EPDM: A Tried and True Roof Replacement Solution
EPDM is the most commonly found commercial roofing solution in the United States today. It is a synthetic rubber material developed from oil and natural gas manufactured into long rolls and spread across the surface of a low-slope roof.
The underlayment of EPDM is insulation and structural decking that complete the roof envelope and make up the basics of a roofing system. While some other roof types are gaining popularity quickly, EPDM remains the most-installed commercial roof material today because it is the most tested material in modern roofing history.
EPDM has been around since the 1960s and has about 60 years of experience protecting buildings and businesses from the elements and other conditions. Malone was an early adopter of EPDM roofing systems, having installed it’s first one in 1984. This roof lasted almost 30 years before it was replaced.
Alternatives over the years have installed many commercial roof replacements, but since the last mid-century, EPDM has stood the test of time and remains one of the most durable and trustworthy solutions.
What is EPDM Roofing?
EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer and is one of the earliest rubber roofing solutions still widely found on the market as of 2023. It’s an incredibly versatile roofing solution that is effective in warm, cold, wet, or dry climates.
Many choose EPDM roofing because of its ability to help retain heat within a building, lowering electrical expenses and increasing occupant comfort in cooler climates.
EPDM is much like the asphalt shingles found on residential and steep slope roofs. Made from many of the same materials as shingles, a roll of EPDM roofing is much like a long, flat roll of shingle that goes over a flat roof but is secured at the seams to prevent leaks.
EPDM is installed using one of three methods: adhered, mechanically fastened, or ballasted.
Adhered roofing means that the EPDM is glued to the underlayment to permanently attach the roof to the structure.
Mechanically attached EPDM is installed by rolling the EPDM sheets over mechanically-fastened insulation plates then mechanically attaching the sheets at the seams to the plates.
Ballasted roofing implies laying the roof membrane over the structural decking and insulation, then covering the surface of the roof with rocks, stones, or other materials to keep the membrane held down. Ballasted roofing is a method that we no longer recommend at Malone Roofing, unless the previous roofing system is ballasted or there is another unique factor or requirement to consider.
Benefits of EPDM Roofing
Of the many positive attributes of EPDM roofing, roofers and customers alike tend to favor EPDM for its long lifespan. With a lifetime range of 15 – 50 years, EPDM roofing can last much longer than other popular roof membranes.
Keep in mind: for a roof to last 4-5 decades, it has to be treated with preventative maintenance consistently, and even still, 50 years is probably a long shot. However, EPDM is regularly touted as one of the longest-lasting materials in the roofing industry.
Most business owners can expect their new, professionally installed EPDM roof to last anywhere from 20-30 years with a proper maintenance schedule in place.
Other benefits of EPDM include a solid resistance to hail and other factors known to damage other membranes. EPDM is flexible but durable in fighting severe weather conditions.
EPDM roofing is a cost-effective solution for anyone looking for a commercial roof replacement. Due to its simple and sturdy make-up, EPDM is an economical material that can deliver a favorable ROI over the roof’s life span.
Contributing to its cost-efficiency is the fact that EPDM roofing is easy to install by a trained and experienced roofing contractor. Compared to other roofing systems like PVC and TPO, EPDM is straightforward and easy to manipulate.
Not many other roofing materials have the time on market like EPDM. Many roofing products are developed, sold, and, once they begin fail or deteriorate faster than intended, discontinued.
Since EPDM has been trusted as a roofing solution for nearly 60 years, it has one of the longest track records and is well-tested. Prospective buyers can rest assured that EPDM is a solid commercial roof replacement choice.
How Long Does EPDM Roofing Last?
An EPDM roof will often last 30 years or less, depending on annual maintenance. Some say it can last over five decades with impeccable expert care, as some 50-year-old EPDM roofs are still used today.
Here at Malone Roofing, we like to stay on the safe side and assume a professionally installed, well-maintained EPDM roof with preventative maintenance can last a customer around 20-30 years.
