What is a foam roof, why get one? Things to think about before you get foam roofing.
In today's world most people are concerned not just about saving money, but about taking care of the resources that are available to us. The largest area of concern for both is the upkeep and repair of existing houses as not everyone can afford to build a new green friendly house. Along with the actual cost of the home, the cost of heating or cooling a home can make or break a home owner’s budget. After windows, the homes roof is the one place where more heat or cold is lost or gained, so it makes sense to have a well done roof which utilizes the most efficient and long lasting materials. Foam roofing is one such material, and can be applied over an existing roof to make it more efficient.
Foam roofing works much like a foam ice chest in that it keeps heat in and cold out. It also does not 'breathe' so air and water cannot penetrate it as long as the surface does not have any cracks or breaks in it. Should one happen it can be fixed with a respraying of the material.
While foam roofing cannot be used on its own as a roofing material, it works very well over other materials. One needs to make sure that the current roof is in good shape before having the foam material sprayed on. This means no missing shingles, or other roofing material, and no leaks or current issues like mold or mildew. If the foam is put on over such problems it will not correct them and can, in fact, make them worse as the foam forms a water and air tight seal that could push the problem down into the attic or crawl space and then into the air in the house.
Once one has determined that the current roof is solid enough, the foam can then be sprayed on. Most contractors who apply it will provide at least a 10 year warranty which can be extended if one chooses to have a second coat sprayed on within 5 years of the original installation. For those who need to go on the roof to work on heating. Cooling units or t.v. antennas, the foam provides a solid base to walk on with a high degree of traction, lowering the worries of falling off the house. The white coloration of the foam reflects the sun's heat away and helps to keep the house cool during the summer.
Foam roofing can be used on any type of roof, from a steep Victorian style to a flat or low angle roof. It is, in fact, ideal for flat roofs as it ends the worry about leaks from water that may puddle on the roof. As long as deliberate damage has not been done to the foam (such as pounding nails through it) the warranty will cover any leaks and the damage they may cause to the building. As it extends the life of the roof it will help keep repair costs down and prevent roofing materials from ending up in landfills or other disposal areas.
On the con side, it is foam just like an ice chest and will not break down easily. If one was forced to repair or replace the roof for some reason (say due to earthquake, flood, or tornado) then the roof along with the foam would wind up in the land fill where it would take over a hundred years to break down, if it breaks down at all. As styrofoam has not been around for a hundred years yet we have no way of knowing if it will ever break down, though we do know it gives off toxic gases if burned.
As the method of application is by sprayer the person putting it on the roof must have special training and wear protective clothing and a mask to prevent contact with the material. This does not prevent the gases from going into the surrounding atmosphere and into the air others breathe. While there are many other materials that pose the same health risk, very few expose those who do not even know they have been exposed. One is not required to tell neighbors about the spraying, so a neighbor may get sick and never know why.
As it is meant to be water and air tight, a foam roof, along with well sealed doors and windows, can trap various gasses in the home and could lead to illness or poisoning, so care must be taken to insure some air exchange is going on if there is any danger of trapped gases such as come from stoves or hot water heaters and clothes dryers.
As stated before, if one goes on the roof to do work, such as replacing an antenna, then care must be taken not break the surface, as this would require more material to be sprayed on to keep the surface water tight. If any object hits the roof, then an inspection is necessary to make sure it did not damage the foam.
If you are considering getting foam roofing, and they do save on energy costs, please do your homework before having one applied. While there are a great many benefits to foam roofing, there are also drawbacks that need to be considered as well. No amount of money saved can ever make up for the possible pollution it might cause.