TPO vs. EPDM: A Comprehensive Guide to Comparing Roofing Materials

In the market for a new roofing solution? You may have heard about two popular options known as TPO and EPDM. TPO is a Thermoplastic Polyolefin and it is a single ply roofing membrane that offers durability and a competitive price. EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer and is the same exact concept. So what is the difference and which is the better choice? 

While both are the same type of rubber roofing solution, there are significant differences between the two. Both EPDM and TPO roofing are known for their highly resistant durability, their cost friendly approach and energy saving efficiency.  However, keep in mind that both require maintenance and EPDM has more of a tried and true reputation. 

When it comes to synthetic rubber roofing membranes, both TPO and EPDM have their pros and cons. Let’s dive into the perks and downfalls of each. By the end of this article, you’ll likely have a better idea of which one suits your commercial building and budget best. 

What is EPDM Roofing? 

EPDM is an extremely durable roofing solution that is widely used throughout the United States. Made of ethylene and propylene, which are derived from oil and natural gas. You can choose the width that is ideal for you and even comes in two convenient thicknesses. Pick between black and white, two classic colors. 

There are different methods to installing this reliable roofing membrane. Contractors can adhere, mechanically attach or ballast the product to the roof. Most popularly used for flat top commercial buildings, EPDM is a popular go-to for many business owners.

Pros of EPDM Roofing 

There are many perks to EPDM roofing. They include being cost effective, eco-friendly, fire resistant and durable. Having an EPDM roof means longevity, reliability and something you can count on to be beneficial to your commercial building. Let’s discuss the benefits:

Relatively Inexpensive 

Those of you on a strict budget will love the cost effective factor of EPDM roofing. This economical choice is affordable AND reliable- two things that are hard to find together. 

One thing to keep in mind is that it is worth it to go with a thicker rubber, since it won’t be too much of a price difference. Some people opt for a thinner membrane to save a few bucks, but in the long run, it’s worth it to go for the thicker options. 

Expect to pay roughly $3.50-$7.50 per square foot on EPDM roofing. This affordable roofing option is perfect if you want to keep to a modest budget. 


Luckily, EPDM is considered one of the most eco-friendly options on the market. The way it’s made ensures a safe environment surrounding it. Rubber roofs are entirely recyclable and last a very long time so you can depend on the “green” attributes it possesses. All materials are non-toxic so no pollution means healthy air. This environment friendly solution is top notch and one that many commercial building owners use. 

Energy Saving 

Not to mention, it is a natural insulator so you can expect to save energy on heating and cooling as an added bonus. The natural insulation on EPDM roofing means less energy needed to heat and cool your building overall. Not only are you saving energy but its better for your wallet in the long run. 

This is a huge plus as insulation in itself is another cost factor. You also need no electrical source to install this type of roofing so repairs are an easy feat.

Fire Resistant 

One other benefit of rubber based roofing is that it is naturally fire-resistant. This is great news for business owners. There is a layer of material made specifically to ensure this roofing is fire-resistant. 

It is also hailstorm resistant and highly wind resistant. Basically, this roof is built tough and built to last.


One of the biggest perks of EPDM roofing is that they are meant to last up to 30 years and maybe even more. That in combination with the low, affordable cost means that this option is a no-brainer if you’re looking for a simple appeal and a durable roof. 

Cons of EPDM Roofing 

So no roofing solution can be absolutely perfect, right? Let’s go over some of the downfalls of EPDM roofing. They don’t always boast the best appearance and do require maintenance. Here are some details about the cons of EPDM roofing:

Poor Curb Appearance 

This one is a tough one for the commercial building owner that LOVES detail and curb appeal. Sadly, EPDM roofing is basically a large flat sheet or black or white rubber. It doesn’t boast an amazing look and isn’t easy on the eyes.

It is, however, simple and durable so depending on the type of building you own, it may compliment it just fine. It has a very utilitarian appeal to it and looks great on sheds and garages but it doesn’t always look great on the top of your building. This is simply based off personal preferences so it may still be a good option for you!

Requires Regular Maintenance

Unfortunately, over time, the adhesives used to adhere EPDM roofing are susceptible to damage. This means that you will eventually need maintenance and that will require professional assistance. 

While its wind and fire resistant, it is certainly not damage resistant. At least once or twice, it may become the victim of damage from fallen debris, trees or storms. They can puncture easy when responding to damage of that kind. 

