EPDM Rubber Roofing: probably the best covering for a flat roof

Roofs with a low or almost zero level of surface slope are a rational architectural solution for commercial facilities and residential property. To add, there are ‘traditional’ and time-tested materials which are commonly used for such flat roofs projects. It can be modified bitumen, asphalt shingles, metal sheets as well as single-ply membranes and EPDM rubber roofing.

Moreover, so called ‘membranes’ are considered to be the most practical and universal solution for most buildings in recent decades.

EPDM rubber roofing
EPDM rubber roofing

EPDM membranes: general information

If you don’t want to go deep into the specifics of technological processes, then EPDM can be described as elastic membrane or synthetic rubber. Unlike natural rubber, which is made from natural raw materials, the main compounds of EPDM are chemically synthesized.

Several varieties of EPDM membranes are used for flat roofs In the United States:

  • Black (more common) and white
  • 45 mil and 60 mils thick. Extremely durable membranes up to 90 mils thick are used in exceptional cases.
  • Width of roll media is typically from 7.5″ to 40-50″. Variety of widths options depends on the brand.
EPDM rubber thickness
EPDM rubber thickness

Synthetic rubber has two main ‘competitors’ in the category of roofing membranes – PVC and TPO. However, EPDM differs from other popular flat roof membrane solutions both in its manufacturing method and characteristics.

EPDM vs PVC. PVC is a thermoplastic material with very strong seams over the entire surface. On the other hand, EPDM has better weather resistance. In addition, PVC membranes are more expensive.

EPDM vs TPO. TPO is another membrane that is produced using thermoplastic technology. The advantage of TPO is long-term geometric stability. However, the cost of TPO is much higher than the cost of synthetic rubber.

Why Is EPDM Rubber Roof Better?

EPDM rubber roof coating is not an innovative material that has appeared in recent years. Synthetic membranes have been used in the construction of commercial (primarily) and residential buildings for several decades. The reason for stable demand for EPDM is complex advantages, which are greater than the potential disadvantages.

  1. Durability. The thicker the roofing membrane, the longer its service life. This rule is true for all types of membranes, including TPO and PVC. The average service life of EPDM rubber roofing membranes, which are protected from mechanical damage, is 15-25 years. Some manufacturers claim that their EPDM rubber roofs last up to 50 years.
    Tip: choosing a more expensive and thicker EPDM can be a good investment.
  2. Flexibility. One of the main advantages of EPDM roofing is its flexibility. Although the coating may shrink and crack over time, EPDM is a geometrically stable material. In addition, synthetic rubber is suitable for installing on roofs of complex geometric shapes.
  3. Resistance. EPDM is designed for operation in any climatic zone in our country. The high-quality roofing membrane is resistant both to temperature extremes and frost, as well as to hot weather during the summer months.
    Tip: white membranes heat up less in the sun than black coatings. The choice of such material will allow you to save on electricity in the summer months.
  4. EPDM coating is watertight. It reliably protects the internal structure of the roof and the interior from moisture and leakage.
    Tip: EPDM coatings can shrink over time. The seams that connect EPDM membranes can also lose their tightness over time. It is recommended to periodically check the condition of the roof and make repairs if necessary.
  5. Low cost. The cost of an EPDM rubber roofing coating depends on the brand, the thickness of the membrane, as well as the method of installation (fully adhered, ballasted of mechanically attached) When compared to other single-ply membranes, the cost of EPDM material and installation will be lower in most cases.
top view - epdm rubber roofing
Top view – epdm rubber roofing

Do EPDM materials have disadvantages? Yes, just like any other material. EPDM is less geometrically stable than PVC and metal. Over time, the membrane may crack or shrink, losing its tightness. In addition, EPDM is susceptible to certain chemicals. After all, it is difficult to call synthetic rubber the most environmentally friendly material.

EPDM Rubber Roof: Installation Tips

Professional roofers choose one of the EPDM roofing rubber installation methods depending on the area and type of roof (vented or unvented, hot, cold or hybrid), the architectural features of the building and the material chosen.

Although simple and quick installation is one of the advantages of membrane roofing materials, we recommend contacting roofing contractors.

Here is a sample work plan for installing fully-adhered black and white membranes.

  1. Prepare the roof surface. There should be no debris on the surface.
  2. Install drib battens (near gutters), wall upstands and drip trim.
  3. Apply a special adhesive following the manufacturer’s recommendations (there are several types of adhesive, including two-component products)
  4. Mount the synthetic rubber roofing membrane material in the selected area. Make sure there are no air bubbles under the membrane surface.
  5. When the EPDM membrane is mounted, set the flashing type. Make sure that the seams in the joints of the membranes are tight.
Prepare the roof surface for EPDM roofing
Prepare the roof surface for EPDM roofing

Tip: EPDM ethylene propylene diene monomer roofing can only be installed at a certain temperature. It is highly not recommended to install the roof in cold weather, as low temperatures adversely affect adhesive.

EPDM Rubber Roof: a few words about cost

The final cost of any roofing project depends on several individual and local factors.

We recommend that you contact several local roofing companies and ask them to give you an estimate. As a rule, the estimate is made after roof inspection and free of charge.

The average cost of an EPDM membrane this year is $5 per square foot (excluding delivering and installation). PVC and TPO, which we talked about above, cost 40-60% more on average.

In some cases, the cost of the material can be lower ($3-4), and in the case of extra thick membranes, much higher – up to $13-14 per square foot.

The average cost to install new EPDM roofs ranges from $4 to $6 per foot. If additional work is required, such as removing old roofing, add $1-2 per foot to the final estimate.

How to Extend the Life of an EPDM Roof

Synthetic rubber coverings require minimal maintenance. If you check them just a couple of times a season, carrying out minor repairs, you will extend the life of the roofing system by 10-15 years.

  1. Remove debris from the roof surface
  2. Periodically clean the surface with special products. As mentioned above, cleaning agents must not contain substances incompatible with EPDM.
  3. Optionally, you can use a protectant suitable for EPDM roofs.
  4. Check the condition of the roof and carry out minor repairs using patches or special repair solutions.
Roof maintenance
Roof maintenance

Attention! Roofing (even on a flat roof surface) can be dangerous. Follow the safety precautions for working at heights. It is even better if you entrust the maintenance and repair of EPDM roofing to professionals.

EPDM Rubber Roofs for Residential Property

Although rubber roofs are usually designed for commercial buildings, they have also been actively used in the residential real estate segment in recent years.

Usually EPDM roofs are chosen for non-exploited flat roofs. Also, this material is optimally suited for verandas, garages, sheds, porches and other outbuildings with a flat roof.

It is recommended to choose not a black EPDM membrane, but energy-efficient white coatings for large residential buildings.

Residential Property - EPDM Roofs
Residential Property – EPDM Roofs

Conclusion and Recommendations

Indeed, EPDM can be the most efficient and cost effective solution for your home.

At a relatively low cost rubber roofs reliably protect the house from leaks and bad weather for decades. They require minimal maintenance and are suitable for a variety of building designs.

However, EPDM materials have their limitations and disadvantages. It is necessary to choose properly and accurately install the roofing material in order for the roof to serve you for many years and not require annual repairs.

If you are considering choosing EPDM as your roofing material, we recommend that you contact your local roofing company. Let professionals check your project and calculate the estimate. Experts will tell you more about the advantages of the EPDM material in comparison with alternative TPO/PVC solutions and will help you select reliable roofing membranes for your project.

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