TPO Vs PVC Roofing: The (Ultimate) 2022 Comparison

TPO vs PVC Roofing (Blog Cover)

The roofing industry has an age-old discussion about TPO vs. PVC roofing. Commercial roofing projects are usually expensive and involved. They are typically larger-scale than residential roofing jobs, and the choices for contractors and property owners differ. 

A commercial building often needs a low slope or flat roof. So you can’t simply slap some shingles and call it a day. Low pitch and flat roofing systems are unique and require different considerations. 

The most popular low slope and flat roofing system materials are TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Both of these types of roofing materials are classified as thermoplastic materials. As such, they have some similarities in terms of performance and installation. 

For instance, they are both single-ply roofing membranes, providing good waterproofing as single, continuous membranes with little to no seams. However, there are things you have to know about both materials. In the following post, Roofer’s Guild compares TPO vs. PVC roofing to make the best choice for your property. 

What is TPO Roofing?

TPO roofing membranes are ethylene or polyethylene materials bound to ethylene propylene rubber to create a TPO roofing membrane. 

Manufacturers originally developed TPO as a higher-quality alternative to PVC. However, the line between the two roofing systems has become blurred these days. Many often mistake one for the other as both are thermoplastic roofing materials and offer some of the same advantages. 

What is PVC Roofing?

PVC roofing material is the product of polymerizing vinyl chloride monomers, followed by adding plasticizers to the monomers. The creation forms a durable and flexible roofing membrane that is chemical-resistant. 

You will find PVC roofing systems on many commercial roofs throughout the United States. They are ideal for flat roofing systems where drainage would otherwise be an issue. 

The Qualities of TPO Roofing

So why would anyone choose a TPO roofing system? There are actually lots of reasons. Here are just a few of the most important:

  • Eco-Friendly: Once a TPO roofing system has run the course of its life, it can be recycled. According to recycling authorities, about 11 million tons of roofing material waste are generated in the United States every year. Roofing waste is one of the most problematic forms of landfill waste. TPO roofing materials can be fully recycled, making them friendlier for the environment.
  • Energy Efficient: The outer layer of TPO roofing membranes can be light in color and highly reflective. The reflectivity helps reflect UV rays off your roof so that the building doesn’t heat up so much. In most cases, this will mean less air conditioner usage. Therefore, TPO roofing systems can help increase the energy efficiency of your commercial building.
  • Puncture Protection: TPO roofing membranes are known to be puncture-resistant. Their resistance makes them a suitable choice if your commercial building is in a windy area or has a lot of tree coverage. 

While these are all great benefits of TPO roofing, you should understand that TPO roofing is not as chemical-resistant as PVC roofing. However, chemical resistance may not be an issue if your business has nothing to do with handling or manufacturing chemicals and chemical byproducts. 

However, businesses like restaurants may not want to invest in a TPO roof as they don’t offer as much protection as PVC regarding substances like grease, oil, and smoke. You can also review some of the other common TPO roofing problems before making your final choice.

Roofer Fitting TPO On Roof

TPO roofing offers several benefits but also features a few downsides like its lack of chemical resistance

The Qualities of PVC Roofing

PVC roofing has been a stalwart in the roofing industry for over four decades. It is a prevalent material for commercial roofs, and here are some of the reasons for its popularity:

  • Flexibility: Compared to TPO roofing, PVC roofing membranes are more flexible. The added plasticizers increase the roof system’s flexibility. The flexibility makes it easier to install and more viable for complicated roofing systems with multiple breaks in the roof line. 
  • Chemical Resistance: PVC roofing is also more chemical-resistant than TPO roofing. So it may be a better choice in industrial applications or for any commercial building exposed to harsh chemicals and chemical byproducts. 
  • Weather Resistance: Because PVC roofing membranes are applied as a single, continuous piece, they offer excellent protection against the weather – in particular, water leaks.

Keep in mind that PVC is generally more expensive than TPO. Also, some PVC roofing materials use plasticizers. While plasticizers make the membrane more flexible, they may also make the material less durable.

Plasticizers break down quicker than the rest of the materials. In addition, they may lead to quicker degradation, primarily when used in areas with extreme heat and UV exposure. 

Consider that TPO and PVC roofing have similar lifespans. With TPO, you can expect the roof to last up to 30 years; but a more realistic expectation is more like 23 years. On the other hand, a PVC roof can last as long as 30 years with proper maintenance. 

Aside from PVC roofing, you can also check out a comparison between TPO vs. Modified Bitumen roofing.

Plasticerez makes PVC roofing flexible but may also contribute to its relatively fast degradation when compared to a material like TPO

Other Considerations When Choosing TPO vs. PVC

Understanding the fundamental differences between TPO and PVC roofing is essential, but other considerations may also arise. For example, industry regulations, warranties, and installation quality significantly influence the ultimate performance of your TPO or PVC roofing system.

Industry Regulations

First introduced to the US market in the early 90s, TPO is the newer and less-regulated material. In contrast, the more established PVC material has stricter regulations. Unfortunately, the more lenient regulations may result in inferior quality.

Warranties

No matter which material you are leaning towards, it’s essential to try to choose a manufacturer that offers the longest-lasting warranty. Keep in mind that a manufacturer warranty will not cover the installation. However, it will protect the material’s longevity for a specific time. 

Installation

As with any roofing material, the longevity of your roof depends significantly on its installation. Therefore, only licensed and insured contractors should install TPO and PVC roofing. For best results, you should work with a contractor with considerable experience with single-ply membrane roof installation.

You should always get estimates from multiple roofing contractors and ask each for numerous references. You may also want to opt for a contractor that can give you a comprehensive labor warranty.