Roof Coatings Articles

Proactive Roofing: Saving Energy, Reducing Waste

Lead photo courtesy of Gaco

From aging metal roofs to modified bitumen, single-ply, and built-up roof systems, contractors and asset owners have a lot to consider when it’s time to repair or replace a roof. Building owners increasingly understand the value of proactive maintenance, including the regular application of roof coatings and membrane installations to extend the life of their assets and protect the energy efficiency of their building envelopes.

They are also understanding the benefits of cool roofing credits and incentives, the importance of lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and how coatings and membranes can improve their bottom line along with their tenant satisfaction. Roofing contracts are on the rise, and manufacturers are stepping up their product offerings and educational resources to keep contractors competitive in the roofing arena.

The National Roofing Contractors Association’s (NRCA) Q2 2023 Quarterly Market Index Survey for Reroofing found that 43% of the roofing contractors surveyed reported an increased volume of roofing materials installed compared to the previous year at this time. Only 25% of the contractors reported installing a lower volume of roofing materials compared to last year. In all, 44% of respondents said customer inquiries for roofing work increased, and 46% reported an increase in project contracts over the same quarter in 2022.

Overall, there seems to be optimism in the roofing industry, and 2023 appears to have had more growth and project starts compared to 2022. Roofing restoration systems and new roofing coating products are helping to extend the life of existing roofs and adding additional revenue avenues for contractors. There is also the notable rise of products with “cool roof” ratings and more energy-efficient upgrade incentives to help building owners save money on their energy bills while helping to reduce their carbon footprint.

Asset owners are increasingly looking for roof coatings and restoration systems that save energy and add value to their bottom line as well as preserving their assets. To meet customer demand, contractors are getting educated on new fluid-applied re-coating products, and, before they start a restoration, they’re educating asset owners on the importance of doing thermal scans, adhesion testing, and roof analysis to ensure those coatings last for the long haul.

“Coatings are becoming a more popular solution as we see more buildings with two existing roofs that are not ready to do a complete tear-off,” said Laura Soder, senior product manager for GAF. “Similarly, a lot of metal roofs from the 1990s and early 2000s are aging and need to be waterproofed. Now, contractors can offer a restoration system with a product like GAF Unisil High Solids Silicone Roof Coating and provide the building owners with a lower cost solution that helps extend the life of their existing roofs.”

Acrylic-based roof coatings have been a go-to membrane choice for years because of the coating’s durability, excellent product flow, and ease of handling, but silicone options are increasing in popularity. GAF’s Unisil High Solids Silicone Roof Coating is a newly formulated moisture-cure coating that was designed to be used on a variety of substrates. High-solids silicone roof coatings can be used to restore existing metal, asphalt, single-ply, and spray polyurethane foam (SPF) roofing systems without needing special equipment or worker training.

GAF’s Unisil product provides a high level of weatherproofing while protecting the roof from ultraviolet (UV) rays and leaks due to water ponding. While silicone options tend to have a higher price tag than acrylic options, these benefits make high-solids silicone coatings an attractive choice for asset owners who want to extend the life of an existing roofing system that is still in good repair.

If acrylic is the asset owner’s preference, one of the newest acrylic options is Gaco's GacoFlex A48 Series acrylic roof coating. As of its release in March 2023, it is the first and only single-component, high-build acrylic roof coating that can be applied up to 80 wet mils (2,032.0 microns) in a single pass application. GacoFlex A48 can be used as a roof maintenance coating over nearly any substrate and will provide rain resistance in as little as 30 minutes with a total cure-through time of about eight hours, depending on ambient humidity and temperature.

It can be applied with standard acrylic spray systems, which eliminates the need for specialized plural component equipment, and it was designed to be quick-curing and easy to apply with fewer materials needed than traditional acrylic applications. Its water-based, low-VOC formulation contains no zinc and is an environmentally friendly alternative to higher VOC options. GacoFlex A48 launched in white, with gray and tan options entering the market at the end of 2023.

“Contractors need to be cognizant of the end user — the asset owner — who is increasingly focused on the life cycle and long-term performance of the roof, as this significantly impacts their business and the environment. Renovating a roof with an appropriate coating system can often provide a better return on investment in the long run, even at a lower initial cost, than a single-ply installation,” said Gabe Goepfert, technical sales director for Everest Systems.

Many of the products launched this year aim to make roofing restoration projects easier and more ecologically friendly. A roof restoration can add years, sometimes even decades, of use to a roof that is in good condition, but it won’t fix underlying structural issues or resolve performance issues that could lead to failure.

Contractors should understand the limitations of membranes and coatings and explain to customers that restoring a roof that has reached the end of its service life will potentially waste resources because it can’t prevent the failure of a structurally unsound roofing system. A thorough roof inspection should be conducted before deciding between a restoration or a complete tear-off and replacement.

In a recent “Notes From the Field” article in CoatingsPro (January 2023), Jeremy Grunewald and Chris Kuykendall from Mule-Hide Products Co. Inc. provided three tell-tale signs to look for when evaluating whether a roof can be restored or must be replaced:

1. Is there ponding water, or decking that has rusted, rotted, or cracked? If so, the roof deck has likely reached its end of service life, and the roof may need to be replaced.

2. Are there soft spots when walking on the roof? This indicates saturated insulation, and it points toward a leak or leaks. Investigate further to locate the source of the soft spots and evaluate whether it can be repaired.

3. Is the membrane split? Splits are an indication that there is unanchored insulation or there is damage from hail or temperature swings. Determine the source of the splitting to decide whether it can be repaired or should be replaced.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the roundup article within the 2023 Roof Coatings Supplement. To read the complete story and supplement, please click here.

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