The commercial roofing market offers a variety of coating options. To ascertain which product is appropriate for their particular project, facility managers should review the material data sheets provided by the manufacturer. This is because material formulas, uses, and application techniques vary widely.

The four roof coatings covered in this article are polyurethane, silicone, acrylic, and an asphaltic rubber membrane system. Not every roof surface can accept or work with every coating. Additionally, all pre-application preparation needs to be finished in compliance with the specifications provided by the roof coating manufacturer. 

the image depicts a professional consultation about choosing the best roof coating

How to Choose the Best Coating for Your Roof

When selecting the best roof coating for your establishment, consider the following factors:

  • Roof Type: Determine the material and condition of your existing roof. Different coatings may be suitable for metal roofs, single-ply membranes, built-up roofs, etc.

  • Climate: Consider the weather conditions your roof will endure. Some coatings are better suited for extreme heat or cold, while others offer superior resistance to UV radiation.

  • Durability: Assess the expected lifespan of the coating and its ability to withstand foot traffic, debris, and other environmental factors.

  • Maintenance Requirements: Understand the ongoing maintenance needs of each coating type. Some require periodic recoating or touch-ups, while others are virtually maintenance-free.

By evaluating these factors and consulting with a roofing professional, you can choose the roof coating that best meets your establishment’s needs for durability, weather resistance, and long-term cost-effectiveness.

the image showcases various types of roof coatings

4 Types of Roof Coatings

1. Acrylic coatings

The initial purpose of acrylic coatings was to shield sprayed urethane foam applications from UV light. These coatings are currently applied on metal systems and single-ply membranes, among other roof membrane surfaces. Acrylic-based polymers have the intrinsic flexibility needed to tolerate the dimensional instability of most roof membrane surfaces, and they offer good resistance to radiation and hail damage. When exposed to direct sunshine at 85 degrees Fahrenheit, appropriately designed acrylic coatings have been shown in some experiments to lower surface temperature by up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Acrylic coatings can be applied in one or more coats and are made entirely of acrylic. Extended warranties necessitate greater coverage; most manufacturers base their warranties on coverage rates. Applying acrylic coatings in below-freezing conditions or when precipitation is predicted to occur soon after application is not advised. These products have a very weather-dependent cure time; cold or extremely humid conditions will shorten the cure time. Low humidity levels and moderate temperatures are ideal for curing.

Acrylic coatings are inexpensive, offer superior reflectivity, and are simple to handle. Nevertheless, these coatings cannot tolerate ponding water, lose mil-thickness due to weathering, and must be applied in an environment that is warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Instant-set materials are currently available from a number of acrylic coating producers. This gets rid of the chance of coating run-off in the event of precipitation right after application by cutting the acrylic coating’s cure time down to a few minutes.

2. Silicone Coatings

The production process for silicone coatings uses a high solids dispersion of 100% silicone. It has outstanding adherence to the current surface and is a very elastic substance. Silicones are rarely rigid or brittle and offer good weather resistance. Over the past ten years, silicone coatings have increased their market share in the commercial roof sector. Since most other coatings cannot resist prolonged contact with ponding water, the material’s capacity to do so is the main reason for the increase in uses. In addition to being able to withstand oxidation, silicone coatings offer superior UV protection in hostile conditions and extremely high temperatures. Silicone has strong reflectivity and emissivity ratings and comes in a range of colors. 

Cost, application procedures, and the limited number of materials—aside from silicone—that can be put directly to the silicone surface are some of the disadvantages. In addition to retaining dirt on the surface, silicone gradually loses its reflectivity.

3. Polyurethane Coatings

These days, polyurethane coatings serve to coat various types of roof membranes already in place, originally intended for use on top of foam roofs sprayed in place. Out of all coatings, polyurethane coatings offer the best rates for impact resistance and foot traffic. Polyurethane roof coatings come in two varieties: aromatic and aliphatic. Usually, base coat and topcoat are combined with these kinds of materials. Although the base coat material is strong, its UV resistance is not very great. Since the aliphatic coating is UV stable, maintains its cleanliness, and retains color longer than other coatings, it is utilized as a top surface.

4. Fluid-applied Asphaltic Rubber Membrane System

The development of fluid-applied materials that can efficiently and affordably extend the service life of the current roof system is a result of labor shortages and technological advancements. It is now possible to apply an asphaltic rubber membrane system for life extension repairs using cold-process fluid treatments. The asphaltic rubber substance combines the waterproof and weatherproof qualities of highly refined emulsified asphalt with the elastic capabilities of rubber. The end products are exclusive mixtures of components that create a smooth, totally adherent rubber membrane. The final membrane has a dry thickness range of 20 to 200 mils.

The asphaltic rubber produces a monolithic, continuous membrane that offers quick waterproofing/weatherproofing capabilities, in contrast to coatings that only offer a film surface or adhesives that need reinforcements for waterproofing capacity. When combined with coatings, these materials offer an affordable, long-lasting repair solution.

Whichever roof coating product managers decide on, they must store materials properly on-site because they all have a set shelf life. This is true for all liquids and adhesives used in the roofing sector.

Our Recommendations

When selecting a roof coating, consider the specific needs of your establishment. For durable protection against UV radiation and hail, acrylic coatings are a cost-effective choice, though they require careful application conditions. Silicone coatings excel in resisting ponding water and extreme temperatures, offering superior UV protection. Polyurethane coatings provide excellent impact resistance and foot traffic durability, with aliphatic options offering enhanced UV stability and color retention. For extending the life of existing roofs, fluid-applied asphaltic rubber membrane systems combine waterproofing with weatherproofing capabilities. Consult with roofing professionals to ensure proper selection and application based on your facility’s unique requirements.


In conclusion, the choice of roof coating is crucial for ensuring longevity and performance in commercial roofing systems. Acrylic coatings offer affordability and reflectivity but require careful application conditions. Silicone coatings excel in ponding water resistance and UV protection but may lose reflectivity over time. Polyurethane coatings provide superior impact resistance and durability, with aliphatic options offering extended UV stability. Meanwhile, fluid-applied asphaltic rubber membrane systems combine waterproofing and weatherproofing capabilities for long-lasting repairs. Facility managers should consider specific factors such as roof type, climate, durability needs, and maintenance requirements when selecting the ideal coating. Consulting with roofing professionals ensures optimal choice and application for enhanced roof protection and longevity.

FAQs About 4 Types of Roof Coatings

1. What are the main differences between acrylic, silicone, polyurethane, and asphaltic rubber roof coatings?

Each type offers unique properties: acrylic for affordability and reflectivity, silicone for ponding water resistance and UV protection, polyurethane for impact resistance and durability, and asphaltic rubber for waterproofing and weatherproofing.

2. Which types of roofs are suitable for each type of coating?

Compatibility varies; acrylic suits metal and single-ply membranes, silicone is versatile, polyurethane is durable on various membranes, and asphaltic rubber extends life.

3. What factors should I consider when selecting a roof coating?

Key factors include climate suitability, UV protection, durability against foot traffic, maintenance needs, and cost-effectiveness for long-term performance.

4. What are the application requirements for each roof coating type?

Specific conditions like temperature, humidity, and surface preparation are critical; following manufacturer guidelines ensures effective application.

5. How do these roof coatings contribute to energy efficiency and sustainability?

They enhance insulation, reduce HVAC loads, and promote environmental sustainability through energy savings and extended roof life.