Painting Metal Roofs

Victoria Bryant
February 2, 2022

A lone flower in a field of grass, a cardinal in a snowstorm, and a neon sign in a darkened window all share a common feature: they attract attention by standing out from their surroundings. Much like these three otherwise unrelated items, your business can benefit from its surroundings by utilizing the common features as a backdrop for your location’s own unique feature. Fortunately, this can be as simple as taking a common structural element, a roof, and using it to draw attention specifically to your business.

Metal roofs, in particular, lend themselves to this approach, as they are highly customizable through the use of paint. Painting a metal roof not only has the aesthetic benefits, but also helps to ensure longevity and performance for much longer than an untreated metal roof. The process of painting a metal roof sounds simple enough, yet proper care must be taken regarding various facets of the process and products to ensure that the newly applied paint truly benefits your building and does not act as a mask, seemingly attractive at first but in reality hiding issues with you roof that could lead to significant structural and aesthetic problems in the future.

For an existing roof, the first step is identifying any existing imperfections and correcting them. This can include minor defects, such as peeling paint, small holes, and light surface corrosion. Most of these minor defects can be remedied fairly easily, but major issues, such as flashing failure, separations of seams, and damage to the roof’s underlying support, will require professional expertise and experience to address and correct. Once these issues have been fixed, the roof will need to be prepped prior to application of the coating in order to provide a lasting finish that will both improve the roof’s appearance and protect it from the effects of the elements for as long as possible.

Regarding the coating, there are three options: oil-based paint, acrylic direct-to-metal paint, and elastomeric paint. Oil-based paints have traditionally been the most common, and this provides its biggest benefit, as applying oil-based paint to an existing coating is much easier than applying a different paint type, reducing necessary prep time and cost. However, multiple layers of oil-based paint tend to become brittle and each subsequent coating lasts less time between needed reapplication. This is a classic example of cutting initial price but raising overall cost. Further, colorfastness with oil-based paints ranks lowest compared to the other two options, again requiring more frequent upkeep to maintain the coating’s attractiveness.

Acrylic direct-to-metal, or DTM, paints are a newer product that are formulated to replace oil-based paints, especially in regards to GREEN building initiatives. Compared to an oil-based paint, acrylic DTM paint is superior in terms of durability, colorfastness, turnaround time, and flexibility on metal roofs. As these are some of the critical features when selecting paint for your metal roof, utilizing this product may be a better option for the future of your roof. Prep work is similar to that with an oil-based paint, but special care is needed when removing previous layers of acrylic DTM, as it can peel away in large strips if a previous coating did not properly bond with the metal roof.

The third option, elastomerics, are more of a specialized product. These are used generally in warmer climates, as the product often contains ceramic microspheres to provide heat reflection and help insulate a building from the sun. Most commonly available in white, elastomerics can be ordered in different colors, but lose some of their heat-reflecting properties as a result. Being much thicker than acrylic DTM paint, elastomerics are able to fill small pinholes during application and create a watertight layer that will last for years longer than other paint types. Also, elastomeric paints, as their name implies, are more elastic than other paints, allowing them to shrink and stretch in accordance to the underlying metal layers, allowing them to last far longer than other paint types as a result. Due to these characteristics, however, elastomeric paints are more difficult to apply and require professional painters to ensure proper functionality of the finished coating.

Regardless of the type of product chosen, a painted metal roof offers a durable and attractive feature that will allow your building to stand out from neighboring structures. As painting your metal roof also serves to prolong the life of your roof, protect the interior of your building from the elements, and decrease energy costs, its easy to see why choosing to increase the curb appeal of your building by updating your metal roof provides benefits to both creating revenue and maintaining profitability for your business’ location.

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