As electricity prices continue rising, keeping your home cool can be challenging. This is one reason why flat roofs are increasingly popular for residential builds. Paint them white, or use light-colored asphalt to reflect the sun’s heat into the atmosphere.
There’s no denying that flat-roofed homes exude contemporary cool, too.
Are you a St Cloud, FL, homeowner considering installing a flat roof on your new build or upcoming renovation? Then you’ll need to learn about single-ply roofing. Single-ply membrane roofing is the material of choice for low or no-slope roofs.
Read on to learn why this traditionally commercial roofing option is fast being adopted by home builders across America.
Single-Ply Roofing Membrane: A Brief Explainer
Single-ply roofing systems are slowly replacing traditional low-slope or flat roof materials like asphalt. Hot asphalt can be dangerous to apply since it uses burning torches to sear it to the roof. It also has seams, which are prone to leakage as the roof system ages.
Single-ply roof membranes are essentially like stretchy skin for your roof. They’re made from various thermoplastics, which can be melted many times over, or thermosets, which cure to an impervious solid state.
Single-Ply Membrane Materials
Today, these systems are almost always made from one of three roofing materials.
The thermoset material most commonly used is EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer). The two most popular thermoplastics are TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), and one most people will be familiar with, PVC (polyvinyl chloride or polymerized vinyl chloride).
TPO membranes are most often seen on the roofs of commercial buildings and are slowly becoming the material of choice for many builders due to their:
- UV-radiation and wind resistance
- Low cost
- High strength (between PVC and EPDM)
They combine a layer of hardy thermoplastic with reflective reinforcing scrim and welded seams. They come in rolls of various sizes (10, 12, or 20 feet) and are attached to a roof using adhesive or mechanically.
A TPO roof can last dozens of years if installed correctly and regularly inspected. TPO can, however, be difficult to install since it’s less flexible than EPDM.
PVC is another popular thermoplastic used for roofing membrane applications. It has been a market staple for several years and comes in widths of 5 to 12 feet. Roofers like this material because it is:
- Fire, chemical, wind, UV, and water resistant
- Lasts many decades
- Easier to install than TPO or EPDM
- Durable—with welded seams
This material isn’t just used on commercial roofing systems. You’ll also see it used on residential roofs and even on large decks, patios, or apartment balconies.
While this material might sound perfect, it does have its downsides. It’s not very flexible, so, like TPO, it can take longer to install, it often comes at a higher price tag (depending on the market and location), and it can lose its reflective properties in areas with air pollution.
EPDM is a thermoplastic manufactured by combining ethylene and propylene.
It’s essentially a kind of synthetic rubber with properties similar to natural rubber—though with greater durability. It comes in two colors—black or white—and widths between 7.5 and 50 feet.
Because it comes in large widths, it’s the membrane of choice for large commercial buildings with flat roofs, like educational facilities, malls, and hotels.
EPDM is highly weather resistant and holds up even in extreme weather events like hail storms. It’s also:
- Resistant to cold and UV radiation
- Flexible, so it’s easy to install
- One of the cheapest options
On the flip side, EPDM absorbs more heat than its counterparts, TPO and PVC, shouldn’t be walked on, and isn’t suitable for desert climates.
Pros and Cons of a Single-Ply Membrane Roof
While each material type has its pros and cons, you must also compare the benefits and downsides of single-ply membranes to other flat roofing materials. For most applications, you’ll find that at least one of the single-ply roofing types comes out on top.
First, nearly all single-ply membranes have been on the market long enough to prove their longevity. In fact, EPDM has been used on low-slope and flat roofs for several decades. TPO is the newest among the three materials and is considered by some builders as still somewhat experimental.
Single-ply membranes are not insulating independently, but they pair well with a wide range of insulating materials—think EPS, Polyiso, and XPS. Having such a range of materials to choose from gives you more options when it comes to budget, properties, and availability in your area.
These roofing materials also come in a decent range of colors—TPO, in particular. That’s important if you’re looking to coordinate with your exterior aesthetics or take advantage of the heat reflective qualities of white.
All single-ply membrane materials are relatively flexible and easy to install.
You use a hot glue gun or seam tape to bond the seams, making them highly resistant to water infiltration. This flexibility means they also work with unusual roof designs and aren’t affected by the natural expansion and contraction of a building.
The main issue with single-ply roofing is that it can be prone to leaking over time.
The flexibility that is so beneficial in many regards also means that single-ply membranes puncture easily. Another leak risk is the fact that these membranes need to be cut to fit around standard roof installations like air vents and skylights.
While single-ply membranes are reflective, making them UV resistant, over time, the brutal sun degrades the seam adhesives—again causing leaks.
This roofing type needs to be inspected regularly for holes and seam issues.
Consider Single-Ply Roofing for Your Home
Choosing single-ply roofing for your low slope or flat-roofed home will save you money in every way.
This roofing membrane is easy to install, value for money, and energy-saving. However, because there are a few materials to choose from in this category, it’s best to consult with local roofing pros to understand which will work best for your local climate and property.
Do you need a new roof for your home or commercial building in Osceola County? Book your free estimate today with this area’s most trusted roofer, Wooley Brothers.
We’ve been in business for well over two decades, are licensed and insured, and specialize in various roofing materials and techniques.