What is a TPO Roof? (Everything You Need to Know)

December 15, 2020

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What is a TPO roof? If you own a commercial building with a flat roof, your roofing contractor may have recommended TPO roofing as the material is lightweight, durable, and easy to install. Since the decision of new roofing materials is still yours, it’s vital you understand what a TPO roof is and why it can be the best choice for your building!

Thermoplastic polyolefin or TPO is a single-ply, durable yet flexible synthetic membrane used particularly for flat roofs. A TPO roof naturally reflects UV rays, keeping a building cool and comfortable while repelling water.

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Your commercial building is probably the most expensive investment you’ll ever make, which is why you need to protect that structure with a strong, durable roof! A leaking roof not only leads to wood rot, mold growth, and other costly repairs, but roof leaks can also damage machinery, equipment, and inventory inside that building.

While your roofing contractor is the best source of information when it comes to your roof material options, knowing a bit more about a TPO roof and how it compares to various other materials ensures you make the right choice. Be sure to discuss any questions you have with a roofing company near you, so your commercial building is always protected from damage and in good repair.

What IS a TPO Roof?

It’s estimated that TPO roofing makes up some 40% of commercial roofing materials in use today! To better understand why TPO roofing is such a popular choice for commercial property owners, you might note how thermoplastic polyolefin is manufactured and what makes the material so durable.

Thermoplastic polyolefin or TPO is manufactured with an ethylene-propylene rubber base; this base is made from natural, organic ethylene, rubber, and propylene, a petroleum product. The base then has a number of fillers added for durability and strength, including fiberglass, carbon, or even talc.

Top Advantages of TPO Roofing

  • Its lighter weight makes it easy to transport and install, for little to no disruption to your business.
  • That elastic rubber base makes it tough and durable against harsh weather conditions; the material flexes and bends in high winds without tearing, and the rubber naturally repels water.
  • TPO roofing also resists harsh sunlight and UV rays while deflecting that light, keeping a structure insulated and cool. A TPO roof also won’t shrink and pull away from the roof, because it’s not likely to contract and wrinkle in wintertime or expand during warm summer weather.
  • TPO roofing also resists mold, mildew, algae, moss, and fungi growth.
  • Because thermoplastic polyolefin is manufactured from natural ethylene and petroleum, TPO roofing is fully recyclable and also suited for landfills. The material can degrade or even be incinerated without emitting harmful fumes and emissions; it also doesn’t release noxious fumes during installation!

How Long Does TPO Roofing Last?

TPO roofing typically lasts some 22-30 years before it needs replacement. You can also patch any tears and holes with specialty patching materials and welding equipment, prolonging the roof’s overall lifespan.

TPO roofing maintenance is also relatively simple; the roof usually only needs regular brushing with a stiff-bristled broom or brush, to remove debris and standing water. Cleaning with a mild detergent, including household dish detergent, and warm water will keep TPO roofing in good repair and looking its best.

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Ins & Outs of TPO Roof Installation

There are a few different installation methods for TPO roofing. One is a fully adhered TPO roof, with the material attached to the roof’s substrate with a strong adhesive. Mechanically attached TPO roofing uses specialty fasteners to attach TPO roofing layers to a structure.

A ballast installation starts with the TPO roofing laid over the roof, and then a ballast, typically river rock, is used to hold the material in place. Ballasted roofs use eco-friendly materials that are fully recyclable, and the ballasts help prevent standing water on your structure’s roof.

Another advantage of ballasts is that they provide better traction for walking than a flat TPO roofing material alone. Gravel also traps and holds debris like leaves and twigs, keeping them out of roof drains and helping to avoid clogged gutters and downspouts.

Those ballasts or gravel are also easy to remove or sweep out of the way when you need to perform roof repairs, and then sweep back into place. They also act as a natural barrier against hail and other heavy debris. Gravel also offers a more natural appearance than a TPO roof alone, something your neighbors might especially appreciate!

What’s the Difference Between a TPO Roof & a PVC Roof?

A polyvinyl chloride or PVC roof is similar to TPO roofing and offers excellent advantages as well, including being naturally water-resistant and lightweight. Both materials are also resistant to grease and chemicals, as well as punctures and tears.

