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TPO Roof (thermoplastic olefin)

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TPO is said to have the benefits of two of its direct competitors EPDM and PVC roofs, but without some extra costs and hassles. A TPO roof strives to be a happy medium compromise in the membrane roof world.

It claims to be as UV- and heat-resistant as EPDM, but as heat-weldable and easy to install as PVC with "fabric/scrim." As with all roofing materials, TPO also has disadvantages, most primarily due to the fact that TPO is a fairly new roofing material on the market; research still continues to find the most durable and long lasting product formulation.

One of the biggest disadvantages of TPO is that it is a really young roofing technology. It has been around less than 15 years and manufactures are still trying to figure out the best chemical formula that will make the product durable and long lasting while maintaining a competitive price.

Finding this right formula has been a challenge for many manufacturers; there have been many documented cases over the years of seam failures and material failures such as membrane curing and cracking. It is not possible to tell at this point how long a new TPO roofing product will really last; most TPO roofing warranties will cap out at 10 years with pro rating to 20 years, and will generally cover the cost of the (cheap) material only. TPO roofing membranes have been noted to have an issue of accelerated weathering when subjected to high thermal or solar loading. This problem has been specifically documented in the Southern states that get a lot of heat and sun all year, and with the increased ultraviolet radiation prevalent at the high elevations in Colorado, especially in the mountains, we simply do not recommend the use of TPO at elevation. The extreme heat and cold we sustain at different times of the year seems to put undue pressure on welds, seams and flashings as well. In addition, the white color can inhibit melting off of snow in a reasonable amount of time.

The TPO membrane was first introduced to the roofing market in the early 1990s as a more economical and efficient alternative to PVC roofing systems such as Duro-Last. TPO is a single ply roofing system that consisting of a thermoplastic polyolefin membrane that is physically quite thick. This membrane is composed of three layers, a polymer base, polyester-reinforced fabric center (scrim), with a thermoplastic polyolefin compounded top ply. We have found that by and large the single greatest detriment to TPO is the sacrificial nature of the material, which can be exacerbated or made worse by the fillers and materials used in the manufacturing process.

One of the factors that makes TPO roofing attractive both in residential and commercial construction is its upfront cheaper material cost. TPO offers many of the same benefits as PVC roofing, such as hot-air weldable seams and solar energy efficiency, but at a lower initial installation cost.

TPO is available in white, light grey and black reflective color options. TPO is one way to get a white roof to enjoy the "Heat Island" energy saving and reflective properties. The manufacturers claim that the latest technologies enable all colors of TPO roofing membranes to be UV resistant and "cool". This can be a big advantage in the Southern U.S., with the sun and high temperatures being the primary consideration. We have noticed that the energy "savings" can be negated by the lack of durability of the materials, and in the northern climates reflectivity may not be a primary consideration.

The energy efficiency of TPO roofing membranes makes them attractive to property investors who want savings on their cooling costs, as well as help the environment by reducing the carbon footprint. TPO's membrane's white reflective surface exceeds the EPA's ENERGY STAR requirements and white, tan and gray are listed with the Cool Roof Rating Council. This means that having a TPO roof on the building can keep the interior thermally comfortable on hot summer days while reducing the costs of cooling.

PVC Roofing [Polyvinyl Chloride] membrane Roofing

We have also noted that PVC membrane roofs such as Duro Last or Dura-Last, while performing very well on the solar side of the market, can be expensive to purchase and install, and seems to have a much higher failure rate due to hail (PVC membranes appear to get prematurely brittle at our Colorado elevations), and is often mechanically attached only and thus can be susceptible to wind uplift damage in our Colorado environment.

Before deciding on a TPO membrane for your home or commercial building, carefully consider all the aspects of TPO roofing and heed our Colorado Recommendations. Contact us with any questions regarding TPO and other solar options.