How to Make Roof Coatings Work

The roof of any commercial building is an investment as it protects the building and what is inside. This means roof maintenance is essential to protect this investment. Roof maintenance involves regular cleaning and upkeep as well as having a strategy for roof replacement.

How to Make Roof Coatings Work

Even with the best care, a roof will not last forever, so you need to be prepared for a replacement. A maintained roof can still get a leak and if this is not in the budget, you will be looking at big problems. A roof coating can be a great solution to these unforeseen problems. So long as your commercial roof is in good condition and well maintained, it can be a candidate for roof coating. You just need to make sure you get the right coating and the right installation. To determine if your roof is ideal for coating, you follow the same procedure as if looking to replace the roof. You want to take weather, building use, and construction type into consideration. As a building manager, make sure you fully research all coating options to ensure you get the right product for your building.

Determine Your Goal

There are different roof coating and not all are going to work for every roof. In some cases, roof coating may not even be the best solution. The first step is to evaluate what the purpose is for getting roof coating. Are you looking to provide limited or maximum solar protection? Highly reflecting coatings are available to get the most protection but you have fewer choices. Do you need to waterproof the roof? If so, urethane or other monolithic coating is appropriate. Are you trying to reduce energy use or comply with energy codes? You would want a reflective surface for this too. Once you know what your goals are, you can decide on the right product.

Choose a Coating

There are options when it comes to roof coating and based on your project needs, you can decide which of these will be best.

  • Asphalt Cutbacks: Bituminous products that are thinned with a solvent are known as asphalt cutbacks. These also have aluminum pigments added to enhance reflectivity and fiberglass to enhance strength and longevity.
  • Asphalt emulsions: These are similar to the cutbacks above except the asphalt is thinned with water instead of a solvent. Most of these come with the same added enhancements as asphalt cutbacks.
  • Acrylic Elastomers: These are almost always white and highly reflective. This coating can be applied over existing roofing, so long as the roofing is in good condition, which makes installation easier.
  • Polyureas: This coating is made from modified polymers and they can be applied easily like acrylic coatings but are often much thicker.
  • Urethanes: These are also modified polymers but they are specifically used on concrete or wood. This coating is not applied to existing roofing.
  • SPF: SPF is more of an insulating system than a coating and is applied as spray foam. It provides insulation and protection from water penetration. In most cases, you will find SPF used along with a urethane coating.

Different Systems

Roof coatings were developed to be applied over bituminous roofing materials. As long as the roofing is smooth, the coating can be applied. Other surfaces such as gravel, are not smooth and can be difficult to apply coating to. You can also coat EPDM roofing, but there are not as many options to choose from. Most often urethanes and acrylic polymers will work. Single-ply roofing is the one roofing system that you may not want to coat. There is not much benefit to doing this because they almost always have solar protection already integrated into the system. The last type of system is concrete, and these are one of the best for coating. Finally, concrete roof decks are excellent candidates for roof coatings. Most often concrete is used for roof parking decks so you want these to be waterproof and tough to withstand heavy auto traffic Urethane coatings are the best option for concrete. You also need to take the age of your roofing system into consideration before coating. Bituminous roofing that is old can have irregularities as well as possible degradation and weak spots. Any of these areas need to be taken care of before you can apply a coating.

Top 10 Pitfalls

There are a number of problems associated with a roof coating. Knowing these top ten pitfalls will ensure your application process runs as smoothly as possible.

  1. Poor product choice: The wrong product can be a problem if the materials are not compatible.
  2. False expectations: Just because there is solar protection, does not mean you are also safe from leaks. Thin coatings will not protect from leaks, especially when the existing roofing system is already damaged. Be sure to take care of all damage before applying any coating.
  3. Blisters: Blisters are caused by moisture that collects as a result of leaking. All moisture needs to be removed so coatings can be applied to a dry surface.
  4. Delamination: Delamination is another common moisture problem, as well as other contaminants that collect on the roof surface. All loose materials need to be scraped away before a coating is an apple. Without proper preparation, a coating will be ineffective.
  5. Consistency: The most effective coating will be one that is applied consistently. The thickness needs to be even across applications to achieve maximum benefits.
  6. Ambient temperature. AThe coating manufacturer will provide a specific temperature range that is best for application. Applying a coating when the temperature is too hot or too cold will interfere with its effectiveness and ability to be properly adhered.
  7. Improper application: Two-component coating systems are often mixed on-site and this means there is a certain window to get the application done. There is a pot life that will expire and not adhering to this can result in the wasted coating.
  8. Inadequate cleaning: A clean surface will be the best for coating application. Not only will the coating adhere better, but there will be no trapped contaminants that can interfere with energy savings or reflective capabilities.
  9. Reapplication: Roof coatings will have a service life of close to five years. This means you will need to reapply the coating after this time in order to keep it working effectively.
  10. Manufacturer recommendations: The manufacturers provide recommendations for a reason and not following these can result in issues such as leaks, moisture, or application problems. Always follow the recommendations of the manufacturer.


Before you consider roof coating, be sure to discuss the need and your options with a professional roofing company. The right roofing application can do wonders for your roof system, so call us today.


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