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  • Writer's pictureLAST STOP ROOFING

TPO Roofing Woes & Fixes

When it comes to commercial roofing, Thermoplastic Olefin (TPO) has become a popular choice for its durability, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. TPO roofing systems are known for their resilience in various weather conditions, but like any roofing material, they are not immune to problems. In this blog post, we will explore some common TPO roofing problems and discuss effective solutions to ensure the longevity and performance of your roofing investment.

What is TPO?

As mentioned earlier, TPO stands for “thermoplastic polyolefin,” which is a material that was made to serve as pond lining but has been extensively utilized for low-slope roofing since 1989. TPO is a single-ply membrane constructed with a combination of polymerized ethylene-propylene and polypropylene rubber that covers a roof using mechanical or adhesive fasteners.

TPO has two major benefits: cost and efficiency. It is a budget-friendly option, since it is easy enough to install and maintain. Since it is usually a reflective white color, it is also energy efficient and does well in sunny climates.

Installation Process

Before getting into the issues with TPO roofing, you should know how it is installed, since that is a factor in common problems. Roofers generally use two forms of adhering TPO to a commercial roof. The first method is mechanical fasteners, such as screws and washers. The other option is a water- or solvent-based adhesive.

TPO doesn’t provide a lot of insulation when applied by itself, so you can also have rigid foam insulation included. This, too, is applied with either screws or adhesive. Prior to installing the membrane, a slipsheet—a low friction barrier—is added to help the roofing contract and expand throughout the year.

Roofers also utilize overlapping strips and seals, since the seams of the TPO membrane are the most susceptible to leaks. Without this series of overlapped edges and sealed seams, you will most certainly experience water damage.

The seams are welded together with heat. A commercial roofer will often use a special welder for larger commercial rooftops, but smaller areas just need a hand-held welder. Another option is peel-and-stick tape and primer to seal the seams.

Common Problems With TPO

Now that you know a little more about TPO roofing systems, the reasons behind the common problems with TPO are going to be more understandable. Let’s have a look:

TPO Seam Issues:

One of the most prevalent problems with TPO roofing systems is seam failure. This can occur due to poor installation, exposure to harsh weather, or simply the aging of the roofing material. Faulty seams can lead to water infiltration, compromising the building's interior.

Solution: Regular inspections and timely maintenance are crucial to address seam issues. Proper seam welding during installation, as well as periodic resealing, can prevent water intrusion and extend the life of the TPO roof.

Punctures and Tears:

Out of all the issues a single-ply membrane could have, this one is probably the most frequent. TPO is lightweight and flexible, but that is also its biggest disadvantage. Why? Because the membrane can be punctured. TPO roofs can suffer damage from falling debris, foot traffic during maintenance, or extreme weather conditions. Punctures and tears can compromise the integrity of the roofing membrane, leading to leaks and further structural damage. Additionally, TPO lacks a hard-top layer to shield it from gravel, tools, and other gear. Impacts often cause tearing, ripping, and holes

Solution: Implementing protective measures, such as walkway pads and proper signage to deter unnecessary foot traffic, using a primer and adding layers of insulation, can minimize the risk of punctures. Regular inspections should be conducted to identify and repair any tears promptly.

UV Degradation:

TPO roofing is susceptible to ultraviolet (UV) degradation over time, especially in regions with intense sunlight exposure. UV rays can cause the roofing material to become brittle, leading to cracks and reduced performance. This constant exposure to intense heat will eventually damage your roofing. When this happens to TPO, degradation first begins with the adhesives.

Solution: Applying a reflective coating can help mitigate the effects of UV radiation and extend the lifespan of the TPO roof. This protective coating acts as a barrier, reflecting sunlight and preventing premature aging of the roofing membrane.

Poor Installation Practices:

Improper installation is a common cause of TPO roofing issues. This may include inadequate seam welding, insufficient adhesive application, or improper slope considerations.

Solution: Hiring experienced and certified roofing professionals is essential to ensure proper installation. Regular quality control checks during and after installation can catch potential issues early on, preventing future problems.

Lack of Maintenance:

Neglecting routine maintenance is a recipe for disaster when it comes to TPO roofing. Accumulated debris, standing water, and unaddressed issues can lead to more significant problems over time.

Solution: Establishing a regular maintenance schedule, including inspections, cleaning, and repairs, is crucial for preventing minor issues from escalating. Proactive maintenance can significantly extend the life of a TPO roof.

While TPO roofing systems offer many benefits, understanding and addressing common problems is essential for maximizing their lifespan and maintaining optimal performance. Regular inspections, proper installation practices, and proactive maintenance are key components of a successful TPO roofing strategy. By staying vigilant and taking timely action, property owners can ensure their TPO roofs withstand the elements for years to come.

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