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5 Types of Roof Coatings: Which type of Roof Coating Performs Best? How to Pick the Best for Your Facility

Roof Coating Advantages

The Benefits of Roof Coatings.

Elastomeric roof coatings have been around for a long time. That being said, many facility owners and managers are still relatively unaware of the numerous advantages they provide.

Before we get into the strengths and weaknesses of the various types of coating chemistries available in the industry, let’s get an idea of the many benefits a coating system provides, in general.

1. Costs Less

Roof replacement can be quite expensive. Depending on the type of roof you have, a full replacement can cost anywhere from $5 to $15 per sq. ft.

A roof coating system (or roof restoration system), on the other hand, provides all the benefits of a new roof but for a fraction of the cost.

Roof coatings are applied directly to existing roof surfaces. As such, they carry a fraction of the labor and material costs associated with a traditional roof tear-off and replacement. This means you can expect to pay 50-70% less with the installation of a roof coating system.

2. Extends Life

Perhaps the best-known quality of an elastomeric coating system is its ability to extend roof life. The average commercial roof only lasts about 20 years, but the addition of a coating system can prolong a roof’s serviceable life by up to 10, 15, or even 20 years.

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If properly installed and maintained, a coating system has the potential to be recoated numerous times. It also can significantly reduce the need for constant maintenance and repair.

3. Reduces Energy Costs

Coating your roof is a great way to improve the energy efficiency of your building.

Unlike conventional dark-colored roofing materials, white roof coatings can reflect 80-90% of the sun’s harsh UV rays and diminish the flow of heat to your building. This reduces the workloads of HVAC systems during warm summer months and cuts interior cooling costs by up to 20% on average.

Additionally, the superior reflective and emissive qualities of a coating system can significantly cool roof surface temperatures (pictured above) and provide a more comfortable work environment for building occupants.

Unconditioned spaces can experience a reduction in ambient temperatures, as well.

4. Improves Sustainability

In recent years, the demand for more sustainable roofing solutions has grown considerably due to more stringent environmental regulations and building codes as well as increased concern for the environment.

Commercial roof tear-offs contribute millions of tons of waste to landfills each year.

In contrast, there is no tear-off required prior to the application of a commercial roof coating system, allowing you to reuse existing roofing materials with minimal impact on the environment.

As mentioned above, the prospect of recoating also contributes to increased sustainability.

5. Environmentally Friendly

In addition to improved sustainability efforts, many of today’s elastomeric coatings are developed with little to no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), making them much safer for the environment.

This also means buildings with a roof restoration system could qualify for the US Green Building Council’s LEED program.

5 types of roof coatings features and advantages

It’s a question we get asked from time to time: which roof coating performs best? The short and simple answer is—it depends. That’s because there are just too many variables to consider when it comes to the performance, longevity, and suitability of an elastomeric roof coating.

There are several types of coatings available on the commercial roofing market. The material formulations, uses, and application methods are all different, so facility managers should examine the manufacturer’s material data sheets to determine which product is suitable for their specific project.

Below, we provide a comprehensive overview of the benefits, chemistry types, and physical properties to look for in an effective coating solution.

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This article covers five types roof coatings: acrylic, silicone,Butyl Rubber, polyurethane, and an asphaltic rubber membrane system. Not all coatings are acceptable or compatible on all roof surfaces. Also, all pre-application preparation should be completed in accordance with the roof coating manufacturer’s requirements. 

1. Acrylic Roof coatings: 

Acrylic coatings were originally developed to provide ultraviolet protection for sprayed urethane foam applications. These types of coatings are now used on a variety of roof membrane surfaces, including single-ply membranes and metal systems. Acrylic-based materials provide excellent resistance to radiation and hail damage and have the inherent flexibility required to withstand dimensional instability of most roof membrane surfaces. Some studies have indicated that properly formulated acrylic coatings can reduce surface temperature as much as 20 degrees F when exposed to direct sunlight at 85 degrees F.  

Acrylic coatings are manufactured of 100 percent acrylic and can be applied in one or more coats. Most manufacturers provide warranties based on the coverage rates; extended warranties require additional coverage. Acrylic coatings should not be applied in freezing temperatures or when precipitation may occur within a specified period from application. Cure time of these products is highly weather-dependent and cold weather or high humidity will impede curing. Ideal curing takes place with warm weather and low humidity.

Acrylic coatings are economical, provide excellent reflectivity, and are easy to work with. These coatings also, however, lose mil-thickness from weathering, require application in ambient temperature of above 50 degrees F, and cannot withstand ponding water.

Several acrylic coating manufacturers now offer instant-set materials. This reduces the cure time of the acrylic coating to a few minutes, thereby eliminating the possibility of coating run-off if there is precipitation directly after application.

2. Silicone roof coatings. 

Silicone coatings are manufactured with a high solids’ dispersion of 100 percent silicone. It is a highly elastic material that provides excellent adhesion to the existing surface. Silicones provide good weather resistance and rarely become hard or brittle. Silicone coatings have gained market share on the commercial roof market in the last decade. The rise in applications is primarily due to the material’s ability to withstand long-term exposure to ponding water, as most of the other coatings cannot withstand ponding water. Silicone coatings also provide excellent ultraviolet protection in extreme temperatures and harsh environments and can resist oxidation. Silicone is available in a variety of colors and provides high reflectivity and emissivity ratings. 

Some of the drawbacks are cost, application requirements, and the fact that there are only a few materials – other than silicone – that can be applied directly to the silicone surface. Silicone also holds dirt on the surface and loses reflectivity over time. 

