The Dirty Truth about White Roofs
Building owners and managers face some tough decisions when it comes time to replace the roof on their commercial, industrial or institutional buildings. For decades now, one of the seemingly easiest parts of that decision has been to go green and specify a well-insulated, highly reflective roof system.
Cool roofing, primarily systems topped with a white-colored membrane, continues as the darling of the building envelope. When a building owner or manager chooses a white roof, the person often thinks that his or her job is done for 15-20 years. With the exception of routine maintenance to keep the drains clear and the penetrations and edges watertight, they may be right.
There is, however, another aspect to low-slope roof maintenance in the era of the cool roof. You must keep them clean if you expect to take advantage of the reflective properties of a white or lightly colored membrane.
I’m not interested in engaging in the merits of a highly reflective membrane, or which is the best, or if they provide the best return on investment. I’m driving at a point based on the assumption that the owner purchased a product with certain expectations. If the person expected to buy a new, bright-white reflective roof to last two of the expected 20 years of service life, then I haven’t much of a point to make. If the owner purchased a bright-white reflective roof assuming that’s what it would be for the entire service life, then I think there’s an intriguing opportunity for owners and contractors to realize that won’t happen without some preventative maintenance.
In most parts of this country, the air is relatively clean. Regardless, there’s still a lot of material flying through the air that ends up resting on the surfaces of roofs. The collection of pollution, pollen, dust and airborne dirt conspires to take the white right off the roof beginning the day installation is completed.
Offering to come back and keep the roof clean should be part of a maintenance program to keep the roofing system watertight. My belief is the building owner and manager expect to reap the benefits of a white membrane, and they may be just as willing to keep it white and reflective as they are to keep the rain out of their building.
So, you’re a roofing contractor. You’re not a janitor. Anyone can clean the roof, right? No way. Working safely at height is your specialty, and the last thing you or the building owner needs is someone other than a competent roofing contractor on the roof to do anything to the roof covering.
If your roofing company offers roof-maintenance services, roof cleaning should certainly be on your list of offerings. If you’re not presently offering a roof-cleaning service, you really need to check into it right away. It’s not only another service you can sell; it’s a way to add greater value while setting yourself apart from most of your competition.