By Kate Baumann Published in the November 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Today’sroof coatings offer a host of advantages, from improved energyefficiency to exceptional strength and the ability to extend a roof’slife cycle. To deliver these benefits fully, however, coatings must beproperly applied by a well trained crew.
While shingles on asteep slope roof must simply shed water, a low slope roofing systemmust be watertight. The coating and the application technique must becarefully matched to the specific surface. Finally, before the coatingis applied, the crew must assess the soundness of the roof, make anynecessary repairs, and prepare the surface to accept the coating.
Forall these reasons, it is essential to give the job to a crew—whether anin-house team or an outside vendor—that has roofing experience and hasbeen fully trained by the coating manufacturer. What follows is anoverview of the five most important things facility managers shoulddiscuss with prospective contractors or their in-house crew to ensurethe proper training has been provided.
1. Training.Ongoing training is essential to ensure application crews stay up tospeed on the latest products and techniques. There is simply nosubstitute for hands-on experience. Reputable manufacturers offerapplicators regular training, with the manufacturer’s representativeworking side by side with the crew on a job site or at a wellconstructed mock-up.
2. Repairs. Before thecoating is applied, the roof must be inspected for damage and anynecessary repairs must be made. The National Roofing ContractorsAssociation (NRCA) has developed guidelines for evaluating roofsoundness and selecting the appropriate materials and techniques to usein making repairs.
A properly trained crew will be well versedin these guidelines and will follow them. They will also adhere to theoriginal roofing system manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure thewarranty remains in force.
3. Preparation.When it comes to roof coatings, one size does not fit all. Roofcoatings are designed to work with specific surfaces, and it isessential to match the coating carefully to the roof and to prepare thesurface so it will adhere properly.
Knowledgeable applicatorswill begin by performing an adhesion test. This not only aids inselecting the appropriate coating for the job, but it also helpsidentify what must be done to prepare the surface for the coating.
Thisis especially vital in the case of metal roofs, since they may notaccept certain coatings. Some have a factory applied Kynar® 500 finish,which is a Teflon®-based paint, and could require sanding to create asurface the coating will adhere to. Galvalume® and other galvanizedfinishes may have residual zinc, requiring the application of a mildacidic solution.
4. Tools and techniques.As with any project, getting a roof coating job done right requireshaving the proper tools and knowing how to use them correctly. Welltrained crews will be experts in choosing the right tools andtechniques for a particular job. They also will have received hands ontraining to ensure they are proficient in using the equipment.
Oneof the most critical factors is achieving proper coating thickness. Anuneven application can become evident within weeks; spots on the roofthat begin to bubble and peel are a sure sign of uneven application.
(Photo: Genie Industries)
Contractors should use a wet film gauge to monitorthe mil thickness of each coat. They also should be well versed in thecoating manufacturer’s guidelines for coverage rates per gallon and thenumber of coats recommended to achieve the desired mil thickness.
Crewsalso must take steps to prevent overspray, or the facility manager willbe fielding complaints from the owners of cars parked nearby. Reputablecoatings manufacturers teach application crews the best spraytechniques and show them how to monitor wind conditions to preventoverspray.
5. Vendor relationships.Facility managers hiring an outside crew can be assured that a goodvendor will happily discuss the training its crews receive, how oftenits employees are able to attend training sessions provided by roofcoating manufacturers, and whether teams have benefited from in thefield training.
By taking the time to do their homework andasking a few simple questions, facility managers can save time, money,and hassle, and help ensure they receive high quality repairs that willmaximize the performance and life of their roof.
Have you tried to handle roofing repairs on your own? Share your stories by sending an e-mail to [email protected].
By Skip Roach
This roof used SOPREMA’s ALSAN RS because of its flexibility inapplication and fast cure time (in just 45 minutes). (Photo: SOPREMA)
Formany years, roofing maintenance has consisted of various approachesthat incorporated recoating surfaces with reflective materials.Acrylics, aluminum coatings, modified asphalt, and some recycledproducts were traditionally popular approaches that are still on themarket today. While these products were inexpensive and reflected thesun when clean, they often lacked one of the most fundamental elementsof roofing products—waterproofing.
Today, newer liquidcoatings are changing that scenario. Many of these products aresignificantly more reflective, waterproof, and durable. For the sameamount of labor invested in a maintenance effort, these techniques candeliver a greater life expectancy for the facility’s roof.
Sowhat exactly is liquid? Liquid or fluid applied products are usuallypre-mixed materials that can be applied to almost any surface (eventough surfaces like parking decks) for waterproofing purposes. Fluidproducts are also excellent for roofs that have many penetrations (suchas HVAC equipment, flashings, and beams).
Torches or heatsources are not necessary for application, thus decreasing risk andpossibly cutting insurance costs for contractors. In addition, someliquid systems are virtually odorless. This is important, as it allowsfor roofing and waterproofing work to be applied to occupied structureswithout disrupting business occurring inside the facility.
Shown here is SOPREMA’s ALSAN liquid product being applied in order to waterproof an entire roof.
Someproducts may even be applied when temperatures dip as low as 23°F. Thiscan be especially helpful, since leaks and snow or ice damage obviouslyoccur only in colder weather; for this reason, these situations demandimmediate repair.
Today’s highly engineered liquids can bebroken into some newer categories: urethane technology, unsaturatedpolyester resin, methyl methacrylate (MMA) or polymethylmethacrylate(PMMA), SBS resins, and SEBS resins. In fact, many of the newer systemsare comprised of plural components, made from a mixture of A and Bingredients to form an entirely new substance.
However, someproducts are still composed of only one component. Even so, these arehighly engineered products that only require low tech brushes androllers for installation.
In another interesting twist,these new liquids can be applied as a permanent roof directly over theexisting structure. Once the system is phased in and the roof’sflashing areas have been attended to, the roof merely has to berecoated. So instead of an installation exercise, the application byroofing crews is considered a maintenance expense that can be extendedfor a building’s lifetime.
An interesting byproduct of thisrevolution is the favorable way that these products and theirinstallation can benefit the bottom line. Regardless of the type ofroof installed, a tear off and full roof replacement is expensive; theadditional cost of labor for removal and disposal is significant.
Withtoday’s liquid products, repairs to the roof can be made as part of anongoing maintenance program. These repairs are normally part of theoperating budget and are therefore expensed immediately.
Sincethese products are considered long-term repairs, they can beincorporated into plans for the installation of an entirely new roof.By executing a carefully scheduled maintenance program, facilitymanagers can phase in the roof over a specific number of years,depending on cash flow and budget restrictions.
There aremany products in the marketplace; some are geared to specificapplications. For example, products that work on conventional modifiedbitumen or BUR roofs may not work on EPDM roofs. In order to select theright product, facility managers should ask the following questionsbefore making a purchasing decision:
What is the substratethat needs repair? Is it just a repair? Or is it a long-termmaintenance project? Is it really a complete roof refurbishment?
How long have the products been in the marketplace?
What specific roofing experience does the manufacturer have? Will themanufacturer be around to help if there are warranty issues?
How easy are the products to install? Can the in-house facilities staff do it?
Are there cash flow or tax benefits that can be realized?
Can one manufacturer’s products address all roofing issues throughout the facility or campus?
Inthe end, facility managers should not only consider the tax benefits ofmaintenance repairs but also the short- and long-term benefits ofliquid roofing and its return on investment. Once just a niche group ofproducts, liquid coatings are now used extensively for maintenance andrepair on the world’s costliest structures.
Roach ([email protected]) is the product manager for SOPREMA’s Liquid Division. The company is located in Wadsworth, OH.
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