Quality control can be the difference towards a profitable SPF roofing business.
By Juan Sagarbarria
While spray foam roofing is known to provide significant benefits – chief among them energy efficiency, strong R-value, and structural integrity – its presence in the roofing market is still minimal when compared to membrane roofing systems. Sharing only three percent of the roofing market over the past 30 years, one can’t help but wonder why SPF roofing, as effective a system as it is, hasn’t captured a larger and broader audience. The reasons behind this lag seem to revolve around lack of education, but more importantly, quality control.
“Quality is critical and SPF roofing requires a considerable amount of knowledge about roofing,” says Charles Valentine, Chief Operating Officer of SES Foam. “As an industry, manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors need to work together to improve our performance and the acceptance of our product.”
Whether it’s an SPF installation gone wrong due to lack of preparation or proper applicator training, or a manufacturer warranty “from hell” that does not substantiate the contractor’s work and only covers the bare minimum in spite of many issues that may arise, there are sufficient reasons to stagnate the progression of any SPF contractor with roofing aspirations. Furthermore, the roofing industry presents fierce competition stemming from major manufacturers with numerous sales reps armed with evidence of disastrous SPF applications.
So, how can SPF roofing contractors see the light at the end of the tunnel? What exactly can be done to ensure that SPF roofing businesses become profitable and simultaneously impact the industry? It can be accomplished, and quality control within the following factors is the vehicle to get there.
A STRONG, IDEAL PARTNERSHIP
The relationship between the manufacturer and the contractor should be cohesive. In other words, both parties should work in concert to ensure proper installations with the manufacturer setting the contractor up for success, while the contractor installs the SPF roofing system without issue. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. SPF roofing veteran Wally Scoggins, Chief Executive Officer of SES Foam, Inc., Brazos Urethane, Inc., and Greenshield Products, LLC., emphasizes the need for thorough training, as well as airtight material and labor warranties to solidify a strong manufacturer/contractor partnership that begets a larger customer base.
Scoggins notes that the applicators have 100 percent of the responsibility for flawlessly installing the foam and coating systems, yet acknowledges that there are numerous variables in the field and with equipment that can adversely affect the quality of the products being installed, which is why proper training is crucial.
“Manufacturers are supposed to provide consistent products that form a finished product once processed properly and installed with acceptable techniques,” explains Scoggins. “The hands-on training available from the manufacturing and equipment sources can be non-existent or less than basic; usually one or two days and the technical support personnel achieves the same less than basic level of training and no spray technique at all. In the end, most applicators are sold some equipment and materials, they are given a handshake and a wish of luck and off they go into the field.”
SPF manufacturers like SES Foam understand that this is a recurring problem in the industry, so they have joined forces with SPF supplier Greenshield Products to attain a solution. “We put our trust in Greenshield Products,” says Valentine. “They are fully focused on roofing and staffed with experienced SPF roofing professionals that can offer the training our affiliated contractors need and deserve.”
Scoggins also highlights the potential problem that exists with warranties that are offered by a given manufacturer often contain exclusions concerning application errors rather than requiring the applicators to install the products correctly and fix all issues throughout the warranty period. “Issues that develop on SPF roofs are almost always the fault of the applicator – like it or not,” says Scoggins. “Manufacturers often provide materials for warranty repairs when their materials had nothing to do with the failure. Contractors must be willing to make repairs to the roof and manufacturers must force the contractors to make these repairs throughout the term of the warranty.”
There are many safety issues concerning SPF roofing, from fall protection to chemical exposure. Safety is paramount in SPF roofing applications and it should be second nature for any SPF roofing contractor worth their salt. Scoggins and SES Foam believe there are eight safety features that should be addressed in every project, aptly training their affiliated contractors to follow these guidelines.
1. FALL PROTECTION – Crewmembers should wear safety harnesses while working on the roof, as well as off of a ladder or man lift. Perimeter flagging should be installed along the edges of the roof, skylights, and roof openings so that crewmembers know where these areas are at all times.
2. RESPIRATORY PROTECTION – Respirators should be fit tested before the project and documentation of said testing should be readily available.
3. ELECTRICAL HAZARDS – If using a shore power hook-up, make sure an electrician gives the go ahead. If any machinery needs maintenance, utilize lockout-tag out procedures.
4. SCAFFOLDING – Must be installed by certified builders and must be inspected and tagged daily.
5. LIFTING – Caution crewmembers to exercise extra care when lifting drums and transfer pumps.
6. HOISTING – Secure all hoisting equipment completely, never carry anything up and down a ladder, and inspect cables, clamps, and SPF equipment daily.
7. CHEMICAL EXPOSURE – The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including respirators, goggles, coveralls, gloves, and boots must be mandatory. Make sure area is clear from vehicles and foot traffic and utilize spray shields for overspray mitigation.
8. HEAT AND HYDRATION – Although “resting” on a construction site is often thought to be laziness, it is critical for the entire crew to take breaks – especially when working in the heat. Plan breaks to cool off and hydrate, providing copious amounts of ice and water for the entire crew with disposable cups and a sealed cooler.
It’s a simple formula: Preparation + planning = productivity. Planning safety systems is of utmost importance in the process and pulls productivity through the project. It offers the contractor and the building owner a higher level of security, safety, and, yes – quality control. First in the process, the crew needs to make sure that the SPF equipment is functioning at a perfect level.
“The equipment cannot be ‘kind of ok;’ not ‘pretty good’ – it needs to be perfectly on ratio, up to pressure, and up to heat. No exceptions,” says Scoggins.
Scoggins points out that spraying operations are usually guided by the weather, particularly the presence of high winds, but that detail work should be the starting point in every case.
“When the weather is favorable, every effort should be made to install the sprayed products as efficiently and safely as possible,” says Scoggins. “Even in a high-wind situation, detail work can often be completed with the use of a windscreen or other devices.”
As spray guns often get dirty during the project, they must be cleaned in order to maintain patterns and keep even pressures. The crew should also bring extra spray guns and transfer pumps onsite to eliminate as much downtime as possible while spraying conditions remain favorable. If constant headway is made on the project by way of preparation, productivity is maximized – and quality control is guaranteed.
CONTACT SES FOAM
Direct any questions about enhanced SPF roofing system production to SES Foam:
Phone: 855-335-2440 / 713-239-0252