4 Reflective Roof Coating Main Types and Their Characteristics

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a young man applying roof coating mixture

An excellent way to protect your home, plus improve energy efficiency, is by using a reflective roof coating. There are different types, each with advantages and disadvantages, which can be easily applied over existing roofs. They have excellent repellent qualities, plus accomplish their main objective of reflecting the heat generated by the sun.

Here is a quick reference for you, sort of a reflective roof coating 101 synopsis. In our article, you’ll find a list of various types as well as some advantages and disadvantages of each type included in the article. All this will be followed by a brief explanation of what reflective roof coatings are. Included will be basic instructions on how to apply each type of coating.

Here are four types of reflective roof coatings with the pros and cons for each, plus basic application information.

*The following types of coating were listed in no particular order.

1: Cold-Process Reflective Roofing System

Cold-Process roof coatings can be applied in different ways. The most common method is a heavyweight asphalt based fiberglass sheeting. These sheets are applied in layers using an asphalt-based adhesive in between layers.

There are usually three or four layers with each roof. The final step in the application is the aggregate surface coat. This is usually sprayed on using white, silver or another reflective color.

Pros

  • One of the advantages of cold-process roof coatings is the fact they do not require any heating mechanism to apply. You can install them anytime temperatures are above freezing.
  • The multiple layers provide a very sturdy roof surface, excellent for situations that may require periodic foot traffic.
  • The fiberglass component creates a roof with tremendous longevity. These are sturdy roofs that can last decades.

Cons

  • The time required for installation is greater than for single application roof coatings. Each coat needs a minimum of 24 hours to dry properly, so the whole process can take days.
  • Each sheet must adhere to the previous layer, so cold-process fiberglass roofs are not suited for situations where there are ridges or a lot of contour in the roof design.

2: Asphalt Emulsions

This type of roof coating, as the name implies, is made from emulsified asphalt. It uses clay as the emulsifying agent. These types of roof coatings come in a standard black color, but installers can add aluminum or titanium pigments to add a strong reflective quality. Asphalt emulsion roofs are one of the easiest to apply. All you need is the product and an asphalt broom.

Pros

  • They are both sturdy and durable since they use strong inorganic fibers to bond the coating. When you add the metal pigmentation to create a reflective roof, they become even stronger.
  • Asphalt emulsion roof coatings are simple to apply, with most projects finished in one day.
  • They are the least expensive type of roof coating and do an excellent job of eliminating leaks in roof seams.

Cons

  • The job of applying an asphalt roof sealant is a hot one. Since one must brush on the mixture, it is also difficult to get good coverage on cold days.
  • When temperatures rise and fall dramatically in a 24-hour period, the coating has a tendency to gradually produce small cracks that need sealing.

someone applying a roof coating solution on a building's roof

3: Acrylic Reflective Roof Coatings

Acrylic roof coatings are a water-based solution for covering any type of roof. Each type uses a different acrylic polymer. While anyone can apply acrylic reflective roof coating in nearly any color imaginable, to provide the reflective capabilities they must have a white, silver, aluminum or similar pigment.

Pros

  • You don’t need to apply acrylic based coatings as thickly as other coatings. You can roll or spray them on, and the job can usually be a single day project.
  • They are water-based, so clean up is easier than asphalt coatings.
  • An acrylic reflective roof coating is one of the best alternatives to balance cost vs. performance. They can years of life to any type of roof design.

Cons

  • The acrylic base will lose thickness as it weathers. For this reason, you need to reapply most acrylic coatings on average, every 2 to 3 years.
  • To create a seal between the coating and the base roof, temperatures must be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

4: Polyurethane Roof Coatings

One nice thing about polyurethane roof coatings is that almost all of them have a reflective component. Most are white or aluminum-based pigments. There are actually two types, which you can blend together to improve durability. When you add an aromatic base coat, covered with an aliphatic top layer, you have a nearly impenetrable seal.

Pros

  • Using the dual coating concept this is one of the most durable and long-lasting choices for a reflective roof coating. The polyurethane-based coating washes clean with normal rain, so it stays looking new longer.
  • Since they stay very clean, this reflective roof coating has one of the highest rated cool roof numbers.
  • If you apply an extra base coat, polyurethane roof coatings handle foot traffic very well.

Cons

  • Since specialists recommend gaining the full advantage of both blends, polyurethane reflective roofs are more costly than asphalt or acrylic.
  • The chemicals used to create the polyurethane sealing qualities have a very pungent odor, so there will be a strong smell during installation.

What Is a Reflective Roof Coating?

A simple roof coating is a monolithic membrane applied to your roof in liquid form. These types of roofs have an elastic quality that gives the flexibility to expand and contract without damage. When properly installed, they stop nearly any leak and are seamless.

The liquid membrane of a reflective roof coating has a pigment component that helps them reflect both infrared and ultraviolet rays. People often refer to them as cool roofs. Since the combination of these aspects of sunlight is what heats and deteriorates normal roof coatings, the reflective quality is important.

Reflective roofs stay cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun’s rays. This helps reduce the effects of the intense sun on the roof. Moreover, it keeps the building underneath cooler. A reflective roof coating will last longer, help prevent leaks, and reduce energy consumption.

Summing It Up

In conclusion, these are the four most common types of roof coverings that you can use as a reflective roof coating. They will add life to nearly any type of roof, and depending on the design, one can apply them over any type of material. Each has its own unique advantages that will make it great to use for certain environments. Finally, when you add a reflective component during installation, you will provide a durable surface that helps reflect the heating and damaging effects of the sun.

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