2021 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 is what comprises a thermoplastic roofing membrane designed primarily for low-slope roofing applications with energy-efficiency in mind.

Much of the information online boasts how TPO is increasingly popular in commercial flat roofing. The thing is, we aren’t concerned with commercial buildings, and instead focus on the membrane options available, along with the costs, for adding this material to a residential roof.

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 the roof deck), is something most roofers can probably do.

via Atlanta Roofing Specialists

Effectively hot air-welding the membrane seams takes special care, skills, tools, and experience. If the hot air welding of the membranes’ seams is not done properly, then the entire TPO roof system could be compromised at the seams, and hence be subject to costly roof leaks.

In our research, RoofingCalc.com lists residential TPO roofing costs at $6.50 to $12.50 per sq. ft. for materials and professional installation, however some residential and commercial contractors will install it for as low as $5.50 to $7.50 per sq. ft., but only on larger straightforward projects or very simple and easily accessible residential projects that can be completed in a day or two.

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EPDM Rubber Roof Cost, Plus Pros & Cons in 2021

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 like asphalt shingles. Well, traditional roofing materials normally come in a shingle or tile form designed for sloped water-shedding roofs, not waterproof ones.

If you were to use roofing shingles on a low-slope or flat roof, then any accumulated pooling water would rise underneath the asphalt shingles and seep through inside the house (similar to what happens with ice dams on asphalt shingle roofs), leading to severe issues like mold, rot, and damage to the roof deck and interior of the house.

Thus, a waterproofing membrane approach has been in place for nearly a half century to provide an impenetrable waterproof barrier that can reliably protect the structure with a low-sloped roof.

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 $4.50 to $6.50 per sq. ft. for the installation of an EPDM rubber membrane 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. $6.50 to $10.50 per sq. ft. installed would be the high-end pricing and would likely be for a thicker or solar-reflective rubber membrane, with the job done by experienced flat roof specialists.

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PVC Roof Options and Costs – PVC vs. TPO Membrane in 2021

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 roof? 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 is 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 $7.50 and $12.50 per sq. ft. or $750 to $1,250 per square if installed by a PVC expert.

For a typical 1,200 square foot flat roof, you can expect a total average cost range between $9,000 and $15,000 for a new PVC roof mechanically attached to a roof deck. The cost includes all the necessary materials and supplies, professional installation, building permits, and installation warranty.

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 for 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 30 years or more.

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