Emergency Roof Leaks: Why Spray Foam Is the Quickest Solution
Imagine you’re the maintenance manager of a school system. You’re in charge of the 10 roofs installed in each school throughout the city.
On your way to work, you get a call from the Principal of one of the schools, “A quarter of our roof is blown off, and the remains are all over the parking lot.”
You have 500 kids coming to this school in an hour; what do you do?
Hopefully, you have a maintenance package with a roofing contractor you can call.
If not, you need to find a roofing contractor who can temporarily fix this roof ASAP.
And one that can install spray polyurethane foam. But why?
The reason is that spray foam can repair a commercial roof faster than other roofing systems.
Let’s get started…
What is spray foam roofing?
Spray polyurethane foam is a material that’s sprayed as a liquid so it can expand into a foam, creating a solid layer across an existing roof.
It’s usually applied 1-2 inches thick, and it’s protected from damaging UV rays by installing 2 thin layers (20-30 mils total) of silicone coating over the top of the foam.
For added strength, granules are embedded into the top coat of the coating.
Spray foam roofing has many advantages, but for emergency purposes, the best advantage is that spray foam can be installed quicker than any other roofing system.
Why is spray foam the quickest way to install an emergency repair?
Spray foam can be applied quicker than any other system for many reasons.
The first reason is that there are no materials to carry onto the roof. A box truck is parked alongside the building (or in the parking lot), where two chemicals are mixed, heated, and transferred through a hose up to the sprayer onto the roof.
Other roofing applications must transport materials and tools onto the roof, which takes considerable time.
The second reason is that spray foam is spray applied. There’s no time wasted by hammering nails or laying down rubber sheets.
A great time-saver comes when fixing an emergency repair around a penetration. With other roofing applications, the materials must be custom-cut to fit properly around the penetration.
With spray foam, you spray around the penetration and keep on moving. There’s no disruption in the normal application.
Around an average-sized penetration, such as a curb, a conventional roofing system can flash the area in about 30 minutes. With spray foam, the same curb can be applied in about 2 minutes.
From 36 seconds to 43 seconds in this video, you can see spray foam flashing around a curb:
Can spray foam go over any roofing system?
Spray foam can be applied over any roofing system, but some roofing systems require an extra step besides just cleaning the area and spraying foam over top.
Here are some of the most popular roofing systems:
- Metal – spray foam can be applied to a metal roof after cleaning. A primer may also have to be used.
- TPO – since TPO is not fully adhered to the insulation, a cover board needs to be installed before foam can be applied.
- EPDM – if the EPDM roof is fully adhered, there are no problems spraying foam over it. If it’s mechanically fastened or ballasted, a cover board is needed before foam can be applied.
- Built-Up/Mod-Bit – if it’s a smooth surface, there are no problems spraying foam over top. If there’s loose material, such as rocks and stones, these need to be removed (usually through a wet-vacuuming process) before spray foam can be applied.
How long will the emergency repair last?
An emergency roof repair can last up to one year after installation. The most important factor is looking at the surface the foam is being applied to. If the surface is in bad shape (as in seams are torn apart), the repair will not last as long as applying foam to a healthy surface.
If you’re getting an emergency repair, a roofing contractor will get you watertight, and it’ll stay watertight until a more permanent solution is implemented.
For example, say a school has half the roof blown off the gym. A roofing contractor can repair the roof ASAP. The school cannot get funding until the board approves of the permanent roof replacement, which probably won’t be until 4 months from now.
A roofing contractor will make sure to have your roof watertight for the next 4 months.
NOTE: Waiting for insurance claims is another financing issue that can halt an emergency roof repair. But talk with your roofing contractor. They have been in this situation many times and can find a way to get your roof watertight and to work with you on deferring payments.
When is spray foam not good for an emergency repair?
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to using spray foam in an emergency situation.
The first is temperature. For spray foam to adhere to your roof correctly, and for the foam to cure so that it performs how it was designed to, it needs to be applied at 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.
A second hurdle when applying spray foam in an emergency situation is excessive wind. Since spray foam is very lightweight, it can be taken away in the wind and land on nearby cars, windows, people, etc.
Spray foam roofing contractors refer to this as “overspray.”
Careful measures are taken by spray foam roofing contractors, such as using windscreens or using a spraying booth, but there have been times when it’s too windy to spray foam.
The last hurdle is when it’s currently raining. Spray foam cannot be applied when it’s currently raining. The chemical reaction will be interrupted with water, and the foam won’t look or perform right.
Spray foam has an interesting curing process. Spray foam is tack-free in 20-30 seconds. You can walk on spray foam after 2-3 minutes. And spray foam has an off-gassing period that lasts 2-3 hours.
You’ll get the best-performing form when you spray to a clean and dry surface, and it doesn’t get interfered with (including rain) for 2-3 hours.
NOTE: If spray foam cannot be applied because of the above reasons, most spray foam roofing contractors have other roofing system materials, such as TPO, EPDM, Metal, etc. that they can use to fix your repair.
The next steps when you realize you need an emergency roof repair
The first step to take when you need an emergency repair is to call your local roofing contractor. Every minute you delay contacting someone, you delay getting your roof watertight again.