Partner Channels

The Definitive Source of Information on the Following Subjects:

Building Automation | Building Envelope | Commercial Roofing | Cooling
Energy Measurement | LED Lighting | Lighting Control | Site Furnishings

FM Issue: Recipe For Roof Coatings

Written by FM Issue Contributor. Posted in Energy, Environment, Exteriors, Featured Post, FM Issue, In-Depth Articles, Magazine, Topics

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Published on February 20, 2013 with No Comments



By Richard Catley and Joseph W. Mellott
Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

According to experts in the field, more than 20% of restaurants fail in the first year of business. Further, statistics indicate greater than 60% of these establishments will be out of business within three years. The reasons are many and varied, but most relate to deficiencies in planning, forethought, and execution. Like restaurants, rooftop coating and restoration solutions also require proper planning and execution to deliver maximum performance. And as with restaurants, there are several steps facility managers (fms) can take for long-term success of rooftop coating and restoration projects.

Location, Location, Location

Just as scouting out the best location for a restaurant is critical to its success, understanding the rooftop conditions prior to specifying a coating is critical for fms. There are many factors that affect the long-term performance of an applied coating. Fms should refer to information provided by the manufacturer or consult a roofing professional prior to use. However, several things for fms to consider up front are:

Sustainable Roofing Options

By Phil LaDuke

Green Roof Installation, Little Sisters of the Poor, Indianapolis, IN, contractor:  AAA Roofing (Photo: Firestone Building Products)

Green Roof Installation, Little Sisters of the Poor, Indianapolis, IN, contractor: AAA Roofing (Photo: Firestone Building Products)

When thinking about roofing trends for 2013 and beyond, sustainable options are top of mind for many facility managers (fms). Climate change, severe weather, and increased efficiency from a return on investment (ROI) standpoint are all crucial factors for any facility management (FM) professional to consider pre- or post-construction. This evaluation should take the entire building envelope into consideration, so that fms and their project teams can benefit from solutions tailored to project needs. Since fms are responsible for integrating people, facilities, processes, and technologies, taking a comprehensive approach is important.

Vegetative Rooftops
Due to new guidelines for the LEED rating system from the USGBC and regulations from the U.S. EPA, fms and the engineers they work with will find themselves incorporating even more sustainable practices and products. There are a variety of existing systems that help meet this demand. A vegetative roofing system, for example, allows for new or existing roofs to be transformed and literally “go green.”

The benefits of vegetative roofing from an aesthetic and sustainable perspective are immense. These are often visually attractive, but vegetative roofing systems also serve as an insulating layer to help reduce heating and cooling costs as well as protect the roofing material from UV and heat stress degradation. This can be very beneficial for fms, as it helps curtail energy costs as well as sustain the life and efficiency of the building.

Beyond the benefits to the facility, vegetative roofs also can provide organizations an advantage from a social responsibility perspective. Vegetative roofing systems can enhance air quality through the conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen and decreased ambient air temperature, which in turn reduces the heat island effect. This is especially beneficial in large, dense metropolitan areas.

Since vegetative roofing is designed to promote healthy plant growth by retaining water, the installation of these systems also aids stormwater management and irrigation efforts. Stormwater management is a hot topic as local and federal rules now may regulate the runoff of rainwater from buildings into streets, storm drains, sewers, and hardscapes. According to the EPA, stormwater runoff can be disruptive in developed and population dense areas where water is not naturally absorbed into the ground. Runoff from buildings can result in downstream flooding, stream bank erosion, increased turbidity, habitat destruction, sewer overflow, and contaminated streams, rivers, and coastal water. Fms may be forced to make adjustments to current structures if they haven’t had to do so already.

Photovoltaic Systems Bring Sun Power
Another sustainable option is a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system. Demand for these systems has been increasing because of their ability to power facilities through the absorption of energy from the sun. This source of renewable energy is especially popular in locations where there is an abundance of sunlight throughout the year.

Rooftop PV systems provide a variety of benefits for fms, including financial and energy savings. Not only does generating energy on-site help save money in the long run by decreasing energy costs, but in some locales fms can sell excess solar power back to the grid. Another benefit to consider is that a rooftop PV system can either be part of new construction or applied to renovation/retrofit projects.

However, rooftop PV systems may not be the best solution for all facilities. Fms and their engineers need to consider several financial and physical factors before determining if a rooftop PV system is right for a facility.

If the PV system is being considered based on a calculated ROI, this should be one of the first areas of inquiry. The expense of disassembling and moving a solar system for roof maintenance or replacement can impact the anticipated ROI.

Before installing a rooftop PV system, fms should also consider: Will the PV system outlast the current roof? If the roof needs to be repaired or replaced, what is the anticipated cost for the removal, storage, and replacement of the PV system?

Beyond the financials, PV roofing systems physically cannot be installed on all commercial roofs. Therefore, it is crucial for fms to work with their teams to determine if this type of system would be appropriate for their situation. Questions to consider include: Is it possible to install a PV system based on the attributes of the current facility? Has the current roofing system been fully evaluated as suitable for the traffic, weight, and the 25+ year performance offered by PV systems today?

The facilities community in general, is moving towards a greener world, developing sustainable technologies as a response to government regulation and as a proactive commitment to socially responsible practices. Innovation will lead to even better products and systems in the future as the next generation of vegetative roofing, rooftop PV systems, reflective membranes, daylighting systems, and products we have yet to imagine becomes available.



