Looking back at the issues Roofing Contractor has covered this year, there is a theme emerging around materials and systems that are spray-applied.

Historically, roofing contractors in most markets who specialize in low-slope commercial roofing or metal roofing applications have chosen to leave large-scale spray applications to others.

Why have roofing contractors chosen to stay out of the spray-application business? The cost of entry is not cheap. It is not insurmountable, but it requires an investment in specialized equipment and full-time, skilled people. There is much to know about the technical aspects of spray-applied materials and their use. It is difficult, or simply too expensive to conduct spray operations on a part-time basis, but most roofing contractors have only seen a part-time need.

Why should roofing contractors reconsider their position on spray-applied materials and systems?

The best reason relates to something that occurred back in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Metal building construction and other low-slope metal roofing applications were growing to become a significant part of commercial building construction in this country. Now it is time for remediation of these aging roofs, and spray-applied systems can often provide the best and most economically feasible solution.

Elastomeric coatings combined with fabric reinforcements provide new life to aging metal roofs. Proper remediation in this fashion does require a unique expertise to properly specify, estimate and install. Manufacturers of these systems have taken on the responsibility of training contractors and mechanics in formal school settings and with on-the-job training. Additional training may be gained from manufacturers and distributors of spray equipment.

In addition to the growth potential for coating aging metal roofs, there are other applications that you may wish to explore that would make use of the same equipment and people resources. Spray-applied modified-bitumen roofing systems offer the advantage of eliminating both the kettle and the open-flame torch. If you had an active spray-application operation, you would find other business waiting for you, such as spray coating in lieu of mineral-surfaced sheets or gravel surfacing over BUR or MB. There are many waterproofing applications that can be accomplished with the same expertise and equipment.

The real challenge is change. You may want to take a page out of my old friend Woody Martensen’s book. Woody left his job working for a large manufacturer of roof coatings and other waterproofing products to start up his own company manufacturing and selling roof coating products. Like me, Woody isn’t an old guy; but he’s not a spring chick either. After decades in the industry, he saw the opportunity and decided to go for it.

Several of the larger players, such as GAF and Tamko are maintaining and growing serious investments in cold-applied systems.

If you never spray-applied anything, but are intrigued by the possibilities, look around and listen. Consult with several manufacturers of the various spray-applied systems. Study, plan, then if you see the light, go for it. You never know; it could define your business in the next twenty years.