Good vs Bad Spray Foam Roofing Contractors: 5 Differences
So, your commercial roof has some leaks. You research repair vs restoration vs complete tear off, and you realize there are many advantages of installing a spray polyurethane foam roof.
The advantages that stick out most are:
- High R-value – therefore I’ll be saving money in heating/cooling costs
- I don’t have to completely remove my entire roof, just the saturated areas
- Waterproofing characteristics such as being closed cell and completely seamless
You chose your roofing contractor and got the work done.
Three months in, you’re looking at the latest electric bill to see how much it’s decreased since your installation, and a few water drops from above blotch the page.
Huh? What the f*#%…I just paid how much for this new roof and it’s already letting water in?
I knew spray foam was trash. Everyone was right. That damn salesman…on and on and on.
But did you ever consider that your spray foam roof might’ve been installed wrong?
Truth be told, there’s a lot of spray foam roofing contractors out there that are spraying bad foam, and thus giving spray foam a bad name.
West Roofing Systems has been around for 40+ years, so we’ve seen it all. Today we wanted to discuss five ways the good spray foam contractors separate themselves from the bad ones.
Let’s get started…
NOTE: You should’ve already cancelled out the contractors with no insurance, only accept cash, have no references, and aren’t licensed. Let’s get into comparing “real” spray foam roofing contractors…
1. Expertise in the chemistry of spray polyurethane foam
Did you know that there are three energies required to spray “good” foam?
- Electrical – the equipment used in mixing/heating foam
- Environmental – the air temperature, deck temperature, sun, etc.
- Exothermic – the heat created from the chemical reaction when the A and B components meet
If a spray foam contractor doesn’t understand these or doesn’t have the experience in adjusting these energies during a job, bad foam could be sprayed onto your roof.
When bad foam is sprayed, problems occur such as:
- Foam that blisters
- Small cracks can form
- Foam that’s charred
- Holes in the foam
If a spray foam roofing contractor cannot explain the three energies of spray foam to you, you may have identified a bad contractor.
2. Length of time in business
As with anything you purchase, you trust the brand/company who has been around a long time.
That company has proven to produce good work or else they would have a large amount of bad reviews online, wouldn’t have any references that can vouch for them, and would have negative word of mouth spread throughout the industry.
With the new guy, it’s a roll of the dice on what you get.
If you roll a “1”, you’re going to get the problems above and chances are they might not even be around to fix their own mistakes, let alone the recoat in 10-20 years to keep your roof performing great.
A great indication of a spray foam roofing contractor is one who’s done multiple recoats on the same roof. When a spray foam roof is initially foamed, it’s covered under warranty for 10-20 years. After that period, a recoat is done to renew the coating/granules and keep the roof performing like it should.
A bad spray foam contractor won’t have a list of roofs they’ve recoated off their initial installation. This is an indication that the building owner may have been unsatisfied at some point and chosen another contractor.
3. Do they have a service department?
After you get a spray foam roof installed, a maintenance package is recommended. This is to keep an “eye” on the roof (which rarely any building owner does), and to make minor repairs if needed so they don’t turn into major ones.
Some minor repairs that can happen on a spray foam roof are:
- Fill in tiny cracks/holes with silicone
- Remove leaves/sticks out of drains
- Make sure all flashings are still strong
This is similar to your car. You get your oil changed, right? Get new tires and brakes at certain mileages? What happens if you don’t do these? You’d have a vehicle that won’t perform how it should.
What better company to perform these service appointments than the spray foam roofer who did the initial installation?
That company will have a history of your roof and will know all the work that went into preparation for the initial job, will know of certain areas that require more attention, knows the areas of the roof that previously had water in the insulation, and so on.
This isn’t an indication of a bad spray foam contractor if they don’t have their own service department, but hopefully you can see the advantages of using a roofing contractor that wants to be married to your roof for the long haul.
4. Knowledge about spray foam/coating mistakes
If you’ve been around the block a few times, you know you’ve seen neighbors move in and out, what happened that one time when the sump pump flooded the basement, and what happened to Mr. Smith’s Corvette during that hail storm.
Basically, you’ve seen all the common mistakes that have happened and know not to repeat them. The same goes for a spray foam roof installation.
Here are three common mistakes we’ve seen across the 40+ years of spray foam installations:
Applying one layer of coating with granules
Hopefully you know that spray foam needs coating to protect the foam from degrading by UV rays. Granules are usually broadcasted into that coating to provide additional strength.
One roof we went on had holes all through the spray foam.
The reason was because there wasn’t two layers of coating over the foam. The granules that were into the single coat, seeped into the foam, and once the granules naturally wore away, it exposed the foam, which degraded from the sun and left holes through the roof.
Therefore, two coats of coating are imperative.
The basecoat needs to settle untouched, then install a second layer of coating that can have the granules embedded in.
Spraying foam over wet saturation
Some roofing contractors will try to outbid others by skipping the steps of eliminating saturated areas. They will just spray foam over the entire roof and call it a day.
This is harmful to your roof because that water is still in there and needs a place to go. If it evaporates and travels up, it can cause blisters into your new roof.
If the water travels down, the water can enter your building and leak, or it can settle into your decking and reduce its lifespan.
Using small stones to protect spray foam
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away, some contractors would use small stones over the foam to provide UV protection. There are numerous reasons not to use gravel to protect the SPF application, but the biggest is when you walk across a SPF roof with gravel on it, you puncture the “skin” of the foam pushing the stone into the foam, compromising the waterproofing integrity of the SPF.
This application just does not make good sense.
5. Beware of cheaper spray foam contractors
Just like the scenario before (installing foam over wet insulation), there may be justifications as to why one contractor is more expensive than another.
One justification is that the roofing contractor has experienced spray foam roofing applicators who have been spraying foam for 20+ years. Ones that have the highest level of certifications from the SPFA.
Did you know that a SPFA PCP Project Manager requires a minimum of 500,000 sq. ft. of project management experience?
Did you know that a SPFA PCP Master Installer requires a minimum of 500,000 sq. ft. of applying experience?
Certainly, the labor is more expensive on an experienced crew than a beginner crew, but we know the dangers of spraying bad foam.
Another justification is that the roofing contractor uses top of the line materials. Better products, ones that experienced contractors have used for numerous years without any issues, justify a higher price point than using untrusted/untested materials.
More experienced crews + better products = a justifiable higher expense.
The next steps in choosing the right spray foam roofing contractor
Hopefully, this article will help you choose the right spray foam roofing contractor after you’ve received a few quotes.
It’s important to collect a few quotes to see the scope of the work that’s being done.
Maybe one contractor found wetness in one area, where the other two didn’t?
Maybe two contractors are suggesting getting an infrared inspection, and one isn’t?
Make the contractors justify their suggestions, and then pick the one with the solution to fix your roofing problems.
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.