misconceptions of a spray foam roof

The 3 Greatest Misconceptions About Spray Foam Roofing

Greg PalyaSpray Polyurethane Foam Roofing


Do you own an electric car?

Since the U.S. market share of plug-in electric passenger cars is only 2.1% in 2018, the logical guess is probably not.

But why?

Do you not like the fact that you don’t have to pay for gas? Or do you just love going to the gas station all the time?

More than likely, the case is that electric cars are a newer phenomenon, and they are quite expensive.

But the reality is that the public just isn’t educated enough to make an informed decision.

The same can be said about a spray foam roofing system.

There’s a misconception that spray foam roofs:

  • are only a temporary solution
  • are weak
  • are a newer roofing system

But the reality is, there isn’t enough information out there for a building owner to learn everything they need to know to make an informed decision about their roof.

West Roofing Systems has been installing spray foam roofing systems over existing roofs for more than 40 years. If there’s anyone who knows about spray foam misconceptions, it’s us.

Let’s get rolling…

Three misconceptions about spray foam roofing

Misconception #1 – Spray foam roofs are only a temporary solution

There’s a misconception that if you have a roof that’s leaking, and you only need your roof to last a few years, installing a spray foam roof is a great idea.

But what if I told you that West Roofing Systems has been installing spray foam roofs on commercial buildings since 1979?

And what if I told you that while we don’t maintain or service every roof we’ve ever done, there are commercial roofs that we’ve installed in the 1980’s that are on their 3rd and 4th recoat?

What’s a spray foam recoat and why do you need it?

One of the negatives to a spray foam roof is that it’ll degrade by 1/16th of an inch every year because UV rays.

To combat this, spray foam roofing contractors install elastomeric coatings overtop of spray foam on the initial application.

The most popular choice for an elastomeric coating is silicone, which is a great blend of pricing and performance compared to other popular choices such as acrylic and urethanes.

So how long does a spray foam roof last?

A spray foam roof can last indefinitely. Here’s a sample 60-year plan:

Year 1: Spray foam roof gets installed. 30 mils of coating are installed overtop to protect the roof from UV rays. 30 mils of coating will get a spray foam roof a 20-year warranty.

Year 20: The initial 30 mils of coating has been worn down to approximately 7-9 mils of coating due to weathering and foot traffic. A roofing contractor will power wash the roof clean, and then perform a recoat, which is to install coating back to the original 30 mils.

Year 40: At year 40, all you have to do is perform the same recoat process that was performed in year 20.

And on and on and on

The only other addition is a roofing maintenance package, which is done twice as year.

How much does this cost?

A ballpark cost for a spray foam roof installation is $4-$7 per sq. ft. There are a lot of variables including how much saturation your roof has, how many roofing layers you currently have, condition of the substrate, and much more.

A spray foam recoat costs approximately $2-$3 per sq. ft. Variables in recoat costs include the condition of the roof.

If your roof has been enrolled in a maintenance plan, you’ll be in the best position possible to be at the lower end of a recoat cost.

A spray foam maintenance package costs approximately 3c per sq. ft. and is performed at least once per year and optimally, twice per year.


For a 20,000 sq. ft. roof, a 60-year plan for spray foam would cost:

Installation = 20,000 x $5 = $100,000

Recoats at year 20 and 40 = 20,000 x $3 x 2 = $120,000

Maintenance package for 60 years = 20,000 x .03 x 60 = $36,000

Total = $256,000.


Let’s compare this to a traditional single-ply roofing system on a 20,000 sq. ft. roof:

Installation = $100,000

Re-roof at 20 years = $120,000

Re-roof at 40 years = $120,000

Maintenance = $36,000

Total = $396,000


We haven’t been in business for 60 years, but many of the commercial roofs we’ve done have been recoated many times.

Ones that come to mind are:

Playhouse Square – installed in 1972, recoated 3 times.

Sandusky Schools – installed in 1980, recoated 3 times.

Central Village Apartments – installed in 1992, recoated 2 times.

What you can take away: hopefully you learned that a spray foam roof is a long-term solution with a low life-time cost. Our owners have a saying that “a spray foam roof is the last roof you’ll ever have to install.” Having a roof that’s designed to be renewed over and over again is a great selling point if you ever decide on moving away from your building.

Misconception #2 – Spray foam roofs are weak

When you think of spray foam, you might think that it’s a weak product. One might even think of foam like a soap, or foam that gets sprayed onto your tires.

But that’s not the same foam that goes onto your roof.

The spray foam that’s used for your roof is closed-cell, which has a compression strength of 50-60 pounds per square inch.

For comparison, each one of the pegs that your refrigerator rest on exerts a pressure of 50psi, therefore, the foam used for roofing can withstand a refrigerator sitting on it.

One of the most popular questions we get is, “Can you walk on a spray foam roof?”.

You can walk on a spray foam roof 1-2 minutes after it’s sprayed.

And if you’re anticipating lots of foot traffic, walkways can be installed to guide anyone who needs to be on the roof.

The walkways define a path that’s been strengthened to withstand the increased amount of foot traffic.

How is the walkway strengthened?

A roofing contractor will use double the thickness of protective coating and granule application or use a fluid-applied material designed to withstand the concentrated foot traffic.

What you can take away: hopefully you learned that a spray foam roof is very strong (like a refrigerator peg) and that it’s nothing like the foam used for soap or cleaning your tires. But if you are anticipating lots of foot traffic, designated walkways with extra strength can be installed.

Misconception #3 – Spray foam is a newer roofing solution

West Roofing Systems was founded by Richard West in 1979. Initially using spray foam to insulate new cooler/freezers and commercial interiors, Richard discovered that spray foam could be used as a roofing system.

In late 1979, West Roofing Systems landed its first spray foam roof installation.

However, West wasn’t the first to use spray foam as a roofing system, as the technology has been around since the early 1960’s.

A popular single-ply roofing system, TPO, is younger than spray polyurethane foam roofing. The first known TPO roofing membrane was installed in 1986. TPO did not begin to acquire significant market share until the late 1990’s.

What you can take away: hopefully you learned that spray foam roofing has been around since the 1960s and that another popular roofing system, TPO, hasn’t been around as long as spray foam.

Ready to learn more about spray foam roofing?

As you’ve learned today, there are many misconceptions about a spray foam roof that aren’t true, such as:

  • spray foam roofs are only a temporary solution (they are renewable)
  • spray foam roofs are weak (they have a compression strength of 50-60 PSI and can be walked on in 1-2 minutes)
  • spray foam roofs are new (they have been around since the 1960s)

At West Roofing Systems, we’ve installed spray foam roofs over all kinds of commercial buildings everywhere East of the Mississippi for more than 40 years.

If you want to learn more about spray foam roofing, please view our Ultimate Guide to Spray Foam Roofing. You don’t need to submit any information to view it!

the ultimate guide to spray 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.