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TPO Vs. PVC: Which Roof is Best for Me?

September , 2023 | 9 min. read

By Johnny Girard

drone view of homes and buildings with flat roofs

I’ll be honest, repairing a flat roof can be tricky. I know what you’re thinking: that’s so not something you want to hear a roofing contractor say, but it’s true! Tricky however doesn’t equal impossible in this scenario, especially when it comes to TPO and PVC roofing. All it means is that during your project, your roof will be experiencing a little extra TLC. What, acronym overkill? 

That being said, If you’re the proud owner of a low slope or flat roof, sorry to say, but you’re already at a disadvantage. The water doesn’t drain off of your roof as fast as a steep slope roof. For example, let’s say you spring a leak. With the roof being flat, the water could be coming in from further away than where the leak is showing up on your ceiling, making it harder to detect and repair, even for the experts.

flat roofing with mechanical units all over the roof

We get your flat roof concerns. RoofCrafters has been repairing and replacing flat roofs for nearly 3 decades. It’s safe to say that we understand a thing or two about TPO and PVC roofing.  We also want to make sure commercial property owners are knowledgeable about their roofs before their contractor even shows up.

If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to say you’ve had a question or 2 raised about a TPO or PVC roof, and you’re wondering what your options are. It’s a good thing you’re here because, in this article, I’ll be explaining what TPO and PVC roofing are, their pros and cons, and things to consider before choosing the material for your next roof installation.

Let’s get started!


What is a TPO Roof?


TPO is an acronym for thermoplastic polyolefin (see why the roofing industry shortened that?) and is a single-ply membrane that’s used most commonly in commercial roofing, however, there are instances where residential roofing will use it, too.


Commercial roofing crew on a TPO roof

TPO is white, so it does a great job of reflecting heat instead of absorbing it. This will keep your flat roof and commercial area cool in temperature. TPO will remind you of how important regular maintenance is though because as you know, white roofs become dirtier a lot quicker than other colors.

What is a PVC Roof?


PVC or polyvinyl chloride is not much different from TPO. It’s also a white, heat-reflecting membrane that is used primarily for commercial properties. TPO and PVC both belong to the thermoplastic, single-ply family, but what makes them different is the chemical compositions in their bases. TPO is made of ethylene propylene rubber and polypropylene, while PVC is composed of ethylene and chlorine.

IMG_5001-2-2TPO leaking at hood vent with grease

Both TPO and PVC are incredibly durable. PVC can resist chemicals including grease and animal fats. PVC can resist mold growth, impact damages, and high levels of debris buildup. This is a great choice for strip malls with restaurants. Fast food establishments with hood vents over fryer stations. PVC is the only single-ply roofing that has this chemical resistance, making it the frontrunner when it comes to restaurants, malls with food courts, or any other building with grease traps on the roof.


Pros & Cons of TPO Roofing


So, how exactly does TPO roofing compare? There are a few differences; Let’s make a pros and cons list to help you better understand the differences.

roofer welding TPO on a hvac curb

TPO pros:

  • Is environmentally friendly
  • Reflective surface reduces UV radiation
  • Easy to install and repair
  • Energy efficient

TPO cons:

  • Less chemical resistant
  • Will deteriorate when grease or animal fats contact it
  • Higher membrane damage risk

PVC Roofing Pros and Cons


PVC roofing has its upside. It is the most widely used roofing on fast food restaurants and any building that has hood vents that may disperse grease from animal fats. 

PVC pros:

  • Offers optimal puncture and weathering resistance
  • 30-year reputation for durability
  • Highly chemical resistant (grease and animal fats)
  • Flexible
  • Easy installation

hood vent on a TPO roof leakingTPO roof leaking at hood vent with grease

PVC cons:

  • Plasticizer degradation
  • Higher material cost
  • Not as environmentally friendly

Things to Consider Before Choosing TPO or PVC


As you can see, the differences between TPO and PVC aren’t all that major, and they both make an excellent option for your flat roofing project. Still, when it comes to deciding between two materials, there are some considerations that you should take into account. To determine which material is the best fit for your project, consider the:

  1. flat roof work-1-1Labor
  2. Cost
  3. Quality
  4. Efficiency
  5. Standards
  6. Durability



When it comes to the labor aspects of your roofing project, TPO tends to be easier to install due to the speed at which we can weld the seams. It makes it faster to complete the detailed work at drains and thru-wall scuppers. PVC installations oftentimes will require more work because it requires that the installation slow down. 


Cost-wise, PVC is more expensive than TPO per square foot. So, while the material itself varies in cost, the cost of labor during installation is about equal for both materials, though PVC is slightly more labor-intensive. 


Whether you choose TPO or PVC for your roofing project, the quality of either material is one of the most important components. It’s essential to choose an experienced contractor with top-tier warranties if you want the best quality material and the most protection. If your contractor is certified by a top manufacturer, you can rest assured that your installation methods will be stellar, and so will your materials. 


PVC and TPO membranes both provide a white, naturally reflective surface that helps to reduce UV rays from penetrating the system, providing you with greater energy efficiency. So, when it comes to efficiency, you’ll be in good hands either way. When contractors use  PVC or TPO membranes, the roofing system in question is better protected from debris, too. 


ASTM International, formally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, regularly updates its standards for TPO roofing. Due to the frequency, some manufacturers may not be current on the most recent standards. This risk is much lower when it comes to PVC because it is an industry-established material. Just be sure to pick a contractor that you trust has a reputable supplier. 


Last but not least is durability. TPO roofs tend to be more durable because they lack plasticizers, unlike PVC roofs. However, commercial buildings with restaurants or fast food that have hood vents must use PVC roofs.  PVC roofing can withstand grease and animal fats without failure. At the end of the day, as long as you choose a contractor with experience, there shouldn't be a concern when it comes to the durability of a TPO or a PVC roof.

Which Flat Roof is Best for Me?


They’re both great options for commercial properties and have many different benefits. If you are the proud owner of a commercial property with a restaurant, PVC will be your choice! Now that you’re a little more well-versed with these two acronyms, it’s time to reach out to your local contractor and schedule your inspection.

commercial roofing company tearing off a flat roof with the text teamwork on the image


RoofCrafters works extensively with TPO and PVC roofing and can offer you the top warranties in the industry. Don’t wait any longer, and schedule an inspection with one of our expertly trained estimators. In the meantime, feel free to check out the extensive resources located in our learning center. I recommend reading, Commercial Roofing - What is an NDL Warranty? next, so you can delve deeper into vetting the roofer best suited for your project.

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Johnny Girard

At RoofCrafters, our mission is to provide job opportunities for others to thrive and grow while making a meaningful impact within our communities.