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A Guide to Metal Self-Storage Roofs: Choosing the Right Option for Your New or Aging Facility

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Most self-storage facilities have metal roofs, and for good reason: They’re flexible, sustainable and low-maintenance. But there is more than one type, each with its pros and cons. This article explores the options for new builds as well as eventual restoration or replacement.

Do you ever wonder why self-storage roofs are almost always made of metal? It’s because metal roofs are flexible in design, quick to build, weather-resistant, sustainable and low-maintenance. You get reliable performance without sacrificing quality or aesthetics. But there’s more than one type available, so how do you choose the right fit for your project? Let’s explore the options for new builds as well as replacement or restoration.

Options for New Builds and Replacements

Metal roofs are available in a variety of designs, gauges and colors to meet every need. Standing-seam roofing is the most popular option for self-storage facilities because it’s a premium panel that comes with the best warranty for material and labor; but there are other options such as R-paneling and various forms of membrane roofing. Let’s take a closer look.

R-paneling (exposed fastener). With this system, the roof panels are fastened to the structure through the face of the metal, directly into the framing beneath. The panel edges overlap, and the fasteners go through both layers. The fasteners are always exposed.

Keep in mind that hot and cold weather conditions can cause the metal roof to expand and contract over time. When this happens, the fasteners can loosen. Because they’re exposed and appear every couple of feet, they’re often the first source for leaks, mold and rust.

Standing-seam. In this roofing system, the panel fasteners are concealed under a raised seam, also known as a “vertical leg.” Because the fasteners aren’t exposed to the elements, they can better withstand expansion and contraction under extreme temperatures. Most standing-seam roofs last 20 to 30 years with proper installation and maintenance, making them one of the best systems to install at self-storage facilities.

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A new standing-seam roof, during (top) and after installation

Membrane. While asphalt roofs were the most common form of membrane roofing back in the day, new synthetic materials are becoming more popular. This is because they’re easier to install and produce a more secure, weather-tight seal. There are several types of synthetic membranes used to seal flat, commercial roofs including Thermoset, Thermoplastic and modified bitumen, a version of asphalt roofing.

Thermoplastic olefin (TPO) is commonly used for metal roofing. It’s a rubber material manufactured in sheets and sold in rolls. It’s rolled onto the roof, and the seams are “glued” together with heat. TPO is white and has a naturally reflective surface that repels UV rays. It can also be insulated to provide extra thermal protection to the building.

Options for Retrofits

If your self-storage roof is older and needs a retrofit, your options are to replace or restore it. Often, the choice comes down to how much you’re able to spend.

Tearing off an old roof and replacing it takes time and can disrupt your business and tenants. This is why other solutions were created for our industry. Cost is also an issue. If you don’t have the budget for a full replacement, there are good alternatives. The most common are metal-over-metal re-roofing and a coating-restoration system. A self-storage building expert can help you determine the right option for you. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Metal-over-metal re-roofing. This cost-effective method involves installing a new metal roof directly over your old one. Adaptable to the existing structural-support system, it uses a high clip in conjunction with a new standing-seam panel and sub purlin. Re-roofing unlocks a variety of benefits such as little to no downtime for self-storage tenants, long-term life expectancy, reduced life-cycle costs and enhanced curb appeal. It’s cheaper than a full replacement and provides a great return on your capital-improvement investment.

Coating-restoration systems. When you have a tight budget, a roof coating can be used to protect your building and extend the life of your current structure. There are several options, including acrylic, urethane and silicone. Generally quick and easy to install, they’re applied directly on top of your roof. Single-ply membrane sheets can also be used. These can be made of TPO, EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

Whichever type of restoration you choose, it’s important to identify the local or state building codes you must follow, as these can dictate criteria—such as engineering-load analysis, approved roofing materials, drainage requirements and energy-efficiency guidelines—that affect your options. Once you have this information, you can choose your product and ensure it’s code-compliant. A good place for guidance is the International Code Council, which publishes the International Building Codes.

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A metal-over-metal re-roof project, (from top) before, during and after


Saving Energy and Money

If you’re looking to create more energy efficiency, consider a “cool” roof, which is coated with special paints that deflect more infrared light. The surface will actually repel up to 70% of solar heat vs. only 20% from surfaces coated with standard pigments. As a result, roof-surface temperature can be lowered as much as 38 degrees, a building’s interior temperature can be cut by as much as 46 degrees, and energy costs can be reduced by as much as 23%.

Cool roofing technology provides solar reflectance ratings to meet today’s Energy Star requirements. If it interests you, simply request cool-roof panels when planning your project.

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A coating restoration, before and after

Replacing your self-storage roof also comes with significant tax incentives. Under Tax Code 179A, you may receive additional savings through cost segregation, too. Contact a tax consultant to complete a cost analysis and learn about the available savings.

The roof is one of a self-storage building’s most important components. Fortunately, there are a variety of options for new construction or replacement. If you’re unsure which is best for your project, reach out to an expert for guidance.

Bethany Salmon is a marketing-content manager for Janus International, a global provider of self-storage doors and hallway systems, relocatable storage units, facility-automation solutions, and restoration services. To reach her, call 866.562.2580 or email [email protected].

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