2020 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 $6.00 to $12.00 per sq. ft. for materials and professional installation, however some residential and commercial contractors will install it for as low as $5.00 to $7.00 per sq. ft., but only on either larger or fairly simple and residential projects that can be completed in a day or two.

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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Synthetic Shake and Shingle Pricing Guide for 2020

Synthetic shake and shingles are polymer-based material, or a combination of plastic and rubber. They are used on roofs where homeowners desire the classic look of wood or natural slate, with the added benefits from the synthetic blends.

Synthetic roofs are relatively new to the residential roofing market, first arriving in the early 1990’s. Their durability, environmental friendliness and affordability have all contributed to their rising success.

Cost

For an average 2,000 sq.ft., non-complex, single-story roof, it will cost between $7.50 and $11.50 per sq.ft. installed. This results in an average total price range of $15,500 to $23,000. If the existing roof needs to be torn off and disposed off first, this can cost an additional $2,000 to $3,500 more.

A complex roof with multiple angles, dormers, and valleys, or steeper pitch than average would add to the complexity of the project and cost more as a result.

Cost of Materials

Composite shingles and fake composite slate cost virtually the same. Formation is done via a molding process to ensure it resembles wood or stone, as the case may be.

The material is fairly light at about 1.25 pounds per tile, so essentially all roof types can handle such installation. The tiles can easily be cut on-site with a utility knife and are attached as simply as using a nail gun.

An asphalt shingle roofer ought to have the skills to properly install synthetic shake and shingle roofing.

Breaking Down Costs Into Specific Examples

With any home improvement project being handled by qualified professionals, it is in your best interest to get more than one quote, or preferably between three and seven.

The quoted figures they give you will either be total installation charges (one price for everything) or they’ll ideally itemize each cost so you can better compare their rates to the competition. For the example below, we ballpark certain figures as particular items, like building permits and disposal fees vary by region.

Composite Shingle Roofing: 2,000 sq.ft. (20 roofing squares) = $18,000 (includes materials and professional installation)
Tear Off Existing Roof: $1,500
Disposal fees: $500
Additional Materials: Flashing, fasteners, underlayment, etc. = $550
Building Permit: $350
Total Project Cost = $20,900

Factors That Contribute To Overall Cost

While material costs are roughly the same between composite shingles and fake slate, the material costs will be based on manufacturer and distributor pricing.

Normally, contractors buy product at wholesale through established distributors. There are a number of manufacturers in the marketplace, and the popular ones are:

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Asphalt Shingle Roof Costs: Materials & Installation in 2020

The biggest bang for your buck. That’s what Asphalt Shingles on a roof can provide to you, the homeowner. It’s not the most durable material. Durability and longevity belong to metal roofing and natural slate.

For the value, though, Asphalt Shingles are hard to beat, especially when viewed through the prism of their low upfront cost and high near-term home improvement ROI.

Did you know? An asphalt shingle roof, such as 30-year architectural shingles, can often be installed for under $10,000 on a small or mid-sized single family house in the US.

For a relatively modest upfront cost, you can expect to get at least 10 to 15 years of roof protection or longer, depending on the type of shingle you choose.

Pro Tip: Generally speaking, you will get a much better ROI and longer service lifespan by installing architectural shingles as opposed to 3-tab.

That being said, on a per sq. ft. basis, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3.50 to $5.50 to install architectural shingles on a typical single-family house in the US.

Coastal and metropolitan areas will cost more than roofs in rural areas. States like South Carolina, parts of Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas will have lower costs than New England, Mid-Atlantic, and West Coast States.

As you can see roof pricing is highly regional, because labor costs are insurance costs vary a lot in different parts of the country.

Note: Larger remodeling companies and general contractors will charge up to 30% more to install a new roof than a smaller roofing company. Reason being is that larger companies have some serious overhead costs that get priced into their roofing services.

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