PVC Roof Options and Costs – PVC vs. TPO

PVC, technically known as Polyvinyl Chloride is really vinyl roofing, though is routinely referenced as PVC roof.

PVC competes with TPO and EPDM in the synthetic roof membrane arena, and indirectly with all other roofing materials including BUR, modified bitumen, and structural standing seam roofs designed for lower sloped roofs.

Membrane roofs are usually applied to flat or low-slope roofs, but using a single-ply membrane on a sloped roof is also possible and common on roofs with slopes between 1:12 and 3:12.

Why not just use traditional roofing materials (asphalt shingles or other tiles) on a low sloped roofs? Because they are very likely to leak unless a minimum specified slope for shingles or tiles has been met.

When used with a slope, the overlap of those materials are designed to shed water away from the roof deck. Whereas flat roofs have only a slight pitch, and any standing, or pooling water, could lead to immediate leaks and rotting soon thereafter.

PVC membrane is a kind of roofing material that can withstand pooling or standing water — puddles of water that accumulate on roofs with low slopes.

Cost

Of the three primary membrane roof types, PVC is the most expensive. EPDM is the least costly option, and TPO is somewhere in the middle.

TPO allegedly offers the benefits of both the other types, yet that material keeps undergoing formula changes, and so compared to PVC and EPDM is considered less reliable, particularly when it comes to warranties.

Prices for residential installs can vary greatly. A roofer is likely to quote differently than a professional PVC installer, probably less, but also likely to not have the proper tools. A fair range, is between $6.00 and $8.50 per sq. ft. if installed by a PVC expert. On the lower end if going with less thick material.

In terms of value, durability and ROI, PVC is arguably the best, or longest lasting of the three. EPDM will go 7 to 15 years before needing replacing or re-coating.

TPO is thought to go as long as PVC, but that information is either suspect or unknown for sure just yet.

PVC has been in the field for decades and unlike TPO isn’t constantly undergoing changes to the formula to address performance issues. Warranties are usually ‘lifetime’ and with proper installation, it ought to retain solid performance for 20 years or more.

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EPDM Rubber Roof Cost, Plus Pros & Cons

Welcome to the default, or old school, material for flat roof installations. It’s technical name: Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer is a mouthful. While it is simply a rubber material, we’ll go with EPDM since everyone else does. This product competes directly with TPO and PVC as membrane type roofing material. This one though tends to only be used on flat roofs.

Some might be wondering why not just use the more traditional roofing materials? Well, those usually come in tile form, and between each tile poses a chance for water to seep in, or pool up, which will lead to rot on the roofing deck. Thus, the membrane approach has been in place for nearly a half century to provide a waterproof barrier.

EPDM Pricing and Value

EPDM is the least expensive of the three primary membrane types, but it isn’t cheap. The material is very durable.

Since the early 1960s, EPDM has been the material of choice in canals and other irrigation systems prior to becoming a successful material for waterproofing roofs.

It’s estimated to have 1 billion square feet of EPDM rubber membranes installed throughout the world’s roofs. This is partially due to its relative durability, ease of installation and its competitive pricing.

Average Cost Per Sq. Ft. Installed

On the low end, you can plan to spend around $3.00 to $4.00 per sq. ft. for the installation of EPDM rubber on a flat roof. — The low-end pricing, although not very common, would be on par with asphalt shingles pricing, which tells you how affordable it can be. $5.50 to $7.50 per sq. ft. would be the high end, and would likely be a thicker material, or reflective of having the job done by quality flat roof professionals.

What about DIY for EPDM?

The DIY approach is viable, because installation is not complicated. With TPO and PVC roofs, you need special skills and tools for proper installation.

With EPDM, you need the sheets, which are sold in as large as 50 feet wide by 200 foot long pieces, some glue and preferably some experience in achieving a successful installation.

Home Depot and Lowe’s sell rolls of 10 x 25 feet for around $170 and $205 respectively. Add another $80 for the glue, or bonding adhesive (sold in 3 gallon containers) and $25 for long armed roller and you’re set to go.

