TPO Roofing Materials

What is TPO Roofing Material

TPO stands for Thermoplastic Polyolefin, a newer roofing material that came of age in the early 1990s. It combines the benefits of PVC and EPDM, two common roofing materials used on low-slope and flat roofs. TPO consists of three layers: TPO polymer base, scrim (polyester-reinforced fabric center), and thermoplastic polyolefin. In a nutshell, it has the benefits that a plastic and rubber compound would have. It consists of propylene, ethylene, rubber, and fillers that reinforce the strength of the TPO membrane and create a strong roof.

This recent product originated in the 1970s in the form of coating for swimming pools. It made its move into the roofing world in the early 1990s. Because of the newness of TPO as a roofing material, engineers and scientists conduct ongoing research to test and improve this material. TPO does not only cover factories. Its affordable and efficient nature makes it appealing to both residential and commercial properties.

TPO Roofing Benefits

Building owners who need to reroof their buildings or who are building new structures should understand the full benefits of TPO roofing.

Cost-Effective Commercial Roofing

TPO compares well with the cost of PVC at a cost of approximately $5.50 to $8.50 per square foot installed, including materials and labor warranty. EDPM is a cheaper option at $5.00 to $8.00 per square foot for installation on a typical flat roof. TPO, which lasts anywhere from 15 to 20 years in its current form, has proven to save building owners money on utilities. After 20 years of a lower utility bill, you’ll actually save money overall.

TPO Roofing is Strong

TPO has proven itself to be resistant to punctures and tears that can happen easily on a flat roof surface. It stands up to adverse weather conditions and does a great job handling the thermal expansion and contraction of building.

Minimal Roof Maintenance

TPO requires less maintenance because of its durability. It resists mold growth, punctures, tears, and an accumulation of dirt. TPO roofing consists of a flexible material that allows it to both shift and settle. It seals the roof, for the most part, preventing leaks and moisture penetrations between the roof and sub-roof. This sealing quality makes algae and mildew growth unlikely. Because dirt won’t accumulate and algae and mildew won’t grow, you will not spend hours pressure washing the roof as you do with other materials.

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Energy Efficient

TPO is one of the most energy efficient flat roofing systems available on the market today. It reflects UV rays, and thus heat. As a result, TPO roofing systems make a building cooler. Reflective roofing like TPO will reduce cooling costs. In fact, white TPO surpasses the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR requirements.

Easy to Install

Because of its lightweight nature, it’s pretty easy for contractors to install TPO roofing. It does not require the labor intensive fabrication of metal roofing. TPO roofing consists of wide sheets of lightweight material that are rolled out over sub-roof. The seams are heat welded together to create a cohesive surface that protects against leaks and moisture. Because a contractor spends less time installing the roof, compared to alternative materials like metal roofing, property managers and owners save money by using TPO roofing.

Aesthetic Versatility

TPO roofing comes in gray, white, black, and brown reflective shades. The variety of colors can thus complement the building and match the siding. The roof does not have to look ugly or mismatched to be energy efficient and high quality.

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The Downside

No roofing system is perfect. TPO roofs have existed for only a few decades, so as a new product they’re still undergoing testing for some of the problems they’ve encountered. But because of their success, engineers are working diligently to make a great product even better.

Who made it?

Ask yourself this when deciding on which brand of TPO roofing to use at your property. Examine the manufacturer and begin to do a little bit of research. Because manufacturers and production methods vary, you should feel comfortable the manufacturer sells high quality products. Look for product reviews and ask your roofing contractor why they prefer using products from one manufacturer over another.

Unproven Durability

Even though TPO roofing is strong synthetic material, its long term durability is relatively unknown. Unlike asphalt shingle roofs, which have been around since 1901 or metal roofs that have been around for centuries, TPO roofing is only a few decades old.

TPO roofing can withstand much of what mother nature throws at it, including UV rays, ozone exposure, and chemical exposure. Because this product is still somewhat new, it’s hard to determine its longevity. Experts say in its current state, a TPO roof installed properly should last 15 to 20 years. The upper level of TPO has laminate, making it prone to more problems. The less costly TPO roofs develop surface cracks quickly. You should always double check the manufacturer and remember you get what you pay for.

Susceptible to Seam Separation

Seams in typical TPOS roofs are visible every 6-8 feet. These seams are a result of the installation process for a TPO roof. The reason they are susceptible to separation is because of the thermal expansion and contraction of the building. This can weaken the welds holding the rolls of TPO roofing membrane together and ultimately cause them to separate. Once the seams separate, the roof is susceptible to leaks. This is one reason why a TPO roof inspection should be performed at least once a year by a qualified commercial roofer.

Finding a Commercial Roofing Contractor

You should always review the TPO roofing manufacturer, but you also need to research and find a commercial roofing contractor to install your new TPO roof. After all, you can have high quality materials, but if it’s not installed properly, the roof will still fail before reaching its useful life. Know how to find a good roofing contractor. Consider their qualifications, experience, and reliability. Read reviews and ask around for references. Also, ask if they offer any type of labor warranty for their work. This is important because almost every roof warranty is product based and backed by the manufacturer, not the roofer. If the contractor is unwilling to stand behind his work with a warranty, move on.

Another great way to find a reliable commercial roofer with capacity to take on TPO roofing projects is Property Manager Insider’s BidSource. Use the form below to tell our team about your next roofing project and we will match you with a qualified commercial roofer in your local market!

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