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  • Arctic Enterprises Inc.

Silicone Coatings vs. Single Ply

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Today we will talk about the advantages of silicone coatings systems over the ever popular TPO, PVC, and EPDM roofing systems.





High Solids Silicone Roof Coatings vs. Single Ply

This is a subject matter that many either ask about or aren't aware of. As technologies continue to evolve all around us, so does the technology in the products and materials that you can choose to put on your commercial roof. Gone are the days of tar and gravel, now we are focused on what products will achieve not only water tightness but also how it can affect energy efficiency. So let's take a look at some of the advantages of silicone roof coatings over single ply systems, where they may not be as effective, and why you may want to rethink what has seemed to have become the norm of roofing.



What They Both Do Well and Where They Are Different

Most of the time when customers are calling roofers for estimates, it is because their current roof is no longer under warranty and leaking. Both of these roofing systems are an option in most cases. They both will supply the customer with a water resistant membrane. In the case of TPO, PVC, and silicone coatings, they will all provide a white, reflective surface, which in turn could save you money on your cooling bills from the utility company and possibly even rebates, especially in the Southern parts of the country. EPDM, while a strong membrane, is not recommended in the South due to it being black in color. The roof will get incredibly hot and the heat does transfer through the membrane and into the air conditioned space. Most of the time they both come with great warranties covering both materials and labor. Most of the time these warranties are backed by the manufacturers themselves. Giving customers the peace of mind that if the contractor that installed the roof either goes out of business or just doesn't show up (which unfortunately happens far too often), that their warranty will be honored and any issues will be taken care of for the life of the warranty. Now lets get to where they are different and why a single ply might not be as good of an idea as you might think or were told.


Wind Uplift

Single ply roofing systems can be fully adhered but most of the time are not and instead are mechanically fastened. If they are not fully adhered, in the event of high winds or hurricane, this can cause wind uplift issues. TPO is welded together in a sense through the use of heat. If a seam was not completely welded (cold weld) not only is this a cause for concern for water intrusion but also wind uplift. In comparison, silicone coating systems are fully adhered to the existing roof, therefore negating any chance of wind uplift on the part of the silicone coating. Once wind uplift occurs and the membrane is torn or separated in some of these stronger storms you can fully expect water intrusion and possible flooding.


Longevity

We talked earlier about long term warranties, but lets look at instances where single ply systems probably should not be used. This would include almost all flat roof installations! If your roof has low slope, you should really consider not using a single ply. Single ply systems do not hold up against ponding water (ponding water is defined as water that remains on a roof for 48 hours or more) and will chalk off over time faster than the rest of the roof where ponding is not as much of an issue. If you currently have a single ply system and can see the form of the scrim (looks like a crisscross pattern) then you are at a place where putting a silicone system on would be ideal. High solids silicone coatings hold ponding water. They also do not chalk off and wear down like single ply systems or acrylic coatings. What is put down will remain until it is manually removed. Most commercial buildings also have AC units, grease pots, and vents up on their roofs. These also pose risks to single ply systems. These systems require regular maintenance. This means added foot traffic and possibility of items such as tools, AC doors, new parts, etc to either wear down the single ply or put gouges in the membrane itself. TPO and PVC are not very durable when it comes to these instances. Accidents happen with things being dropped or in wind events, debris flying across your roof. Most repairs that we do involve gouges in single ply systems from 3rd party damage or wind. If there is a roof underneath of the single ply, then you may not know that there is a hole letting water in for a long time. When you do eventually find out that there is a problem it may be too late and the insulation or recovery board under the single ply is completely soaked. If there is a large area of water being trapped in the roof, in most cases it will all have to be torn off and a new system laid down. This is one case where silicone coating systems would not work along with any other roofing system as you cannot leave water trapped in a roof. The roof will fail. In contrast, with a silicone coating system, since no recovery board is laid and is completely adhered to the existing roof, if an item strikes the surface, it is much less likely to penetrate the membrane and result in water damage or even a leak.


Business Disruption

Many times but not always, when a single ply is installed, there is tear off involved of the previous roofs. This will require large areas to be roped off and unusable for dumpsters and dump trailers, but also in the case of safety to your customers. These areas will typically move throughout the project depending on the area of the roof being worked on. In some cases, there is no tear off when just the original roof is present and can be roofed over using a recovery board or insulation board. Even if this is the case, there can be a lot of noise inside the structure from the new recovery board being fastened into place and the large crews necessary for installation. In the event of a tear off, and a storm or rain pops up, if the hired company does not take added precautions, the roof is wide open to water intrusion. This scenario is very common in Southern states due to high amounts of humidity during the summer and the regular afternoon showers. When installing a silicone roofing system, none of these factors come into play. Your roof is not opened and exposed to the elements. There is no risk of damage or electrical concerns. There is very little noise as the labor force doesn't have to be as big and there is nothing being mechanically fastened most of the time. Tear off isn't involved so there is no need to rope off large areas or worry about the safety of your patrons or their vehicles. Most of the time, the only reason you know when silicone coatings are being installed is because we stopped inside to give you a rundown of the days objectives.


Cost

This section will probably be one of the shortest as the cost between the two are almost never even close. If you are getting bids for both silicone coatings and TPO and they are somewhat close in price, then you need to really investigate the company planning to put the single ply on. For all of the reasons listed in the above sections, labor size, material, tear off, extra steps, etc. TPO cannot compete fiscally with silicone coatings installations if they are being done correctly.



Conclusion

If you can't tell by the comparisons that were laid out in this article, we at Arctic Enterprises firmly believe that silicone coatings systems are superior to many of the most popular systems out there and for good reason. We don't offer single ply systems because we just don't believe in them as much. We have over 30 years experience in the roofing industry and are qualified to install and have installed all types of the roofing products talked about in this article. Do these other systems have there place? Yes. But unless your roof substrate is completely soaked, there aren't many reasons not to use a silicone product. You will have a watertight roof, cause less disruption to your business, increased longevity, and above all, lower costs in the short and long term.




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