How Is a Spray Foam Roof Renewable?
Wouldn’t it be great if your vehicle were completely renewable? All you would have to do is bring your vehicle to a mechanic every 5 years, they make minor repairs/maintenance such as:
- Change the oil
- Change the brakes
- Add fluids
- Replace timing belt
- Install new tires
After your car is repaired, you schedule your next appointment 5 years from now and that’s it.
Everyone wishes car maintenance can be so easy. Why? Because you get your repairs and you don’t have to worry about anything for a long time.
I have some breaking news for you!
Your commercial roof can be renewable just like our fictional car scenario.
But how does this work?
Can all roofing systems be renewable?
Are there roofs that have been renewed over and over again?
In this post, we’ll answer all your concerns about renewable roofing systems. Since 1979, West Roofing Systems has been installing spray foam roofing systems…the ONLY renewable roofing system.
Let’s get started!
Common questions about spray foam
Perhaps this is the first time you’re hearing about spray foam roofing.
If so, here are a few basic questions about spray foam that you may be wondering:
What is spray foam roofing?
Spray foam roofing is a complete, monolithic, watertight, and seamless roofing system. The spray foam system consists of spray foam, which is a 1-1 ratio of two chemicals, an isocyanate, and a resin. These are pumped through heated hoses, mixed in a spray gun, and applied to an existing roof.
Since spray foam degrades when exposed to UV rays, two thin layers of silicone coating are applied over the foam.
Granules are embedded into the second layer of coating to add stability and strength.
What does a spray foam roof cost?
A spray foam roof costs $4-$7 per square foot. There are hundreds of variables that influence the price of every roofing system, such as how large the roof is, how much of the existing roof needs to be removed, how long of a warranty the owner is seeking, etc.
But spray foam is very close in terms of pricing as any other roofing system out there.
What are the benefits of a spray foam roof?
There are 7 main benefits of a spray foam roof:
- High R-value
- Quickly installed
- Proven since the 1960s
- Easy to maintain
- And the most important benefit of all. A spray foam roof is renewable
Renewability means that once the initial warranty is over, all you need to do is power wash the roof, add more coating and granules, and that’s it.
The process to renew a spray foam roof is called a “recoat.”
When the warranty of other roofing systems expire, the next step is to rip everything off and install a new system. This costs more money than a spray foam recoat and it unnecessarily contributes to landfills, which is terrible for the environment.
Why is having a renewable roof important
Having a renewable roof gives you an edge over your competitors who do not have a renewable roof.
It has to do with cost.
Here are the costs of spray foam vs single-ply on a 20,000 sq. ft. roof over 30 years:
|Cost per sq. ft.||Sq. ft. of roof||Total cost|
|Single-Ply – Year 1||$3.50||20,000||$70,000|
|Single-Ply – Year 10||$3.50||20,000||$70,000|
|Single-Ply – Year 20||$3.50||20,000||$70,000|
|Single-Ply – Year 30||$3.50||20,000||$70,000|
|Cost per sq. ft.||Sq. ft. of roof||Total cost|
|Spray foam – Year 1||$4||20,000||$80,000|
|Spray foam – Year 10||$2||20,000||$40,000|
|Spray foam – Year 20||$2||20,000||$40,000|
|Spray foam – Year 30||$2||20,000||$40,000|
Having a renewable roof means that once the warranty period is over (in this example, every 10 years), you don’t have to remove the entire roof and install a new system.
On a single-ply roof, once 10 years is up, you remove everything down to the deck and install a new single-ply system.
On a spray foam roof, there are three parts; the spray foam, the coating, and the granules.
On day 1, the coating will be installed approximately 20 mils thick.
At year 10, that coating will wear down to approximately 7-8 mils thick.
To “renew” a spray foam roof, you power wash the roof clean, install coating back to the original 20 mils, install new granules, and you’re done.
The spray foam never gets touched. Nothing gets removed.
This is why renewing a spray foam roof costs ½ to 1/3 of the cost of the original installation.
Saving money over the long run helps your business compete. You could lower your prices, give employees a bonus, etc.
Your competitors will use that money to install a new single-ply roof.
And the process will repeat itself every 10 years.
Two issues with spray foam roofing and renewability
Here are a few scenarios that can affect the renewability of a spray foam roof.
