Installing Single-Ply Roofing Systems


Single-ply roofing has been one of the most popular roofing systems used for decades. Single-ply roofing is often preferred over other types because it is easier to install and there are fewer seams involved which can create leaks. Chances are that this type of roofing has been recommended to you, but before you buy and install, it is worth understanding how single-ply roofing works and what the advantages are.

Installing Single-Ply Roofing Systems

The types of membrane for single-ply roofing include TPO and EPDM. TPO is a thermoplastic membrane consisting of different layers chemically bonded to form a roof system. EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) is created in a similar way to TPO but with different materials and a different process. EPDM roofing has been used for over 60 years, while TPO is much newer. Typically both TPO and EPDM systems come in varying thicknesses of either 45-mil, 60-mil, or 90-mil. Single-ply roofing has become more popular with the creation of TPO, as this has become the preferred option over EPDM. With TPO roofing, you get a white, reflective surface. This keeps heat away from the roof and building, which means lower energy costs for you. EPDM membranes are typically dark which absorb heat, making them less effective than TPO in warmer climates. For colder climates, a darker membrane-like EPDM will warm up quicker and thaw any frozen water, which is beneficial.

Installation of Single-Ply Roofing

To install single-ply roofing, the existing roof has to be prepared beforehand. The surface needs to be removed and cleaned thoroughly. A board needs to be placed down in which to install the membrane over. If the roofing has bad damage and needs to be replaced, make sure the system is taken down to the steel deck or concrete. New insulation should be applied and then the membrane you choose will be going over that. Rubber EPDM systems are mechanically attached using plates and screws. They can also be applied using adhesives or ballasted with a gravel system. TPO roofing does not have a ballastes option with gravel. With EPDM membranes you use bonded seam tapes to keep all seams together. For TPO membranes, a welder or hot air gun is required to fuse the seams together. Both TPO and EPDM are available in rolls that are cut to size depending on what you need. They can be purchased in 10-foot, 12-foot, or 20-foot wide rolls. You will be overlapping your seams so be sure to consider this when choosing the appropriate width.

Advantages of Single-Ply Roofing

One of the biggest advantages of these roofing systems is that they are trusted and proven. Having been a major part of the roofing industry for over 60 years, single-ply roofing is reliable. These systems are also very easy to install and generally only require a small team. In addition to ease of installation and reliability, there are other important advantages to consider:

  • UV resistance and reflection of heat saves on energy costs
  • Class A fire rating, so lower chance of flame spreading
  • Affordable as compared to other roofing systems

Even though single-ply roofing offers many advantages, there are a few disadvantages to remember.

  • UV rays can cause degradation over time.
  • Sometimes tensile strength is lost over time, which can cause pulling or bellowing.
  • Single-ply membranes can also puncture easily, so are not ideal for roofing with a lot of heavy equipment or heavy foot traffic.

Warranties for single-ply membranes are typically 10 through 30 years depending on manufacturer and installer. When your warranty expires, you have the option to put an additional warranty on the roof or place a new membrane down over the old one. You can also pull the old membrane up and install a brand new one, depending on wear. Adding an SRM coating over the membrane also adds a few additional years to its life.

Final thoughts

As reliable and durable as single-ply roofing is, regular maintenance is still important. You want to check the roofing every year to make sure it lasts through its warranty. Any problems that you identify need to be repaired right away, to maintain the roof’s integrity. You may be able to take care of smaller repairs yourself. Small punctures can be primed and then patched up quickly. For significant damage or any holes larger than 3 inches, you need to reach out to a professional roofer to get the repair made as soon as possible. There are many benefits to having single-ply roofing, and now that you know all there is to know, you can start deciding if you want TPO or EPDM. And, we are here to help you with your questions and concerns and will get the system installed properly and efficiently, guaranteed.


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