Got a Flat Roof? Here’s What You Need to Know About Foam Roofing and Roof Coatings
Homes with flat roofs are common in arid regions like the Phoenix area, where there’s not much rainfall. There’s no need to worry about standing water — what little water accumulates during a storm usually dries up quickly. But like any other type of roof, a flat roof needs to be maintained.
In this post, we’ll explain what foam roofing is and what it takes to maintain this type of flat roof. We’ll also provide information on the two basic types of elastomeric roof coatings. If you have a flat roof and want to know what your options are to maintain or replace it, read on!
The Basics of Foam Roofing
Although there are many types of flat roofs, foam roofing has become one of the most popular. Even though other types may make better sense for a particular home, people are most familiar with spray foam roofing.
Spray polyurethane foam, commonly referred to in the industry as SPF, is sprayed as liquid. The liquid material expands into a foam, forming a solid layer that’s usually an inch to 1.5 inches thick. It can be installed as a new roof system or over an existing roof.
The Upside of Foam Roofing
There are a number of reasons (other than word of mouth) that foam roofing is a popular choice among homeowners:
- It’s durable. As long as foam roofing is well-maintained, it can last several decades — even in the high temperatures of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
- It’s energy efficient. Spray foam roofing provides a barrier against the heat and cold, as well as moisture. With the extremes in temperature we experience in Arizona, foam roofing can pay for itself in several years’ time through savings on the power bill.
As a side note, foam roofing has the highest R value per inch of any type of roofing material. The R value measures how resistant a material is to heat flow. In other words, it tells you how well the material insulates. A higher R value means better insulating capabilities. Spray polyurethane foam has an average R value of 6.5 per inch.
- It’s waterproof. As the liquid material expands into a foam during the installation process, it fills in any holes or gaps in the existing substrate. And, there are no seams. So, there’s less likelihood of leaks. In addition, an experienced roofing technician can level out any unevenness in the roof when applying the spray foam roofing to help prevent “ponding.”
- It’s better for the environment. No waste is produced during the installation of a foam roofing system. And, if the roof is properly maintained, the materials will last a long time. (That’s less for the landfill.)
The Downside of Foam Roofing
It may seem as though spray foam roofing is the ideal choice for a flat roof. Still, there are some concerns to keep in mind:
- The upfront costs can be higher. The cost to install a brand-new spray foam roofing system, on average, is about $8 per square foot. Other types of roofing systems can have lower upfront costs. As noted earlier, though, the energy savings with a foam roofing system can make up for the higher initial costs within the first several years.
- Beware of inexperienced installers. Applying foam roofing seems easy. So easy, in fact, that some roofing companies subcontract the installation to crews that don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of roofing. Things like waterproofing and flashing details. An installation by inexperienced workers can lead to problems throughout the lifetime of the roof.
At Behmer Roofing, we do not subcontract any of our labor. It’s all done by full-time employees of our company who are trained in every aspect of roofing.
Elastomeric Roof Coatings
There’s an extra step when installing a foam roofing system: the coating. By applying an elastomeric roof coating, the foam roofing material is sealed and protected to some extent from UV rays, heat and punctures (e.g., from hail).
White reflective pigments are commonly used in elastomeric roof coatings to help reflect heat from the sun. Initially, some coatings can reflect up to 90% of solar heat. Not only does this keep your home cooler, but it also helps to prolong the life of your roof.
Over time, though, UV rays and heat — both strong factors in the Phoenix area — will cause virtually all roofing materials to deteriorate, including coatings. As a rule of thumb, roof coatings should be reapplied every five to eight years to maintain and protect the underlying roofing materials.
Two basic types of elastomeric roof coatings make up the majority of coatings used for roofing here in Arizona. Note that these coatings can be used on essentially any type of roof, not just for flat roofs with a foam roofing system.
Silicone Roof Coating
Of the two types, silicone roof coating is somewhat thicker. Because of that, silicone roof coating is generally used as more of a restorative measure — for when there are possibly small leaks or some minor damage to the foam roofing, but not enough to warrant replacing the roof. At roughly $4 per square foot, silicone roof coating costs about twice as much as acrylic roof coating.
Acrylic Roof Coating
Acrylic roof coating is thinner than silicone roof coating. It is also used as a restorative step, but typically acrylic roof coating is applied to maintain roofs that don’t have many leaks or a whole lot of damage. Acrylic roof coating costs about $2 per square foot.
Checking for Leaks
Since we get so little rain in the desert, homeowners don’t often think about checking for leaks in their roof. But then we get into monsoon season, which almost always brings at least one heavy rainstorm. That’s when we start getting a lot of calls about leaking roofs.
It’s far easier (and less expensive) to have a roofer come out when it’s dry and do a quick inspection of your roof for potential places where leaks could occur than to repair the damage after the fact.
Why You Should Choose Behmer to Install and Maintain Your Flat Roof
- Our experience counts. We’ve been in the roofing business in Arizona for generations. We know which type of roofing systems will provide the best value over time, depending on which part of the state your home is in. We also “do the job right.” It’s not unusual for homeowners to call us after hiring another company that didn’t work out so well. You might not see the consequences of a poorly installed roof right away, but as time passes the problems will begin to appear.
- We do it all, start to finish — and beyond. As we mentioned previously, we don’t subcontract any part of a job to other work crews. It’s all done in-house, from quoting the cost of replacing or maintaining your roof to carrying the warranty on labor and materials.
- We offer quick turnaround times. For the average home, we can install foam roofing and the coating as a two- or three-day project. (Each step typically takes about a day.) And in most cases, when you call us for a quote we can come out within 24 hours. From there, you’ll have our bid on the following business day.
- We’ll explain your options. You may not realize it, but there are more than a dozen options for replacing a flat roof. Foam roofing is only one of your choices, and it might not be the best one for your home. Every roof is different, and we have the expertise to advise you about other possibilities for your roof.
- We can do upgrades. For instance, you may have started to see some flat roofs with decorative black metal trim around the perimeter. Sometimes it’s a dark bronze metal. These metal fascia wraps are really popular right now because they look very chic and modern. If you like the look, Behmer can do that for your home. We even make the architectural sheet metal for the trim at our sister company, Capital Sheet Metal.