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How to Clean & Maintain Your TPO Roof

By now you have made the decision to install a TPO roof on your home or building. If you are still trying to make the decision between a TPO roof or an EPDM roof, see our blogs.

5 Pro’s (and 2 Cons) Of TPO Roofing

The Importance of TPO Maintenance 

Debris and dirt can accumulate on any flat roof which can become a petri dish for mold, mildew, algae and plant growth. That same debris can become a food source for birds and other pests. All these factors can settle and compromise the roofing membrane, which may cause leaks.

This is exactly why having a preventative maintenance plan to ensure your roof will last the maximum amount of time is key to protecting your investment. 

You should always consult a professional roofing contractor or roofing consultant before going forward with any cleaning.

Pre-Cleaning

There are several factors that affect how often you should clean your TPO roof. Some of those factors are climate, amount of precipitation, roof slope, drainage factors & dust and wind conditions.  

tpo cleaning

Before you begin cleaning, ensure that you protect all the areas where water could enter such as low curbs and base flashing.

Cleaning As Part Of Roof Maintenance 

Cleaning should be a regular part of the preventive maintenance plan. Keeping the TPO roof clean will help keep the energy savings within the structure by continuing to reflect away sunlight and keep the building cool in the warm months. It will also prevent the growth of mold & mildew. Lastly, it will help reduce the any damage from chemical contaminants that may compromise the membranes ability to perform. 

Steps To Clean

1. Once your prep work is finished, start by using a low pressure power washer to rinse off any surface layer dust and debris. NOTE: Choose a pressure washer of 2,000 PSI or under. 

2. Use a soft bristle push broom with a non-abrasive cleaning solution that is TPO safe. You can also make one yourself by using a mild household detergent and water to clean the surface of the roof membrane. (check with your TPO manufacturer before applying any cleaner or chemical to the membrane)

3. Clean the roof in sections – work towards the drain by “pushing” the dirt and run off into it.

4. Use your pressure washer to rinse the cleaner and dirt off, again working towards the drain.

5. Visually inspect for remaining dirt – Repeat steps 2-4 if necessary.

6. Do one final walk through inspection to ensure there was no damage to the membrane during the cleaning. Check the seams and around curbs or other transition areas.

PRO TIP – Depending on your roof size and amount of dirt, you will likely want to get a professional rotating jet cleaner to use instead of a soft bristle push broom.

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TPO to TPO: How to Hand Weld

As always, check with your TPO manufacturer before starting any heat welding as each manufacture may have different chemical compositions which make up the TPO membrane.

This is a step by step tutorial on how to hand weld TPO to TPO. The purpose is to explain this process so a contractor could accomplish this to install our patented CGW with a TPO slipsheet.

What You Will Need:

  • Professional Heat Welding Gun
  • 20 mm or 40 mm nozzle for heat gun
  • Seam Roller
  • Gloves
  • Safety Glasses

Whether you’re doing a sealed seam, flashing or attached a slipsheet, you are going to want to achieve a weld between 1″-1.5″. 
Hand welding involves two stages: A pre-weld and a finish weld.

The Pre-Weld

The first weld you’re going to start with will be the pre-weld. For the pre-weld, you are going to start by placing your nozzle between the two TPO membranes at a 90 degree angle. The nozzle has a slim end which opens up to a wider fitting. You will likely want to place the nozzle under the top layer just past that angle change on the pre-weld (see photo to the right).

heat gun heat weld

Start at one end and work towards yourself. You want to give a little room between the nozzle end and the seam roller, as you do not want to “pinch” the heat. As you begin to weld by heating the membrane, always use the seam roller at a 90 degree angle to the heat gun. Slowly but consistently work your way down the seam rolling over both layers with steady pressure on the seam roller with long steady strokes till you reach the end of the seam or area you are welding. The purpose of the pre-weld is to create an air dam down the seam, to trap the air and heat to enable a good second/finish weld.

PRO TIP: While you weld, make sure to keep you gun as flat as possible so you are blowing the heat into both membranes AND towards the roller. If you angle the gun too much, you will be heating the bottom membrane more than the top and you won’t be blowing the heat towards the seam roller.

The Finish Weld

Start at the same point as the pre-weld, however this time place the nozzle between the membranes at a 45 degree angle up against the pre-weld. This weld will go a little quicker than the pre-weld. Using long consistent stokes, repeat the same process. Getting the hang of the timing will come. You want to ensure that you go at a speed that isn’t too quick where you are not creating that bond, but you also want to avoid over heating the TPO causing “bleed out” from the outer edge. 

