A little research regarding roofing materials results in big dividends for a Colorado charter school.
By Jen KramerCharter schools are known for celebrating freedom of choice. After all, they are independent of traditional school districts and the students who attend them choose to do so – well, at least their parents choose for them to do so. So it comes as no surprise that when the Front Range Christian School, a charter school in Littleton, Colorado, needed to repair their 76,000 plus square-foot roof, they wanted to research all of their options to make the best choice.
As Rod Ross, Director of Operations for the school explains, “We knew that the modified bitumen roof was approaching an age where it was time to be replaced. Colorado is known for wild weather. We can have five feet of snow in our parking lot one day, and it will be in the 70s or 80s the next. We wanted to replace the roof before there was trouble. And we wanted to be able to replace it with the most efficient, durable, and economical option.”
Employed as a general contractor before coming to work for the school, Ross began to gather multiple bids for a variety of roofing systems, including TPO and EPDM, but something seemed missing.
“Front Range is known for our cutting-edge curriculum. Every child in every class has an iPad,” Ross says. “We wanted something that would be technologically advanced on the roof. Simply putting on a new membrane and replacing it every 10 years never made sense to me.”
As luck would have it, he received a direct-mail piece advertising spray polyurethane foam. “I had heard about spray foam in passing, and knew that it would provide insulative properties, as well as protect the roof, so I started researching.”
Among the facts that Ross discovered was that “foam can be recoated, it is low-maintenance, and low-cost comparatively speaking. Also, if it is damaged, for example by hail, it can be fixed – typically with primer and another inch of foam. If we could recoat our own roof, why wouldn’t we?”
That, however, turned out to be a question that took two years to answer.
Ross and his research did not cause the delay – Mother Nature and insurance companies did.
“While I was learning about spray foam, we had hail damage to the roof,” Ross explains. “The insurance claim from the damage took two years to settle.”
As frustrating as it may have been, the delay proved to be beneficial.
“We were going to do the roof repair work ourselves,” Ross says. “We’d even gone to Conklin Roofing Systems and taken their Advanced Roof Systems training, thinking that we could foam the roof ourselves. Suddenly, with the insurance money, we could hire a crew.”
It was a good thing, because by the time the two years had passed, the aging roof was in need of replacement. In addition to the insurance-claim hail damage, a windstorm had actually lifted part of the membrane up off of the roof. As a consequence, there were now leaks around the roof’s perimeter.
Ross asked Conklin for spray foam contractor referrals and was introduced to Pat Kohls of Kohls Foam Systems, Inc.
“Pat was able to answer all of our remaining questions about spray foam,” Ross says. “We felt confident that spray foam was the answer for our roof and that Kohls Foam Systems was the company to apply it.”
TEAMING UP AGAINST MOTHER NATURE
Kohls concurs that the cutting-edge protection of foam is an especially perfect fit for a school focused on technological advancement – and for a roof at the mercy of Mother Nature’s mood swings.
Based in Minneapolis, the Kohls’ Colorado crew consists of four to five crewmembers, depending on the project. “For this project, we had five guys, all on the roof, because we were working around other trades and working around the weather.”
The project began in earnest in April once the school was in recess. Before any crews arrived, Ross and his crew “removed 1,000s of tons of river rock ballast from the roof,” Ross says. “We wanted to prep as much as we could before the trades arrived.”
In addition to Kohls Foam Systems, the school had contracted with S&S Construction Services from Aurora, Colorado to remove the old modified bitumen system and attach recovery board in preparation for the spray foam application.
In one of those “coincidences” that happen in the small world of spray foam, it turned out that, “I had worked with S&S’s owner years ago,” says Kohls, “when he was at another company. We had a good working relationship so it was nice to be back on a jobsite with him and his crew. We would arrive early every morning, finish our meeting and then we’d have to wait for them before we could foam. It didn’t make sense to me – especially because we were fighting the weather.”
April in Colorado can be especially eventful in terms of weather – one day temperatures can hover in the high 80s and the next will see snow.
“The weather was unusually wet,” Kohls remembers with a rueful chuckle. “We had many late afternoon thunderstorms to contend with. In fact, we had to be very careful with the amount of roof that we would get ready each day because of the late afternoon storms. Whatever was prepped and ready for that day had to be foamed in before the rain came every afternoon.”
In order to help speed the process, Kohls had his team help the S&S crew place the asphalt-impregnated wood fiber recovery board. The four-foot-by-eight-foot sheets were fastened with three-inch metal plates, using 18 fasteners per sheet.
“We would help S&S fasten the half-inch Temple-Inland HDX recovery board. Once we had fastened 3,000 to 5,000 square feet of recovery board, we’d begin to foam and the S&S crew would continue fastening.”
The S&S crew was surprised at first – and then grateful for the extra help. Kohls shrugs off kudos for his initiative simply saying that “teamwork would get the job done faster and would get everyone home quicker. Hopefully they will pay it forward sometime down the road.”
PAYING IT FORWARD, REAPS REWARDS
The school is located in a building that was once a strip mall, and they rent a few of the sections out to tenants. This meant that although the school was vacant, the building wasn’t and when it came time to spray, a few cars did have to be covered or relocated.
“Fortunately, the wind forecasts are very accurate and we were able to tell direction and block off that section of parking lot,” says Kohls. “We always carry car covers, but for the most part they were unnecessary.”
Safety lines and cones marked off the roof’s perimeter and the access ladders were all strapped down. The crew wore MSA harnesses and retractable lines along with 3M respirators, Tyvek coveralls, goggles, and steel-toed boots.
“We used our Graco H20 35 Pro machine to spray-apply two inches of Roof-Tek 2718 closed-cell spray polyurethane foam to each section of the 76,590 square-foot roof – 3,000 to 5,000 square feet at a time,” Kohls explains. Roof-Tek 2718 closed-cell SPF has an initial K-Factor of 0.155 and an aged R-value of 6.4. It is designed to provide the insulation and protection for which Front Range Christian School was looking.
This was followed by a 15 mil DFT basecoat of Conklin’s Benchmark elastomeric coating. A monolithic application, the acrylic was applied with the use of a Graco 733 coating pump to a total of 1.9 gallons per square. A 15-mil DFT topcoat of Conklin’s Puma XL Extended Life in white was then spray-applied on top of the Benchmark.
The modified acrylic coating carries an 18-year warranty, a Class A UL-790 Fire rating, and a FM Severe Hail 4470 rating. White roofing granules from Sesco were broadcast into the topcoat using a sandblast pot to finish the spray foam roofing system application.
DOING THE HOMEWORK, MAKING THE GRADE
The school is extremely happy with their cutting-edge spray foam roof. The insulative properties have noticeably cut their heating and cooling costs.
“The HVAC units are already running less than they were,” Ross says. “We’re realizing 20 percent or better of energy savings.”
The fact that the foam is reparable is not lost on Ross either.
“I like the fact that if we get another big hail storm, which is likely here in Colorado, chances are we can quickly fix the roof without removing and replacing it.”
Ross is researching the installation of solar panels and knows that installing them on the spray foam roof will not be a problem. “This has been a great investment for us,” he says. Successful homework, teamwork, and rapid returns on investments – sounds like spray foam gets an A+ for this charter school roof. •