A roofing contractor applying a commercial roof coating.

To get the most out of your existing roof, a quality commercial roof coating can help. 

Coatings work to protect your commercial property from common roof problems at a fraction of a new roof’s costs. However, knowing when to apply a roof coating – and even knowing if it’s an option – can be challenging. 

If you’re a building owner, don’t wait until your entire roof is in rough shape before looking into roof coatings. If so, you’ll be at a loss when the roof is beyond repair. If you really want the life of your roof to be as long as possible, understanding how roof coatings work before you need a roof replacement is key. 

An elastomeric roof coating system is a protective liquid applied to a flat roof surface. (Usually, it’s white in color to increase your commercial building’s energy efficiency. The reflectivity of a white roof coating also reduces damage from UV rays.) 

Depending on what option you choose, it can also protect your roofing materials from damage caused by ponding water, foot traffic, and severe weather conditions like hail. Not every roofing solution on the market provides these benefits equally – and not every solution may work for your roofing material

Roof Coatings vs. Sealant vs. Sealers 

Roof coatings create a seal between your roof and outside elements – but, they aren’t the same as sealants and sealers. Sealants and sealers are used for patching cracks, seams, and flashing to keep water from entering your roofing system

Types of Roof Coatings 

Some roof coatings are designed for specific roofs, some provide better protection against certain types of damage, and some cost more than others. Knowing these details makes it easier for you to choose the right roof coating when the time comes.  

Acrylic Roof Coating

This water-based roof coating provides good reflectivity but isn’t as durable as the other coatings. It has the lowest expected lifespan but sometimes offers a 10-year warranty. Many building owners choose acrylic because it’s the most cost-effective.  

It needs a primer or base coat over roofing materials like TPO since it can have adhesion issues with certain roofing materials

Silicone Roof Coating

This is a high-quality option if your commercial properties face a lot of rainfall. It’s highly water-resistant and long-lasting. You can usually get warranties for 20 years and expect it to last that long without any leak issues. 

High-solid silicone options can be applied in thicker coats than acrylics and other roof coatings to reduce labor and application timeframe. They also require less time to create an effective seal. 

Keep in mind that extreme cold can be an issue for silicone coatings. 

Polyurethane Coatings

There are two kinds of urethane roof coatings – aromatic and aliphatic. Aliphatic has a higher resistance to UV rays but also costs more. Your best bet is to use an aromatic base coat and an aliphatic top coat for thorough waterproofing and sun protection. 

Polyurethane has a high tensile strength, meaning it’s great for areas with a lot of foot traffic and severe weather. In terms of lifespan, you can typically get a 20-year warranty on these types of products. 

It works well with most roof materials: examples being single-ply membranes, such as EPDM, and metal roofs. But, it shouldn’t be applied to asphalt-based roofs without an additional barrier. It can also fail in extremely cold temperatures. 

Styrene Ethylbenzene Styrene (SEBS)

SEBS is made for metal roofs. It’s extremely resistant to UV rays and ponding water. Since it’s highly water-resistant, it prevents corrosion on your roof, too. 

This option has a lifespan between 15-20 years, sometimes offering a warranty for 15 years. Keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t hold up as well in extremely hot environments.   

Can You DIY a Commercial Roof Coating?

All that said, you can’t just roll on a roof coating and call it a day. For several reasons, it’s best to call a professional roofing company to handle the job.

Roof Coatings Are Part of a System 

When it comes to your commercial roof coating system, there are often many components. Depending on who makes your roof coating, you’ll need to have waterproof flashing, butyl tapes, and more before the coating gets applied. 

Our choice is to exclusively carry FAR coatings, which create a seamless seal without extra fabrics and tape. This cuts down on labor and material costs along with installation time. But, even without the need for additional components, there are some important steps you’ll have to take before installing your coating. 

Failure to Adhere 

Your roof surface needs to be pressure washed and appropriately dried before applying a roof coating. Applying the coating to a dirty roof keeps the formula from adhering, and voids any warranty on the product. 

If you don’t use the coating on the appropriate roof (or with the appropriate adhesion tests beforehand), it can also cause adherence issues and void your warranty. Even worse, skipping the necessary tests before applying a roof coating can cause premature roofing failure – and void your entire roof’s warranty

Roofing Failure

Moisture tests should be done before application. If moisture gets trapped under the coating, it can cause a premature failure of your entire roofing system, including the substrate

It’s important to contact a roof contractor and have a site inspection to see if a roof coating is the right solution for your property. 

What Roof Restoration Coatings Can and Can’t Do

If you’re looking into a commercial roof coating because your existing roof is already in danger of failure, be prepared. It might be time for a new roof rather than a roof coating

Roof coatings extend the life of your roof, and can help restore the performance of roofs that are in need of repairs, but if more than 25% of your roof surface is damaged, you’re likely putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. In these circumstances, it’s better to replace and avoid paying the cost of two roofing projects. 

The best way to find out if a roof coating can give your roof some extra years is to talk with a roofing company that specializes in coatings and replacements. A quick site survey from them will give you the answers you’re looking for. 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Commercial roof coatings are a great way to extend the life of your roof and lower your energy costs. With the right coating, you can protect your most important (and often most costly) asset from the elements. 

But, a roof coating can’t turn back the hands of time. If your roof is at the end of its lifespan and is close to failure, a roof coating isn’t going to save it.

The best time to be proactive about the health of your roof is ASAP. Applying a coating when you get a new roof (or before major damage happens) helps keep it in pristine condition and protect it from the elements throughout its lifespan.