PVC and TPO have long been quality options for flat and low-slope roofs that experience high amounts of moisture. The two share many similarities and often look similar, but both have prominent features that set them apart.
Learn the key differences between PVC and TPO to understand these single-ply membranes better and choose the best roofing solution for your next project.
TPO And PVC Composition
PVC and TPO are thermoplastics — they soften and become pliable when heated and harden when cooled. As a result, TPO and PVC membrane seams can be heat welded, forming a seamless watertight top roof layer.
While TPO and PVC look alike, their material compositions are quite different. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a synthetic thermoplastic polymer used in flexible form as a roofing material. PVC membranes also contain plasticizers to increase flexibility and other components such as U.V. inhibitors, color pigments, and biocides.
Thermoplastic olefin membrane (TPO) is a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene polymers, color pigments, ultraviolet radiation absorbers, flame retardants, and other elements that may be added to achieve the desired physical properties. TPO doesn’t require plasticizers for flexibility and plasticity.
Similarities Between TPO and PVC Roofing Systems
TPO and PVC membranes are highly reflective and may reduce a building’s energy cooling demands by reflecting the sun’s rays. The need for improved energy efficiency is one of the driving forces behind the success of this thermoplastic roof material.
Cool roofs are becoming increasingly popular, and many United States codes mandate their application. The U.S. Green Building Council provides LEED points for cool roofs, which additionally incentivizes the use of reflective roofs.
According to an NRCA market survey released in 2015, TPO roofs remained a market leader, used in 40% of new roof installations and 30% of reroofing jobs.
PVC and TPO roofs are relatively easy to install and require smaller crews than traditional roofs like built-up roof systems. You can order TPO and PVC membranes from Elevate™ as wide as 12 feet, which reduces the labor needed for installation. These membranes can be adhered, mechanically attached, or laid loosely with a ballasted cover.
Thermoplastic membranes are 100% recyclable. So not only could your building improve sustainability from high reflectivity, but you’ll be using a product that can be recycled once its service life is complete.
While both materials have overlapping features like chemical, tear, and long-term weathering resistance, the actual membrane characteristics depend on specific products and manufacturers. However, some features are more prominent in one or the other.
Let’s discuss the particular advantages of each membrane you can get from Elevate products.
Advantages of TPO Roofs
The Elevate UltraPly™ TPO S.A. membrane installs faster than traditionally adhered TPO roofs.* Thanks to our exclusive Secure Bond™ technology, UltraPly™ TPO S.A. comes with factory-applied adhesive. As a result, it takes fewer workers to adhere the membrane to the roof, and the installation process places less strain on roofing crews because applying adhesives is unnecessary.
Elevate UltraPly™ TPO roofs offer excellent strength, durability, and protection from hail damage. These membranes achieve Factory Mutual (F.M.) approval for Very Severe Hail (VSH) for over 160 assemblies and more than 10,000 Severe Hail assemblies. VSH regions include Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, a majority of Texas, and parts of North Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Elevate UltraPly™ TPO products offer enhanced energy efficiency and lower environmental impact. White Elevate UltraPly™ TPO surface exceeds the EPA’s Energy Star® requirements, is compliant with California’s Title 24 Energy Efficiency Building Standards, and can potentially add LEED credits to the commercial building.
Working with Elevate TPO products means you can choose options that are no VOC and no odor. Installing TPO roofs is a good option for schools, hospitals, office buildings, retail, and other large commercial facilities because you have the option to proceed with business as usual while installing. UltraPly™ TPO S.A. can also be installed in temperatures as low as 20°F (-7°C). So you can expand your commercial roofing season if you are a roofing contractor.
Advantages of PVC Roofs
PVC membranes have a long history and have successfully stood the test of time. Their application started in the 1970s in North America, and they have been used ever since. Traditional PVC membranes offer excellent durability but Elevate™ PVC KEE uses a custom blend of PolyVinyl Chloride (PVC) and DuPont™ Elvaloy® Ketone Ethylene Ester (KEE) for persistent plasticizer retention, long roof life, and reduced maintenance expenses.
Unlike plasticizers used in traditional PVC membranes, the DuPont™ Elvaloy® KEE eliminates plasticizer migration. As a result, the resistance to shrinking, cracking, and chemicals is improved. The KEE is a solid plasticizer that promotes exceptional flexibility and durability during the roof’s service life. We back our PVC KEE with the Elevate Red Shield™ Limited Warranty of up to 30 years on 80 mils.
PVC membranes are the most fire-resistant single-ply roofs and exhibit extraordinary resistance to harsh chemicals and grease. Elevate PVC KEE is exceptionally durable, but if your building is at an increased risk of hail and other physical damage, then Elevate PVC KEE XR might be a suitable choice. Elevate PVC KEE XR is produced with a polyester weft-inserted reinforcement and a 5.5-ounce non-woven spunbonded polyester fleece backing, improving its durability and puncture resistance.
TPO vs. PVC Roofing - Choosing Your Membrane Material
While TPO and PVC membranes both offer high reflectivity and improved energy efficiency, you may benefit from one or the other for some applications. Many roofs will do great with either of these membranes, but consider the following factors to make the most of your material selection.
Restaurants and similar food processing facilities’ roofs are more prone to damage from grease, fatty oils, and various chemicals. Manufacturing facilities can expel exhaust fumes, acids, and industrial pollutants onto the roof. Airport buildings are exposed to jet fuel. Elevate™ PVC KEE effectively handles such aggressive agents and remains the best single-ply roof for facilities exposed to harsh agents.
If your building has an increased risk of fire or if you wish to use materials least likely to catch flame, then PVC roofs like Elevate PVC KEE have the advantage. PVC is the most fire-resistant single-ply roofing membrane.
Elevate UltraPly™ TPO membranes have lower installed costs than other commercial roofing materials, often making them a preferable choice. In addition, the UltraPly™ TPO S.A. offers exceptional puncture resistance and performs at over three times the ASTM international standard for weathering resistance.
UltraPly™ TPO S.A. membrane is a good choice if you want to complete the roofing job quickly and without disturbing the building’s operations. Thanks to exceptional flexibility, self-adherence, and VOC-free installation, UltraPly™ TPO S.A. offers a quick and easy solution to enhance your building’s energy efficiency and use a trusted roofing solution eligible for the Elevate Red Shield™ Limited Warranty of up to 30 years.**
The table below summarizes what we have discussed and can help you choose your roofing material.