For those in need of a commercial roof replacement, single-ply systems like PVC roofing membrane are a top-choice. Often considered one of the most sturdy and reliable flat roofing systems, PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) is a single-ply roofing membrane used on commercial and industrial properties for its strength and resistance to chemicals. PVC is a plastic material that is commonly used in many areas of construction, but roofing experts know it as a particularly effective material for roofing, the way it covers a large surface area and offers reliable protection from the elements.
PVC roofing is commonly used by industrial buildings, manufacturing plants, and restaurants for its inherent ability to better resist damage from grease and other chemicals that come up through ventilation systems. PVC roofing is also installed in many gas stations, airports, multi-family condominiums and apartments, and shopping centers.
Like most other single-ply roofing systems, a PVC roof is a strong defense against typical weather events like rain, wind, and the occasional hail storm. When properly maintained, PVC roofing can last for decades in the right environment, making it a great long-term investment into a commercial property. Since it is so lightweight, PVC roofing is easy to install and repair, resulting in shorter production times when performing roof replacements and repairs.
PVC is a thermoplastic roofing system that is heat-welded, forming a strong bond that is quick to install and effective at preventing roof leaks. PVC roofing’s appearance is typically white, and performs well at reflecting the sun’s harsh UV rays that otherwise damage darker-colored roofs over time. There are, like every other roofing system, pros and cons to choosing PVC roofing as the solution for a building cover, which we’ll discuss further on this page.
Because of the plethora of pre-fabricated accessories available, diversified installation methods, and wide variety of warranty coverages, you’ll no doubt be able to find the right TPO roofing solution for your building’s needs. Of course there are several pros and cons to selecting TPO as a flat roofing choice, most of which we’ll cover on this page.
Benefits of PVC Roofing
PVC roofing is chosen by roofing experts around the world for its overall reliability and strength, but its plastic surface offers some unique advantages for some businesses.
PVC Roofing is Resistant to Chemicals
Grease, as mentioned before, is incredibly common in food service business, and the vents that propel exhaust and foul odors out of the building are typically located on the roof, where grease (and other contaminant) particles will fall. Many other single-ply and multi-ply roofing materials will absorb grease, making it very difficult to clean, and therefore a two-part hazard: they degrade the surrounding roof membrane and lead to leaks and rotting, and they pose as a slip hazard where service personnel can injure themselves walking the roof of the property.
PVC Roofing is Resistant To Fire
Roofing underwent a revolution in the early 20th century as a result of roofs catching fire and quickly destroying buildings while harming occupants. PVC is chosen by businesses where flames are common (again, restaurants and apartment buildings) because it is difficult to set on fire. Igniting a PVC roof is difficult, and when it is aflame it burns slowly, allowing for mitigation.
PVC Roofing is Flexible
The ability for a roof membrane to expand and contract without breaking the waterproofing seals is critical for properties located in regions where the temperatures can fluctuate between hot and cold. PVC roofs and its heat-welded seals are able to withstand moderate changes in temperature making it an acceptable choice for buildings in most of North America.
PVC Roofing is Energy Efficient
With a reflective white surface and an ability to maintain cool temperatures indoors, PVC roofing is an effective energy-efficient roofing solution. The sun is the ultimate enemy of every roof system, but at least with PVC, heat is less likely to penetrate and warm the inside of the property it is installed on. Lower temperatures indoors result in lower energy bills and happier tenants, as well.
Limitations of PVC Roofing
PVC Roofing Only Has One Layer of Waterproofing
Like other single-ply roofing solutions, PVC only has a single layer of waterproofing – making it less likely to stop roof leaks in the event of a puncture or another compromise. For matters like this, regular preventive maintenance becomes imperative for PVC roofs.
