How does spray foam perform in high wind situations

How Does Spray Foam Perform in High Wind Situations?

Greg PalyaWest Roofing Systems News

It’s happening. You can’t deny it because you’re reading this article. You’re thinking about your commercial roof and how it’ll perform in high wind situations.

I can’t blame you.

With hurricanes approaching in what seems like every year, if you’re going to invest thousands of dollars into your roof, it better be around for years to come.

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • What other roofing contractors say about spray foam vs wind?
  • What West Roofing thinks about spray foam vs wind?
  • Two personal stories on roofs vs wind
  • Why older rubber roofs perform poorly vs wind

Let’s jump in…

What do other roofing contractors say about spray foam vs wind?

Other roofing contractors are all in agreement, spray foam roofs are the only type of roofing system that performs extremely well vs wind.

Here are some statements:

“The application of Sprayed foam to steel deck and plywood deck demonstrated uplift load resistance up to the capacity of the test equipment to develop load (160-165 psf) without any sign of elimination or other damage to the foam.” – Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.

Source: Elite Insulation

“NIST published a report focusing on the damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The research found that SPF roofs were the only type of roofing system that performed extremely well during the disasters. The report also described how SPF roofing withstood Hurricane Katrina’s winds without tearing off or damaging flashings.”

Source: Texas Foam Insulators

“Documented test results from UL, NIST, RICOWI, SPFA and others have all proven SPF’s superior capability to stand up to high-wind disasters and severe weather better than most any other roof system. Underwriters Laboratories tests show that SPF applied to steel and plywood demonstrated uplift load resistance greater than the capacity of the test equipment.”

Source: J Ferg Roofing & Foam

So, I get it.

Spray foam performs excellent against wind.

But just like your buddy who says he can shoot par, where’s the proof?

Doing my research, I couldn’t find any links to Underwriter Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM) or the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA).

Where should one turn from here?

I asked my buddy, Chris West of West Roofing Systems, about his take on how spray foam roofs perform in high wind situations.

What West Roofing thinks about spray foam vs wind?

Chris had a similar claim the other roofers had, “spray foam has such a tenacious bond, it broke the wind tunnel at FM”.

But Chris also had a different perspective, “Wind uplift has everything to do with the substrate you’re applying the foam to”.

When testing spray foam uplift from the substrate, that’s not the issue. The issue is substrate attachment.

If you have a rubber roof over a steel deck, and we remove the rubber, you must lay cover board down. You’re only going to have as good of uplift as you have with that new cover board.

A roofing contractor will mechanically fasten that cover board down per wind uplift requirements. Spray foam has it’s rating for wind uplift over certain substrates, but that’s all based on the attachment of the substrate you’re spraying onto.

Let’s transition into a few stories of spray foam vs wind in real life scenarios.

Story #1 – Spray foam roofs in Virginia Beach

West Roofing Systems was on a roof in Virginia Beach in 2004, and we were checking out a spray foam roof that sustained damage. The foam roof wasn’t blown off, the damage was caused by wind blown debris.

This building was 9 stories in the air!

We’re on top of the roof, right along the ocean, and the roof just South (a gravel-built up) had the entire corner lifted and folded over.

The roof next to that, a spray foam roof with no blow off. The three and four beyond that, all had blow off and none of them were foam.

Story #2 – Post-hurricane in the Bahamas

West Roofing Systems was involved with a project in the Bahamas, post-hurricane.

The engineer for the resort told us a story on how he and his buddies were cooped up in a nearby, concrete structure, 2-3 stories up, just as the hurricane started to hit, and they were placing bets on which sections of the roof were going to fail.

The engineer placed a bet (hundreds of dollars) that the foam roof would stay and not sustain damage.

He lost the bet.

The only part of the foam roof that had any damage came in the form of wind-blown debris. A chunk of roof had blown from the resort next door (18 stories high), came off, and went straight through the roof!

Even with the building envelope being open during the storm, there was no wind uplift damage to the roof.

Why older rubber roofs perform poorly vs wind?

Say your rubber roof is 15 years old. That’s 15 seasons of enduring high wind.

What happens is that the seams in the rubber roof begin to lose adhesion. While they might not be opened to where water is getting in, the edges of the seams begin to curl up due to that loss of adhesion.

And it does this over a 15-year period. Over time, that seam is becoming looser and looser.

Now, getting into a hurricane situation, those high winds get in the edges and literally rip that seam apart. And as soon as the seams open, it’s open for good, and you’ll start to have massive loss.

NOTE: one of the biggest advantages spray foam has over other roofing types is that it’s monolithic, seamless and self-flashing.

A spray foam roof is right for you, if:

We hope this article gave you a better idea of how spray foam roofs perform against wind. If you’re curious about spray foam roofing costs, common problems and how it gets installed, please download our free eBook below.
The Essential Guide to Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing

About the 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.