MB, TPO, EPDM...WTF?: Which Roof Is Best For You

As Director of Operations and Sales at RoofingSource, a common question I receive from building owners and facility managers is “Which type of material should I choose for my new roof?” I’ve broken down everything that you need to know about which roof membrane would work best for your building and your budget. I hope this information helps you make a well-informed decision on your investment. 

As a national roofing contractor, we provide preventative maintenance and repairs for TPO, PVC, EPDM, BUR, MB (Modified Bitumen), silicone and acrylic coatings. Our nationwide commercial roofing crews install new roofs and roof replacements using TPO, PVC, EPDM, and MB and restore roofs using both silicone and acrylic coatings.

Modified Bitumen also known as MB or Mod Bit

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Modified Bitumen is made from asphalt and known as the industry’s most durable roofing membrane as it is used across the United States. Despite high installation costs, building owners can take advantage of its unique, self healing properties, depending on the product.

If installed correctly and maintained, MB can last twenty years or more. With that being said, MB roofing is one of the most trustworthy types of roofing in the commercial roofing industry. MB is made from asphalt and a variety of rubber modifiers and solvents which makes it very durable and can even repair itself if there is a puncture in the membrane. MB comes in several different colors including, gray, black, brown and white.


Pros of Modified Bitumen:

  • Is thicker compared to other types of membranes

  • Stays stable with foot traffic well 

  • Is self healing which means it can repair itself since the roofing is part asphalt if there is a defect in the membrane when the sun heats up the roof it may mold back together on its own

  • Can be assembled with multiple plys (or layers)

Cons Of Modified Bitumen:

  • Causes potential safety risks since it can be torch applied membrane 

  • Has seams/laps every three feet

  • Requires the most maintenance

  • Damages easily from ponding water 

  • Performs poorly against grease 

  • High install cost and labor intensive

Best Uses For Modified Bitumen:

  • Buildings with high foot traffic that do not have grease containment systems

  • Buildings with a few penetrations on roof (e.g. HVAC, RTU curbs, electrical conducts, gas lines)


Cost of Modified Bitumen: High


TPO also known as Thermoplastic Polyolefin 

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TPO is one of the thickest top plies in the industry and is also 100% recyclable. TPO is flexible in cold or hot temperatures ensuring that the membrane will not crack or split. This type of membrane holds up well against foot traffic, equipment and tools. TPO comes in a few different colors including, white, gray or tan with other colors available by special order.


Pros of TPO:

  • Keeps moisture out but is also lightweight

  • Withstands against ponding water

  • Requires less maintenance 

  • Helps lower A/C costs with higher reflectivity

  • Lower costs than PVC 

  • Cleans gives a new roof appearance

  • Installs easily

  • Acts as an environmentally friendly option

  • Keeps resistance to UV and fire

Cons of TPO:

  • Performs poorly against grease

  • Damages easily from third parties

  • Weathers faster in the southern region from heat and sun year round

Best Uses for TPO:

  • Large buildings with plenty of water run-off

  • Buildings in southern states with higher temperatures

Cost Of TPO: Medium


PVC also known as polyvinyl chloride

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PVC is the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC roof systems have high grease and chemical resistance, which is favorable for restaurants. This membrane is available in white, tan and gray, with the white and tan being energy star rated. 


Pros of PVC:

  • Holds up well against ponding water

  • Resistance to grease is exceptional

  • Acts as an environmentally friendly option 

  • Keeps resistance to wind, moisture, fire and chemicals

  • Maintaining it gives it a long service life

  • Has more flexibility than TPO

Cons of PVC:

  • Is not durable against third party damage

  • Costs more than TPO

  • Requires specific sealants 

  • Can be punctured or shattered if older and in cold weather

Best Uses for PVC:

  • Restaurants with grease containment

  • Buildings in regions with plenty of sun as PVC’s reflective properties are high 

Cost of PVC: High 


EPDM also known as ethylene propylene diene terpolymer 

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EPDM is a durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane that is vastly used across the United States. EPDM roofing membrane can have between a twenty - thirty year warranty on the membrane. EPDM has an impressive resistance to UV rays and can withstand intense temperatures as well as below freezing temperatures.


Pros of EPDM:

  • Installs easily 

  • Withstands ponding water

  • Helps with melting snow and ice due to its black membrane

  • Stays Flexible in cold temperatures

  • Keeps resistance to hail

Cons of EPDM:

  • Does not resist grease

  • Makes buildings in warmer climates hotter because of black coloring 

  • Can be easily punctured by 3rd party damage

  • Identifying punctures in membrane can be difficult to address a leak

Best Uses for EPDM:

  • Buildings in northern regions where snow or ice is present

  • Industrial, large roofs

  • Roofs with minimal penetrations (e.g. HVAC Unit, Soil Stack, Roof vents)

Cost of EPDM: Low


Acrylic coating

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Acrylic coating is 100% elastomeric acrylic and is made to seal and protect a variety of different roofing systems. The roofs that it can be used on are PVC, EPDM, Modified Bitumen, Metal and Wood. Acrylic coating is a cost-effective solution and works well in most climates.


Pros of Acrylic Coating:

Inexpensive compared to a roof replacement 

  • Install is easy

  • Is a seamless system

  • Has highly reflective qualities 

Cons of Acrylic Coating:

  • Needs 0% moisture content to apply

  • Does not perform well with ponding water

  • Loses its thickness from weathering

  • Needs to be 50 degrees to apply 

Best Uses for Acrylic Coating:

  • Regions that experience dry climates

Cost of Acrylic Coating: Low


Silicone Coating

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Silicone coatings use non-water based solvents which helps them cure in wet conditions. Humidity can even help with the curing of the silicone coating on a roof. Silicones do not get hard or brittle and weather better than other coatings with nearly zero erosion. 


Pros of Silicone Coating:

  • Eliminates the need for a primer

  • Performs well against ponding water

  • Is a seamless system

  • Applies quickly and uses minimal materials

Cons of Silicone Coating:

  • Loses reflectivity over time

  • Is difficult to bond as it must be done with a compatible silicone 

  • Has an additional safety risk, since silicone coating is very slippery when wet 

Best Uses for Silicone Coating:

  • Roof restoration projects

Cost of Silicon Coating: Low


SPF also known as spray polyurethane foam 

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SPF is a high density, rigid spray foam that may be applied to most roofing systems. This membrane acts as a thermal insulator, vapor retarder and waterproofing system. SPF is a durable yet lightweight membrane that has a compressive strength of 40 to 60 pounds per inch. SPF is also an excellent insulator to prevent heat transfer through the roof and will minimize your heating and cooling costs. 


Pros of SPF:

  • Has energy saving qualities 

  • Is seamless

  • Is lightweight and does not add much weight to a roof

Cons of SPF:

  • Eroding can occur from pondering water

  • Walking or foot traffic can damage foam

  • Requires plenty of maintenance

Best Uses for SPF:

  • Works well on buildings with multiple penetrations and in regions that experience serious rain and wind. 


Cost of SPF: Low


I hope this information enables you to make an educated decision when repairing or replacing your roof.

Have a question about a specific material that I mentioned or need help making a decision with your roof? Send me an email or give me a call at 407-592-8363.

 

Written by

Tom Dawson
Director of Operations & Sales
tom.dawson@roofingsource.com