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Roofing Membranes: Which Is Right For You?

A commercial rooftop is an important investment for any building owner or homeowner. Like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to each roofing material that can be installed. Contractors and engineers need to know what qualities they can maximize in the price point that they are working with.

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Today we are going to discuss the following:

  • EPDM
  • TPO
  • PVC
  • Asphalt decks
  • Metal Roofs


Ethylene propylene diene monomers (EPDM) is the most common contractor recommendation due to its affordability and quality. These qualities have made EPDM roofing popular worldwide. EPDM manufacturers use recycled rubber from tires, slate, and sawdust to manufacture EPDM. With proper installation, property owners can have 20-30 years of quality, hailstorm-proof roofing. EPDM roofs are installed with either adhesive, tape, mechanically attached, or ballasted. EPDM is available in 2 thicknesses – 45 and 60 mils.

EPDM commercial roofing job


Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) roofs are single-ply membrane flat roof systems for commercial buildings. TPO is installed with a heat-welding application as opposed to an adhesive. The typical lifespan for a TPO roof is 20-30 years. TPO is known for its prevalent white color which deflects. TPO resists mold growth, dirt accumulation, tears impact, and punctures. It is made to be flexible and can allow for a home’s or building’s movement or settling. Reinforced TPO membranes can handle a building’s thermal expansion and contraction more effectively than other single-ply roofing products.

Newly installed TPO roof on a commercial building


Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) roofs tend to have a higher cost than EPDM and TPO. Just like TPO, PVC is heat-welded at install and provides exceptional insulating properties. It also comes in a variety of colors. PVC roofs are specifically engineered for strength, ensuring the membrane’s long service life. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) requires a roofing membrane to have a minimum breaking strength of 200 pounds per inch. PVC roofing membranes far surpass this standard, all having a minimum breaking strength of 350 pounds per inch.

PVC roof

Asphalt Decks

Flat roof systems for commercial buildings usually require asphalt decks for rooftop parks and gardens. These decks can last for 50+ years however they are at a higher price point.

Metal Roofs

Similar to asphalt decks, metal roofs can last over 50 plus years but are also one of the most expensive roofing materials. Aluminum being one of the most expensive metal roofing materials is also the lightest. Galvanized steel would be the counterpart to aluminum, it is heavier but also at a lower price point. Both will withstand corrosion through a protective zinc coating.

The rooftop that will house all the equipment from plumbing, electrical HVAC, telecom, etc. should be identified for choosing the proper pipe support. Some membranes are “tougher” than others. You do not want sharp plastic support sitting on the roof membrane with the possibility of puncturing it. Do you need a gasket, slip sheet, or supplemental pad? Check out the blog we wrote on that HERE. Do your due diligence and you will make the right decision. 

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