What every business owner should know about roof coatings

 In blog

Just as roof systems and materials have evolved for centuries, new and better ways to boost their specific properties, to add special features, and to prolong the roof systems life service, also have appeared and evolved in the roofing industry. In the last 50 years, roof coatings have become a favorite among contractors and roofing experts. They have amazing features and benefits for industrial and commercial buildings. Their evolution and upgrades keep making it a sure investment when it comes to protecting your building and its assets.

Roof coatings are described as types of specially designed resins, thicker than paint, used to protect and extend the lifespan of virtually any roof system. There is a wide range of different types and classes of roof coatings. It requires a lot of knowledge, training, skills, and experience to not only select the best for your particular roofing needs but also to apply it correctly. So, let’s go back in time to have a better picture of what, how, and where the roof coatings come from, and why they have changed the roofing industry completely.

Brief Roof Coating History

When it comes to who invented roof coatings, it is hard to come up with a name. However, you can track roof coatings back to the 17th century when a German Chemist found a way to use the stickiness of coal tar as a protective coating on woods and ropes. However, according to historical records, the early Egyptians were already using varnishes and enamels to waterproof their wooden boats. Many of these were made of balsam, gelatin, clay, and beeswax. Japan, China, and other Asian cultures also developed different varnishes and lacquers to seal and protect furnishing and artworks.

This knowledge and skills were passed to generations, evolving and developing new products and techniques. It was around the 19th century when the roofing technology and manufacturers started establishing the first types of modern roof coatings that contractors and roofing experts use today. These have become extremely affordable, reliable, and popular.

Roof Coating Types and Classifications

Roof systems are exposed to a vast number of factors and conditions that will significantly impact their durability and efficiency. Typical weather conditions like rain, wind, snow, and sun will wear your commercial roof system. External elements, such as chemicals, debris, and falling branches, will also contribute to your roof system deterioration. Also, severe weather events such as hailstorms could generate severe damage and issues.

A roof coating can be your best option. It will not only restore your commercial roof system in a fast and affordable way, but it could also add long years to its life. Besides the ones already mentioned, a properly installed roof coating can provide a wide range of other benefits, from water-resistant features to reducing your commercial buildings energy bill.

Nevertheless, the secret to a successful roof coating project is based on knowing precisely, which is the best roof coating options for your building. There is a vast range of roof coating options, and it is best to rely on a professional roof installer to be confident with your selection. Otherwise, the task could quickly become overwhelming.

Pros and Cons of roof coatings

It is essential to know which roof coating is best for your building needs.

When it comes to roof coating alternatives, there is no rule of thumb. You need to go over several factors like the actual condition of the roof system, its location, design, age, slope, type, aesthetic standards and exposure to chemicals, weather conditions, heat, and UV rays. It is also essential to consider your specific needs, for example, becoming energy-efficient or fixing a ponding water issue. Not all roof coatings have the same features, work the same, or can installed in the same way. Therefore, it is vital to do your research before.

Breaking Down Roof Coatings

In today’s roofing market, you can find a wide range of roof coating products, manufacturers, and types. However, they are all very different, and you should understand their basics to choose the best for your commercial building roof needs accurately. Most of the roof coatings are classified into two major categories, water-based coatings, and solvent-based coatings.

Water-Based Coatings

Water-based Coatings are those that employ water as a carrier for the coating. They are an environmentally friendly option as they lack toxic and flammable components. Water-based coatings are affordable and can be easily cleaned with soap and water, and are gentle on the roof system materials, lowering the chance of bleed-through.

The water-based coating requires its application under particular weather and temperature conditions. Otherwise, the drying process could fail. The standard low cut-off point for the implementation of water-based coatings is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you should avoid applying this coating at close to freezing temperatures, when raining, or similar weather conditions.

Popular types of water-based coatings

There are several water-based coatings. Depending on your commercial roof system needs, some could work better than others. Among the most popular water-based roof coatings, you can find:

Acrylic Roof Coatings are also traditionally known as an elastomeric coating. They are an excellent alternative or an example balance of cost and performance. Thanks to acrylics inherent durability provided by compressed polymers and potent biocides, they are very elastic and flexible, with a highly reflective surface. That makes them perfect for a wide temperature range, including extreme UV climates.

Elastomeric or acrylic roof coatings are resistant to mildew and dirt accumulation and contain rust inhibitors, which makes them ideal for restoring metal roof surfaces. However, acrylic roof coatings have improved where they can be applied to different substrates like modified bitumen, single-ply, smooth BUR, and spray polyurethane foam (SPF).

Acrylic roof coatings come in many different colors and can be sprayed or roll-applied, making them easy to work with. They are among the most durable and inexpensive types of roof coatings in the market today. Nevertheless, it is important to consider that elastomeric or acrylic roof coatings are recommended to be installed on roof systems with great drainage. They do not perform well in ponding-water situations and might require a re-coat within 2-3 years of application.

Asphalt emulsions are also a water-based product, which consists of asphalt particles dispersed in water, utilizing clay as the bonding component. But just like acrylic roof coatings, they are challenging to work in cold weather conditions and are susceptible to freezing temperatures.
Asphalt emulsion coatings can be black or brown color, or as a reflective coating when titanium dioxide or aluminum pigments are added. They contain organic and inorganic compounds, and other fillers to provide extra strength and durability to the coating. They are inexpensive and easy to apply, making them extremely popular.

Asphalt emulsion coatings are excellent to protect built-up roof surfaces, metal roofs, and modified bitumen roof systems.