A PVC roof is considered slightly stronger than TPO and might resist cracking and other damage more readily. However,  TPO roofing is more eco-friendly, as it’s fully recyclable and doesn’t emit harmful fumes and emissions during incineration, as said.

Also, because PVC has more plasticizers, it might break down more readily than TPO. TPO roofing is also typically cheaper than PVC, an especially important consideration for larger commercial structures.

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Can You Coat a TPO Roof?

Coating a TPO roof is an excellent way of improving its appearance and prolonging its overall lifespan! Acrylic and silicone coatings are both excellent choices for TPO roofing, as these both adhere well to the rubber materials used for the roof and both withstand harsh weather conditions while still holding their color and appearance.

Silicone coatings are excellent for roofs prone to standing water, as silicone has very low water absorption properties. Acrylic coatings often hold their color better and are less expensive than silicone, but are not always the best choice for roofs prone to standing water and puddles.

When choosing a coating or paint color, note that lighter colors reflect heat more readily, which is especially important for production facilities or businesses with heavy machinery that produces heat. Also, keep in mind the view of your neighbors when choosing a TPO roofing color! Bright white roofing might be jarring especially to residents in elevated homes nearby, whereas shades of brown or green allow your building to blend into nearby landscaping more readily.

How Much Does a TPO Roof Cost?

In most cases, a high-quality TPO roof will cost around $5.50 to $6 per square foot, including tear-off. Your roofing will then typically cost between $5500 and $6000 per 1000 square feet or $8250 to $9000 for every 1500 square feet. Some roofing installation contractors might increase those costs for excessive roof obstructions and for repairing roofing damage before installation.

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Is TPO Roofing More Expensive Than EPDM?

Ethylene propylene diene monomer or EPDM is a favorite rubber roof material often used for flat roofs and commercial buildings. EPDM is tough and durable, water-resistant, and lightweight, and is flexible enough to move and expand without cracking or tearing.

On average, EPDM roofing costs from $4 to $8 per square foot, making average costs virtually equal to TPO roofing! A rubber EPDM roof also lasts as long as TPO roofing, usually 25 to 30 years on average.

The one challenge with EPDM roofing is that rubber glue seams tend to get dry and brittle during extremely cold weather, so that the roof might need more repairs when exposed to harsh winter weather. A TPO roof is also considered easier to recycle, making it the more eco-friendly choice overall.

Interested in other roofing materials that withstand the elements, check out our blog on top-rated roofing materials.

Can You Pressure Wash a TPO Roof?

It’s vital that a commercial property owner keep a building’s roof clean throughout the year. Dirt and soot dry out roofing materials, leading to premature cracks and breakage, while standing water encourages mold and mildew growth as well as insect infestation.

High-pressure washing is typically damaging to most roofing materials, including TPO roofing, asphalt shingles, clay tiles, and concrete tiles. A high-pressure hose easily punctures and cracks these materials, strips granules from asphalt, and loosens adhesives, nails, bolts, and other connectors.

A soft wash pressure washing is typically preferred for TPO and other roofing materials. Soft wash systems start with cleansers that dissolve thick dirt, mud, dust, and other residues, so that only a low-pressure rinse, typically just slightly stronger than a garden hose nozzle, is needed to remove that dirt and debris.

To ensure your TPO roofing stays clean, rely on a professional power washing contractor for needed roof cleaning. He or she will know the right cleansers to use for your roof in particular, as well as a safe pressure for washing the roof without causing damage!

Maintaining Your TPO Roof so it Can Last A Lifetime!

The biggest risk for TPO roofing is damage along its seams. Once these seams break down or shred, this allows water to seep in below the roofing membrane. The membrane itself can also start to tear and shred along those weakened areas.

To prevent this risk and keep your TPO roof in good repair, schedule regular inspections and especially for areas along the seams. A roofing contractor near you can patch any torn or cracked areas and reduce the risk of further damage.

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A Word From Our Roofers

The Connecticut Roofers is happy to present this information to our readers and we hope it answers the question of what is a TPO roof. If you need expert roof repairs in Connecticut or a full-scale roof tear-out and replacement, don’t hesitate to give us a call! We carry a complete line of high-quality roofing materials and stand behind all our work with an ironclad guarantee you can trust.

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