SPF Holds Up During Hurricanes

Aug. 4, 2004

Tom Camp has been a roofing contractor doing business in Florida for over 20 years. He’s seen the damage a hurricane can do to a roof. After Hurricane Erin struck in 1995, his company, Tech Systems Inc., received a call from the Paradise Beach Club condominiums in Satellite Beach. The 75-mph winds of the Category 1 hurricane had nearly ripped the 20-year-old BUR off the 48-unit oceanfront complex.

Forced to choose a replacement, the club managers also sought to solve their history of leak problems and poor energy efficiency. The answer was SPF, with its high wind uplift capabilities, seamless surface, high insulation R-value, and quick installation.

“With pressing concerns for the comfort and safety of the tenants, speed of installation was almost as important as water tightness and energy efficiency,” says Camp. “We were able to provide them with a leak-resistant roof in just a couple of days.”

Camp reports that over the years, the SPF roof at Paradise Beach has survived at least three subsequent hurricanes with no damage and no leaks.

The insurance industry identifies roofing as the primary contributor to disaster-related insured losses. The roof and exterior glass are the most vulnerable parts of the building envelope in any wind event and because a damaged roof can expose the building interior - and its inhabitants - to the storm’s wrath, the total cost of a roof blow-off can rise as quickly as the storm’s own momentum.

The reason for roof failure can often be found in the very design of membrane roof systems. Wind often grabs the edge flashing or coping and peels back portions of the membrane.

In comparison, SPF has gained recognition with industry experts for its ability to withstand high wind uplift and blow-off because its smooth, continuous surface grips the deck and walls. It offers superior adhesion with no need for fasteners, and there are no seams or edges for the wind to grab onto. Lightweight yet rigid, it provides extra strength to help the roof stand up to the forces of nature.

Field studies conducted 10 years ago after Hurricane Andrew devastated the southern Florida peninsula show SPF roofs will not peel or lift unless the substrate the foam has been applied to fails. SPF also offers increased resistance to flying debris or “missiles” during high wind events. Gouged foam can remain without repairs for months without leaking - a real attribute for building owners when the number of damaged roofs surpasses the number of roofing contractors available to do repairs after a major hurricane passes through an area. 

Independent testing organizations, including Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and FM Global, test various roofing systems for wind uplift performance and then publish the results in their directories. Designers can then look for systems that meet the UL designations class 30, class 60, and class 90 or FM1-60, FM1-90, or higher where needed.

Mason Knowles, technical director of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, reports that during laboratory testing of SPF systems, SPF’s wind uplift resistance exceeded the capacity of UL’s equipment. UL also observed that SPF roofs applied over BUR and metal increased the wind uplift resistance of those roof coverings. He says FM Global’s testing showed similar results over concrete, metal, and wood.

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