3. Butyl Rubber roof coatings.

Butyl coatings are a solvent-based polymer best known for their exceptional elongation and tensile strength. They are highly reflective, fast-drying, and great for roof maintenance and repair.

Due to their low permeability, butyl rubber coatings are most commonly used as a vapor-retardant barrier over spray polyurethane foam systems in cold storage/freezer applications.

A butyl coating system is suitable for a variety of commercial roof surfaces including metal, modified bitumen, single-ply, built-up roofs, and spray polyurethane foam.

They are typically white, gray, or tan in color and can be sprayed or roll-applied at a rate of about 2 gallons per 100 square feet.

The primary disadvantage of butyl coating is its low solids content. This means it takes more liquid material to achieve a certain dry mil thickness, which makes it less cost-effective than alternative coating types.

They can also be challenging to work with and lack color stability.

4. Polyurethane roof coatings. 

Polyurethane coatings were initially developed to be applied over sprayed-in-place foam roofs. They are now used as coating applications over a variety of existing roof membranes. Polyurethane coatings provide the best rates of all coatings for impact resistance and for foot traffic. There are two types of polyurethane roof coatings: aromatic and aliphatic. These types of materials are typically used in combination of base coat and topcoat. The base coat material is durable but does not offer high UV resistance. The aliphatic coating is used as a top surface because it is UV stable, stays clean, and holds color longer than other coatings.

5. Fluid-applied asphaltic rubber membrane system. 

Technological advances and labor shortages have led to the development of fluid-applied materials that can effectively extend the service life of the existing roof system at economical rate. An asphaltic rubber membrane system has been developed that can be applied in cold-process fluid-applied applications in use for life extension repairs. The asphaltic rubber material combines the elastic properties of rubber with the waterproof/weatherproof characteristics of a highly refined emulsified asphalt. The resulting formulations are proprietary materials that form a fully adhered monolithic, seamless, rubber membrane. The resulting membrane can be applied to range from 20 mils to 200 mils dry.

Unlike coatings that only provide a film surface or adhesives that require reinforcements for waterproofing capacity, the asphaltic rubber forms a monolithic, seamless membrane that provides instant waterproofing/weatherproofing capabilities. The use of these materials in combination with coatings provides a long-term, economical repair system.

Regardless of which roof coating facility managers choose, as with all liquids and adhesives used in the roofing industry, proper on-site material storage is important, and all of these products have a specified shelf life.

Important Physical Properties to Consider for Choose the roof coatings

Every commercial roof is different. That’s why it’s important to evaluate certain physical properties of a coating to ensure its suitability in a particular roofing environment. Each property listed below, as well as other technical data, can be found in the manufacturer’s product data sheets.

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Elongation is the percentage in which a material can be stretched before it breaks. Most elastomeric coatings typically measure anywhere between 250-900%. The higher the elongation value, the more suited a coating is to endure the normal expansion and contraction of a roof structure without cracking, thinning, or peeling off.

Tensile Strength

Tensile strength is the amount of pressure a material can withstand before it breaks. Depending on chemistry type, most elastomeric coatings rate anywhere from 250-1200 psi (pounds per square inch).

Elongation and tensile strength are closely related but in an inverse direction. As one increases, the other decreases. The best commercial roof coating formulas balance the two properties to provide a strong, durable membrane that can adequately stretch and move with roof surfaces.

Permeability (Moisture Resistance)

Permeability, or perm rating, is the state or quality of a material or membrane that causes it to allow liquids or gases to pass through it. This value varies greatly depending on the type of coating.

For example, acrylics have a high perm rating, meaning they are very breathable. Silicones, on the other hand, have a lower perm rating meaning they have superior resistance to moisture transmission. It’s important to note that higher permeability does not equate to inferior weather resistance.


Reflectivity measures the amount in which a material can reflect light. It is typically represented as a percentage between 0-100%, with at least 85% being considered good reflectivity. Unlike conventional, dark-colored roofing materials, white roof coating systems reflect 80-90% of the sun’s energy back into the atmosphere—significantly reducing the risk of heat gain throughout the roof structure.


Emissivity refers to a material’s ability to release absorbed heat. This property is usually represented as a decimal between 0 and 1, with 0.65 being considered ideal for an elastomeric roof coating. This means 65% of the sun’s thermal energy is emitted away from the roof, thus reducing building heat loads and lowering cooling costs.

Solids by Volume

Solids by volume is the measure of how much solid material will remain after a substance has dried. Understanding this property is critical in order to properly achieve the required dry film thickness specified for certain coating systems. While it has no bearing on the performance of a coating, this particular property is certainly worth some consideration.

Though the physical properties highlighted above are the most notable in terms of performance, there are other data points to consider as well. For a complete overview of the physical properties for American WeatherStar products, click here to download our full roof coating comparison chart.


Ultimately, the performance of a commercial roof coating depends on a variety of factors. Each chemistry has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Things like roof type, age, environmental concerns, aesthetics, and more must be taken into account before deciding on a suitable, long-term solution.

If you’re interested in one of our restoration systems, schedule a free roof inspection with an American WeatherStar Approved Contractor today.

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SINOMTC is a comprehensive enterprise specializing in research and development, manufacturing, and marketing of a range of construction waterproof materials and chemicals including waterproof membranes like bitumen waterproof membranes (APP membrane, SBS membrane, self-adhesive bituminous membrane), and high polymer waterproof membranes (PVC membrane, HDPE membrane, etc.) waterproof coating like silicone roof coating, acrylic multi-purpose waterproofing coating, polyurethane waterproofing coating, bituminous coating, etc., as well as silicone sealant polyurethane sealant and many other construction materials, sealing and bonding materials.

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