There are feasible ways to keep a commercial or industrial roofing system in good working order. A secure and safe roofing system needs to meet certain specifications that involve energy usage as well as endurance and simple everyday exposure. Any roofing materials incorporated in a roofing system need to meet those standards. One such system example that comes to mind is single-ply membrane roofing. There are both advantages and disadvantages to single-ply membrane use in commercial roofing. Here is an overview of single-ply roofing types along with a rundown on the pros and cons of this kind of roofing material.

What is Single-Ply Membrane Roofing?

 Single-Ply Membranes consist of rubber sheets or other synthetic materials that are either chemically attached to roofing insulation or ballasted to a roof. The material is rolled out in sheet form and affixed to a rooftop area through heat and adhesive application. Either way, a layer is formed and securely adhered in place for the protection of a commercial structure. 

Single-ply membranes for commercial roofing consist of two types, which include:

  •  TPO – Thermoplastic Polyolefin (rubber compound blend)
  • EPDM – Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer

Both types of single-ply roofing vary in their

  • Chemical composition
  • Installation process
  • Energy efficiency

TPO – Thermoplastic Polyolefin

TPO roofing is one of the more favored of single-ply roofing options. With over 30 years in the commercial marketplace, TPO has continued to retain its value in the industry. It’s flexible, smooth, and usually white. It is affixed with specialized glues and adhesives or mechanically attached. The membranes come in various thicknesses and even have options with fleece backing that allow for installation over rough surfaces. Newer TPO systems come with warranties of up to 35 years.

Pros of TPO

  •  Reflective surfaces for cooler interior temperatures
  • Decreases in energy usage
  • Flexible for reshaping around rooftop structures
  • Easy and quick installation
  • Eco-friendly
  • Economical
  • Recyclable
  • Fused seams – stronger, flexible, and long-lasting
  • Thicker membranes and distinctive work pads in newer TPO versions
  • Variety of warranties from 10-35 years

Cons of TPO

  • Susceptible to punctures and underlayment damage
  • Lower end TPO more vulnerable to leaks
  • Water accumulation can cause excessive leaks
  • Shrinkage over time

EPDM – Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer Roofing

 EPDM is also a popular choice in single-ply roofing. It is incredibly flexible as well as durable and is adaptable to low-slope type roofs. The membrane is a synthetic rubber that is made up of ethylene and propylene. It is available in black or white as well as in various thicknesses and widths. The system can be affixed with glue, mechanically attached, or ballasted. Any seams will require sealing with special tapes or liquid adhesives. 

Pros of EPDM

  • Resilient material
  • Long-lasting (at least 30 years with proper installation and ongoing maintenance)
  • Repels hail
  • Resists Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • Adaptable to structural changes
  • Recyclable
  • Warranties and added riders

Cons of EPDM

  • System installation requires dry and clean condition for proper sealing
  • Cannot be installed with contact to asphalt materials
  • Adhesives require curing time to prevent blistering
  • Absorbs heat (black EPDM roofing)

Other Pros and Cons of Single-Ply Membrane Roofing

Pro – Proven Ability – Single-ply membrane has been in use for over sixty years, which goes to show they this type of roof covering has a lasting and enduring quality. It’s a roofing product used by numerous companies and has served to protect their buildings now and in the future. 

Pro – Lightweight/Flexible – The lightweight and flexible nature of single-ply membranes allow for easy adjustment during installation to almost any building design. In addition, any stresses or pressure exerted on a roof system are lessened. 

Pro – Reflection/Retention – You can find single-ply roofing can in both reflective and retentive materials, which makes it adaptable to almost any climate. These options help reduce the energy expended while boosting savings. 

Con – Easily punctured – Single-ply membranes can be easily punctured. The lightweight and flexible nature of the material diminishes its durability in comparison to heavier roofing materials. Since the single-ply membrane lacks a hardened top layer, damage can occur to the synthetic material from anything dropped or pushed into the material. This includes items such as tools, debris, gravel, or any small sharp object that can cause holes to form in the material and insulation.

Con – Leakage Vulnerability – Leaks come into play with single-ply membrane materials at vulnerable seam areas. This fact is an important consideration when choosing a single-ply roofing system. 

Con – Sustained UV Deterioration – As time passes, single-ply membrane roofing can deteriorate because of continual exposure to (UV) ultraviolet rays. Since this type of material is affixed with adhesives, it will probably have a more temporary duration of use in comparison to other roofing systems. 

Single-Ply Membrane Costs

 With EPDM, single-ply membrane costs will run between $5-$8 per sq.ft. on an average flat roof which equates to around $7,500-$12,000 for 1,500 sq.ft. Costs will vary dependent on the removal of a current roof, layers of insulation and protrusions, or penetrations on a flat roof.

 A TPO single-ply membrane will be slightly higher at $5.50-9.50 per sq. ft. So, an average flat roof will run anywhere from $6,000-$11,000 plus. Total costs will also hinge on the complexity of the roof, city locations, roof access, materials, supplies, roof removal processes, disposal costs, installation costs, permits, and any included warranties. 

 Single-ply membrane roofing could be the answer to your commercial roofing needs. With the various single-ply material options available, this type of roofing system is worth further investigation. If you have general questions or want to pursue single-ply membrane installation further, simply complete the online contact form. A roofing expert will get back to you with the answers you need to make an informed decision.