Common TPO Roofing Problems: Causes, Solutions, and Prevention Tips

TPO roofing is the most popular commercial roofing material. It is durable, affordable, and easy to install. That being said, you will want to know more about the pitfalls TPO roofing has before installing it for your business.

The 4 most common TPO roofing problems are seam ripping, membrane punctures, adhesive failures, and pooling water. Since TPO roofing is not as hard as other commercial roofing types, it is much more prone to ripping and tearing. The adhesive used to install TPO roofing is also extremely susceptible to heat, which can melt it if it gets hot enough. Like all flat roofing types, pooling water is an issue.

This guide will focus on these 4 common issues and how you can avoid them after the installation of your TPO roofing.

What Is TPO Roofing?

Many kinds of roofing systems exist, but TPO or a single-ply membrane is one of the most common. We’ll focus only on Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) in this article because there’s another kind called Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM).

Commercial roofing systems are currently using TPO membranes, which are fast-growing. This type of roof covering is made of synthetics and reinforcing scrim. It’s a highly efficient and effective roof system for flat roofs on commercial buildings. 

There are some other important factors that you should be aware of regarding TPO roofing. We will cover these together next.

What Should You Know About TPO Roofing?

Some major factors to be aware of regarding TPO roofing are the cost, average lifespan, and different weather factors that can affect it. With the right installation and maintenance, it lasts between 10 and 20 years.

There are lots of factors that shorten roof life to 10 years, like:

  • The quality of the installation
  • The climate
  • The maintenance
  • Prevent ponding with a sloped roof
  • Roof traffic

Replacement of a TPO roof costs about $7 to $13 per square foot. A roof inspection is needed to get an accurate cost. You’ll need to hire a professional commercial roofing contractor to figure it out. The TPO roof price includes labor and installation per square foot.

Your current commercial roof can benefit from a TPO roofing system. It’s strong, durable, and flexible. That means resisting dirt buildup, tears, and mold growth.

The most beneficial thing about it is that it’s energy efficient. Keeping a building cooler is easier and more efficient with TPO membranes, which reflect and resist UV rays. In turn, this means the HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard.

Now that you are more familiar with TPO roofing, we can discuss the 4 common problems that TPO roofing faces.

4 Common Problems Of TPO Roofing

Detailed below are the 4 most common problems with TPO roofing. Being aware of these issues can help you avoid them in the future.

Rips In Seams

A small rip that’s repaired quickly won’t cost you much money. The most common place for TPO roofing to rip is the seams. TPO roofing has many more seams involved in its installation, so the chances of seam ripping are much more likely than with other roofing types.

Rips usually go unnoticed and are unintentionally overlooked. If nobody goes up there for 3 months, 6 months, or even longer, rain keeps getting into the insulation. Insulation on the roof isn’t waterproof. You’ll get water in your insulation even if your TPO roof has only a small tear. Your insulation will get wetter over time.

The spread is similar to what happens when water is thrown on a paper towel. With enough water, the water will soak the whole paper towel if it enters through a corner. Performing a complete tear-off might be in your best interest if you have more than 25% of the roof’s insulation soaked.

Punctures To The Membrane

There are a lot of TPO roof problems, but this one is probably the worst. Despite being lightweight and flexible, this roofing system can be punctured easily.

There’s a lot of foot traffic on commercial roofs, which is one of the more common problems with TPO roofs. There is no hard-top layer on a single-ply membrane roofing, which is intended to protect the thin layer of synthetic rubber from things such as gravel, dropped tools, or loose screws.

These kinds of problems usually happen when those materials get pushed into the rubber membrane, causing it to break or tear. As a result, the roof is more vulnerable to leaks down the road.

By providing it with an extra layer of insulation and protection with some form of a primer, you can resolve this issue.

Failure Of Adhesives

I’ll tell you what single-ply membrane’s worst enemy is. The heat. Adhesives are used on TPO single-ply membrane roofing. It keeps the membranes together and seals the seams. As the sun’s rays degrade the adhesive, it becomes less energy efficient. What’s the result? TPO gets waterlogged when the adhesive board is exposed.

Pooling Water

Since most TPO roofs are flat roofs, they are subject to frequent pooling water. The term water pooling refers to water stagnating on a roof for longer than 48 hours. Roofs can get big puddles because of an insufficient drainage system or because of a variety of other things. Since there’s a lot of liquid on the roof, it can’t evaporate off, and stagnant water can’t drain.

Gravity makes flat roofs prone to water buildup because water has to go down eventually. To ensure the structural integrity of the entire building, this issue must be addressed as soon as possible, as pooling water poses a significant risk to the flat roof system.

There are some things you can do to increase the lifespan of your TPO roofing. We will go over these next so you can get the most out of your roof for longer.

How To Improve The Longevity Of A TPO Roof

Proper Installation By Professionals

It’s not a good idea to put single-ply membranes on TPO roofs unless they’re installed right. When the roofer doesn’t cut the seams right, the membranes gap. It can let wind and water in. When it freezes and thaws for the first time, improperly welded seams come loose. As a result, materials fail, and water gets in.

You want to make sure your roofer has a calibrated machine. When a machine isn’t calibrated, it melts too much or too little. Ensuring your TPO roof is properly installed will work wonders for increasing its overall lifespan.

Routine Inspections

Despite its effectiveness, TPO needs regular maintenance and repairs to stay in good shape. TPO roofs perform better and last longer with routine maintenance, which is easy and cheap. Keeping your roof maintained is all about catching little problems and fixing them before they get worse.

Repair When Roof Is Damaged Or Leaking

A TPO roof needs immediate attention if there’s a problem. By doing this, you’ll avoid more expensive and extensive repairs later. The only person who should repair a TPO roof is a TPO roofing contractor who has specialized tools and materials.

A roofing mastic or sealant can fix superficial damage (small punctures, splits, tears) quickly. It’s only a temporary fix until you can come up with a more permanent fix. Patching a roof involves applying small pieces of TPO material. For minor damage to TPO roofs, this is the best and longest-lasting repair technique. These types of repairs are usually covered by warranties.

More extensive measures may be needed if the damage is severe or widespread. It’s all about the level of saturation within the roofing insulation in these situations to determine the best repair option.

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