spray foam roof over a climate controlled building

The Best Roof for a Climate-Controlled Building

Greg PalyaSpray Polyurethane Foam Roofing

Are you the building owner of a facility that pays special attention to climate control?

Every business has some sort of climate control (if not we’d have workers passing out or freezing daily), but I’m talking about climate control as part of a business plan.

Types of businesses that come to mind are:

  • Commercial freezers
  • Butcheries or meat packing
  • Engineering plant
  • Storage facilities
  • Museums

For these types of businesses, throwing just any roof on top of a building that needs climate control is not cost-effective.

At West Roofing Systems, we’ve been improving the energy efficiency on climate-controlled buildings since 1979, including a warehouse full of CNC machines, as well as keeping the public comfortable during theatrical plays.

In this article, we’ll talk about a spray foam roofing system and how they are the most cost-effective solution to any climate-controlled building.

Let’s begin.


First off…what is a spray foam roofing system?

Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing, or spray foam roofing, is a material that’s sprayed as a liquid so it can expand into a foam, creating a solid layer across an existing roof.

The usual application of spray foam is to repair and re-invigorate an existing roof by removing the saturated areas, replacing with like materials, and then spraying foam over top of the entire roof.

While SPF roofing is not the most known type of roofing material, the technology has been around since the early 1960’s for industrial, commercial, and residential facilities. An SPF roofing system can be used in any climate, and when correctly installed and maintained, can last over 50 years.

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) for roofing applications is manufactured on the job site by mixing two highly reactive chemicals.

The chemicals, A (polyol/resin) & B (isocyanate), are pumped from separate containers through heated, high-pressure hoses to an internal mixing spray gun.

Many changes have occurred in the equipment and chemistry of polyurethane foam roofing in the last fifty years, resulting in today’s dependable roof applications.

The thickness of a spray foam roof is installed based upon the building owner’s desired R value (6.6 per inch) but is usually installed 1.5 to 2 inches in thickness.

An elastomeric coating is always installed over a spray foam roof to protect the foam from degrading UV rays. The thickness of elastomeric coating is installed based upon the building owners desired warranty for their roof. Here’s how the thickness of coating affects the length of warranty.

For a 10-year warranty, 20 mils of coating is installed.

For a 15-year warranty, 25 mils of coating is installed.

For a 20-year warranty, 30 mils of coating is installed.

The coating is installed in two coats, with the final coat having granules embedding into it.

Now that we know a little bit about spray foam roofs, let’s get into how they perform on climate-controlled buildings.

4 Reasons a Spray Foam Roof Is Best for Climate-Controlled Buildings

1. Spray foam has the greatest R-value per inch of any roofing system

If you’re unfamiliar with R-value, R-value is the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow.

The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power, the more heat or cool air that will stay inside your building.

Here are the average R-values for common roof systems:

  • Spray Polyurethane Foam: 6.6 per inch
  • Metal: 0.00 per inch
  • BUR Gravel: 0.34 per inch
  • BUR Smooth: 0.24 per inch
  • XPS Insulation: 5.0 per inch
  • EPS Insulation: 3.85 per inch
  • Polyiso: 5.5 per inch


Why is R-value important for climate-controlled buildings?

Climate-controlled buildings need to control temperature. Say you own a building that houses a bunch of computer servers.

Your building needs to stay under a certain temperature, or your servers will overheat.

To maintain a temperature under 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you set your AC to kick on anytime it gets above 70.

If you have a roofing system that has a poor R-value, like metal or BUR, when you turn your AC on, a large portion of that air goes right through the roof.

Your AC will need to be constantly running to maintain the 70 degrees.

If you had a spray foam roof, that AC will stay in your building and you can reduce the amount of time your AC is running.

Industry standard states that the total payback of your new spray foam roof usually occurs in less than 10 years through savings in heating and cooling.

2. Spray foam roofs are seamless and closed cell

One of the greatest advantages of a spray foam roof is that they are seamless and closed cell.

Seams are a common area where leaks occur, so eliminating the seams helps to promote a leak-free environment. Additionally, by being seamless, thermal bridging (fasteners and joints of insulation board decrease the actual performance of a roofs systems measured R-value) is eliminated.

Our President, Jack Moore, read a study that was performed based on a 10,000 sq. ft. roof that had insulation board fastened to a metal roof deck. The joints of the boards alone calculated to equal an opening in the roof approximately 100 square feet in size. That’s equal to the size of a huge chimney for all the conditioned air to escape!

Spray foam roofs are also closed cell, which means that if an incision is made into the spray foam roof, water cannot travel through it and enter your building.

For a leak to happen on a spray foam roof, an object would have to break through the coating (with embedded granules) and break 100% through 1.5-2 inches of spray foam.

With spray foam having a compression strength of 50-60 pounds per square inch, it will hold up to most objects.

Why is this important for climate-controlled buildings?

Climate-controlled buildings are climate-controlled for a reason…to be designed for specialized equipment to perform how they were meant to perform.

It’s safe to say that a server room is meant to keep the temperature at a level to where the servers won’t overheat, and it’s very safe to say that servers are meant to be stored in areas where there’s no leaking.

3. Spray foam roofing reduces wear and tear on HVAC units

A long while back when you purchased your building, it was probably engineered to maximize production, whatever that may be.

One aspect of engineering is choosing the correct HVAC unit that will perform the best when heating or cooling your building.

If you install a spray foam roof, which has a high R-value, your current HVAC unit will have to work less to maintain temperature.

Why is this important for climate-controlled buildings?

Perhaps the original HVAC unit that’s still heating and cooling your building was designed 20-30 years ago.

That machine needs a break!

A spray foam roof will take some of the load off your HVAC unit because it has a high R-value, which keeps more heat/cool from escaping the building, which makes your current HVAC unit work less.

BONUS: your energy bill will be lowered too!

4. A spray foam roof is renewable

Once a spray foam roof is installed, most building owners will put a maintenance plan on it to protect their investment.

It’s no different than getting your car looked at every so often to see if anything is wrong. As you know, catching a problem before it turns into a bigger problem is always a cost-effective solution.

But just like a car that needs new oil and new tires after so many miles, a spray foam roof needs new coating after the initial warranty expires.

A typical scenario is when a building owner gets a 15-year warranty (25 mils of coating are installed to get that length of warranty), and then they will schedule a recoat to happen at the end of year 15.

At year 15, your initial 25 mils of coating may be down to 7-10 mils.

What will happen is a cleaning of your current roof (usually done by power washing), repairing any damages, and then adding a new layer of coating over top to the owners desired warranty.

The process can repeat every 10, 15, or 20 years. That’s how a spray foam roof is truly renewable.

Some roofs that were initially installed in the 1980’s are on their 3rd and 4th recoats.

Why is this important for climate-controlled buildings?

Some climate-controlled buildings, such as an engineering plant, are planning on being in business a long time.

Worrying if your roof is going to leak, or if your HVAC unit is going to fail, is a calculation that can be easily avoided by installing a spray foam roof.

Having a spray foam roofing contractor only come out every 10, 15 or 20 years to perform a recoat is a great way to minimize business interruptions.

Ready to learn more about spray foam roofing for your climate-controlled building?

As you’ve learned today, there are many benefits a spray foam roof can offer a climate-controlled building owner, including:

  • The best R-value per inch of any roofing system
  • It’s seamless and closed cell
  • Reducing wear and tear on HVAC unit
  • Being a renewable roofing system

At West Roofing Systems, we’ve installed spray foam roofs over all kinds of climate-controlled buildings everywhere East of the Mississippi.

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.