Many topics taken from various newsletter articles over the years. Learn your options and make informed decisions regarding the care of your roof.

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Table of Contents

The following table of contents has been broken up into categories to provide quick access to our current list of articles. If you've come here from the main menu, you will find introductory text as well as links to the full articles listed below. This will give you a chance to peruse what each individual article is all about before deciding which one to select. If not listed as described, go back to the main Perspectives page.

What is Roof Restoration?

The core definition of restoration involves the process of restoring. It's taking something that is deteriorated in some way and making it new again or, 'like new.' Take a boat restoration as an example. Let's say that you come into ownership of an 18th century battleship like the HMS Victory, and it is badly in need of restoration. Maybe a mast is warped and the deck has rotted and lost significant structural integrity. Maybe even the hull is showing severe weathering and wood rot. Now what? In such a scenario, restoration would often mean removing the rotten wood and replacing it with like materials. To make an authentic restoration, you'd have to use the same type of wood that was used during the original construction. Assuming the mast could not be fixed, it would have to be replaced. Areas of the hull that were no longer salvageable would also need replaced. The point is, when you're done with such a "restoration," much of the original boat is completely gone. It is made up of entirely new materials, retro-fitted to the existing structurally-sound elements. On the other hand, a roof restoration is quite different.

But in the context of roofing, restoration seldom involves removing the existing roofing materials. It is almost always about adding to what is already there. That's a significant distinction because for a roof restoration to have any value, it must last. But for it to last, it must be applied to a roof that is still structurally sound. To be sure, there may be circumstances where small portions of the roof will need to be removed and replaced before an overall restoration takes place. But if too much of the roof needs that type of attention, then it is usually most economical to simply do a complete roof replacement. But in that scenario, the existing roof would be completely removed and a new roof would be installed in its place. That obviously defeats the whole point or using a roof restoration to save money.

Roof restoration is the process of using highly-engineered coating products to "restore" an existing roof deck to a like-new condition. It is used on PVC, TPO, EPDM, MOD-BIT, built-up, and even some SPF roofing systems. Some of the issues that surround roof restoration will be addressed in this newsletter article; namely, (1) Aren't there concerns that the coatings used for roof restoration will fail?, (2) Don't roof restorations lead to a roof absorbing a lot of dirt and debris and thus cut down on any energy savings that would be realized from an otherwise reflective, white roof?, (3) Isn't a white, reflective roof unnecessary in the cold northern climates anyway? But before addressing those questions, let's answer why a roof restoration system can be so beneficial for you and your roof.

Roof Restoration: What Are the Benefits?

When you need a new roof, you typically have two, related options. Option 1: Simply cover up the existing roof with a new roof. Option 2: Tear off the existing roof(s) and then install a new roof. As you might well imagine, Option 2, the tear-off option, is significantly more expensive than Option 1, which does not require a tear-off.

What determines whether or not a tear-off is required? Generally speaking, if there are already two or more existing roofing systems installed, local codes typically require that before a new roofing system is installed, all of the previous roofing systems must be removed down to the roof deck. This is a messy, noisy, and very expensive process. It also adds a tremendous amount of roofing debris to the local landfill. But this is where a roof restoration system comes in.

A roof that typically would require a tear-off, but is in otherwise 'restorable' condition, might benefit from restoration. This would mean no tear-off! No tear-off would mean virtually no mess, a lot less noise, and could save you thousands of dollars (depending on the size of the roof.) There would be no roofing debris to add to the growing landfill problem. Also important is that by using a quality coating manufacturer, you can receive no-dollar-limit warranties with warranty terms of anywhere between 5, 10, 12, 15, and 20 years. So not only do you get a like-new roof at a fraction of the cost of a tear-off and reroof, you can get a quality warranty to further protect that investment. Are you seeing the benefits yet? But it doesn't end there.