LaDuke is the director of quality assurance at Indianapolis, IN-based Firestone Building Products, a manufacturer and supplier of a comprehensive “Roots to Rooftops” portfolio of products for commercial building performance solutions.


Slope of the roof. Positive slope that eliminates stagnant (ponded) water is a key to any roof’s success. For coatings, this can be even more critical. Wet roof areas can be very difficult to clean, and gaining good adhesion is difficult. Further, some coatings under long-term ponded conditions can fail prematurely. Water in ponded areas should be dealt with prior to the application of a coating by creating proper slope. If this is not done, adhesion can be an initial issue, and underwater exposure can present a long-term problem.

Wet substrate. While coatings can serve to prolong the life of a roof system, these cannot solve substrate moisture issues. Performing an infrared roof (IR) scan, using moisture meters, or making core cuts can help determine if current moisture conditions exist. Removing and mitigating moisture issues prior to coating or restoration is critical to long-term success.

Know the substrate. Many roofing systems are easy to identify while others can be more difficult. For example, an APP modified bitumen roof can look similar to an SBS modified bitumen roof. TPO, PVC, and KEE roof systems can look alike, as well. Fms should be sure of the substrate characteristics, so they know what is being coated before deciding on a system.

Environmental conditions. Knowing the eventual environmental conditions of the rooftop can help with coating selection as well. If exposure to chemical or material emissions is a possibility, an intimate understanding of what and how much exposure may occur is necessary. Some rooftop emissions can be highly caustic or acid and may lead to product failure.

Know The Market

Once the restaurant location (or roof condition) has been scouted out, the next step is to know the “customer.” This is best done through market research. By knowing what they are looking for, fms will be able to select the right solution. The following two factors should be examined when selecting a coating or restoration:

Coating or waterproofing? The primary role of a coating product is to protect the substrate underneath. Meanwhile, waterproofing products can serve as a substantial secondary layer to resist water intrusion into a facility. If the roof is watertight and in good condition, an fm may choose to apply a coating to extend the system’s life. If there is an indication that there have been some leaks or water intrusion, a better course of action may be to remove any wet roofing (including insulation) and apply a waterproofing surface system. Both product types serve to protect the roofing system below but the expectation for each may be somewhat different.

Energy enhancement. Reflective white and metallic (aluminum pigmented) coatings can offer the additional benefit of providing energy savings as a result of keeping the rooftop cooler. In warmer climates, it has been shown that using these products can significantly reduce cooling demand on HVAC units. Fms should consider the overall potential energy impact of installing a reflective surface.

Grand Opening

A lack of preparation, inadequate training, and poor product can kill a restaurant’s opening night, and the same is true for a roof coating and restoration solution. Preparation is the single most important step in applying a liquid coating product.

Photo: Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association

Photo: Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association

Making sure the roof surface is clean is the difference between success and failure. Many manufacturers recommend power washing prior to installation; some recommend the use of cleaners and soaps as well. Getting the surface clean is certainly important, but the removal of any cleaners used is just as critical. Soap and cleaner residues can act as bond breakers. After power washing and cleaning, those doing the work should make sure the roof is dry and residue-free.

An adhesion test (seen in photo at right) is an additional step that can be performed by the roofing professional or a member of the fm’s staff. In its simplest form, this test involves applying a small amount of the coating to the roof substrate with the concurrent placement of a 1″ wide x 10″ long strip scrim or fabric.

These materials should then be allowed to cure (dry) per the manufacturer’s recommendation. The strip should be removed at a 90° angle while constant pressure is applied (there should be reasonable resistance to removal). A scale can be used as well to perform a quantitative test. The coating manufacturer should be consulted for recommended performance values.

Prior training and material preparation is also an important element to success, and the fm should be sure the installation team understands how to use the product. Installers should strictly follow any mixing and blending procedures and closely monitor the application rate through volume by square footage application measurements or, better yet, using a mil gauge. In the absence of a mil gauge, a comparative tool like a razor blade (23 mils) or a credit card (30 mils) can provide some insight during coating application (shown below).

Photo: Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association

Photo: Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association

Finally, it should be ensured that environmental conditions are appropriate for the work to be performed, since many products have temperature limits for proper application. It should not be too hot or too cold for proper application. Checking the weather forecast is also useful; many products have expected cure times, and rain events can cause improper curing, or worse, rooftop wash off.

Well, the “restaurant” is in business. All the preparation and knowledge has worked out, but clearly the work does not stop there. Keeping the roof clean and communicating with facility staff as well as suppliers makes good business sense. Frequent rooftop inspections help identify problems before they might become major issues. A strong preventive maintenance program can help prolong the life of the roof system even further. With proper planning, selection, installation, and training, coating and restoration decisions can significantly extend the life of a facility’s overall roofing system.



Catley is a six year veteran of the construction industry and collaborates in numerous construction and sealant industry organizations. He is the sealants & accessories product manager at The Garland Company, Inc., a Cleveland, OH-based manufacturer of high performance solutions for the total building envelope.




Mellott holds several patents for roof related innovations and received the 2006 Industry Statesman Award from the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA) for his work in advancing roof coatings industry technology. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University, he holds a BS in Engineering. Mellott has served as the technical chair, and is a past president of the RCMA; is on the board of the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC); and is a member of the Roof Consultant Institute (RCI) and the National Roof Contractors Association (NRCA).

About FM Issue Contributor

Facility management related issues are often in the news. This monthly feature examines some of the more abstract, non-product concepts and challenges facility managers face in that regard. For more FM Issues, visit this link.

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on FM Issue: Recipe For Roof Coatings. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment