TPO Roofing Basics: Buyer’s Guide

Learn the ins and outs of TPO roofing with this comprehensive guide. Learn about its benefits, cost, installation, and compare it with other roof types.
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Reviewed by JC Sanjuan — General and roofing contractor with over a decade of experience in residential and commercial construction. He specializes in project management, quality workmanship, client satisfaction, and solving roofing challenges.

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I’ve been a roofing contractor for over a decade and have seen how roofing materials have changed. One material, TPO roofing, has become popular because of its benefits. I’ve installed a few TPO roofs and helped many people understand why it’s a good choice. 

This general guide will help you learn about TPO roofing – what it is, how it’s made, its benefits, the different options available, how it compares to other types of roofing, and what to expect in terms of installation and costs. With this info, you can choose your roofing needs smartly. I’m here to share what I’ve learned to help you pick a roof you’ll be happy with.

What is TPO Roofing?

TPO roofing, short for Thermoplastic Olefin Roofing, is a type of single-ply roofing membrane. This means it comes in large sheets that are laid down in a single layer on top of your roof. It’s a popular choice for flat and low-sloped roofs. The core material of TPO roofing is made from a blend of rubber and other materials, which makes it flexible and strong.

TPO roof membrane installation, single-ply low-slope roofing.
Source: NACHI

This type of roofing has been around since the early 1990s, providing a more economical and efficient alternative to traditional roofing materials. 

The main draw of TPO roofing is its ability to reflect sunlight, which helps keep buildings cooler in the summer and, as a result, lowers energy bills.

Besides being energy-efficient, TPO roofing is also known for its durability. It resists damage from UV rays, chemicals, and high winds, which is why it’s a favored choice among both residential and commercial property owners.

How Are TPO Roofs Made?

The creation of TPO roofing is a blend of science and technology. It starts with the mixing of its core materials: polymer base, filler materials, colorant, flame retardants, and UV absorbers. These ingredients are mixed together and then spread out into sheets using a flat die extrusion process.

The thickness of TPO sheets typically ranges between 45 to 80 mils. The sheets are then cut into large rolls, which are ready to be installed on roofs.

A unique feature of TPO roofing is its ability to be heat-welded. This means that seams can be melted together to form a powerful bond, making the roof more resistant to leaks and wind uplift.

What makes TPO roofing a go-to choice is not just its performance but also the technology involved in its making, which ensures consistency in thickness and overall quality, providing a reliable roofing solution for various types of buildings.

Benefits of TPO Roofing

TPO roofing comes with a basket of benefits that make it a solid choice for many buildings. Here are the key advantages:

Saves Energy

The white surface of TPO roofing reflects sunlight, keeping buildings cooler when it’s hot outside. This can reduce your air conditioning bills, saving you money over time.

Long-lasting

TPO can withstand mold, dirt, tears, and even harsh weather like strong winds or heavy rain. It’s made to last through extreme conditions.

Flexible

TPO material can bend and fit around different roof shapes and structures. This flexibility also helps it handle movements in the building.

Easy to Install

TPO sheets are light and wide, so installing them on the roof is quicker and easier. This can lower the cost of installation compared to other materials.

Eco-Friendly

TPO roofs can be recycled and don’t have harmful chemicals, making them a green choice.

Strong Seams

TPO roofing can be melted together at the seams, forming a solid bond that reduces leaks and makes the roof last longer.

The benefits of TPO roofing make it a compelling choice for those looking to invest in a reliable, economical, and efficient roofing solution.

Different Options Available

TPO roofing comes with different options to match what you need for your building. Here are some choices you get:

  • Colors: TPO roofing isn’t just white. You can find it in black, grey, tan, and other colors to make it look good on your building.
  • Thickness: You can choose how thick you want your TPO sheets to be. Thicker sheets usually last longer.
  • Manufacturers: Many companies make TPO roofing, like Firestone Building Products, GAF, and Carlisle SynTec Systems. Each one offers different warranties.
  • Roofing System Parts: You can get different parts like insulation, fasteners, and adhesives to go with your TPO roof, making it fit your building’s needs.
  • Cool Roof Options: If you want to save even more on energy, some TPO roofs are made to reflect more sunlight and keep your building cooler.

With TPO roofing, you have the flexibility to choose what works best for your project while keeping things within budget. It’s a versatile choice that many building owners and contractors like.

Comparison to Other Roof Types

When it comes to picking a roofing material, it’s good to compare. Here’s how TPO stacks up against some other common types:

EPDM Roofing:

  • Cost: EPDM (rubber roofing) often costs less upfront than TPO.
  • Energy Efficiency: TPO is usually more energy-efficient because its white color reflects sunlight, while EPDM’s black color absorbs it.
  • Lifespan: Both roofs have a similar lifespan, but TPO might last longer with proper maintenance.

PVC Roofing:

  • Cost: PVC costs more than TPO, but it’s also durable.
  • Chemical Resistance: Both are good at resisting chemicals, but PVC has a slight edge.
  • Heat Welding: Both TPO and PVC can be heat-welded, making strong seams

Each roofing type has its own set of advantages, but TPO offers a good balance between cost, durability, and energy efficiency. It’s a solid choice whether you’re roofing a new building or replacing an old roof.

