TPO (thermoplastic olefin) a cost-effective and durable single-ply option for flat or low-slop roofs. TPO has been reported to provide the benefits of EPDM rubber and PVC, but at a lower cost. TPO membrane is made from ethylene propylene rubber, a fairly new technology that chemically binds rubber, ethylene and propylene, with the final filler materials being any of a number including talc, carbon filler and fiberglass for strength and durability.
TPO impressive for performance, installation and environmental advantages, caution must be held considering the fact that they are still fairly new and not all of the research of long-term results is complete as of yet. While the chemical process of creating TPO membranes specifically designed to match the Advantages of Rubber Roofing with added hot-air weldable seems for increased durability. Now just over a couple of decades in the market, the TPO roofing membranes are considered the fastest growing single-ply roofing product.
There are many advantages to the TPO membranes, including:
- Energy- and cost-effective; often lower installation costs and reduced energy expense
- Increased durability, resisting dirt, bacteria and debris
- Highly resistant to tears, punctures and other damage
- Environmentally and energy friendly
However, it is important not to put the cart before the horse. There are some cons to TPO roofing membranes, especially in the fact that the technology is till fairly new and consistently being updated by different manufacturers. Even though ASTM standards have been finalized, there are some earlier TPO roofs out there that have been recalled because of issues that were found before their products were finalized. Therefore, the purchase of a TPO membrane roof is a fairly risky decision and should be studied carefully, as it is not a product with a long track record of successful work.
Then, we have the long-standing and more sturdy records of PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) roofing, its development and the confidence of over 50 years of research and finalization of the technology. When looking at tables directly comparing PVC to TPO there really is often a neutral comparison between the two, showing that the only true instances where TPO membranes are of greater benefit are in puncture resistance, environmental impact and the fact that the PVC is known to be more expensive for product and installation and may have more issues with aging. While PVC is made of vinyl and plastics that we are all familiar with in the construction of our homes and other buildings, there is the contemporary consideration for “going green.” While PVC may be as impactful on the temperature of the roof, and energy-effective cost reduction as well.
So, one thing to consider in the commercial construction or replacement of a roof is whether or not it is worth going with a product that has yet to prove itself as completely reliable for a slightly lower initial cost and improved effect on the environment. We know that there are benefits to both of these membranes and if they are installed with proper welding there is the ability to support the structure of the flat or low-sloping roof very well. There are the failures of TPO that initially occurred, from curing to cracking and more, which resulted in some of those initial massive recalls. Additionally, with the steadily growing market for TPO there is always the potential of running into manufacturers who are developing and selling their own formulations of the product. They may not match up to ASTM standards if they have not been working on the process for very long, so it is always best to seek out those manufacturers who have been in the TPO business the longest. Twenty years would be a good idea.
In conclusion, there is much to consider when comparing TPO and PVC roofing systems for commercial construction. Both of them have incredible benefits to helping with energy preservation and water sealant protection, but the greatest difference between the two of them is their length of time in creation. It is most important to know that PVC has existed longer than 50 years and has proven the most in tests over those years. Since TPO has only been around for about 30 or so years there is much to consider in the major recalls that have been made, and the need to choose a product from a manufacturer in business the longest.