The Importance of Commercial Roof Coatings

By Annie Crawford 02-22-2023
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Commercial roof coatings can help extend the life and improve the aesthetics of low-slope roofs. A roof coating acts as the first line of defense against UV damage and water infiltration, and reflective roof coatings can help reduce the temperature of the roof.

What Are Commercial Roof Coatings?

A commercial roof coating looks similar to paint but has a thicker consistency and higher solids content. Contractors can apply roof coating systems with conventional or airless spray equipment, a roller, or a brush. An application is then allowed to dry and cure to form a highly elastic barrier that helps protect the underlying substrate from the weather elements, water infiltration, and UV damage.

Many types of structurally sound low-slope roofs can benefit from a coating such as metal, spray polyurethane, single-ply, modified bitumen, built-up roof systems, and more. Ask your contractor which technology is best for your roof substrate.

What Are the Benefits of Roof Coatings?

Commercial roof coatings result in a win for contractors, building owners, and building tenants! They can:

  • Extend a roof's life: Coatings can help extend the life of an existing roof membrane by protecting it from harmful UV rays that threaten to degrade it. Roof coating for UV and weather protection can potentially extend a roof's life for 10 years or more. Performance varies by coating type and film thickness, as well as roof conditions.
  • Improve aesthetic appeal: A newly applied commercial roof coating provides a clean, seamless appearance that can boost your property's aesthetic and curb appeal while protecting the underlying roof system.
  • Potential savings on cooling costs: A dark roof can reach temperatures of more than 150°F. A white roof offers more reflectivity and could help drop surface temperatures by 50°F or more. Installing a white reflective roof coating on a commercial building can potentially provide savings on building cooling costs. (That said, energy cost savings are not guaranteed and the amount of savings may vary based on climate zone, utility rates, radiative properties of roofing products, insulation levels, HVAC equipment efficiency and other factors.)
  • Keep costs down: Coating a structurally sound roof can be more affordable than reroofing. Ahead of a property sale, coatings can help boost aesthetics without requiring owners to invest in an entire reroof.
  • Simplify a complicated or inconvenient upgrade: Coatings can eliminate the logistical challenges of reroofing where there are numerous roof penetrations or significant equipment on the roof—such as air-conditioning systems—that would make reroofing difficult or cumbersome. Coating can also help you avoid inconveniencing building tenants during installation. Unlike many roof tear-offs, coating applications don't require tenants to relocate while the work is carried out or inconvenience them with noise, dust, and other issues that may affect their business productivity and comfort. These projects also avoid the risk of exposing the roof deck during a tear-off.
  • Promote comfort: A coating can help improve comfort inside of a building—especially for spaces that aren't air-conditioned. Reflective roof coatings reflect infrared and ultraviolet radiation. This can help keep building temperatures lower during warmer months.
  • Reduce waste: By preserving or restoring an existing roof, and extending time between full roof replacements, coatings can help prevent some of the waste associated with tear offs
  • Fight urban heat islands: White reflective commercial roof coatings can help mitigate urban heat islands by reflecting more sunlight and keeping buildings cooler. A clean white roof will relect more sunlight than darker roofs and stay about 55°F cooler.

Which Roof Coating Is Best?

The best roof coating is one that suits your building's needs and meets its particular demands. Here are some of the most popular types of commercial roof coatings.

  • Acrylic coating: These water-based coatings come in highly reflective white colors that can help lower building temperatures. Contractors can install this durable coating type over many new or existing roofs as long as they prepare the surfaces appropriately.
  • Silicone coating: Ideal in wet or humid climates thanks to its ability to tolerate ponding water. This is a significant perk as many silicone coatings do not contain warranty or guarantee exclusions for roof areas that pond water. Silicone coatings are available in both high-solids and low-solids formulae. Some high-solids silicones can be applied in one coat, making for a quicker installation.
  • Fluoropolymer coating: This coating offers high-level reflectivity as well as protection against weather elements and organic growths like mold. The tough, enamel-like finish helps provide protection against dirt pickup and helps with both UV protection and color stability.
  • Urethane or polyurethane coating: This coating balances tensile strength, elongation, and hardness. It is durable and can help protect the substrate against against mildew, chemical exposure, and abrasion/impact.

Consult with a contractor to determine the best roof coating options for your project. Your choice may depend on whether you are simply looking to increase your roof's reflectivity or want to carry out a complete roof restoration.

What Is the Most Durable Roof Coating?

Which roof coating lasts longest will vary based on your particular roofing project. For example, if you are in a high-humidity region with frequent ponding water, a high-solids silicone roof coating could be the better choice. However, if you are looking to protect the substrate against chemical exposure or physical impact, the better coating for your project might be urethane. To determine the commercial roof coating that will give you the best return on investment for your situation, talk with a professional contractor.

Ready to get started? Learn more about commercial roof coatings by connecting with GAF and exploring our coating resources today.

Annie Crawford is a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, covering travel, style, and home improvement. Find more of her work at
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