TPO Roofing – Pros and Cons

Like any roofing material, TPO has its upsides and downsides. Here’s a quick look:

Pros:

  • Cost-Effective: TPO is easier on the wallet compared to other types of roofing materials while still offering good quality.
  • Energy-Saving: Its reflective surface helps save on cooling costs during the hot months.
  • Durable: It’s tough against tears, punctures, and mold, making it last longer with less fuss.
  • Easy to Install: Its light weight and wide sheets make it quicker to install, which can also save on labor costs.
  • Eco-Friendly: It’s recyclable and doesn’t have harmful chemicals.

Cons:

  • Newer Product: TPO is newer on the market, so its long-term performance is still being understood.
  • Inconsistent Quality: Since many companies make TPO roofing, the quality can vary.
  • Heat Aging: Over time, heat can make TPO roofing brittle, especially in hotter climates.

Weighing the pros and cons can help you decide if TPO roofing is the right choice for your building.

Installation Process

Getting TPO roofing installed is straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step look at what usually happens:

  1. Preparation: First, the old roofing material is removed, and the roof surface is cleaned and prepped.
  2. Insulation Layer: Next, an insulation layer is laid down. This helps keep your building warm or cool.
  3. TPO Sheets: Then, the TPO sheets are rolled out onto the roof. They come in big rolls, so it covers a lot of space quickly.
  4. Seaming: The edges of TPO sheets are heat-welded together. This makes a strong bond that keeps water out.
  5. Trimming: Any excess material is trimmed away, and the edges are tightly sealed.
  6. Final Inspection: Lastly, the roof is inspected to ensure everything is installed correctly and securely.

The installation process is quicker compared to other roofing types, which can save time and money. It’s always best to have a professional roofing contractor handle the installation to ensure it’s done right.

TPO Roofing Costs Involved

The price of getting a TPO roof can vary, but here’s a rough idea of what to expect:

  • Material Costs: TPO roofing materials usually cost between $5 to $6 per square foot. The price can change based on the thickness and brand of the TPO material.
  • Installation Costs: Installation charges can range from $3 to $5 per square foot. This price can go up or down based on the complexity of the roof and where you live.
  • Maintenance Costs: TPO roofs are low maintenance, but it’s good to have them inspected once a year. The cost for this can vary, but it’s usually not too expensive.
  • Repair Costs: If your TPO roof gets damaged, repair costs can be lower compared to other types of roofing. The exact price will depend on the extent of the damage.

Adding up the material, installation, and any maintenance or repair costs will give you the total cost of a TPO roof. It’s a cost-effective choice that provides good value for the money, especially with the energy savings over time.

Conclusion

TPO roofing offers many advantages that could be just what you need for your building. It’s cost-effective, easy to install, and can save you money on energy bills over time. With a range of options available in terms of color, thickness, and manufacturers, you can find a TPO roofing solution that fits your needs and budget.

Whether you’re looking to roof a new building or replace an old roof, TPO is a solid choice that balances cost, durability, and energy efficiency. Plus, its eco-friendly nature is a nice bonus. As with any big decision, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional roofing contractor to get personalized advice for your project.

I hope this guide has helped you understand TPO roofing better and brought you closer to making an informed choice for your roofing needs.


TPO Roofing – FAQ’S

  1. What is TPO roofing?
    TPO, or Thermoplastic Olefin, is a type of single-ply roofing membrane. It’s popular for flat or low-sloped roofs due to its durability and energy efficiency.
  2. How much does TPO roofing cost?
    The cost can vary, but typically, TPO material costs around $5 to $6 per square foot, with installation charges ranging from $3 to $5 per square foot.
  3. How long does TPO roofing last?
    TPO roofing can last between 15 to 20 years, but with proper maintenance, it can last even longer.
  4. What are the main benefits of TPO roofing?
    TPO roofing is cost-effective, energy-efficient, durable, flexible, easy to install, and eco-friendly.
  5. How does TPO roofing compare to other types of roofing?
    Compared to EPDM, TPO is more energy-efficient. It’s also generally less expensive than PVC roofing, while still offering strong resistance to chemicals and the elements.
  6. Is TPO roofing recyclable?
    Yes, TPO roofing is recyclable and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, making it an eco-friendly choice.
  7. What maintenance does TPO roofing require?
    TPO roofs are low maintenance but should be inspected at least once a year to check for any damage or issues.
  8. Can TPO roofing be installed over an existing roof?
    It’s possible, but it’s always best to have a professional roofing contractor evaluate the condition of the existing roof first.
  9. Who are the top manufacturers of TPO roofing?
    Some well-known manufacturers include Firestone Building Products, GAF, and Carlisle SynTec Systems.
  10. How are TPO roofing seams sealed?
    The seams are sealed using a heat-welding process, creating a strong bond that helps prevent leaks.

References

  1. National Roofing Contractors Association. The NRCA Roofing Manual: Membrane Roof Systems. NRCA, 2023. https://www.nrca.net/
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