Are you ready to install a new roof on your commercial building?
If you’re a business leader, you know the importance of maintaining a safe and efficient workplace environment. That’s why it pays to invest in a roofing system that will remain durable and high-performing throughout for years.
One of the most buzzed-about applications in the roofing industry is single-ply roofing membrane. Cost-effective, flexible and sturdy, this is an ideal way to cover and protect flat and low-sloped roofs.
If this sounds like a great fit for your building, read on. Today, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of single-ply roofing, as well as preferred material types.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
What are Single-Ply Roofing Membranes?
Over the past few decades, various types of single-ply roofing alternatives have risen in popularity. Still, there are many who are still uninitiated with this innovative technique.
Despite being specifically situated for low-slope roofs, this type of roofing material has piqued the interest of business owners and roofing contractors alike, who have used it in a variety of settings. Easily adaptable, eco-friendly and resistant to harmful UV rays, these systems are gaining new ground in a big way.
That said, what exactly are they?
As their name implies, single-ply roofing systems are comprised of a single, waterproofing layer placed between the structure itself and the elements above. The layer can be ballasted (weighted down with rocks), fully adhered or mechanically fastened to a layer of insulation. In most cases, these systems include three to four basic elements, including:
- An insulating layer, which can allow for low slope on buildings that don’t have a slope in the roof decking.
- The single-ply membrane
- Protective flashing and termination on the roof edges to prevent water seepage
- Adhesive, fasteners, and/or welding to bond the layers together
While this is an accurate description, it’s far from exhaustive. In fact, there are many different kinds of single-ply systems, materials, and technologies depending on your needs. The one feature they all have in common? All of them only consist of a single roof membrane.
The two main categories of single-ply systems include:
- Rubber, or EPDM
- Thermoplastic membranes (PVC and TPO)
The most common type of rubber roof is Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM). This roof membrane is compounded from a synthetic rubber polymer. Though this roof type is common in the northern states, there are many disadvantages to this roof type.
EPDM is greatly affected by its environment, such as temperature. EPDM’s emissivity is very low, meaning because of the product type and the color, it will not release heat effectively.
This causes your roof system to expand and contract at a higher rate, due to the higher changes in temperature. Because of this, the life of your roof will lessen, as expansion and contraction will cause cracks in the system.
There are multiple other reasons why this roof type is inferior to its competitors. in this article, we’re taking a closer look at thermoplastics. Specifically, we’ll examine the distinguishing factors of the two dominant types: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO).
Unlike EPDM roofing membranes, which change physical characteristics after exposure to hot air and thus can’t employ hot air welding, TPO and PVC return back to their original form upon cooling. This enables them to use hot air welding to create a cohesive lap.
To make them even more resistant to tearing, most thermoplastics include a reinforcement layer, called scrim, which is made of polyester. This strengthens the membranes and makes them more dimensionally stable.
While you’ll find many different manufacturers offering their own systems, the two most common types of thermoplastic single-ply roofing membranes include PVC and TPO.
Varying Cost Factors
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all single-ply roofing system. As these solutions are so diverse in nature, you’ll find varying costs depending on your specific installation requirements.
A few of the factors that will play into your overall cost include:
- The type of roofing system you select
- The specific attachment method you select
- The nature of your new roofing system (recover versus tear-off)
- Costs for additional add-ons or extended warranty terms
- Special requirements to meet building and energy codes
Your roofing contractor should be able to provide you with a complete quote that breaks down your costs depending on the above factors and any other special considerations.
The Pros of Single-Ply Roofing Systems
Why should you invest in a single-ply roofing system? Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits you can expect.
Energy and UV Efficient
Do you live in a region that sees a constant supply of strong sunlight? What about strong weather fluctuations? Not only are these systems durable and able to hold up against extreme conditions, but they’re also naturally reflective.
In fact Duro-Last, the world leader in PVC installation, has been named the World’s Coolest Roof System for reflectivity as well as emissivity. PVC also contains similar makeup to sunscreen which assists in the reflection of UV rays.
Single-ply roofing systems are also more energy-efficient than other models. Due to the nature of their construction, they’re able to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof.
