Understanding the Difference Between EPDM and TPO Roofing Systems

We’re Breaking Down the Difference Between EPDM and TPO

While every commercial roofing material is different, some may seem fairly similar to those outside of the commercial roofing industry. For instance, it may be difficult to see the difference between EPDM and TPO, both of which are categorized as “single-ply membranes,” and which are commonly seen in flat and low slope roofing applications.

At Moser Roofing Solutions, we feel it’s important for our customers to be informed about the various types of commercial roofing solutions available to them so that they can be empowered to make the best decision for their commercial roof. So today, we’re exploring the difference between EPDM and TPO roofing, and how these two materials stack up against each other.

What Is EPDM Roofing?

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene terpolymer. Though frequently called “rubber roofing,” EPDM is actually a synthetic rubber material designed specifically for roofing, unlike the rubber you may see in car tires.

EPDM was the first single-ply roofing system introduced to the market and quickly gained popularity as a durable, lightweight, and easy to install roofing material. Made of a thick rubber-like material, EPDM stands up very effectively against impact damage, tears, abrasion, and other common threats to commercial roofing materials.

What Is TPO Roofing?

TPO roofing was designed to provide some of the advantages of both EPDM and PVC, another popular single-ply membrane. However, TPO was introduced to the market much more recently than EPDM. Short for thermoplastic polyolefin, TPO is a synthetic single-ply membrane roofing system that entered the US market in the 1990s. 

TPO stands up effectively against most impact damage, though it is more prone to tears than EPDM. Naturally white in color, TPO also reflects heat effectively. But perhaps the most important difference between EPDM and TPO is that TPO features heat-welded seams which, when installed correctly, give this material much better resistance to moisture penetration.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between EPDM and TPO?

The fastest way to tell the difference between EPDM and TPO is through the color, as EPDM is often black while TPO is naturally white. However, since EPDM is increasingly manufactured to be white, it can be more challenging to tell the difference. 

If your roofing material is white, feeling the material can help you determine what it is. EPDM has a more matte surface and feels similar to real rubber, such as the inner tube of a tire. TPO, meanwhile, has a shinier, slicker surface and feels more similar to plastic.

Is TPO Better Than EPDM?

Because every commercial roof is different, it isn’t true that TPO is categorically better than EPDM. TPO does offer a few distinct advantages over rubber roofing, however. For example, its heat-welded seams generally provide superior protection against moisture intrusion, while TPO is also less prone to UV damage and warping due to thermal expansion and contraction.

That said, EPDM stands up better against impact damage than TPO, and it also tends to be slightly cheaper on a per square foot basis.

PVC Is Best for Most Commercial Roofs

When choosing a commercial roofing material, the construction of the roof matters a great deal, as well as the function of the building and the needs of the business. But while EPDM and TPO can work well in certain situations, PVC is frequently the best choice for business owners looking for the ideal single-ply roofing material. 

As with TPO roofing, it is naturally light in color and stands up well against moisture, while also boasting similar impact resistance to EPDM. In addition, PVC roofing has unmatched resistance to chemicals, which is critical for commercial buildings across a variety of industries.

Moser Roofing Solutions Can Maintain Your EPDM or TPO Roof

While we most often recommend PVC roofing, EPDM and TPO remain common materials in the commercial roofing industry. Our skilled commercial roofing specialists at Moser Roofing Solutions have many years of experience working with each of these single-ply membranes. We pride ourselves in helping business owners throughout Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic maximize the lifespan of their commercial roofing systems through the Roof Guardian program.

If you’re looking to repair, restore, or maintain your EPDM or TPO roof, Moser can help! Contact us today to schedule an inspection.

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