EPDM Rubber Roofing Cost Vs. PVC and TPO in 2020

EPDM Rubber is one of the most common low-slope roofing systems for residential homes featuring low-slope or flat roofs, today.

EPDM in a Nutshell

Rubber membranes for low slope and flat roofs are made from EPDM rubber, a type of synthetic rubber characterized by a wide variety of applications.

EPDM Rubber Roof

The E in EPDM refers to Ethylene, P refers to Propylene, D refers to Diene, and M or Monomer refers to its classification.

The properties of natural rubber are modified to serve the purpose of synthetic rubber — synthetic rubber has improved weather resistance qualities as a result.

Cost

Expect to pay between $5.50 and $9.50 per square foot to install EPDM membrane on a typical flat roof, or about $8,250 to $14,250 for a 15 square (1,500 square feet) low-slope roof.

The cost may be higher or lower depending on the tear-off and removal cost of the existing roof, insulation layers, and the number of penetrations on your flat roof.

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

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For comparison, PVC and TPO roofs cost an average of $6.50 to $12.50 per square foot installed, including materials, professional installation, and labor warranty.

flat-roof


Potential Issues Requiring Frequent Repairs

By far, the most frequently encountered problem with EPDM rubber membrane is that it often fails at the glued seams due to freezing and refreezing of pooling water in contact with the seams, or because of the drying out of the glue due to age and/or improper installation, which happens quite often, especially if the contractor who installed the EPDM system in question is more of a generalist with primary focus on asphalt roofs, as opposed to a specialist with exclusive focus on low-sloped roofs.

Did you know? A skill gap in installing EPDM rubber and flat roofs in general is a common theme in residential flat roofing jobs. This is not the case in the commercial flat roofing segment because there is a sufficient volume of flat roofing work for commercial contractors to fully develop a specialist level expertise.

In the northeast, a typical rubber roof will likely need to be repaired within five to ten years from the day it was installed. A professional rubber roof repair involves cleaning up, re-gluing and re-seaming and patching over the failed seams.

Historical Background

EPDM rubber roofing was created several decades ago, during a time when builders and architects who were responsible for specifying roofing systems and waterproofing materials for commercial flat roofs, were in quite a dire need for a simplified low-slope roofing system that was easier and quicker to install than the traditional built up roofs (BUR) or torched down roofs responsible for a fair share of fires during the installation.

Notably, EPDM rubber roofs did not pose the danger of fire, and offered a fairly reasonable service lifespan for the money. Moreover, EPDM membranes did not require any special equipment such as torch for the installation, which greatly simplified the commercial project permitting, installer training, and the overall installation complexity.

Rubber roofs were also significantly cheaper to produce and install, resulting a positive cost-benefit return. Because there was no similar low cost low-slope roofing product at the time, EPDM quickly gained a wide spread acceptance as the new flat roofing alternative.

Nowadays, rubber roofing competes head-to-head against PVC and TPO roofing membranes.

Advantages of EPDM Rubber

One of the greatest advantages of EPDM rubber is that it has a strong resistance to water and the rubber membrane will not pollute rainwater, which means that a homeowner can store and use the collected rainwater for cleaning, personal hygiene, and other non-potable uses.

EPDM rubber roof with a water collection system

Inspiration Credits: Calico Studio

Resistant To UV, Weather, and Heat

Its outstanding resistance to UV rays and its stability against weather influences are two of the main properties of rubber roofs. It can survive intense temperature and it is also resistant to fire. Aside from that, it has exceptional electrical insulating properties and it is resistant to steam and polar substances.

Average Roof Replacement Cost:

Low End

$6,500

Mid-Range

$8,500

High End

$10,500

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Durability Considerations & Better Alternatives

Because of its long lasting elasticity and flexibility, rubber roofs are less likely to crack. They are more durable and can last longer than a lot of other types of roofs. They do not require heavy maintenance aside from rubber membrane seam repairs that can fail due to standing water, or due to glue drying out.

In our view, a better alternative to EPDM rubber is a specially reinforced PVC membrane that is hot-air welded, creating a super-strong bond in between the seams that become impenetrable to water, rather than simply glued at the seams.

As you can imagine, any glued seams will eventually come apart due to breaking down of chemical bonds from weathering effects, standing water and freeze-and-thaw cycles.


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9 thoughts on “EPDM Rubber Roofing Cost Vs. PVC and TPO in 2020”

  1. Alex,

    Have you ever heard of contractors using recycled rubber flooring as an alternative for EPDM roofing? It seems that this may be a lower cost option and has many of the same characteristics of EPDM.

    I’m mainly curious if you think this is a feasible solution. I think the issues with the seams will also be a problem for recycled rubber covering, so I’m not sure how to counter this issue.

    Thanks for your help.
    Luke

    Reply
      • I was partly referring to the recycled rubber roofing, but in a low-slope application vice high-slope. Mainly, I was curious if you knew of any contractors using recycled rubber sheets in low slope roof applications.

        Reply
        • I don’t believe recycled rubber sheets could match the performance of synthetic EPDM rubber membrane in a low slope / flat roof application.

          According to RubberCal, this is the current extent of recycled rubber sheet applications in Roofing: “whether it is the roof tiles themselves, or simply padding to protect the outer layers of the roof during maintenance and installation, recycled rubber is there to help with the task. EPDM being the traditional material used on roofs is slowly giving way to Tire Derived products!”

          That said, if you are concerned about the failure associated with glued/taped EPDM rubber seams, you may find a single-ply PVC membrane featuring hot air-welded seams a lot more compelling and longer-lasting option. More info here: https://www.roofingcalc.com/flat-roof-materials/

          Reply
    • Don’t forget that roofing is normally purchased as a warranted system. That means you buy all the components of the roof as a package and you get a warranted life span – commonly 20, 25, or 30 years.

      I don’t know of anyone giving warranties on recycled rubber roofs, though I’d be happy to be wrong.

      Steve

      Reply
  2. I live on ocean front where salt spray is constant. Can I have a rubber roof placed in this environment. I have a flat top roof with a water catch system. So I would need this to seal at the edge where the water runs into the drains which are made of concrete. I currently have a gravel roof that is only two years old and leaks. Can I also have the rubber roof placed on top of the gravel roof to reduce costs?

    Regards,
    John

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Yes, you can go with either EPDM rubber, PVC (Best Option) or TPO roofing membrane.

      If you plan to have a new roof installed over the existing tar and gravel roof, then you will need to ensure the roof deck and substrate are in good shape with no leaks, trapped moisture and rotting underneath.

      Keep in mind that you will need to install some insulation in between the old roof and the new membrane, whether it be EPDM rubber, PVC, or TPO. That being said, the screws holding a new membrane in place will need to be long enough to go through the layer of insulation, and the old roofing system and its substrate, such that they can be securely attached to the deck.

      If the old roofing substrate is already deeply damaged by water due to previous, ongoing roof leaks i.e. there is already a lot of trapped moisture and severe water damage, then performing a complete replacement with removal of the old roof may be necessary.

      PVC membrane would be a great choice here, though, but I would highly recommend ensuring the old roof substrate and the roof deck underneath it are in adequate/good shape first.

      Best,
      Alex

      Reply
    • Hi Ginny,

      Yes, when you put salt on a PVC roof, make sure you don’t walk over until it has melted. Salt is fairly abrasive and sharp and walking on it could damage the PVC roof surface. Other than that, it won’t cause deterioration of the PVC membrane. I’d be more concerned about the drains. In the future try to use one of the alternative products based on magnesium chloride – it might be a little kinder to any metals in the drain system.

      Reply

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