Overall, just be ready to call in for maintenance once in a while to ensure the integrity of your EPDM roof. You don’t want to let any damage go unfixed. 

What is TPO Roofing? 

TPO is a newer, rapidly growing option in rubber roofing. They too also offer an energy efficient approach but here’s the difference: TPO reflects sunlight, thus helping you in cooling your building more efficiently. 

This highly resistant and durable roofing isn’t as susceptible to punctures as EPDM and is installed with a welding process instead of ballasting. This up and coming product has a lot of perks and offers longevity and an affordable price point. 

What Are the Benefits of TPO Roofing? 

Some of the great perks of TPO roofing is that it is highly flexible, easy to maintain and install. And once again, you reap the benefits of the energy efficiency which helps in so many different ways. Here’s a breakdown to all the pros of TPO roofing:


Remember that whole thing about punctures with EPDM roofing? Not that case for TPO which is a HUGE time and money saver. You don’t have to worry about damage as much with TPO, as they are made to be three times more resistant to punctures than the other. 

In fact the seam strength is built to be three to four times stronger than EPDM roofing! While it may struggle with water resistance, you definitely won’t be finding any punctures in it. 

Cost Effective 

One great quality about TPO roofing is that you can expect it to be cost effective. Something affordable is definitely a benefit for those who are on a tight budget. IN fact it is the cheapest single ply membrane on the market!

Expect to pay roughly $5-$6 per square foot. The costs between the two are similar overall, but you’ll still save when you go with TPO roofing. 


Energy Saving Capabilities 

TPO’s abilities to reflect sunlight directly affect energy efficiency in a positive way. Your building will cool much easier and faster thanks to its resistance to direct sunlight. This will save you money in the end and will be better for the environment overall. 

It has even earned the certification from Energy Star requirements! The reflective membranes on all of their colors including gray and tan possess strong UV resistance.

Cons of TPO Roofing 

TPO roofing is still a new product on the market so there are alot of variables that are undetermined. Things such as life expectancy and durability aren’t fully figured out. It also requires some maintenance to keep its integrity and function. Here are some of the cons of TPO roofing:

Some Maintenance Required

One important thing to consider is maintenance. When you put a great deal of money into something as crucial as a roof, you want to know what you’re in for in the long run. TPO roofing is luckily very easy to maintain. 

Since TPO roofing is a welding process, if you ever come across damage, the problem can’t be fixed without a professional. Welding new materials to replace damaged ones is something you don’t want to put off. But, as compounds age they lose flexibility so welding new material to old material means that an activator may be required to seal repairs. 

It’s a New Product 

Since it’s a newer item on the market, it’s hard to say how long it will last for sure. While they are built to hold up for at least ten and possibly up to twenty years, this is still not a proven fact. 

No one knows any definite facts about its life expectancy. It’s also susceptible to problems along the way that haven’t been determined yet. With new products, they can offer exciting benefits but also a bit of uncertainty and that’s an undeniable risk you take with new technology. 

Harder to Install

While a licensed professional will have no qualms during the installation process, it is still timely and tedious. The installation includes a lot of welding and it needs to be done proficiently- there is no margin for error. 

This is definitely no DIY project and involves intricate detail– anything that involves welding does! In fact, you can expect the process to take 1-2 whole weeks. 

Not Heat Resistant

One struggle that TPO has is managing hot weather. When subject to extreme heat temperatures, it may suffer some damage. If you live in a hot weather state, you may not go with TPO because of its lack of heat resistance.

Over time, the roofing well weather and age- not well! It is also not fire resistant so if you are worried about heat being an issue, TPO is not the best solution. You CAN add fire retardant layers to your TPO roofing so that is an option. 

Price Comparison of TPO and EPDM Roofing 

While we went over some rough estimates of TPO and EPDM, let’s dive into the real overall cost of the process. While it may slightly depend on the contractor and state you live in, you should know what you’re up against. Reference the chart below to understand the total costs for both TPO and EPDM installations. 

Low End TotalAverage TotalHigh End Total
EPDM $6,750$12,500$19.500

As you can see, there is a bit of a price difference between the two. However, both do offer affordable options. 

Which is Better?

This will be based on a number of factors. How will weather and fire resistance play into your solution? Are you looking for the cheapest option? Are you interested in newer technology or want to go with a tried and true option?

These are the questions you will want to ask yourself. EPDM and TPO both offer an affordable and durable solution, but you should go with the one that suits your needs and fits your aesthetic in the end. 

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