PVC Roofing is One of the Best Commercial Roofing Solutions

One of the top single-ply roofing solutions for commercial businesses is Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC roofing. PVC roofing is regarded as one of the most robust and reliable low-slope roofing systems available, known for its chemical resistance and superior durability.

While PVC is quite commonplace in various construction applications, it’s earned a special place in the repertoire of expert commercial roofers, delivering an excellent roofing solution for clients while also being fairly fast to install.

Industrial buildings, manufacturing plants, and restaurants will frequently opt for PVC roofing because of its ability to withstand damage from various chemicals and grease. It’s also a popular choice for airports, gas stations, multi-family condominiums, shopping centers, and apartment complexes.

PVC offers a strong defense against typical weather instances such as rain, wind, occasional hailstorms. With adequate preventative measures in place, PVC roofing can give businesses reliable cover for over three decades, making it one of the longer lasting roof systems.

Here we’ll explain the pros and cons of PVC roofing, as well as when and where PVC applications are most beneficial for commercial and industrial buildings.

What is PVC Roofing?

PVC stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride, is a thermoplastic single-ply roofing membrane, meaning all of its seams are attached via heat-welding. Among all of PVC’s applications, it’s chosen by roofers time and again for its sturdy construction, lasting durability, cost-efficiency, and chemical resistance.

After decades of development and testing, PVC roofing manufacturers landed on a few iterations that managed the perfect balance between durability, flexibility, and thickness of membrane that roofers and their clients love today.

Of those iterations, there are 3 main types of PVC roofing:
PVC: the flagship formula is also the most commonly used type of PVC roofing. Due to its liquid plasticizer-infused membrane, it offers a perfect balance of flexibility and strength, while also being the most cost effective of the group.
KEE: this contains a solid plasticizer, resulting in an even stronger membrane that has a better resistance to punctures and cracks. While KEE is known for its longevity, it is also considered to be more costly than the other options.
Elavoy: the hybrid solution, Elavoy uses a blend of solid and liquid plasticizers in its membrane, offering the customer the best attributes of each. Elavoy is known for being long lasting without being the highest priced option.

Benefits of PVC Roofing

In the roofing industry, any expert roofing contractor knows that PVC is often the first choice for businesses in the food and beverage industry. With its strong resistance to chemicals, fire, and grease as well as an easy cleaning process, PVC is the natural choice for any building that has food service capabilities.

PVC’s resistance to fire makes it an excellent choice for apartment buildings and multi-family dwellings. Due to the common occurrence of roofing fires in the early 1900’s, the construction industry began looking for more safe and reliable forms of roofing, thus leading to materials like PVC.

In restaurants and multi-family residential buildings there is an abundance of grease, chemicals, and smoke coming from air conditioning units that expel vapors from the vents and grease traps onto the roof. Grease and other chemicals do not easily penetrate the PVC membrane, thus making it easier for cleaning and maintenance that leads to longer roof lifespan.

When multiple pieces of PVC membrane are heat-welded together at the seams they create a monolithic structure that is resistant to wind, rain, and some instances of hail damage. Keeping the inside of a building dry is the main objective of a roofing structure and PVC is one of the most effective solutions for it.

Considering the fact that PVC has several techniques for installation, it is highly touted for its flexibility in installation, making it a desirable choice for clients and commercial roofing companies alike.

How Long Will PVC Roofing Last?

Without proper preventative maintenance, most roofing solutions will fail prematurely, no matter how long they’re said to last. With the right amount of attention and preparation, a professionally installed PVC roofing system can last for up to 30 years!

Due to PVC’s flexible, yet sturdy construction it is able to withstand things like weather, foot traffic, and chemical exposure that might cause more severe damage in other roofing materials, like EPDM, or modified bitumen.

With the proper care from water-based cleansers that do not produce suds, PVC can be cleaned and repaired with ease by an experienced roofing contractor. Remember that abrasive materials and chemicals are not compatible with PVC roofing, and can lead to premature failure if they are used for cleaning off dirt, grease, and more.

What Are Some Limitations of PVC Roofing?

PVC roofing is a strong choice for most commercial needs, but there are some considerations to make before selecting PVC for your next roof replacement. Here are a few situational reasons PVC roofing might not be the best solution for you.

PVC roofing can be expensive. Customers get what they pay for, and PVC roofing delivers the results businesses need with a higher price tag in tow. Depending on the unique circumstances of a building, its owners, or property managers, investing in an efficient and long lasting roofing system like PVC may be overkill.

If a structure is not exposed to substances like grease or other chemicals, or if the building will be remodeled/ demolished in the near future to make room for improved real estate development, then PVC may not be worth the extra investment compared to TPO or EPDM.

Another pitfall to PVC roofing is that in icy conditions it can shatter. Unlike other single-ply roofing materials, the liquid plasticizers in PVC are susceptible to freezing and breaking when the weather gets into freezing temperatures. These shatters are prime entryways of water, developing roof leaks that lead to further costly damage.

While PVC should be fine when installed closer to the southern hemisphere, like in the Southeast United States, it may not fare as well in the cold climate found in the northern parts of the world.

How Much Does PVC Roofing Cost?

Roofing costs can vary greatly depending on various circumstances: whether a roof has many different terraces or levels, if it is relatively flat, or if it has many protrusions or not are just some examples.

Typically roofs that have many different elevations with a large number of mechanicals systems, like HVAC, on the roof are more difficult to service, resulting in higher labor costs. On the other hand, roofs that are generally flat with little to no protrusions are easier to install and will usually mean lower labor costs.

The simple answer is that customers can expect to spend anywhere from $6 to $15 per square foot of PVC roofing installed.

TPO VS PVC Roofing: Making the Right Choice

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding PVC roofing is how it compares and contrasts to TPO roofing, the most commonly prescribed commercial roofing solution in North America. While these materials often look the same with their sleek, white finishes that shine and reflect harmful UV rays, they are quite different.

While TPO is more common and typically more cost effective, it has some drawbacks compared to PVC. TPO roofing is less resistant to punctures than PVC, making it more susceptible to leaks and other damage. It also is known for its energy efficiency, giving it another slight advantage over PVC roofing in that regard.

However, PVC roofing is often regarded as the better choice when selecting a membrane that must fare against chemicals and grease. TPO is harder to clean and therefore could be at risk of deterioration and premature failure when applied over a restaurant.

PVC is also known rto shrink over long periods of time, whereas TPO does not. Roof shrinkage opens up the possibility for widespread leaks and interior damage when not treated with consistent preventative measures.

Ultimately each product is not without flaws, but they both seem to serve unique situations better than the other. TPO tends to be the best overall value for the money and lifespan, where PVC is trusted by specific industries for its relevant protective qualities.

Curious if Your Commercial Roof Would Benefit From PVC Roofing? Let’s Talk!

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