Spray Polyurethane Foam Has Structure-strengthening and Energy-efficiency Capabilities

A high-performance building material, spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is widely used as an effective, lasting roofing solution. With positive benefits, including versatility, thermal insulation, resistance to inclement weather cycling and storms, strengthening of the building envelope, long life span and durability, spray foam has enjoyed increased use among builders and roofing contractors alike.

A roof’s primary purpose is to protect the structure underneath it. As a roofing material, closed-cell SPF acts as a protective roofing mechanism and a thermal insulator. The lightweight material is ideal as a roofing solution when:

 As a roofing material, closed-cell SPF acts as a protective roofing mechanism and a thermal insulator.

As a roofing material, closed-cell SPF acts as a protective roofing mechanism and a thermal insulator.

  • the roof substrate has many penetrations.
  • the roof deck is an unusual shape or configuration.
  • the roof is being applied to a structure located in a severe-weather environment.
  • a lightweight option is needed.
  • a slope application is preferred to provide extra drainage capabilities.
  • keeping the existing roof cover is desired.

STRENGTH AND DURABILITY

SPF is considered a highly durable building material. The physical properties of the foam change little with time, accounting for a life span up to 30 years with regular care and maintenance. SPF roofing systems also strengthen the roof in multiple ways. Roofing spray foams possess a compressive strength of 40 to more than 60 pounds per inch. Spray foam’s adhesion strengthening capabilities are key, especially in locations where severe weather cycling, storms, wind, hail and other conditions are prevalent and commonly cause structure damage. Coastal and hurricane-prone regions are prime examples.

When applied to the interior side of a roof, closed-cell SPF can increase a building’s resistance to wind uplift during severe storms. When SPF is applied to built-up roofing and metal substrates, it increases resistance to wind uplift even further. A study conducted by the University of Florida, Gainesville, in 2007 found that applying closed-cell spray foam under a roof deck provides up to three times the resistance to wind uplift for wood roof sheathing panels when compared to a conventionally fastened roof.

Spray foam is a good solution for unusual configurations and areas with many penetrations.

Spray foam is a good solution for unusual configurations and areas with many penetrations.

Spray foam also is resistant to progressive peeling failure. Caused by wind, peeling happens at the roof’s edges when wind pulls flashings and copings away from their installed positions. Peeling looks like a tin can after it has been cut around the perimeter. When this happens, a chain reaction may occur and lead to catastrophic building failure. After the roof membrane, panels or tiles pull away, the board-stock insulation is exposed, often with less resistance to the lateral and uplift wind forces. Then the sheathing below and the substructure are subject to movement and wind or water damage, potentially leaving the entire building interior underneath open and vulnerable. SPF roofing is continuous, so it provides a water-resistant layer that is well adhered to the substrate.

When the Gaithersburg, Md.-based National Institute of Standards and Technology examined roofs following Hurricane Katrina, it found buildings with spray-foam roofs performed rather well without blow-off of the SPF or damage to flashings. The 2006 “Performance of Physical Structures in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita: A Reconnaissance Report” found that only one of the examined SPF roofs incurred notable damage, and that damage was confined to only 1 percent of the total roof system. The report concluded spray foam kept the roofs intact, prevented moisture from entering the buildings, and protected the structures from hail and debris.

Hurricane Katrina played a significant role in one of the largest reroofing projects ever on one of the largest metal-framed domed structures in the world: the Superdome in New Orleans. Katrina destroyed the dome’s second roof; the structure’s original roof was constructed with polyisocyanurate foam covered with a fluid-applied elastomeric coating but was replaced in 1989 with a single-ply EPDM roofing system. After the damages suffered during Katrina, the EPDM roof system was replaced with a spray foam roof system.

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Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance Completes ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessments

The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA), the educational and technical resource to the spray polyurethane foam industry, has announced the completion of an ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for three generic formulations that include open-cell, closed-cell and roofing foams. The Life Cycle Assessment is published and available as a free download from the SPFA website. Using the results of the LCA, the SPFA has collaborated with UL Environments to develop an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which allows spray polyurethane foam contractors to assist sustainable building designers in obtaining proper credit among leading sustainable building programs for spray foam insulation and roofing materials use.

An EPD is a third-party reviewed document that summarizes the results of the more detailed LCA. EPDs are required by design professionals to satisfy requirements of many sustainable building programs, such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED v4 program, the International Green Construction Code and GreenGlobes, to name a few. For example, the current LEED v4 program enables a building design to earn 1/4 point for using products that have an LCA; 1/2 point for products with a generic EPD (such as the one from SPFA), and 1 point for products using a product-specific EPD from a material supplier.

SPF contractors may now provide copies of the generic SPFA EPD to sustainable building designers to assure proper credit for SPF insulation and roofing materials. The EPD can also be used as general supporting information for customers wanting to use ‘green’ products. The SPFA EPD and related Transparency Briefs for each foam class are now available at no charge from the UL Environments website.