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Water Drops



Rubber roofing can refer to any of three compounds of single-ply, membrane roofing materials suited for low-slope roofs (flat roofs) – EPDM, TPO, and PVC – as well as rubber shingles. Each of these types of roofing comes with distinct benefits, drawbacks, and costs.

Rolls of rubber sheets are mainly used on flat roofs. Even so, they can also work in pitched settings as a primary material or atop an existing structure, particularly metal roofs. Rubber shingles, on the other hand, should only be used on pitched roofs.

Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM), a synthetic rubber, even though it’s a Terpolymer, not a Monomer, is technically the only roofing system among the three single-ply options chiefly made of rubber.

Polymers and definitions aside, EPDM rubber roofing is tried and true.

EPDM is preferred due to being installed using singular, seamless sheet, as opposed to multiple, layered rolls.

EPDM Pros:

  •  Fire-resistant and holds up well to hail.

  • Ease of installation using singular, seamless sheets of rubber.

  • In 2021 he first Firestone RubberGard EPDM roof installed on the Albo Manufacturing headquarters in West Bend, Wisconsin, turned 40 years old.

EPDM Cons:

  • High heat absorption due to EPDM usually only available in the color black.

  • EPDM roofing can shrink under the right conditions, which can expose the layers underneath the roofing membrane, potentially causing interior water damage from water creeping in.

  • EPDM is not all that aesthetically pleasing, its a very basic, one colored roof, without patterns and textures.

  • Not suited for steep slopped roofs.

TPO, or Thermoplastic Polyolefin, is relatively new in the membrane roofing space. It was first introduced to the United States in the 1980's. Unlike EPDM, TPO has color options. Installing TPO typically involves the use of a hot air gun to weld any seams along the surface. These heat-welded seams are low maintenance and last longer than the tape or adhesive sealants used to protect EPDM roof seams.

TPO Pros:

  •  White TPO can improve energy efficiency in hot climates.

  • Heat welded seams are low maintenance and last longer than EPDM tape or adhesive sealants.

  • TPO Is slightly cheaper to purchase than EPDM.

  • 15-year-old TPO roofs meet the 2019 quality requirements of brand new TPO membranes in most instances.

TPO Cons:

  • TPO has not been around long enough for an established and proven reputation. TPO is still being monitored and reviewed for its longevity and overall value,

  • TPO labor can cost more than EPDM due to the increased time and skill required to heat weld the seams.

  • TPO is not considered DIY-friendly to install and maintain.

  • Not suited for steep slopped roofs.

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, Is the premier rubber material used throughout the low-slopped roofing industry.

There are three basic ways a PVC membrane roofing installation can be accomplished. These involve fully-adhered materials, mechanically fastened, or an induction welded PVC roof.

PVC roofing is relatively thinner than other membrane roofing materials. PVC is produced with a thickness ranging from 40 mil (0.04 inches) to 90 mil (0.09 inches). Common membrane thicknesses are 60, 80 or 90 mil.

  • Fully Adhered PVC Roofing: Involves gluing the PVC directly to the existing substrate using a strong commercial adhesive. This method is used when a structure cannot easily hold fasteners or to minimize penetrations into the roof deck.

  • Mechanically Attached PVC Roofing: Heavy-duty screws and plates are used to secure the PVC membrane roofing materials in place. Preferred in areas prone to severe weather events and storms.

  • Induction Welded PVC Roofing:  An induction welding tool is used on the above metal plate locations to send electric pulses to heat the metal plate, forcing the materials to cling to it. Requires fewer fasteners and tends to be less labor-intensive than others in its class.

Standard PVC Roof Membrane

Standard PVC roofing membrane comes as a single-ply product. Its generally comprised of two layers of membrane, with polyester in the middle for reinforcement. Additives increase flexibility and standard PVC can usually be installed using fasteners or adhesives.

Designed to deliver long-term heat reflection and water damage protection, industry-leading PVC membrane roof materials are Energy Star rated.

PVC KEE Roof Membrane

When PVC roof membrane materials are manufactured, rigid elements must be modified to make them more flexible.

Ketone Ethylene Ester (KEE) was created as a substitute for the liquid plasticizers used to make the PVC more flexible which can evaporate over time. A PVC KEE membrane maintains its elasticity longer and adds to a roof’s life expectancy

This class of PVC membrane roofing products can also be used in conjunction with asphalt and reflects the sun’s rays efficiently over time.

Fleece Backed PVC Roof Membrane

Fleece backed PVC provides additional support to a low slopped or flat roof. This is done by adding high quality fleece elements to the bottom of a PVC membrane roofing product and secured by adhesives and fasteners.

Fleece-inclusive materials are easier to install because they can be rolled out directly on the roof, which in turn reduces labor costs.

Standard and KEE PVC products can also be selected with a fleece backing.

PVC Pros:

  •  PVC is resistant to fire, wind, and hail.

  • Comes in energy efficient white, tan, grey, brown, red, green,

  • Last upwards of 30 years when properly maintained and inspected.

  • PVC can be recycled.

  • Resists harmful grease escaping to the roof making it beneficial within the restaurant industry.

PVC Cons:

  •  PVC can cost 12 times more than an EPDM roof.

  • Debate on weather or not PVC emits toxic pollutant during its life cycle, such as the  hazardous chemical phthalates manufacturers use to increase flexibility.

  • Not suited for steep slopped roofs.

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