PVC Roofing Can Shatter in Freezing/Icy Conditions
Unlike other single-ply roofing systems (such as EPDM & TPO), PVC’s formulation has a liquid plasticizer that is added to make the sheet flexible and malleable to work with. Unfortunately, overtime this plasticizer migrates out of the sheet which can lead the PVC roof membrane “shattering” in freezing temperatures and creating the conditions for roof leaks. Shatters fortunately do not typically spread across the whole roof (think like a crack in a truck windshield), but they will create the need for extensive and costly repairs. While PVC roofing formulations have come a long way to combat this issue, they can still be a gamble when installed in very cold regions of the country that average in sub-freezing temperatures in the winter.
PVC Roofing Is A Pricier Roofing Solution
PVC is one of the best options for businesses that want to make a long term investment, which also explains why it is one of the more expensive flat roofing systems for commercial properties. Ranging from $9-15 per square foot, installing PVC roofing is best done by professionals who have the right tools and experience.
How Long Will PVC Roofing Last?
When maintained properly, PVC roofing can last up to 30 years, which is one of the longest average lifespans for low-slope roofing systems. PVC roofing has been available on the market for several decades as of 2023, and its longevity has enabled manufacturers to optimize and improve the formulations to reduce plasticizer migration to make it one of the most tested materials on the market.
However, like all flat roofs without proper scheduled maintenance, a PVC roof can prematurely fail if the right conditions exist. Cracks, punctures, and leaks left unchecked can spell the end for any roofing system. It’s important for property owners to make sure they have a preventative maintenance program in place so that they have a professional set of eyes to inspect and repair their PVC roof at least twice a year.
Regular inspections, prompt repairs, and routine cleaning and maintenance can help prolong the serviceability of a TPO roof by several years. Keep in mind that TPO roofs hold up well against ponding water because of the heat-welded seams. However, dark areas of the roof (like those caused by stagnant water) can cause sections of the roof to prematurely fail; this is because those areas attract more heat to the TPO field sheet causing them to wear out faster. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the TPO roofing system’s drainage points are cleaned regularly and that any low lying or flat areas that are causing ponding water are addressed.
How Does TPO Roofing Compare To Similar Options?
PVC vs TPO
This type of thermoplastic roofing is similar to TPO in terms of energy efficiency and durability with the added benefit of better chemical resistance, but it is more expensive. Both PVC and TPO roofs are recyclable and environmentally friendly. TPO roofing is a smart, cost-effective, durable, and energy-efficient option for commercial and industrial buildings. However, it has limitations, such as sensitivity to heat and protection only as good as a single-layer roofing can provide, so it’s important to consider your local climate and building needs before making a decision.
PVC vs EPDM
EPDM is a thermoset rubber roofing system that is installed using taped seams. While EPDM has been in service longer than TPO and is considered to be a good flat roof option, the fact remains that the majority of EPDM membranes are not reinforced, and with taped seams they are a less durable system. This also means they are more susceptible to punctures and tears, and with chemically bonded seams require more consistent maintenance. Finally a majority of EPDM roofs are dark in color, meaning they attract more heat and are a less energy efficient roof option. However, you can opt for a white EPDM roof so long as you’re willing to pay a steep premium on the roofing materials and accessories.
PVC vs Modified Bitumen (Mod Bit)
BUR roofing is one of the more traditional roofing options that involves applying layers of hot asphalt and fiberglass felts to create a roof membrane with 4-5 layers of waterproofing protection for a 20+ year warranty. This is one of the more labor-intensive roofing options available. Built up roofing has a service track record dating back 100+ years, which lends to its reliability. Keep in mind that labor is a major driver of the final cost of a roofing project, so the expense should be considered when making a decision.
Contact Us for Your Free Roof Estimate
Have questions about PVC roofing? Call Colbert Roofing today and we can help you with whatever you need.
We’re Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland’s choice for professional PVC roof installations!
With over 60 years of experience, our technicians are ready to take on any roofing challenge. You can count on us to get your rubber roofing project job done right. We’re happy to talk more about our rubber roof replacement services and all of your options when it comes to single-ply roofing. Give Colbert Roofing Corporation a call at (703) 552-9143 or fill out our online form to schedule your free roof estimate!