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.

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When Is Restoration No Longer an Option?

Of course, 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.

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.

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The Key to Knowledge Is Understanding

So the key concept in a roof restoration is that you are not replacing your roof, you are adding to your roof. In what way? There are many types of restoration products, but generally you add one or more layers of an elastomeric coating to the roof. This process allows the restoration to take full advantage of the structure and thickness of the existing roofing system. In many cases, this method creates an even better scenario than a roof replacement. For example, let's say your existing roof membrane is about 45-mils thick (a mil is 0.001 inches; 45-mils is 0.045 inches.) Further, let's say your roof is in restorable condition and you want to compare that option to doing a complete roof replacement. In Scenario 1 you might choose a restoration option that adds another 32-mils of elastomeric coating to your existing 45-mil membrane roof. That gives you a total of 77-mils of protection. In Scenario 2, you remove the existing 45-mil membrane roof and install another roofing system. For the sake of comparison, let's say you "upgrade" and choose a 60-mil membrane roof. The difference between the two methods is now 17 mils, with restoration the clear winner in total protection. But that's not the end of it.

Think about it, what did you do in Scenario 1? You took a deteriorating, but otherwise sound roofing system that was already installed and attached to the building structure, and added even more protection. This does not mean that thicker is inherently better. There are other factors to consider. (See our November 2009 Newsletter, Is a Thicker Roof Membrane Better?) But a restoration system allows you to add more without ever impacting the building's structure, and you've done it while still enhancing the overall integrity of the existing roofing system. OnA thin CD doesn't mean less quality, it actually means more. the other hand, in the second scenario, you may have a brand new roof at the end of the day, but at what cost? You had to go through the process of tearing off the existing roof and potentially (and significantly) impacting the building's structure. (See Footnote 1) You added stress to the building structure, had to pay for an expensive, messy, and often disruptive tear-off. You just lost the solid foundation of the existing roof, started all over, and were left with 17-mils less protection. In effect, you paid more money and arguably received less for it than you would have it you had chosen the restoration route. Even when compared to a reroof or recover option (where a new roof is put over the top of an existing roof), restoration still provides significant cost considerations and benefits. If you find yourself in need of any roofing assistance, let RTN Roofing Systems help you to evaluate your options.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when a roof replacement or recover are necessary. But if a roof is in a restorable condition, then restoration is usually the best option to save money, limit structural impacts to the building, and still add significant thickness to further protect you building's assets.

So with a relatively brief synopsis of what roof restoration is and why it can be a viable option, especially when compared to a complete roof replacement, it is important to know if your failing roof is a restoration candidate. Hence, the question...

When Is Restoration No Longer an Option?

This is where being a proactive property manager can really pay off. Far too often, building owners will continue to nurse along a failing roof with repair after repair after repair. This may seem like a money-conscious way to buy time. But seldom is that the case. By the time your roof is giving you visible signs that it is failing, the reality is that it has probably been failing for a long, long time. With all the various components of a roofing system, many of them fairly absorbent, it can take months, sometimes years for water infiltration at the roof to show itself on your ceiling. What happens during that time can be catastrophic. Wet insulation, wet fiberboard, rotting or rusted substrate; the list goes on. This is a major reason why having a comprehensive repair and maintenance program in place can be so valuable. Instead of waiting for the stains on the ceiling to tell you there's a problem, doing frequent rooftop evaluations can prevent a small problem from turning into a big, expensive concern.

The bottom line in determining whether a roof is still in a restorable condition is to get to your roof before the components that make up that roof are damaged. You cannot restore a wet roof. A roof allowed to soak up water into the insulation and/or substrate is not a candidate for roof restoration. For roof restoration to be viable, the existing roof and all of the components below it need to be structurally sound. The only way to truly tell whether or not your roof is a restoration candidate is to have a thorough roof evaluation. This often requires a moisture scan and/or one or more core cuts. Such methods enable a proper investigation to see what is not externally visible, especially at first glance. Roofs can hold a surprising amount of water without any external evidence.

If your roof has leaks, the best thing to do is to get a roof evaluation done immediately. This should be done, not just to do a repair and stop the current leak, but it should be done to determine the extent of the problem. Does your roof need only a little tender loving care or is the current problem actually the small tip of an ever-growing iceberg? If the latter turns out to be true, you need to act immediately with a restoration system. If you wait too long, the damage to the existing roof and its components will be too great to overcome. Water is a devastatingly corrosive and deteriorating catalyst. Once a roof begins to wear out, water will increase the rate of decline exponentially. Don't wait! Your roof protects your assets. You may only need a minor repair. But if you need more, it absolutely must be done soon or you're going to be left with no other option but to do an expensive and messy tear-off and roof replacement.

