roof removal

5 Ways Spray Foam Roofing is Environmentally Friendly

Greg PalyaSpray Polyurethane Foam Roofing

Perhaps you need a new commercial roof…and you care about the environment you live in.

You think, “If I need a new roof, and a spray foam roofing system is beneficial to the environment in several ways, then why not go with it?”

Today we’re going to talk about the five ways spray foam roofing is beneficial to the environment, such as:

  • On installation, there is minimal tear-off of the existing roof
  • Spray foam has the best R-value of any roofing insulation
  • Spray foam is a renewable roofing system
  • Reflectivity keeps the roof and your building cool
  • Spray foam is created with eco-friendly materials

At West Roofing Systems, our primary focus has been to install the best performing roof systems possible. When our specialty (spray foam roofing) is proven to be good for the environment as well, it’s a bonus we feel great promoting.

Quick story on massive energy savings

Texas A&M University, dissatisfied with the 5-year lifespan of tar and gravel built-up roofing, decided to research other roofing systems. After hearing about the advantages of a spray foam roofing system, they gave it a try on a dorm building.

No leaks occurred on the dorm building (their number 1 concern), so they installed 7 million sq. ft. of spray foam roofing over 27 buildings.

Then they decided to investigate the energy savings since the system was installed.

On the spray foam roofs that were installed between 1980 and 1984, Texas A&M was able to recover the complete cost of the roof application through energy savings in an average of 4.5 years.

Today, the cost of a spray foam roof is $4 – $7 per sq. ft.

Using the low-end ($4) on 7 million sq. ft., the cost of the installation was roughly $28 million, which was fully recouped in energy savings in 4.5 years.

I know that $4 today wasn’t worth $4 in 1984, but let’s just say it’s half the value. $14M in energy savings is huge!

NOTE: you can read the full Texas A&M case study here

Now that you see the energy savings a spray foam roof can provide, let’s get into the reasons why spray foam is good for the environment…

1. There’s the minimum amount of tear-off during a spray foam installation

Before a spray foam installation can begin, a roofing contractor will remove any saturated insulation that your roof currently has.

These areas are identified using an infrared camera.

The magic number is 25%.

This means if your roof has more than 25% saturation, it’s cost-effective to remove the entire roof and start over. Unfortunately, this is bad for the environment because you’re contributing to landfills.

However, if you have less than 25% saturation, you can remove only those saturated areas, replace those areas with similar material as the rest of your roof, and then a spray foam roofing system can be installed over top.

And if you don’t have any saturation, you don’t need to remove anything at all!

The most likely scenario is that there will be some saturation (that’s why you currently have some roofing issues), and only those areas will need to be removed.

On other roofing systems, you’ll need to completely tear off everything (even dry insulation that’s still performing great) and contribute all that material to landfills.

2. Spray Polyurethane Foam has the best R-value

The less material that needs to be used; the fewer resources that are needed. Here are the R-values of the most popular roofing insulations available today:

  • Spray Polyurethane Foam: 6.6 per inch
  • XPS Insulation: 5.0 per inch
  • EPS Insulation: 3.85 per inch
  • Polyiso: 5.5 per inch

Spray polyurethane foam has an R-value of 6.6 per inch of thickness. You can get the same R-value using other forms of insulation, but you’ll need to use more material, which uses other resources to manufacture.

3. Spray foam is a renewable roofing system

On every other commercial roofing system, when its lifetime is over, it will need to be removed and placed in a landfill.

With a spray foam roof, when its warranty period is over, what’s performed is a recoat.

A recoat consists of minor repairs (filling in cracks/holes with silicone), power washing the roof clean, and then adding more coating to the level the next warranty grants.

For example, 20 mils of coating grants a 10-year warranty, 30 mils of coating grants a 20-year warranty.

No product is removed, and nothing is contributed to the landfills!

NOTE: a recoat costs 1/2 to 1/3 of the cost of the initial installation. Other roofing systems will cost 100% of the original installation.

4. Reflectivity keeps the roof and your building cool

Do you know what else is good for the environment?

Keeping energy costs down.

When a spray foam roof is installed, it will be protected with a thin layer of silicone coating. The reason is to protect the foam from UV rays, which will damage the foam if it’s exposed to the sun.

This coating is generally white or gray, which has more reflectivity of the sun than a rubber roof.

NOTE: most buildings we look at are rubber roofs, which have a very dark color to them. Just changing the color from dark to light, keeps the roof temperature down significantly.

Here is a video from the Department of Energy on “Cool Roofs”


5. The chemicals that produce SPF are environmentally friendly

Since 1979 (the year West Roofing Systems began spraying down foam), the blowing agents used to create foam have changed multiple times. This is due to materials being phased out for having a high level of ozone-depleting potential (ODP).

Examples of materials that have been phased out include:

  • CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) – phasing out CFCs led to HCFCs
  • HCFC (hydro-chlorofluorocarbons) – phasing out HCFCs led to HFCs
  • HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) – phasing out HFCs let to HFOs (hydrofluoro-Olefins)

Manufacturers of spray foam materials need to be aware of the Montreal Protocol as products containing certain chemicals get phased out.

The bottom line is that the phasing out of materials has kept the spray foam industry and the products used safe for the environment.

The materials that are used for SPF roofing systems are environmentally friendly by having:

  • Zero Ozone Depleting Potential (ODP)
  • Low in the Emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCS)
  • Free from Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS)
  • Ultra-Low Global Warming Potential (GWP)


Help the environment, save on energy bills

I know when we think of saving the environment, your roofing system is probably the last way you think you can make a difference.

But with Texas A&M saving millions on energy bills, and with an average commercial roof potentially contributing 20,000+ sq. ft. of roofing materials to landfills, your decision on what roof to install makes a big difference.

What are your next steps?

Now that you’re aware of some aspects of spray foam roofing, why not learn more?

Using West Roofing Systems’ 40+ years of experience, we’ve built a free, no information required eBook that answers the most popular questions about spray foam roofing, such as:

  • How does spray foam roofing compare to other roofing systems?
  • What problems do spray foam roofs have?
  • How long does a spray foam roof last?

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.