Solvent-based Coatings

Solvent-based roof coatings

Most roof coatings are classified as water-based and solvent-based coatings.

In contrast, to water-based coatings that have cold temperature issues, solvent-based roof coatings can be applied over a wide range of temperatures, including severe or marginal weather conditions. The evaporation rate of solvent coatings is not related to relative humidity. Therefore, they have the feature of drying quickly under high humidity conditions.

Solvent-based coatings are composed of organic solvents, which most of the time are highly flammable and toxic. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to handle and work with these types of coatings. They are required to be treated, stored, applied, and transported with specific care and safety measurements. Many of these solvent coatings are required to carry the D.O.T classified red label, associated with low flammability flashpoint.

It is essential to avoid the coatings vapors from entering the HVAC and ventilation systems. Therefore, air intakes should be blocked or masked. On the other hand, some of these coatings solvents are so strong that they cause “bleed through” issues, damaging the roof systems materials, generating leaks and other roof problems.

Popular types of solvent-based coatings

The range of different kinds of solvent coatings is extensive, and various products have varieties on their components. Here are the most common and popular solvent-based coatings in the market.

Silicone coatings are excellent roof coating options in terms of cost and effectiveness. They are easy to apply and can be applied using different techniques like spray or roller-applied. In contrast to water-based coatings, they can resist water ponding for long periods and can be used without the need for a primer, in most cases.

Silicone coatings are available in many colors, including reflective white and translucent. Silicone is traditionally made of natural materials. Therefore, it is bio-degradable, making it an excellent option for those green companies that want to make the difference and protect the environment.

Solvent-based asphalt coatings are extremely popular roof coatings among business owners. They are traditionally known as cutback coatings, referring to how this solvent is cutback. In contrast to water-solvent coatings, solvent-based asphalt coating can be cutback at room temperature. This makes it extremely easy to apply and ideal for almost any weather condition.

Cutback coatings or solvent-based asphalt coatings are usually made of asbestos and other toxic components. Therefore, they should be handled with care and expertise. Solvent-based asphalt coatings are found in the market in different colors such as asphalt black or an aluminum-finish reflective coating.

Butyl Roof Coatings, are solvent-based polymer coatings that work great for repairs under cold weather conditions. They are highly reflective and can be sprayed or roll-applied over different commercial roof surfaces like modified bitumen, single-ply, metal, and SPF, or spray polyurethane foam.

Butyl roof coatings are fast drying and have incredible tensile strength and high elongation features. However, they are low in solid content requiring to apply more material to achieve the proper thickness.

Commercial roof coatings

Roof coatings can provide a wide range of benefits, like energy efficiency and longer life services.

Roof coating benefits for commercial and industrial buildings

Now you have a better idea of the best and most popular roof coating alternatives in the market. It will be easier to express to your roof service provider your commercial building needs, and the type of roof coating you are considering. When you select the correct roof coating for your building and properly apply it using experts, you can expect a large number of benefits such as:

Sun and Weather Protection

Roof systems are the first protective barrier of your building’s assets, staff, and visitors from harsh climates and external elements. Prolong exposure to elements like the sun, cause wear, and tear. Sun ultraviolet rays can easily cause blistering, embrittlement, aging, and splitting to your buildings roof system.

A well-selected, adequately applied roof coating can reflect the suns heat, providing UV protection to your rooftop. Depending on your needs, the correct roof coating choice can aid in water-resistant and water ponding issues, as well.

Energy Efficient

Thanks to roof coating reflective properties, industrial and commercial buildings can stay cooler inside during hot days. As the roof coating reflects the suns heat and absorbs just a fraction of it, the cooling costs of air conditioning units are less, dropping the buildings energy bill. Experts state that you could expect up to 50 percent less of energy demand.


Roof coatings reflect sun's heat.

A properly installed roof coating can reduce the urban heat island effect.

Becoming an environmentally conscious business is essential in these days. It is not only vital for the wellness of all living creatures on the Earth, but it is also a must to stay attractive in the market today. Roof coatings are a great and affordable way to make your business green.

Many roof coatings are made with zero or very low amounts of VOC’s or volatile organic compounds. Applying these coatings can help to produce less harm to the environment. Also, by restoring your existing roof and reusing the current materials, instead of completely removing and replacing your commercial buildings roof system, can drastically reduce landfill waste.

It is crucial to keep in mind that roofing materials are the third most significant contributor to waste in landfills. It is stated that about 2.5 billion square feet of roofs are either replaced or re‐coated each year. Therefore, making the right choice can make a huge difference.

On the other hand, by reducing the amount of energy your building uses, you are reducing your carbon footprint. That also contributes to reducing the urban heat island effect that large cities face. The Urban Heat Island Effect is a regional elevation in air temperature, usually gauged by the difference between urban and rural air temperatures.


There is a wide range of financial and economic benefits of applying a roof coating on your building. First of all, they significantly drop your energy bill, as you require less energy to keep the interior of your building cool. Second, using roof coatings on your building cost just a fraction of a complete roof system replacement. Third, it protects your rooftop from aging and normal wear and tear, adding years to its life service.

Finally, you can boost your business productivity by providing a constant, comfortable, and healthy atmosphere for your customers, visitors, potential partners, and employees.


Roof coatings have been used and evolved for thousands of years to a wide range of practical, reliable, affordable, and suitable products with specific features and characteristics designed to succeed in particular roofing purposes. From ancient Egyptian varnishes to modern UV reflective, water-resistant products, roof coatings have become a vital element in modern cities dynamics and infrastructure.