Make "it" lastIn addition to all the foregoing, a well-installed, quality roof restoration is virtually forever sustainable. That means that it may be the last roof you ever need to install. How is that possible? Check out our October 2010 newsletter article, What Does Sustainability Mean? That article provides an extensive life-cycle cost between a 15-year membrane roof and that of a roof restoration system. Living in such an "environmentally-conscious" time, after reading that article you'll probably be left wondering why roof restorations aren't actually mandated where possible.

Now you know a little about what roof restoration involves and how you can determine whether you've waited too long to get one. In the event that you did wait too long and restoration is no longer an option, then at least make sure you don't compound your problem by choosing an inferior roofing contractor to install an inferior product. Call RTN Roofing Systems and let us help you evaluate your options. But if your roof is still structurally sound and a good candidate for a roof restoration, you might soon be overwhelmed by your options. Not to fear, RTN Roofing Systems is here...

What Type of Roof Restoration is Right for My Roof?

Generally speaking there are two types of roof restoration systems. (I'll give you a third one in a moment.) First, you have what is known as an acrylic elastomeric roof coating. This is a good, inexpensive product to use when there is very little (or no) ponding water present. (See Footnote 2) Acrylic coatings are not designed to hold up under ponding water and will quickly deteriorate. They do have very good reflective qualities and can often achieve long-term warranty coverage of 10 years or more.

When ponding water is more of a concern, going with an SEBS or polyurethane roof coating is the way to go. They also have excellent reflective qualities, but have the added benefit of holding up much better under ponding water. Bear in mind, though, that no coating manufacturer will warrant their product under ponding water. (In fact, almost every single-ply (membrane) roof manufacturer specifically excludes ponding water from their warranty. Duro-Last is the only single-ply roofing manufacturer that does not exclude ponding water.) Even a high-quality SEBS or polyurethane roof cannot hold up under prolonged or excessive ponding. In fact, a lack of positive drainage often is all that is necessary to exclude the use of a restoration system product altogether.

But I mentioned a third option. This option is not affected by ponding water or a lack of drainage, and can still achieve long-term warranty coverage. I'm referring to the WetSuit cold, fluid-applied neoprene membrane system. It is applied much like a conventional coating, but has such a quick cure time, that within about 8 seconds of application, you have a new roof membrane installed in that area. It is used for seismic mitigation, fish ponds and water features, above and below grade air and vapor barrier applications, and you guessed it, it is used for roofs too.

It is often the only product that will allow for a complete restoration when all the other types of products can't cut it. It has tenacious adhesion, over 1,500% elongation, takes ponding water indefinitely, and is surprisingly cost-effective, especially when compared to a roof replacement.

Would you like to know more? Visit our WetSuit page.


When it comes to the health or your roof and the options for taking care of it, the points to consider can seem daunting. But our business is roofing. We are flat roof and roof restoration experts. We can help you wade through all the conflicting information. We can help you to see your real options and provide you with the pros and cons to any roofing decision you're thinking of making. Your roof is not just another roof to us, it is our reputation. Let us help arm you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your roof. Call us today at 970-593-1100. If you'd like, ask for Joel. But if not me, then just ask for help. You'll be glad you did.

Call us today at 970-593-1100 or contact us by visiting our Contact page. As always, thank you for your time and have a great day.

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Footnote 1

This is especially true if the original roof was mechanically-attached. This would then be exacerbated if the new roof was also mechanically-attached. A proper mechanically-attached roof is often the most structurally-sound roofing installation because you are directly tying into a building's structure. This is accomplished by using nails or screws drilled in and attached to the roof's structural substrate.

In a fully-adhered system, however, glues are used to attach components together. Obviously, this doesn't impact the building structure as much, but neither is the roof being directly tied to the building structure. The ironic aspect to a fully-adhered system is the fact that often new mechanically-attached insulation is required to meet R-Value codes. In such a case, while this may directly tie the insulation to the structure of the roof, the roof itself is still only glued to the insulation. There are pros and cons to either method and we will discuss those in a future newsletter.
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Footnote 2

The term ponding water is sometimes defined differently by different jurisdictions. But it generally refers to any areas of water that are present on your roof after a contributing rain has stopped. This time period is about 48 hours, but can be as little as 24 hours or as much as 72 hours. The point is: rain water should get off your roof as quickly as possible. If it doesn't and begins to pool, that's ponding water. Ponding water is a nemesis for all types of roofing systems, but especially acrylic coatings.
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