What is EPDM?

 

EPDM is an extremely durable synthetic rubber roofing membrane (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) widely used in low-slope buildings in the United States and worldwide. Its two primary ingredients, ethylene and propylene, are derived from oil and natural gas. EPDM is available in both black and white, and is sold a broad variety of widths, ranging from 7.5 feet to fifty feet, and in two thicknesses, 45 and 60 mils. EPDM can be installed either fully adhered, mechanically attached or ballasted, with the seams of the roofing system sealed with liquid adhesives or specially formulated tape.

 

Why EPDM?

 

The EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) rubber roofing membrane has been an appealing choice of the low-slope commercial roofing industry for over 40 years. EPDM continues to be a top choice of architects, roof consultants and contractors for both new construction and replacement roofing projects.

 

The greatest test of any construction material is how it performs under actual field conditions. Forty years of empirical experience in field applications has shown EPDM to have the roofing industry’s longest average service life. Characteristics that contribute to this superior overall system performance include:

Cyclical membrane fatigue resistance

Proven hail resistance

High resistance to ozone, weathering and abrasion

Flexibility in low temperatures

Superior resistance to extreme heat and fire

Thermal shock durability

Ultraviolet radiation resistance

EPDM’s high resistance to wind damage has also proven to be an increasingly desirable attribute. These roof systems can be designed to meet a variety of wind uplift criteria from Factory Mutual, including 1-60, 1-90, and 1-120 ratings and greater, and the stringent code of Dade County, Florida.

 

Architects, roof consultants and contractors have come to depend on EPDM’s time tested, long-term performance.

 

Please note that EPDM is a commercial roofing product, designed to be used in non-residential roof systems.

 

Homeowners have a variety of roofing options. One choice many homeowners make is to put down a rubber roof, better known in the trade as an EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) roof.  As with most construction choices, there are good points as well as drawbacks to a rubber roof.  This article attempts to lay out the good points as well as the weakness of EPDM, so that the homeowner can go into the construction jungle armed with useful information. Here are several EPDM roofing pros and cons.

 

EDPM lends itself especially well to low-slope roofs, which makes it a popular choice for many commercial buildings, as well as on car ports and patio roofs. One of the advantages of a rubber roof is its cost. While costs vary somewhat from region to region and between installers, the cost of an EPDM roof is generally very favorable when compared to most other types of roofing.

 

If cost is a factor, homeowners here in the Northeast are encouraged to speak with the roofing experts at United Home Experts. They have years of experience installing EDPM roofing as well as asphalt roofs.  They can provide the homeowner with invaluable guidance and can do the roofing install both quickly and at one of the most economical prices around.

 

The vast majority of EPDM roofs are black, but the homeowner should be aware that EPDM can also come with a white coating that can aid in heat reflection and thereby reduce energy costs. EPDM roofs are also fully compatible with solar cell arrays and even support rooftop gardens well.  Another advantage is the material’s relatively light weight, plus the fact that it adapts to any shape or style of roof (not just flat roofs) with all of the same great advantages.

Most applications of this type of roofing in the past have been for commercial buildings or for specific homeowner projects involving flat roofs or low-slope roofs, but this is changing quickly. Many homeowners are now seeing the various advantages of a single-sheet rubber roof and the popularity of this type of roof is growing quickly.  Rubber roofs are not some new fad; they have been used for at least the past 40 years, and most EPDM roofs laid in the 1970s are still doing their job today.

 

Besides low cost, EPDM roofing has several other factors going for it. Whenever possible, a sheet of EPDM is installed whole, covering the entire roofing area.  This eliminates the need for any seams, which further enhances the waterproofing characteristics of this type of roofing.  Even with a seam, EPDM is virtually waterproof, and if a leak ever does develop, repairs are fast, easy and inexpensive.

 

Not only that, EPDM roofs are fire resistant. They are almost impossible to ignite, and they can actually impede the progress of a fire.

 

An EPDM roof lasts a long time. In fact, even with only minimal attention, an EPDM roof can last 50 years or even longer.  New formulations for the rubber make these roofs virtually impervious to radiation and damage from UV rays.  They are wind resistant and stand up well to hail as large as three inches across.  These roofs are pliable and settle right along with a building.  They are also impervious to extremes of heat or cold. In fact, unless there is some very unusual event, these roofs virtually never leak.

 

For homeowners attempting to go “green” there is no better choice than an EPDM roof. Not only does it take very little energy to construct this material, but the roofs last almost forever, and when they do need replacing they are almost 100% recyclable.

 

These roofs are applied using no heating system of any kind (a plus for many homeowner insurance policies). In most situations, the rubberized mat is simply glued in place.

 

It is also possible to paint the rubber roof with an acrylic coating. Not only do these coatings come in a variety of colors which can spruce up any home, but by coating the roof in this manner, the life of the roof may be extended even longer.  30-year warranties are common with an EPDM roof, and a 50-year or even longer lifetime of service is quite common.

As far as utility savings are concerned, these thick, rubber roofs keep out the sun’s heat (reducing air conditioning costs considerably) and in colder weather they hold in the building’s heat, conserving on heating costs.  These rubberized mats come in a variety of thicknesses: 45, 60, 75 and 90 mil; the thicker membranes require more initial investment, but provide the most protection.  Again, the roofing experts at United Home Experts can help the homeowner determine the proper thickness for any individual situation.

 

As with any roofing system, there are also drawbacks to EPDM which should be considered. To begin with, these roofs cannot be installed by the homeowner, and even some professional installers who claim familiarity with the roofs may, in reality, have done little more than watch an installation video. Obviously this particular problem can be solved by using the trained and certified installers at United Home Experts, who have a verifiable track record of experience successfully installing EPDM roofing.

 

It is also possible for small leaks to develop around vent pipes and other protrusions on a roof, especially if the installers are not as familiar with rubber roofs as they should be. Punctures can also occur in a rubber roof, but all of these defects can be easily repaired by a roofer skilled in EPDM roofs.

 

Repairs to a rubber roof are quick and easy if they are done by someone trained in this type of roof repair. All of this means that once an EPDM roof is properly laid by a licensed professional, the homeowner can relax for the next forty to fifty years  –  or longer  –  and worry about some other aspect of home repair, upkeep or remodeling.

 

There are homeowners who do not care for the look of a rubber roof, but keep in mind that the roof can be painted in a wide variety of colors using the acrylic coatings designed for these roofs. These acrylic colors can go a long way toward making the look of the roof more aesthetically pleasing.  In point of fact, most disadvantages of an EPDM roof seem to be stretching a point which is very thin to begin with.  If this type of 50-year roofing appeals, contact the experts at United Home Experts for additional advice.