EPDM Rubber Roofing Cost Vs. PVC and TPO

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EPDM Rubber is one of the most common flat roofing systems for residential homes featuring low-slope or flat roofs, today. For the most part, it’s a fairly decent low-slope alternative to asphalt shingles that would normally require a minimum 3 to 12 roof pitch.

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. The E in EPDM refers to Ethylene, P refers to Propylene, D refers to Diene, and M refers to its classification. The characteristics of natural rubber are modified to serve the purpose of synthetic rubber, which means that synthetic rubber has improved weather resistance qualities.


EPDM rubber roofing average installation cost is $4.00 to $6.00 per square foot, or about $6,000 to $9,000 for a 15 square (1,500 square feet) flat 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.

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For comparison, PVC and TPO roofs cost an average of $5.50 to $7.50 per square foot installed, including materials and labor warranty.


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 water in contact with the seams, or because of the drying out of the glue due to age or improper installation, which happens quite often, especially if the installers do not typically install rubber roofs. 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

Rubber roofing was created several decades ago, during a time when builders and architects were in a dire need for a roofing system that was easier and quicker to install than built up roofs (BUR), or torched down roofs responsible for a fair share of fires during the installation.

EPDM roofs offered a longer service lifespan, and they did not require any special equipment for their installation. Rubber roofs were also cheaper to produce. Because there was no similar low cost roofing product at the time, EPDM quickly gained a wide spread acceptance as a new flat roofing alternative of the time. Nowadays, rubber roofing competes head-to-head against PVC and TPO roofing membranes.


EPDM rubber roof with a water collection system

Inspiration Credits: Calico Studio

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

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.

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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 they 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. Still, a better alternative to EPDM rubber is a specially reinforced PVC membrane, which 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 come apart, eventually.

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4 thoughts on “EPDM Rubber Roofing Cost Vs. PVC and TPO

  1. John Noel

    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?


    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      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.


    1. The Roof Guy Post author

      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.


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