Roofing contractors often talk about beating the heat during the sizzling summer months. For many businesses, however, overcoming heat gain is a year-round challenge. If you live in the Deep South or along the balmy coast, your building likely suffers from the expensive cost of air conditioning and energy surges. That means hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars coming out of your operating budget every year.
But what if you could put that money back into the company purse? What if you could reduce the wear and tear on your air conditioning equipment in the process? This is where cool roofing systems come into play. These solutions all fight the threat of heat gain by reducing the surface temperature of your rooftop.
While the industry offers countless entries into the cool roofing category, we’re going to break down some of the most popular. Then, we’ll explain some of the perks and requirements you’ll need to consider as you shop for a money-saving roofing solution.
Let’s get started!
Solution #1: Restorative Coatings
What better place to enter the cool roofing conversation than at an entry-level price point? Commercial contractors use coatings to treat scarring, damaged seams, and many other forms of rooftop degradation. By covering the entire surface of the roof with a seamless layer of silicone, polyurethane, or other durable material, these coatings create a strong barrier against water infiltration.
However, one of the most widely sought-after perks of roof restoration is energy efficiency.
Commercial roof coatings dramatically decrease the amount of sunlight absorbed into the surface by coating the rooftop with a more reflective hue (typically white). Heat gain during daylight hours plummets, as a result, reducing the costs of cooling the building. In the meantime, the rooftop enjoys stronger protection against radiation, rain, and other elemental threats.
Cool Roofing Systems Via Coating
If you haven’t discovered these amazing roof-mending solutions yet, be sure to listen to our latest podcast, where we discuss roof coating vs. replacement in greater detail. As you discuss coatings with your commercial roofing contractor, there are a few key considerations. The most important is your rooftop’s current condition.
Roof coatings require a stable, fair-condition surface to adhere to. That means buildings with severe structural issues on the roof must see repairs first. Restoration can deal with minor abrasions, punctures, and so on, but it’s not meant to treat deep cuts and missing chunks of the membrane.
Schedule a roof inspection to ensure your system is healthy enough to receive a coating.
You’ll also need to ensure that your chosen coating matches the demands of your roof and local climate. For instance, a basic acrylic coating doesn’t work well with flat roofing systems in rainy environments (such as coastal Florida). On the other hand, acrylics function very well on sloped metal roofing systems! Some coatings provide stronger UV ray protection, while others produce more durable surfaces against mechanical damage.
Solution #2: Replacement (or Reroofing)
When a roofing system approaches the end of its expected lifespan, sometimes an entirely new system offers the best solution. Naturally, some materials offer a much stronger defense against heat gain than others. From our talk on roof coatings, we already know that a reflective surface provides a much more energy-efficient solution than a black top. That’s why most cool roofing systems utilize a white or metallic sheen to deflect sunlight.
Some of the most popular cool roofing materials include:
- White Coated Rubber
- Spray Foam
The first three materials are single-ply roofing solutions, meaning they use a single layer of membrane to cover the rooftop. TPO and PVC typically come in a reflective white color, while rubber must receive a special coating to effectively deflect sunlight. As the name implies, spray foam roofing involves spraying a substance (typically polyurethane) across a prepared surface. The foam hardens into a seamless, airtight layer.
Two Options for a New Installation
Now we come to our middle price point solutions. When the time comes to create a new rooftop for your building, your chosen material makes all the difference. A reflective surface is a must for companies residing in a sunlight-intensive environment! However, there’s more than one way to go about the installation. Many businesses choose a simple tear-off and replacement. The disposal costs for the old materials may be a little pricey, but that’s an unavoidable cost. Or is it?
There’s also the option to reroof your existing system. The process is known as a roof overlay (or recovering) and involves constructing a new system over the existing structure. This delays the cost of tear-off and disposal for decades. Some popular overlay choices include coatings, single-ply membranes, and metal paneling.
One important note: Always consult your local building codes and trusted roofing contractor to see whether or not reroofing is allowed in your community. While reroofing allows many companies to save thousands of dollars during installation, it’s not for everyone. Reroofing also requires professional preparations to ensure proper insulation, material separation, and structural support (among other considerations).
Solution #3: Upgrades
Perhaps you’re looking for something special for your commercial building. Most companies use simple, single-ply roofing to defend against heat gain. However, there are a couple of cool roofing systems that go beyond membranes to deliver remarkable energy savings. That’s where commercial metal and green roofing come into play!
These two solutions represent two very different aspects of premium roofing, yet they both provide exceptional protection against UV rays and other environmental hazards.
Metal Roofing Solutions
Commercial metal roofing typically utilizes aluminum or coated steel panels to create a highly reflective surface. That may come as a surprise, considering metal’s tendency to heat up quickly in direct sunlight. However, metal systems provide some of the most impressive energy savings in the industry. They’re also popular for their hardened surfaces, perfect for withstanding heavy rain, wind, and hail.
Green roofing systems use a unique tactic to fight heat gain. These systems host a wide spectrum of plant life. Through the process of transpiration, plants release water which evaporates in sunlight. This cools the surrounding air and prevents heat from traveling further down through the roof. Many also contain layers of thermal insulation for added energy efficiency.
While green roofing systems may fall on the more expensive side of the commercial roof pricing spectrum, they can last up to 50 years without requiring significant maintenance. Given the added weight, most buildings require additional structural supports before a green system can be installed. Talk with a specialist to see if an extensive or intensive green roofing system could be right for your business.
Learn More About Cool Roofing
Want more information about cool roofing systems, their benefits for businesses, or special requirements? Our team at Roofer’s Guild would love to connect you with a seasoned commercial roofing contractor in your community. Meanwhile, check out our post about the best cool roofing materials for commercial buildings. We hope to increase your insights about the roofing industry, and cool roofs.