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

September 19th, 2022 | 7 min. read

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

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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 TPO or PVC 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. RoofCrafters has been repairing and replacing TPO and PVC roofs for nearly 3 decades now though, and it’s safe to say that we’ve perfected our installation methods. 

 

We 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 by your 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 is, 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?

 

Commercial roofing crew on 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.

TPO is white, so it does a great job of reflecting heat as opposed to 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?

 

roofer installing a roof drain on a flat roofPVC 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.

Both TPO and PVC are incredibly durable. TPO can resist mold growth, impact damages, and high level of debris buildup, which is a great choice for strip malls or warehouses. PVC on the other hand has greater 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 PVC and TPO Roofing

 

So, how exactly does TPO and PVC roofing compare? There are a few differences; Let’s make a pros and cons list.

 

PVC pros:

 

  • Offers optimal puncture and weathering resistance
  • 30-year reputation for durability
  • Highly chemical resistant
  • Flexible
  • Easy installation

 

TPO pros:

 

  • Is environmentally friendly
  • Reflective surface reduces UV radiation
  • Energy efficient

 

PVC cons:

 

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

 

TPO cons:

 

  • Less chemical resistant
  • Higher installation difficulty
  • Higher membrane damage risk

 

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 a great 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. Labor
  2. Cost
  3. Quality
  4. Efficiency
  5. Standards
  6. Durability


flat roof work

 

Labor

 

When it comes to the labor aspects of your roofing project, PVC tends to be easier to install due to the plasticizers in the membrane. It makes it more flexible and less susceptible to cracking. TPO installations oftentimes will require more work because it’s not as flexible, and sometimes contractors use glued seams over welded seams. 

 

Cost

 

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

 

Quality

 

Whether you choose TPO or PVC for your roofing project, the quality of either material is one of the most important components. It’s important to choose an experienced contractor with top-tier warranties if you want not only the best quality material but also the most protection. If your contractor is backed by GAF, you can rest assured that your installation methods will be stellar, and so will your materials. 

 

Efficiency

 

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 smoother PVC or TPO membranes, the roofing system in question is better protected from debris, too. 

 

Standards

 

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 up to date on the most recent standards. This risk is much lower when it comes to PVC because it is an industry-established material. So, if you choose the TPO route, be sure to pick a contractor that you trust has a reputable supplier. 

 

Durability

 

Last but not least is durability. TPO roofs tend to be more durable because they lack plasticizers, unlike PVC roofs. However, commercial buildings with PVC roofs have been known to withstand decades of wear and tear without failure. At the end of the day, as long as you chose a contractor with experience, there shouldn't be a concern when it comes to the durability of a TPO or a PVC roof.

 

When it comes to choosing between a TPO and PVC roof, there’s no wrong choice. They’re both great options for commercial properties and have many different benefits. 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.

 

If you’re struggling to find the best contractor for the job, be sure to download “The Top 10 Most Critical Questions You Want to Ask Your Potential Roofing Contractor”. This checklist includes several different prompts to ask your roofer to prepare you to hold the company accountable for its quality of work and services when it comes to your TPO or PVC roof.

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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, “How to Find the Right Roofing Contractor” next, so you can delve deeper into vetting the roofer best suited for your project.

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