Another huge benefit is that a quality roof restoration system is forever sustainable! At the end of each warranty term, you can clean and reapply a new topcoat and get a brand new warranty with a brand new extended warranty term. It's like getting another new roof at far less money than even what a new restoration system would cost. (All the prep work required for the original restoration system would not be required at this point.) This approach would preclude the need for a tear-off - forever!. It's good for the environment and certainly good for your pocketbook. Oh, yeah, it's also good for your roof.

Is this all too good to be true - saving money with a truly quality product that will last for 10 to 20 years, all the while helping the environment? Believe it or not, roof restoration can do all of that. There is a catch, though. ("I knew it," you probably thought.) But the only real catch is that a roof must be in restorable condition. A failing roof needs to be addressed immediately before it is beyond the ability to restore. In fact, having a rooftop inspection can help you assess the condition of your roof before it starts to fail. Sometimes a roof that has started to fail is already beyond hope. So it is to your financial advantage - not to mention the structural integrity of your building - to have your roof inspected and evaluated regularly. Call us today at 970-593-1100 and request your free rooftop evaluation. Quality to Warranty

But even with all that being said, isn't there some real concern about restorative roof coatings? Yes, but those concerns are easily allayed with the facts. Let's consider some of those concerns now:

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Concern 1: Quality and Durability

Used car salesmen! When you read that, what comes to mind? Is it of a trustworthy individual that has your best interests at heart? Probably not. But in reality, how many used car salesmen have you personally met, done business with? Most of us have probably never met such a person, and yet we have such a low opinion. Ask yourself, why do I have such a viewpoint? Even those that have met such an individual probably realize that they are not all the same. The fact is all honest, hard-working used car salesmen get branded with the same iron. The bad tar the good. I bring this up not to defend used car salesmen - they've got to do that themselves - but to draw a parallel with roof restorations.

Most people's experience with the "miracle in a bucket" approach to roof restoration is not a good one. But why? Did you hire someone to install The Home Depot roof coating only to see it fail in two years or less? Did you possibly get up on your roof yourself and apply a commodity product available at any hardware store only to see it peel up like paint after the first hot rays of summer? If you've experienced anything like this, then you need to recognize that comparing those products with a highly-engineered restorative roof coating is not comparing apples to apples.

Quality of Product Matters A quality restorative roof coating is not a "miracle in a bucket" approach to roof restoration. It is not a commodity product. It is a product that can give you long-term, no-dollar-limit labor and material warranties. You can't get that from The Home Depot's or Lowe's stash of commodity products. A quality roof restoration is a system, a process, not a "perfume on a pig" short cut.

In addition to the product itself, what is also important is the contractor used to install the roof restoration system. Any product - no matter how good it is - is only as good as the one you use to install it. Furthermore, a proper adhesion test is required to verify compatibility with the existing roof deck. Failing to do this simple, but important procedure can mean the difference between product success or failure. In fact, restorative roof coating manufacturers require an adhesion test as part of their warranty requirements. You don't get that with The Home Depot "special." According to Jim Leonard, former president of the Reflective Roof Coatings Institute and founder of ERSystems, Inc. and Prairie Technologies in Rockford, Minnesota, said that "a well-formulated coating, properly selected for a specific roof surface, and properly applied should perform for 15 years or more." - Italics ours. Selecting RTN Roofing Systems to evaluate your needs will ensure that you are getting a well-formulated coating that is specifically designed for your specific roofing conditions. Smoke in the Air

Before moving on it is also important to remind you that coating technologies have changed significantly over the last decade or two. A lot of the original coating products did fail, which is one reason why not much emphasis has been put on coatings over the course of the last 5-10 years. That, coupled with the unfair comparison between a quality restorative roof coating and a 5-gallon bucket of roof paint from The Home Depot, has unfortunately led many to consider roof coatings a bad choice. But nothing could be further from the truth. So if you were one that had a bad experience with coatings in the past or have not had such a good outcome from a low-quality commodity product, then take heart. The roof restoration products that we use are high-quality, non-commodity products. They provide long-term, comprehensive warranties, and are installed by our quality core of professional installers.