Many variables can affect the lifetime serviceability of a commercial roof. All are worth considering, however some are more pertinent than others. Factors that will determine the lifespan of an EPDM roof include, but are not limited to:
- Installation quality
- Foot traffic
- Ponding water
- UV ray exposure
What are the Limitations of EPDM Roofing?
While EPDM is an outstanding and versatile roofing membrane, it is not without a few disadvantages in some situations. EPDM roofing is more easily damaged than some alternatives, making strength and durability something to consider before purchasing a new roofing system.
EPDM does not have a tough surface like TPO or PVC. As a result, it can puncture and tear more easily than some of its competitors. It also performs poorly when exposed to chemicals and grease, often found on top of restaurants, multi-family apartments, and condominium buildings.
EPDM’s darker finish retains more heat and causes progressive breakdown as well as causing higher indoor temperatures. So buyers hoping to reduce their electricity bills may want to steer clear of heat-absorbing EPDM roofing.
Material shrinkage and wrinkles can occur during installation and, over time, can lead to costly roof leaks. Wrinkling can occur on a mechanically fastened roof wherever the EPDM is only attached at the edges. While this is normal, excessive instances can impede the flow of rain water and cause ponding or other build-up on the roof.
Of course, having an inexperienced roofer install a system like EPDM could lead to premature roof failure. Most roofers mean well, but you shouldn’t trust them to work on your precious investments if they don’t have the experience or foundation to back up their work and offer warranties. Instead, call on a reliable and experienced local roofing company like EC Malone to handle all of your EPDM roofing needs!
How Much Does EPDM Roofing Cost?
Costs for EPDM roofing will vary depending on the availability of the material and market conditions, as well as various attributes of the roof being worked on. On average, installed EPDM roofing costs between $5 – $13 per square foot. A reliable roofing contractor will give you a more accurate estimate once they’ve conducted a complete roof inspection and have documented how complex the roof replacement project will be.
A small checklist of items must be done to determine the cost of an EPDM roof:
- How big is the roof? What is the square footage?
- How high off the ground is the roof area that will be replaced?
- How many protrusions does the roof have? (the more there are, the more expensive the project will be)
- What kind of equipment and technology will be used during the project>
- What are the current local labor costs?
While there is no definitive price point on any given day, these baseline questions should help a buyer get an idea for how much an EPDM roof project may cost. If you have further questions about roofing costs, contact us today to speak with one of our commercial roofing experts.
TPO Roofing VS EPDM
EPDM, the most common commercial roofing solution, is often compared to TPO roofing, the increasingly popular roofing solution. Clients looking for a full roof replacement compare and contrast these materials, and they often want to know which will be the best choice in the long run.
The truth is the decision will ultimately depend on the unique situation of the property to be re-roofed. That’s why property owners and managers need to consult with their trusted professional roofer to determine the best possible fit for the desired budget.
Will your roof be subject to grease and chemical spills? Will it be required to support steady foot traffic and maintenance personnel? Is the region where the roof is being installed cold or hot most of the time? These are just some of the questions that buyers and roofers need to address before making a decision.
Some of the common differences between EPDM and TPO roofing are listed below.
- EPDM typically lasts longer than TPO and is generally a more durable material.
- EPDM is more resistant to fire and hail damage than TPO
- TPO is often white, and the bright color helps reflect damaging UV rays while also helping keep indoor temperatures down in the summertime. EPDM is usually darker and excels at retaining heat within a building.
- TPO is generally more flexible than EPDM, helping alleviate its susceptibility to punctures.
- TPO is also often heat welded and chemically adhered, whereas EPDM is usually mechanically adhered with seam tape welds.
When making a decision, ask yourself what you need. Do you need a cooler building or a warmer one? In the south, we usually need cooler!
TPO is great for high-sunshine environments while EPDM is perfect for cold, overcast climates that appreciate the added warmth from the dark EPDM surface.
Curious if your commercial roof would benefit from EPDM Roofing? Let’s talk!
Call Malone today to learn more about how we can help your business.
“If you don’t know Malone, you don’t know roofing!”