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  • Writer's pictureLAST STOP ROOFING

Choosing the Right Roof: Exploring the Four Types of Flat Roof Materials

When it comes to flat roof materials, the choices can be overwhelming. Each material brings its unique set of characteristics, offering a blend of durability, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore four prominent types of flat roof materials: standing seam metal roofing, PVC membrane, TPO membrane, and EPDM membrane roofing. Understanding the features and benefits of each can empower homeowners and businesses to make informed decisions when it comes to their roofing needs

EPDM Membrane Roofing

EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) is a synthetic rubber black membrane commonly used in commercial facilities. While mainly used in commerical projects, there’s certainly a place for EPDM in residential roofing.

EPDM membrane roofing is composed of a synthetic rubber material known as Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer. This rubber compound exhibits excellent resistance to heat, ozone, weathering, and ultraviolet radiation. EPDM membranes are typically manufactured as large, single-ply sheets, offering a seamless and uniform covering for flat and low-slope roofs.

While the black material makes it a good choice for a garage or another non-living space, you’ll want to avoid putting it above a bedroom due to the heat it will absorb. However, the dark color won’t get as dirty as other white membrane materials. You can expect to get 25-30 years out of a fully adhered .060 thickness EPDM flat roof.

TPO Membrane

TPO membrane roofing is crafted from Thermoplastic Olefin, a polymer blend that typically includes polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber. The synergy of these materials results in a single-ply membrane with remarkable durability, flexibility, and resistance to environmental stressors. TPO roofs are commonly reinforced with polyester or fiberglass to enhance strength and dimensional stability. Unlike EPDM, TPO’s white membrane reflects heat instead of absorbing it.

One of the standout features of TPO membrane roofing is its exceptional energy efficiency. TPO roofs sport a reflective surface that helps deflect sunlight, minimizing heat absorption and reducing cooling costs for buildings. This quality aligns with the "cool roofing" trend, contributing to the creation of energy-efficient structures and combatting the urban heat island effect. Keep in mind, if you have a window that overlooks the membrane, white will get dirtier a lot quicker than a black membrane. While it’s not as durable as EPDM, you can still expect to get 25 years out of a TPO membrane flat roof as long as it’s installed properly.

PVC Membrane

PVC membrane roofing is a single-ply system composed primarily of polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic plastic polymer known for its durability and flexibility. The membrane is typically manufactured as a single layer with the option of including a reinforcement layer made of polyester or fiberglass for added strength. This single-ply construction simplifies installation and enhances the membrane's overall performance.

One of the key attributes that distinguish PVC membrane roofing is its exceptional durability. PVC is inherently resistant to chemicals, making it an ideal choice for roofs exposed to industrial or pollutant-rich environments. The material is also naturally resistant to mold and mildew, reducing the risk of deterioration over time. PVC membrane roofs can withstand the impact of UV radiation, ensuring a long lifespan even in regions with intense sunlight.

Besides being a white membrane, PVC and TPO are very similar in their characteristics besides their chemical make-up. Even the installation process is pretty much the same. The only major difference is that PVC is slightly more flexible and has been around longer than TPO. Like TPO, you can expect to get 25 years out of a PVC flat roof as long as it’s installed properly.

Standing Seam Metal Roof

The standing seam metal roof is a testament to the resilience of steel, aluminum, or copper. Its distinctive structure comprises vertical panels with raised seams that interlock, creating a continuous and watertight surface. This design not only enhances its weather resistance but also contributes to its sleek and modern appearance.

At the core of the standing seam metal roof's acclaim is its unmatched durability. Engineered to withstand the harshest weather conditions, including heavy snow, rain, and high winds, these roofs boast a lifespan of 40 years or more. Metal is inherently fire-resistant, adding an extra layer of protection to the structure.

As long as it’s properly installed and your attic is properly ventilated, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get at least 30 years out of your standing seam metal flat roof. Under the ideal conditions, a standing seam metal flat roof could last for 50 years. However, the extra life and aesthetics come at a higher price, and it will be more expensive than all 3 types of roof membrane.

How Much Will Your New Flat Roof Cost?

A good rule of thumb is to budget between around $14.00-$17.00 per square foot for a smaller membrane flat roof and around $12.00 per square foot on slightly larger projects. Keep in mind, if you use insulation that’s thick enough to insulate the entire structure, it will cost more than just using fabric insulation and gluing the membrane to it.

On the other hand, a 24 gauge steel standing seam metal flat roof will cost around $15.00 per square foot. This number could be more or less depending on the size of your flat roof, the number of penetrations, the roofing contractor you hire, and other factors.

Choosing the right flat roof material is a critical decision that requires careful consideration of factors such as climate, budget, and desired lifespan. Standing seam metal roofing, PVC membrane, TPO membrane, and EPDM membrane roofing each offer distinct advantages. By understanding the unique features of these materials, homeowners and businesses can make informed choices that align with their specific needs, ensuring a reliable and durable roofing solution for years to come.

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