Concern 2: Dirt Accumulation

Right out of the box I will admit that some roof coatings do tend to accumulate dirt, which will cut down on their solar reflectance. Keep in mind, however, that this accumulation o dirt does not affect the quality of the product itself or its ability to provide you with leak-free performance. But you cannot escape the fact that all roofing systems - coatings or otherwise - accumulate dirt. The dirt is in the air, it is in the rain. It cannot be avoided.

A typical solar reflectance rate of 0.85 to 0.90 will drop to about 0.70 to 0.75 during the first several months of a roof restoration system being installed. After that it levels off to around 0.60 to 0.70. That's a reduction of around 25 to 30 percent. A significant number to be sure, but not the end of the world. It can also be mitigated by annual cleanings. So if your RTN Roofing and Duro-Last primary focus with a new roof is solar reflectivity, then a roof coating may not be the best choice. In such case, I would recommend the Duro-Last single-ply roofing system. It is the best single-ply roofing system on the market today and has an EPA Energy Star reflectivity rating of 87% even after three years of weathering - tops in the industry. On the other hand, if cost is more important, and if quality and reflectivity is only part the decision equation, then a quality roof restoration may still be your best option.

But with all that being said, technology is continuing to advance. New coating products that repel or at least that do not accumulate as much dirt as previous products are being developed. For one example, ERSystems' ReflectiClean coating has been shown to retain a more than 0.75 solar reflectance for three to seven years. According to the aforementioned Jim Leonard, such a solar reflectance can translate 'into energy savings of more than 25 to 45 percent' over that of the typical coatings. But the technology continues to advance and this issue is becoming less and less important. It cannot go away completely, but it is becoming less and less of an issue. We are almost there as it is.

Concern 3: Not Practical in Northern Climates

Some feel that using a white, highly-reflective restoration roof coating in a northern climate is less important that having a heat-absorbing black roof. The assumption is made that 'hot in the winter is more important that cold in the summer.' This issue was actually discussed in our previous newsletter A Black Roof or a White Roof? - That Is the Question. But we'll cover some of the main points here as they relate to roof restoration. However, I would encourage you to read that previous newsletter article too as it has some additional information not contained in this newsletter.

There are three main points that indicate that a white, highly-reflective roof is still better in northern climates than a dark, heat-absorbing roof. So, without further ado, let me itemize them:

  1. The winters in the northern hemisphere have much shorter days.
  2. The winters in the northern hemisphere have little to no direct sunlight.
  3. The winters in the northern hemisphere have several days in which roofs are covered with snow.

Sun So how does all of this affect this issue? Well, when summers have much longer days with a significant amount of direct sunlight, having a highly-reflective roof has a much better cost-saving ratio than a black roof in the winter. A black roof in the winter just does not have enough time or enough of a favorable solar angle to absorb any potentially beneficial solar heat. When you add to this the fact that snow covers the roof for many, many days during the winter, and any assumed benefit realized by having a black roof becomes a non-issue anyway.

Much of what you pay in your utility and/or energy bills is a calculation made by the utility company that is based upon the highest peak demand experienced during the year. Almost always the highest peak demand is experienced during the summer when HVAC units are working overtime to alleviate the heat being transferred into the building. Electric Meter Keeping your roof cool in the summer is more important than helping to keep your roof warm in the winter, especially considering all the limitations placed on a black roof in northern climates as described above.

Roof Restoration is a Viable Solution

Hopefully from the foregoing you now realize that if you are in the market for a new roof, a roof restoration system is an option that should be considered. A rooftop evaluation, adhesion test, and a roof that is in restorable condition will allow you many benefits; i.e., reduced cost, less mess and noise, and environmental benefits as well. It is a win-win situation.

So make sure you are getting the best information. Make an informed decision. Let RTN Roofing Systems help. Give us a call today at 970-593-1100 to schedule for your free rooftop inspection and evaluation.

Have a great day, and as always, thank you for your time.

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