TPO vs PVC Roofing: Which Is Best for Your Project?

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TPO vs PVC Roofing: Which Is Best for Your Project?

On flat or low-slope roofs where the natural flow of water is slow, your roofing membrane is essential to protect the interior of your building from leaks.

Over the years, both TPO and PVC roofing have become popular options for their good quality and long-term strength.

If you want to know which one is best for your specific residential or commercial roofing project, though, then keep reading to find out!

A Brief Overview

TPO Roofing

A relatively new player on the market, Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) roofing is a type of single-ply thermoplastic membrane. It’s usually a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber for optimal flexibility and strength.

Since TPO membrane is manufactured in white colors, it has reflective properties that block UV radiation, preventing heat build-up. TPO doesn’t only cool down interiors—it also contributes to the overall energy efficiency of the building.

TPO membrane materials are also typically low-cost and not too difficult to install.

The TPO roof can be fully adhered by using glue adhesives, mechanically attached with screw-type fasteners, or installed with a ballast. This is heat-welded to the roof flashing by using hot air.

There are no plasticizers in TPO membrane, and its material is entirely recyclable, so TPO roofs are great, environmentally-friendly options too.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Energy efficient
  • Good weather resistance
  • Recyclable

Cons

  • Inconsistent manufacturing among different suppliers
  • Not very resistant to harsh chemicals

PVC Roofing

On the other hand, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) roofing is a consistent, reputable material that has been used in construction for many years.

Like TPO, PVC is a single-ply thermoplastic membrane, but it is composed of vinyl chloride monomers with added plasticizers for flexibility. These plastics also prevent the roofing from tearing or ripping easily.

What’s special about PVC roofing is its strong chemical resistance. For commercial buildings that may be exposed to grease, fumes, oil, and other chemical materials, this acid-resistant membrane is a great option.

For the best reflectivity, pick PVC roofing in light colors such as white and grey. This will help prevent heat from penetrating the building’s interiors, thus lowering your energy bills too.

Like TPO roofing, the installation for PVC roofing can be fully adhered, ballasted, or mechanically fastened, while its seams are heat-welded.

Pros

  • Trusted and proven roofing system
  • Good flexibility
  • Strong chemical resistance
  • Energy efficient

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not environmentally-friendly

TPO vs PVC Roofing: Cost

TPO and PVC are available in different thicknesses, and they can come with or without a reinforced layer. However, with all material variables constant, TPO membrane is more affordable than PVC membrane per square foot.

On average, a TPO roof with installation only costs around $5.50-$6.00 per square foot, while a PVC roof costs $6.50-$8.00 for the same size.

For more accurate figures, it would be best to consult professional roofing contractors and suppliers for material and labor cost quotes.

Verdict

Generally, though, if you’re on a tight budget, a TPO roof would most probably be a better choice for you.

TPO vs PVC Roofing: Longevity

TPO may be more affordable, but they might not last as long as PVC.

What determines the lifespans of these roofing systems?

The biggest concern for a PVC roof is the material it’s made of—specifically, the plasticizers in its formulation. Since these can sometimes break down quickly or exhibit signs of plasticizer migration, the whole roof degrades much faster.

In a PVC roof, plasticizers are what keeps the membrane flexible, so once the plasticizer migrates out of it, the PVC hardens and becomes brittle. This can also cause shrinking, with the membrane pulling away from the roofing.

However, because PVC is so commonly used in the industry, certain, more advanced formulations have been developed to delay this natural weathering as much as possible.

Despite being a newer invention, TPO roofs seem to have a bigger advantage—at least initially.

A TPO roof is supposedly more durable due to its lack of plasticizers. This eliminates the problem of plasticizer migration completely.

However, since TPO is so new, the product’s design also has some problems.

One issue is that the TPO roll width is usually quite small. This means that it requires more cuts to cover the roof and more seams to glue together as well. These spaces are potential places for the membrane to expand and contract.

Another concern is the laminated top layer of a TPO roof. This material is prone to shrinking, cracking, and deteriorating, especially if subpar formulations are used.

Since the consistency of TPO membranes can vary greatly among suppliers, it’s important to check the quality of the product you’re purchasing.

A TPO roof is estimated to last for around 10 to 20 years, while a PVC roof will maintain its structural integrity for several decades.

However, these numbers also depend on the quality of the materials used, proper installation techniques, and maintenance frequency. External factors such as harsh weather conditions and chemical exposure may also alter these estimates.

Verdict

Ultimately, though, PVC roofs are most consistent, having been tried and tested many times.

TPO vs PVC Roofing: Weather Resistance

The biggest advantage PVC has over TPO is its chemical resistance. For buildings with grease traps and oil exposure on the roof, this characteristic may be most important.

However, although TPO experiences weathering due to acids, it’s much better at weather resistance in general. Compared to PVC, it’s less likely to tear, break, and puncture as a result of non-chemical factors.

PVC has weak puncture resistance, and it is especially prone to shattering in cold climates. It may also shrink faster over time due to varying weather conditions.

Verdict

Generally, TPO roofs are more weather resistant, but PVC roofs perform better with acids and chemicals.

TPO vs PVC Roofing: Ease of Handling

PVC has been much preferred by roofing contractors because of its flexible material and easy installation process.

Since there are no plasticizers in TPO, the roofing material is stiffer and harder to wield. It’s also more difficult to weld, so it’s necessary to have workers with extensive experience and knowledge for proper installation.

Verdict

With time, contractors may get used to this newer process, so PVC will no longer have a bigger advantage, but for now, PVC roofs are still generally easier to handle.

TPO vs PVC Roofing: Energy Efficiency

If you’re concerned about heat and UV resistance in your building, you can choose either material.

Since both products come in light colors that exhibit reflective properties, the excess build-up of heat in building interiors can be properly managed by both types of membranes. This translates to better energy efficiency, more effective cooling, and lower energy bills as well.

Verdict

Both PVC and TPO roofs are good options in terms of energy efficiency.

TPO vs PVC Roofing: Environmental Impact

The main issue with PVC is that it contains chlorine and other chemicals, which can be harmful to human health during production.

In addition, these can cause environmental pollution when disposed of. If you think about the volume of PVC that’s manufactured for the construction industry, the negative effects can quickly add up.

In contrast, TPO is made of completely recyclable materials. When exposed to heat or fire, it doesn’t emit fumes either, so it doesn’t pose health risks or detrimental environmental effects.

Verdict

TPO roofs are a more environmentally-friendly choice.

Conclusion

Use TPO Roofing if you want a durable, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly option for your project.

However, keep in mind that you’ll need to do more background checks and research on your local suppliers and contractors.

Since TPO is relatively new, you have to make sure everything is done up to industry standards—from the sourcing of materials to the installation process.

Use PVC Roofing if you wanta safe, consistent, and chemical-resistant option for your project.

PVC materials have a good track record in the industry, and their performance has generally stayed consistent throughout the years.

Nevertheless, you should still ensure that your suppliers and contractors are trusted experts in the field.

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