When it comes to value or return on investment, that’s another matter. Our Advantages and Disadvantages section below help identify the balance of lasting value vs. known issues.

The reality is EPDM roofs last 7 to 15 years on average before needing replacement (less likely) or resealing (more likely). With EPDM liquid roof coating, repairs and resealing can extend the life of the roof and re-institute the waterproof barrier from original installation.

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TPO Roof Cost and Pros & Cons of TPO Membrane Roofs

Say it with me: Thermoplastic polyolefin. Yes, TPO is much easier. According to Firestone Building Products’ white paper, TPO is technically a polypropylene based plastic combined with ethylene/propylene rubber.

So plastic and rubber, mixed together basically. Much of the information online boasts how TPO is increasingly popular in commercial roofing. Thing is, we aren’t concerned with commercial buildings, and instead focus on the options available, along with the costs, for adding this material to a residential roof.

Understanding TPO Roof Options

Like all synthetic roofing options, no two companies produce the same formula of TPO. Instead, they alter it just enough to create their own brand. All of it results in a membrane material, between 40 and 100 millimeters thick, which is attached to a roof deck.

TPO is known as a single-ply application, meaning one sheet is sufficient to achieve the benefits (see Advantages below). It competes each year directly with EPDM and PVC, which are similar in application with some of the same benefits, but each have their own unique advantages.

TPO is purchased in rolls that are generally 6 to 12 feet wide, and vary in millimeter depth. The typical thickness is in range of 45 to 65 mm, yet is really a builder’s preference that determines the needs for a particular project. Sheets are rolled out, and cut to fit a roof, based on the deck’s dimensions and any objects penetrating the roof structure. The material is attached in one of three ways:

  1. mechanically – nailed or screwed into the deck
  2. fully-adhered – glued
  3. ballasted – after the entire material is spread out, river rocks or ballasts are strategically situated to hold it in place

More often than not, TPO is applied to flat roofs, but not always. Any sloped roof can handle the material. Costs are likely to increase though if applied to a sloped roof.

TPO manufacturers boast the resulting roof will be monolithic, or without noticeable seams. This is wonderful for waterproofing the upper most layer of a home. To achieve this seamless look among various sheets, the actual seams are heat welded together, which is possible given the type of plastic TPO is made of. PVC is another material that is welded at the seams, but with TPO the material is naturally flexible.

All roofs need to allow for movement, either from weather / temperature changes or impact by humans walking on it. PVC uses additives to its base material to promote flexibility, while TPO is naturally flexible.

Color options include white, light gray and black reflectivity. It used to be that only white was thought to reflect UV rays, but the material in synthetic roofs (namely a laminated top) can achieve this reflective option.

Cost and Value

The main thing with effectively estimating the price to install a TPO roof is finding a qualified professional who can do the job. Mechanically attaching the material, or even gluing (fully-adhering the membrane to deck), is something most roofers can probably do.

via Atlanta Roofing Specialists

Effectively hot air welding the seams takes care, skill and experience. If this part of the job is done ineffectively, the results (think leaks) will not make the overall value worthwhile.

In our research, RoofingCalc.com lists residential TPO roofing costs at $5.00 to $7.00 per sq. ft. for materials and installation (2017 information), however some commercial contractors will install it for as low as $3.00 to $4.00 per sq. ft., but only on very large commercial flat roofs.

A word of caution needs to be noted. This is touched upon in our Disadvantages below, but needs special mention.

Back in 2010, the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association issued an advisory against TPO, which obviously impacted the market. Some of the TPO manufacturers responded to this advisory by noting that no two TPO materials are the same, meaning some brands avoid the problem stated in the advisory.

Our take is that TPO is constantly undergoing changes in formula and that is likely a good thing.

The industry is well aware of the perceived problem, yet the flip side is that the material doesn’t necessarily have a proven track record. If looking to go with this material, you are best to stick to companies who’ve been in it since the beginning (read as before the year 2000), to ensure the warranty will stand up.

Usually warranties for TPO roofs are a minimum of 10 years, and as much as 25 years. The material itself ought to last much longer, so installation is the ongoing issue and how seaming is handled.

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