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.
EPDM rubber roofs compete directly with TPO and PVC single-ply membranes as a low-slope roofing material. EPDM, though, tends to only be used on flat roofs while PVC and TPO are sometimes used on sloped 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 $5.50 to $7.50 per sq. ft. for the installation of an EPDM rubber membrane on a low-sloped or 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.
A range of $8.50 to $14.50 per sq. ft. installed would be the high-end pricing for residential flat roofs. This would likely be for a thicker or solar-reflective rubber membrane, with the job done by highly-experienced residential/light commercial flat roofing specialists.
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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 like hot air welders (whether hand-held or robots) 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 $200. Add another $100 for the glue, or bonding adhesive (sold in 3-gallon containers) and $25-$50 for long armed roller and you’re set to go.
The reality is EPDM roofs last 7 to 15 years on average before requiring a replacement (less likely) or resealing (more likely).
With EPDM liquid roof coatings, repairs and resealing can extend the lifespan of the rubber membrane roof and re-institute the waterproof barrier properties from the original installation.
A Further Look At EPDM
The fundamental characteristics of EPDM membrane are it is black and rubber. It is understood to be very flexible. Though that is with regards to the vulcanized (cured) form of the material. It’s rarely referenced as such because it’s the typical form.
Non-vulcanized (uncured) is less flexible and is referenced as the form of the material used for flashing or sealing seams between roof and penetrations from extruding pipes or other such roofing features.
While black is easily the most common color, EPDM does sell with a white surface, or laminated top. This is done to compete with the TPO and PVC options and to achieve the CoolRoof ratings and/or energy-efficiency performance effects. Yet, those other materials are vastly superior in reflecting UV rays, whereas EPDM either is not as efficient, or it’s a matter of an ongoing debate.
Note that EPDM liquid roof coatings are a different product from EPDM rubber membranes.
Being black though has its benefits, and is said to block UV rays, or absorb heat, which in colder climates is desired. If for any reason, black doesn’t appeal to you, using an acrylic paint on the surface does allow you to have unlimited color options.
EPDM is known to require ongoing maintenance with the seams due to how its seams hold up or dry out and become compromised over time. Resealing and re-coating are the most viable options and really do extend the life of the roof.
Where EPDM has an disadvantage is how well it holds up to heat, as it can break apart. In cool weather, the opposite is true, or it is strongly believed that EPDM holds up better in extreme cold than say TPO.
If the material isn’t breaking apart, but the glued seams are needing repair, then resealing them or re-coating the entire roof will sustain the life of the roof, and the EPDM material.
EPDM membrane is produced in a range of thicknesses, from 45 to 95 millimeters. Additionally, it is available as a non-reinforced or reinforced sheet, which depends on the application.
Maintenance is simple cleaning, and we do mean simple. Clearing debris with water washing only. The caveat with EPDM is that liquid solvent cleaners, especially citric based ones, can damage the material.
- Holds up to hail, heavy rain, wind, and extreme cold better than other membrane materials
- Ease of installation
- Less expensive than PVC and TPO roofs
- Re-coating with liquid EPDM can extend the lifespan of the roof
- Proper installation by quality experts will deliver warranties as long as 15-30 years
- Maintenance issues if not properly installed, re-coating or resealing sometime after 7 years is likely
- Not as energy efficient as TPO and PVC
- Color options are greatly limited, though the material can be painted
- Doesn’t handle well in higher temperature climates
- Typical cleaning materials will seriously damage the product, likely voiding warranties
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How to Save Money on EPDM Rubber Roof Installation
If you’re looking to install an EPDM rubber roof and want to save money, here are some tips to consider:
- Get Multiple Quotes: It’s essential to get multiple quotes from different roofing contractors to compare prices and choose the best one that fits your budget.
- Choose the Right Contractor: Make sure to choose a reputable and experienced roofing contractor who has experience with membrane roofing systems like EPDM and can provide quality services at a reasonable price.
- Consider Roof Coating: Roof coating can help extend the life of your EPDM rubber roof and reduce maintenance costs.
- Opt for Thinner Membrane: Choosing a thinner membrane like a 60 mil vs 90 mil can reduce the cost of materials without compromising the quality and durability of your EPDM rubber roof. The quality and soundness of installation are still key to a longer-lasting membrane roof.
- What is EPDM rubber?
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber is a synthetic rubber material commonly used in low-slope roofing, automotive, and industrial applications. It is known for its durability, resistance to weathering and aging, and ability to withstand high temperatures and chemicals.
- What are the advantages of using EPDM rubber?
EPDM rubber has several advantages, including its relative affordability (value for the money), low maintenance requirements, and resistance to UV radiation. It is also eco-friendly, as it can be recycled and requires less energy to produce compared to other rubber materials.
- What are the disadvantages of using EPDM rubber?
EPDM rubber is known to be less resistant to punctures and tears compared to other roofing materials such as PVC or TPO. It also has a tendency to shrink and curl over time, which can lead to leaks and other issues if not properly installed or maintained.
- How is EPDM rubber used in roofing?
EPDM rubber is commonly used in single-ply roofing systems, where it is rolled out in large sheets and either mechanically fastened or adhered to the roof surface using an adhesive. It is also used in ballasted roofing systems, where it is laid over a layer of insulation and weighted down with stones or pavers.
- How long does EPDM rubber roofing last?
EPDM rubber roofing is known for its durability and can last up to 20 years with proper installation and maintenance.
- How is EPDM rubber roofing installed?
EPDM rubber roofing is typically installed in a single layer using a cold adhesive or mechanical fasteners. The installation process involves cleaning the roof surface, installing insulation (if needed), and rolling out the EPDM membrane.
- How do I maintain my EPDM rubber roofing?
To maintain your EPDM rubber roofing, you should regularly clean it and remove any debris or standing water. You should also inspect your roof for any signs of damage, such as cracks or tears, and repair them promptly. It’s also recommended to have your EPDM rubber roof inspected by a professional roofing contractor annually.
- Can EPDM rubber be recycled?
Yes, EPDM rubber can be recycled and reused in other products such as playground surfaces, automotive parts, and shoe soles.
- Is EPDM rubber environmentally friendly?
EPDM rubber is considered an eco-friendly material because it is recyclable and requires less energy to produce compared to other rubber materials. It also has a low environmental impact due to its durability and long lifespan.
- Is EPDM rubber suitable for residential flat roof applications?
Yes, EPDM rubber is a viable low slope membrane roofing option for homes with flat roofs. One thing worth mentioning, though, is that even though EPDM rubber is more affordable than PVC or TPO, it typically won’t last as long, especially if you have areas with standing or ponding water on the roof.