What is a TPO Roof?

April 18th, 2023
Roofer man works on a flat roof with pvc membrane insulation system

A TPO roof is a thermoplastic polyolefin roof made up of ethylene-propylene rubber and additives, such as fiberglass. The additives or fillers in these roofs provide extra strength and flexibility. If you’ve seen buildings with white, reflective roofs, these are usually TPO roofing systems. This type of roof is becoming more common for low slope or flat roofs on commercial buildings.

The increasing demand for TPO roofing means it’s important for property owners and roofing contractors to understand these roofing systems in greater depth. The following guide provides an overview of this type of roofing material, including its components, materials, durability, and benefits.

Benefits of TPO Roofing

This type of roofing system offers notable benefits for building owners. TPO roofs are a type of single-ply membrane roofing system. This means they have fewer seams than other types of roofs, such as asphalt shingle roofs. A lower number of seams means that TPO roofs are less likely to develop leaks.

Other benefits of TPO roofs include being easy to install, being low-maintenance, and having a lightweight design that puts less pressure on buildings. TPO roofing systems also have a long lifespan of around 30 years. They’re highly durable and resistant to cracking and other damage.

TPO Roofs vs. EPDM & PVC Roofing

How does a TPO roof compare to other kinds of roofing materials? TPO roofs tend to have better energy efficiency and durability compared to other commercial roof systems, such as ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) single ply membrane roofing systems.

TPO roofs are typically white or light in color, while EPDM roofs typically have a darker coloring that absorbs UV rays rather than reflecting them. EPDM roofs are also more likely to shrink over the years.

PVC roofs come in light colors, so they’re about the same as TPO roofs in terms of energy efficiency. However, PVC roofing tends to be more expensive than TPO roofing and can crack in colder weather.

What about traditional roofing systems? These systems, such as shingle roofs or tile roofs, aren’t suitable for flat roofs. They’re also made up of many components, which leads to a higher risk of leaks.

TPO Roof Components

TPO roofs have several components, which include: underlayment, vapor barrier, insulation, cover board, adhesive, and membrane.

Roofers install the underlayment right on the roof deck to protect against water. The vapor barrier goes on top of the underlayment and helps reduce condensation. Insulation, which goes on next, helps keep hot or cold air outside from getting into the building. The cover board helps protect the insulation and acts as a backing for the membrane. Roofers then use adhesives to attach the membrane to the rest of the roofing system.

TPO Roofing Membrane

A TPO roof membrane is the final layer or component of this roofing system. This is what you might see when looking at the flat roof on a commercial building. The membrane has a reflective, white surface that boosts energy efficiency.

Thermoplastic Membrane Composition

What is this type of roofing membrane made of? A TPO membrane has a thermoplastic polyolefin base layer and top layer with a polyester-reinforced center. These materials become softer when they’re heated up, then harden again as they cool. This creates a durable membrane that can withstand wear and tear.

Types of TPO Membranes

TPO membranes are available in different colors, widths, and thicknesses. Although white is a common color for these membranes, they’re also available in tan, gray, and other colors. Rolls of TPO membranes come in varying widths, such as 12 feet or 3 feet. Different thicknesses are available, depending on the manufacturer and other factors.

Advantages of TPO Roof Membranes

TPO roofing membranes offer important benefits compared to other single-ply roof membranes. These membranes have a high amount of energy efficiency and a high degree of flexibility and durability. They aren’t prone to cracks, shrinkage, and other kinds of wear and tear that can shorten their lifespan. They’re also easy to install and can be done within a short timeframe, depending on a roof’s square footage.

TPO Roofing System Maintenance

TPO roofs can last for decades as long as they have proper maintenance. Although they’re durable, they can develop problems over time. This material expands and contracts naturally due to changes in temperature. This can lead to failing seams that pull apart and allow water to get through. Severe storms, such as hail storms, can also cause damage that requires prompt repairs.

TPO Roof Inspections

Having routine inspections done can help building owners keep TPO roofs in good condition. Roofers can look for problems with these roofing systems, such as seams that are coming apart, and make repairs before leaks or other damage occurs. How often do these inspections need to happen? Ideally, plan on having TPO roof inspections done twice a year, such as during spring and fall. You might also need to schedule an inspection to check for damage after severe weather.

Cleaning TPO Roofing Systems

TPO roofs tend to be lighter in color, which helps reflect the sun’s rays. When dirt or debris builds up on the surface, this leads to less energy efficiency. As part of maintenance, roofers can remove debris and dirt to ensure that a white or light-colored TPO roof is able to reflect UV rays. Having cleaning done also helps lower the risk of damage from debris and improves curb appeal.

Energy Efficiency of TPO Roofing

Reflective Properties

TPO roofs have a reflective surface, which stops the sun’s rays from heating up the building interior. These reflective properties help keep the roof and building interior from heating up. This helps reduce the risk of damage to TPO roofs, while also keeping the inside of buildings cooler.

Lower Energy Costs

Having UV rays reflected instead of absorbed means that you can save money on the costs of heating and cooling your building. During summer, the sun’s rays won’t warm up the interior, leading to a lower need to keep air conditioning running all or most of the time in higher temperatures. During winter, the insulation that’s part of these roofs helps heated air stay inside rather than escaping outdoors. This means your building’s furnace won’t have to be on as much.

TPO Roofing vs. Other Roofing Systems

TPO roofing typically offers improved energy efficiency compared to other roofing systems. This kind of roof is usually white or light-colored, causing the sun’s rays to bounce off. Darker-colored roofs, such as EPDM roofs, absorb this heat instead. TPO and PVC roofing systems have a similar amount of energy efficiency.

TPO Roofing and Weather Conditions

How well does TPO roofing hold up in different kinds of weather conditions? South Carolina can get tropical storms, hurricanes, and other types of severe weather. This makes it important to have a reliable roof that can handle inclement weather. TPO roofs are designed to be durable, although they might sustain damage in severe storms. They can withstand windy conditions and downpours, but large pieces of hail can leave dents or other kinds of damages.

TPO roofing performs well in warmer climates thanks to its reflective properties, durability, and flexibility. These roofing systems are designed to handle exposure to high temperatures and UV rays without developing severe damage. They won’t fade or crack, although the seams might pull apart with age. Their reduced carbon footprint and resistance to weather damage makes them a smart investment for commercial buildings.

TPO Roofing in Commercial Facilities

TPO roofs are made for residential buildings, although they’re used more often with commercial buildings. These roofing systems provide a suitable option for buildings with a low slope or flat roof. They offer many advantages for commercial facilities, including lower energy costs, a more comfortable interior, and a long lifespan.

These roofing systems come with manufacturer warranties that usually last for 10 to 20 years. Carbon fiber reinforcements are available to provide these roofs with added flexibility and strength. These qualities help ensure that TPO roofs on commercial facilities have a lower risk of damage, especially when they receive regular maintenance and cleaning.

For All Your TPO Roofing Needs, Contact Leverage Roofing!

TPO roofing systems are known for being easy to install, but it’s important to make sure it’s done correctly. Otherwise, your roof can end up having significant problems. Hiring the experts at Leverage Roofing can give you peace of mind that your new roof will be properly installed and maintained. Keep in mind that we can handle other roofing services, such as making repairs to your existing roof. Contact us today to learn more about our services!