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The Pros and Cons of Silicone Roof Coatings

Our roofing experts see it daily – a facility manager realizes their roof warranty is ending, but their roof isn’t in bad shape. There have been a few repairs, but no devastating damage or visible leaks.

Most think they will have to pay for a complete roof replacement to get a new warranty.

What if I told you there are other options?

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • What a silicone roof coating system is?
  • How does a silicone roof coating system get installed?
  • What are the pros and cons of silicone coating systems?

And just so you’re aware, West Roofing Systems has been in commercial roofing since 1979. We specialize in spray polyurethane foam roofing, which uses silicone roof coatings for protection from UV rays. Since around 2008, using silicone roof coating systems on their own has been an attractive, low-cost option for specific situations.

Every article written at West Roofing Systems is produced in-house. Each blog post is reviewed and approved by a spray foam and coating expert with more than 30 years of experience.

 Let’s get started.

What is a Silicone Roof Coating System?

Silicone roof coating system installed over a school
A silicone roof coating system installed on a commercial building

silicone roof coating system is a single layer (applied in one or two coats) of silicone rolled or sprayed as a liquid to fill in cracks, blisters, and seams.

The process does not improve the insulation or underlying system. Still, it does add an extra layer of protection from the elements.

Facility owners tend to opt for a roof coating system when their roof is in good shape but needs to be renewed from older age and normal wear and tear.

 

How Does a Silicone Roof Coating System Get Installed?

The process of installing a coating system is straightforward.

  • First, an infrared inspection is performed to see if there are any wet areas of insulation under the membrane. After those wet areas have been removed and replaced, the entire roof surface is power-washed clean to remove any contaminants.

  • After the primer has been installed (if needed), the seams of the membrane are then reinforced.

  • Once all miscellaneous repairs have been performed to the existing roof system, silicone is sprayed or roller applied over the roof’s entire surface.

  • After the silicone coating system has been completed, a final inspection will be performed by a third party or the manufacturer’s representative. This is to verify all necessary repairs were performed correctly and that the silicone is applied with the right amount of thickness. The final warranty is issued when the repairs and silicone coating applications are approved.


 

Pros of Silicone Roof Coating Systems

 

Cost Savings

The #1 benefit of a silicone roof coating system is the cost savings versus completely tearing off and installing a new roof system.

A silicone coating system usually costs between $2 and $3.50 per square foot. A complete roof tear-off and installation can cost $4 – $10 per square foot.

However, with higher material costs (as of September 2022), a coating system will likely exceed $4 per square foot. Pricing is volatile and can vary significantly daily.

As long as the existing roof substrate is dry and stable, no roof removal is required.

If there are some wet areas of the roof, these can be removed and installed with new, dry material before silicone is installed.

silicone roof coating on a commercial roof
Silicone roof coating system on a commercial roof

Extended Life Roof

If your roof is in relatively good condition, you can extend its life by protecting it from the elements. Since the silicone is applied as a liquid, it fills in any seams, cracks, or other vulnerable areas of your roof.

Warranties come in 10, 15, and 20-year increments.

Not Considered an official roofing system

Per building codes, a commercial building can have a maximum of two roofing systems. So if you already have two roofs and want to install a new one, you’ll need to remove at least one roofing system.


A massive benefit for coating systems is that they are considered “maintenance” and not a new roofing system.


This is great for buildings with two roofs because you don’t automatically have to remove an entire roofing system.

Minimal Tear-off

Only the damaged/wet insulation and membrane are removed and replaced when a coating system is installed. This is a considerable cost-savings compared to a complete tear-off and replacement.


If a roof has 75% good insulation that isn’t wet, why pay to rip it off???

Seamless and fluid-applied installation

Silicone roof coatings are installed through a spray gun, or if it’s very windy, they can be rolled on. This reduces the installation time on roofs with many vertical walls, HVAC units, drains, pipes, skylights, etc.

Roofing systems installed with rolled-out sheets need to cut the membrane and use termination metal, adhesives, and sealants to make a penetration watertight.


There are fewer variables to make a penetration watertight when you install a fluid-applied product.

Reduced Energy Expenses


Silicone roof coatings are often referred to as “cool roofs” due to their ability to keep facilities cool.

The bright white color reflects UV rays, reducing energy costs by 35% by reducing air conditioning usage to keep the facilities cool.

Short Project Duration

 
One of the biggest issues with having work done on your facility is the interruptions to the daily functions of your building.

A silicone coating installation can reduce project duration by up to 30%. This is not only more convenient, but it can also save money on labor expenses.

New Manufacturer’s Warranty

A manufacturer’s warranty can back a silicone roof coating system. These usually come in 10, 15, and 20-year warranties.

The coating will prevent roof leaks unless there are:

  • interference by third parties (such as another contractor damaging the roof) 
  • acts of God (such as a tornado)
  • structural changes to the building
  • a change in operations

For more information about silicone warranties, please contact us and we’ll reply as quickly as possible.

Cons of Silicone Roof Coating

Here are some cons of silicone roof coating systems.

Difficult to Adhere to Silicone

They say that nothing sticks to silicone besides more silicone. This is true. You’ll most likely need to remove the silicone layer before installing a different roofing system.

Having a silicone roof system is a long-term investment.

Before and after West Roofing Systems performs silicone restoration on Honeywell Claymont building
Before and after West Roofing Systems installs silicone coating

Strict Eligibility

To be eligible for a silicone roof coating system, your roof needs to:

  • Have less than 25% of the insulation wet
  • Have seams that are in good/decent condition
  • Have been maintained year after year

Unfortunately, most building owners only seek roof help once the roof is leaking. In this case, the roof may not be eligible.

To find out, a roofing contractor will perform a roof inspection to determine the health of your roof.

Silicone Coating Expertise

It may appear easy to install silicone coating because it’s similar to painting the walls in your home, but the coating will not last if the roof isn’t prepared correctly.

Here are some questions that come up when talking about preparing a roof for silicone coating:

  • Will the coating adhere correctly to the existing roof?
  • Is a primer needed?
  • Should the coating be rolled on or spray-applied?
  • Is the right thickness of coating applied so the warranty is granted?
  • Are the seams treated appropriately?

The wrong answer to these questions can be the difference in coating lasting two months or 20 years.

Increased Safety Concerns

Another risk of using a waterproof material such as silicone to coat your commercial roof is when the surface gets wet. It tends to be more slippery than a typical roof system. The wet coating can be an added risk for personnel managing units, skylights, or roofing issues on the roof.

Loss of Reflective Properties

The silicone layer is prone to hold dirt and allow the rain to wash it away. Like any roofing solution, the natural elements will wear the silicone coating down over time. This means that over time you will lose some of the reflective properties that contribute to your facility’s energy savings.

Smell During Application

Suppose silicone is installed on a roof with many fresh air intakes, like a hospital. In that case, these intakes need to be sealed during installation.


This is because silicone has an unpleasant smell when it’s curing.


It’s not a huge negative, as the smell doesn’t last very long. Still, it’s something a roofing contractor needs to take caution with during installation.

Learn more about silicone roof coating systems

Silicone roof coating systems are great alternatives to replacing your roof system.

You can restore your commercial roof to working condition in less time, with less cost, and while keeping your building under warranty.


West Roofing Systems has been restoring, replacing, and repairing commercial roofing systems for over 40 years.

download the silicone roof coating cheat sheet

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