cost 100% of the installation’s cost.
What should you do next?
If you’ve come this far, you’re probably interested in learning more about spray polyurethane foam roofing.
Here are some other articles that answer the most common questions we get:
- How much does a spray foam roof cost?
- What problems do spray foam roofs have?
- Do you have any case studies of the spray foam roofs you’ve done?
Since 1979, West Roofing Systems has been installing, maintaining, and servicing spray foam roofs.
Whether spray foam is the most cost-effective roofing system for your building or not, we’ll always steer property owners in the direction that aligns with their budget and goals.
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 teach others about spray foam roofing and silicone roof coatings, you can find him on the basketball court or golf course.