5 TPO Roofing Problems: How to Manage It and Alternative Solutions

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5 TPO Roofing Problems: How to Manage It and Alternative Solutions

5 TPO Roofing Problems: How to Manage It and Alternative Solutions

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TPO roofing problems don’t start from the material itself. Even with high-quality manufacturing and reinforcement, it can’t live through its entire lifespan.

We’ve found the most common TPO roofing problems:

  1. Adhesive deteriorates
  2. Punctured TPO membrane 
  3. Shrinkage due to heat
  4. High foot traffic
  5. Poor TPO installation

We’ll give you a more detailed discussion of each one before you consider TPO roofing systems.

Furthermore, we’ll show you how to manage those problems, and possible alternatives down below.

5 Common TPO Roofing Problems

TPO roofing systems are relatively young in roofing technology.  It’s a new roofing system that’s still trying to figure out the best chemical formula.

Here are FACTORS that cause TPO roofing problems:

Adhesive Deteriorates

Guess what’s single-ply membrane’s WORST enemy?  HEAT.

TPO single-ply membrane roofing uses adhesives. The adhesive seals the seams of the membranes together and keeps the roof safe.

The UV rays and the sun’s heat degrade the adhesive making it less energy efficient. The result?

It exposes the adhesive board and causes water problems with TPO.

Punctured TPO Membrane

The high volume of traffic on your roofing system means people walking around – your roofing contractors and maintenance crews.

Single-ply membrane sheets that don’t come with a hard top layer are easily punctured by shoes. Other factors are sharp tools, loose screws, gravel, and nearby trees.

These create holes in the rubber and insulation, which in turn cause problems with TPO.

Shrinkage Due to Heat

Constant exposure to heat causes the single-ply membrane to shrink. Seam failures crack and loosen adhesives.

Then, the rubber gradually shrinks as the temperature increases. If left untreated, you’ll see severe deformity in your flat roof.

HEAT is the number-one contributor to all TPO roofing system problems. 

Even with a reliable material manufacturer, UV rays can’t be avoided.  If there is a tear, puncture, or other damage to the roof, UV rays enter the adhesive layer.

This causes more damage and a loss of energy efficiency.

High Foot Traffic

TPO flat roofs are EXTREMELY vulnerable to high foot traffic. 

Plastic soles and rubber synthetics from work shoes puncture through membranes.

In this case, use protective mats during high foot traffic. But this only protects the roof as long as people are walking on them.  

It also depends on the weight of the person walking on it. 

Poor TPO Installation

Without proper installation, single-ply membranes cause long-term TPO roofing system problems.

The membranes create gaps when the roofer fails to cut the right seam size. Wind and water can come through it.

Improperly welded seams come loose during the first freeze and thaw cycle. This leads to material failures and water infiltration.

Make sure your roofer has a calibrated machine. An uncalibrated machine causes over-melting or insufficient melting. 

What is TPO?

TPO was introduced in the early ’90s as a replacement for PVC commercial roofing products.

TPO stands for thermoplastic polyolefin. It’s one of the fastest-growing roof systems out in the market today.

These thermoplastic polyolefin roofs are made from ethylene propylene diene terpolymer synthetic rubber compound. It has a reinforcing scrim and is applied with mechanical fasteners to roofs.


The propylene rubber is where the problem lies.

Thermoplastic polyolefin TPO membranes deteriorate over time. It’s difficult to paint and has poor bonding properties.

But don’t worry, if all these TPO roofing problems scare you, we’ve listed alternatives for you below.

Alternatives to TPO Roofing Material

Are you looking for other alternatives due to TPO roofing problems? Here are other flat roof systems you might want to consider:

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Acclaimed as one of the BEST flat roofing materials in the roofing industry. 

PVC comes from a mixture of salt and natural gas or processed petroleum.  It comes with a flexible fiberglass mat, a bottom ply, acrylic finish, and a weathering film. 



Built-Up Roof (BUR)

This is the traditional hot tar, asphalt, and gravel roof. It uses bigger rocks to hold the waterproof membranes in place.

The tar and gravel are sealed using a liquid that hardens.  Or cured with a blowtorch while the heat hardens the material.



Modified Bitumen Roof

It’s a single-ply rolled roofing system made of asphalt and added polymers. It also…

  • Resembles asphalt shingles and has a base waterproofing layer. 
  • Has a torch-down system of installation while the material is being unrolled.  Currently, it has a safe and easy installation with its peel-and-stick system.



Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)

A DURABLE single-ply synthetic rubber material that resembles an inner tube – engineered to RESIST damage from sunlight.

EPDM is ballasted with stone, glued, or mechanically anchored with fasteners.



Roof Maintenance

Cleaning and repair bills are part of your contractor’s general maintenance. Schedule an appointment with them before the warranty expires.

A clean roof makes it energy efficient and has better solar reflectance.

The process is as follows:

  1. Roofers use a low-pressure wash to remove dust and dirt. 
  2. Using a cleaning solution, they scrub dirt with a long-handled, soft-bristled brush. 
  3. Once rinsed, they will inspect and repair any damaged areas if any.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Lifespan of TPO Roofing Systems?

It lasts between 10 and 20 years with the right installation and proper maintenance.

Roof life is shortened to 10 years due to different factors like:

  • Quality of installation
  • Climate
  • Maintenance
  • Adequate roof slope to prevent ponding
  • Foot traffic on the roof

Can You Walk on TPO Roofs?

The majority of flat roofs are NOT built to withstand foot traffic.

There’s pressure when you walk on it, causing possible unnoticed punctures on the roof.

It causes structural damage to the TPO material and weakens it over time.

As a rule, it’s best NOT to walk on TPO roofs, unless you are 100 percent sure it can take your weight.

Is TPO Roofing Waterproof?

TPO roofing systems are NOT waterproof.

TPO membranes are VERY thin and can form holes, cracks, or punctures due to excessive heat. Water gets in through weak spots like seams, fasteners, and flashings.

Is TPO Roofing Flammable?

TPO is a sub-specialty category of roofing. Single-ply roofing systems are HIGHLY flammable and use TOXIC materials.

They use adhesive and solvents to install TPO roofing, which makes it flammable.

How Much Does TPO Roof Replacement Cost?

The ballpark figure for TPO roof replacement costs from $7 to $13 per square foot. An accurate cost requires a roof inspection. 

Contact a QUALIFIED commercial roofing contractor to compute it.  This includes labor and installation per square in the TPO roof price.


TPO roofing problems are due to poor installation, materials, or maintenance.

All kinds of commercial roofing materials have their own flaws and strengths.  Over time, they will suffer damage as they endure the elements.

Contact a reputable contractor, no matter which roofing system you use. They have experience with wear and tear so it’s best to get their opinion.

It’s best to get commercial roofs from a manufacturer who’s been in the business for a long time.  At least, you get your money’s worth and your roof will serve you for many years.

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