Issue #1 – not having routine maintenance
If there’s no routine maintenance on a spray foam roof, the roof may not last the full 10, 15, or 20 years without any damage to the foam.
A hole can be made in a spray foam roof in numerous ways, such as:
- Someone drops a tool with a sharp point
- Someone drops a nail or screw and it gets stepped on
- Heavy hail punctures the foam
Although spray foam is very strong (50-60 PSI), damages can happen.
That’s why it’s recommended to signup for a maintenance program with a spray foam roofing contractor.
In a maintenance program, the contractor will be on your roof twice per year, clean out gutters, remove branches and leaves, etc. But the real value is recognizing small holes and cracks that can turn into bigger issues down the road.
If a small crack or hole has foam that’s exposed, UV rays will slowly burn that foam. Without any coating protecting the foam, the foam will degrade at a rate of 1/16th of an inch per year.
If that hole is left alone for years, there could be a way for water to enter your deck, and eventually your building.
NOTE: if foam gets damaged, the roof can still be renewed. A contractor will have to remove the burnt foam and install new foam before recoating the roof.
Issue #2 – having bad foam installed
Unfortunately, there are bad spray foam installers out there.
Here are 5 ways to identify a bad spray foam roofing contractor:
1. They don’t know the chemistry of spray polyurethane foam.
There are three energies to producing good foam, they are electrical, environmental, and exothermic. If a contractor cannot explain these to you, they might not know enough about spray foam to produce a roofing system that will be watertight.
2. They haven’t been in business for a long time
Many spray foam installers haven’t been spraying foam for very long, so they make mistakes on your roof.
To avoid this, ask for references, but more importantly, ask for a list of references of roofs that they have renewed, or recoated.
This would prove that they did the initial installation, provided routine maintenance for at least 10 years, and recoated the roof so it will last another 10-20 years.
Many contractors will not have a list of recoat clients.
3. They do not have an internal service department
A good spray foam company should have an internal service department that has a history of your roof. Some areas need more attention than others. Other areas are at higher risk than others.
Some spray foam companies just pull a roofer off a job to perform service on a roof. This roofer will not know what to look for, what work has already been done, etc.
4. They do not know common spray foam application mistakes
Some common mistakes that are made are:
- Only installing one layer of coating over spray foam
- Spraying foam over wet insulation
- Using small stones to protect a spray foam roof
5. They are much cheaper than everyone else
If a spray foam contractor is cheaper than another, find out why. The most likely scenario is that their labor costs are lower due to less-experienced workers, or they are using cheaper materials.
Cheap labor + cheap materials = a roof likely to not last.
How does a bad spray foam contractor relate to renewability?
If the foam is applied wrong, the roof will not last the full 10, 15, or 20-years with simple maintenance. What will happen is that the roof will probably crack easily, or be slushy-like, and the roof will probably leak within 10 years.
To get the roof back to where it should be, scarfing will need to be done.
Scarfing is similar to a lawnmower, which will grind away the foam from the roof.
Once the bad foam is removed, a contractor will power wash the roof clean and install new foam, coating, and granules.
Then your roof can be renewed very easily like it’s designed to!
Examples of commercial roofs on their 2nd and 3rd recoat
Interesting in seeing a few spray foam roofs that have been recoated a few times? Here are their stories below.
The first example is Central Village Apartments in Amherst, Ohio.
A cool fact about this project is that one of our owners, Brian Chavalia, was the master installer on the initial installation.
The roof was initially installed in 1992.
Number of recoats: 2
Here is a short video starring Brian as he explains the project:
The 2nd example is Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio.
The roof was initially installed in 1972.
Number of recoats: 3
Please view our video of Jack Moore explaining the history and difficulty of the project:
West Roofing Systems has been in business since 1979 and since then, we’ve done recoats on countless commercial roofs that we’ve initially installed.
Renewability of a spray foam roof
Now that you know that a spray foam roof is a renewable roofing system, what other questions or concerns do you have?
If you’d like to send us a question, please do so on a contact us form.
West Roofing Systems has been installing, recoating, and renewing spray foam roofs since 1979. It’s a great feeling to go back to a roof that was installed 10, 15, or 20-years ago, and be able to renew the roof.
We know this saves the building owner tremendous amounts of money over the lifetime of the building, which helps them financially in competitive markets.
Want to learn more about spray polyurethane foam roofs? Please view our Ultimate Guide to Spray Foam Roofing:
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.