PRO TIP: When using the seam roller, ensure that you are rolling with the flat part of the roller and not the edges. Using the edge of the seam roller has been referred to as “stitching” and can create an inconsistent weld which can trap air bubbles. This was common practice in the past, however it may not be the best way to achieve a long lasting weld.

If you are a visual person, The guys at GAF Roofing have a fantastic video that shows this whole process. You can view it HERE.

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5 Pros (and 2 Cons) of TPO Roofing

Some Backstory…

TPO Roofing falls under the single-ply membrane roofing category. Single-ply membranes are sheets of rubber and other synthetics that can be mechanically fastened, ballasted or chemically adhered to insulation creating a layer of protection on your commercial facility.

TPO has been around for a few decades now. However, since the chemical formula has kept evolving, it has been getting more reliable. TPO is made from ethylene propylene rubber. It was designed to have the advantages of a rubber roof combined with hot air-weldable seams for extra durability.

There are two main types of single-ply membranes for commercial roofing: Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) and Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM).

TPO-roofing

So why TPO for your roof?

One of the largest benefits to installing a TPO roof is the cost. TPO has one of the lowest price points for roofing material on the market, costing less then EPDM and other types of roller rubber roofing. 

Another benefit of using TPO roofing is the color. TPO is white which gives it reflective characteristics. These characteristics help by reflecting sunlight away from the building therefor keeping the building cooler in warm months and in turn using less air conditioning. These energy savings also help lower the overall price point when you incorporate energy saving into the life of the roof cost.

So why TPO for your roof?

One of the largest benefits to installing a TPO roof is the cost. TPO has one of the lowest price points for roofing material on the market, costing less then EPDM and other types of roller rubber roofing. 

Another benefit of using TPO roofing is the color. TPO is white which gives it reflective characteristics. These characteristics help by reflecting sunlight away from the building therefor keeping the building cooler in warm months and in turn using less air conditioning. These energy savings also help lower the overall price point when you incorporate energy saving into the life of the roof cost.

The Pros of TPO

1. Its Cost Effective (At Least Compared To PVC)

TPO can be a desirable option because it has a relatively low price point. Compared to PVC, TPO offers comparable energy efficiency and ability to weld hot-air at a fraction of the cost of PVC.

2. Strength and Durability, Especially At The Seams

TPO would be considered a strong roofing product because of its ability to resist tears, punctures and dirt and mold build-up. On top of those features, TPO has the most flexibility when it comes to single-ply roofing membranes because it is able to deal with expansion and contraction of the building more efficiently then other materials. It allows for a wide array of options when it comes to moving or settling of a building.

As TPO membranes have hot air welded seams, its seam strength is three times stronger than conventional rubber roofs that use tape systems. It is also about six times stronger than those with glued seams. This is very beneficial when using rooftop supports that need to be fastened to the membrane. Check out our CGW rooftop pipe support HERE which works in conditions with wind uplift and seismic zones.

3. Energy Efficiency

TPO has UV resistant properties which eases cooling costs in warm months and climates. TPO not only meets, but exceeds the EPA Energy Star requirements.  This means that in the Summer, TPO will help keep your energy bill low while simultaneously helping the environment and keeping your home cool. The energy efficiency of TPO will definitely have an impact on the overall cost of the roof once you factor in energy savings.

4. Installation

TPO weighs less than EPDM making it easier to maneuver and move around. TPO is synonymous with less labor time needed for an install compared to other roofing options. Less time working on a project results in significantly lower labor costs, which is just another area that TPO can save you money.

5. Adaptable To Various Home Styles

TPO comes in a variety of colors – Black, White, Grey – and with its strong level of UV-resistance, all colors of TPO can deliver energy savings for you. Having the ability to choose colors makes the membrane a little friendlier when designing a building or home. This may seem like a small detail but this gives architects the ability to still have a product that fits in both design and energy efficiency.

The Cons of TPO

1. Longevity

With TPO being the “new kid on the block” there are questions when it comes to its longevity. The chemical formula for TPO has been changed and tweaked over the past 30 years. This is typically for the better, however it is important to keep in mind that with these changes in the chemical formula, the verdict is still out for how well it hold up over the years.

2. Does Not Do Well When Subjected To High Heat

TPO roofing can save you a remarkable amount of money on your energy costs and make your home or office building cooler, but when the heat gets too high, it can cause serious problems. Southern states that are generally warmer over the course of the year than northern states have shown that this could be a concern. If temperatures are pushed to a tremendously high level on a regular basis or if solar loads are increased far beyond usual amounts, it is entirely possible TPO roofing could fail to withstand those conditions. So, if you live in a climate where those are issues you will regularly encounter, TPO roofing may not be your best option.