When you install a roofing system with a high degree of solar reflectivity, you’ll help your whole building become more efficient and eco-friendly. Over time, this can help reduce your building’s overall heating and cooling costs, helping you save money on your utility bill!
These roofs hold up especially well in chemical conditions that could deteriorate other, weaker installations. This makes them ideal for acid rain conditions, as well as roofing environments that see high quantities of grease or oil, such as restaurants.
Being single-ply, won’t these membranes puncture and more easily from foot traffic or machinery than their multi-ply counterparts? Not in most cases.
While they might not have hard exteriors or redundant layers characteristic of multi-ply membranes, a premium-quality single-ply system will have an excellent base fabric that provides superior puncture resistance. In fact, a roofing system’s durability depends more on this reinforcing fabric than on the thickness of the membrane itself.
Another thing to consider, PVC has another layer within its scrim called weft insertion. This layer prevents the membrane from ripping further if it is punctured. For example, say a tree falls and cuts your PVC membrane.
Another roof type could catch in the wind and the entire roof system will do what is called a “zipper effect” pulling the membrane back, ripping it further. Due to the weft insertion, PVC will catch only a few inches from its tear, not allowing for any more ripage. This will allow for a very simple, easy, inexpensive patch job in a small area. Though PVC has this insertion, TPO membranes do not.
Easy to Install
Single-ply roofing membranes come in large rolls that are a cinch to fasten. This makes them easier to install than other systems. In addition, installation is also safer and inherently less risky than one required for more complicated, built-up roofing systems.
When you partner with our team, you’ll see firsthand how our PVC membrane roofing system are installed. That’s because all of the required custom flashing components are prefabricated under controlled factory conditions, eliminating up to 85% of the on-site labor normally required to field-assemble your system. This will allow for less chance of “human error”.
Proven Track Record
There’s a reason why PVC membrane continues to be a mainstay in the commercial design world. Throughout multiple decades, installers have grown familiar with the installation, and the materials are readily accessible.
Duro-Last’s chemical makeup for PVC has been tried and true in real world application since 1978.
Duro-Last’s confidence level with their product allows them to be the ONLY manufacturer to give a warranty that includes consequential damages to both the interior of your building, as well as any damages to any inventory.
TPO roofing has allowed for a similar, less expensive option. While there are differences between the two, an experienced roof inspector will be able to determine what option is in your best interest.
Enjoy the Perks of a Single-Ply Roofing Membrane System
Now that we’ve covered the basics of a single-ply roofing membrane system, are you ready to learn more about this type of installation for your commercial building?
If so, we’d love to help.
We’re experienced, licensed commercial roofing contractors serving Indiana and Illinois since 1984. We’re well-versed in every stage of the roofing lifestyle, from inspections and installations to repairs and replacements.
Contact us today to request an evaluation of your current commercial roof system. We can help you take the first step to install a new single-ply membrane roof for your building!
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a single-ply roofing system?Single-ply would refer to a system that is not “layered”. Roofing systems like Tar & Gravel require repetitive layering of the tar and pea gravel. This leaves room for human error, uneven spread, and premature aging.
- How long does single-ply roofing last?This entirely depends on the quality of the system. Cheaper single ply membranes (like TPO) on the market can last 5-10 years. Quality membranes that are installed correctly, like PVC (by Duro-Last) can last 30+ years with no issues.
- Who makes the best single-ply roofing membrane?There are quality membranes across the market, however very few products have managed to make it through almost 3 warranty cycles (meaning enough roofs have been on since 1987 without any recalls), has been tried and true with the same chemical makeup since 1987, and has a full line of products like flashings, underlayments, insulation and more to ensure that every product on the roof is under one manufacture, and one warranty. Duro-Last has successfully achieved all these tasks and more.
- How is single-ply roofing installed?Singly-ply can be installed in many ways. The most common is mechanically attached. However, with mechanically attached the goal is to hide or protect the fasteners from the elements. With Duro-Last we create an “envelope” style enclosure of the fasteners so they are not exposed. Another common type is fully adhered. This is a great way to still get a quality roof system even if you have an open beam/exposed decking ceiling. This allows us to still lay the product without any screws or nails so they don’t come through your ceiling.