Single-Ply Roofing Membranes Explained

The market for single-ply roofing is worth $4.61 billion and is expected to reach $5.72 billion by 2026. And, while BUR and modified bitumen used to rule the market when it came to low-sloped commercial roofing, single-ply roofing membranes now dominate.

There are several types of single-ply roofing to choose from, each with its pros and cons. And, that variety is the reason why it’s so important to understand the differences between each roofing membrane option. 

Learn more with this handy single-ply roofing guide. We’ll cover what types of materials are available, how much they cost, and why it’s important to hire an experienced commercial roofing company when preparing for installation.

Types of Single-Ply Roofing Systems

A single-ply membrane, as the name suggests, refers to a roofing system with only one ply. And, while the material is only one layer, it offers durability and energy improvements that certainly make it a worthwhile investment.

These roofing systems are easy to install, especially when compared to their predecessors (BUR and modified bitumen). Depending on the type of installation needed, typically, once your roof substrate has been prepped, insulation layers and a cover board are placed. Afterward, the membrane is added and fastened in a variety of ways (mechanical fasteners, adhesive, etc). 

If you think single-ply roofing membranes might be a good fit for your commercial roofing project, let’s dive a little deeper.

Thermosets vs. Thermoplastics

There are several different styles of single-ply roof systems. They can be placed into two categories: thermosets and thermoplastics.

Thermosets are made using a combination of polymers and synthetic rubber. One of the most common materials is referred to as EPDM roofing. (EPDM is one of the most durable, reliable, and cost-effective options when installed correctly.)

Thermoplastics include a wider range of material welded together, such as fiberglass. This is done to provide more stability to the material, and there are several thermoplastic membranes, including TPO and PVC roofing.

Both types of roofing materials offer dependable protection and provide reflectivity to ultraviolet rays, allowing you to have a cool roof and lower your building’s energy costs.

TPOThermoplastic Polyolefin

TPO stands for thermoplastic polyolefin, and it’s quite possibly one of the most popular commercial roofing materials. TPO consists of a layer of material and a reinforcing scrim to help prevent tearing. It’s seamed using a hot air welding method that makes it more resistant to seam leaks. 

TPO roofing is also lightweight and reflective, which helps reduce energy bills—it’s perfect for flat roofs or low-slope roofing applications and is one of the fastest-growing types of single-ply roofing (TPO has increased its share of the market by 18% in only 7 years). 

However, be sure to ask a reputable commercial roofing company about this option before you make a purchase. Not all brands or material options are the same, and a professional can discuss the pros and cons relative to your building’s design.

PVCPolyvinyl Chloride

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and the roofing membrane is made from two layers of PVC material with a third polyester layer for reinforcement. It’s an extremely popular commercial roofing material in the roofing industry and is especially common for restaurants and other buildings that emit fats or oils, because it’s resistant to their damage.

Heat-welded seams keep it durable and fire-resistant, and it’s also energy-efficient thanks to its light color, highly reflective surface and thick insulation.

EPDMEthylene Propylene Diene Monomer

EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer. Being a synthetic rubber material, this thermoset option is durable, versatile and cost-effective when used on roofs with low-slope or no slope.

EPDM roof membranes are easy to install and maintain, and provide extra protection from ozone exposure, solvents, scuffing, abrasions and tears. It’s also the most flexible single-ply roofing material during cold seasons. The downside is that it’s prone to damage from extreme temperatures or natural disasters.

Single-Ply Membrane Costs

Choosing the best single-ply roofing material for your project involves examining your needs and speaking with a licensed, professional contractor to guide you through the process (they can review fastening, weathering, costs, high wind location options, etc).

Once you’ve decided what type of single-ply roofing to use, it helps to know how much it will cost before installation and/or maintenance begins. This allows you to create an accurate budget for the entire project.

Generally, costs vary in different areas, from $1.50-$10 per square foot. Factors that affect these costs include the amount of detailing and flashing, the attachment method, building design, tear-off or retrofit, energy requirements, labor costs and job type.

Always get estimates from each commercial roofing company you’re considering, and make sure that each company is offering the same deliverables. Cheaper doesn’t always mean better, but you should be paying a fair price for installation and any future maintenance you may need.

Picking A Commercial Roofing Company

For your single-ply roofing system, as a building owner, it’s important that you find a trusted roofing contractor

There are several reasons to hire an experienced commercial roofing company. Their knowledge ensures that they provide enough material, follow all local laws, bring the right equipment, and save you time. They’ll also be available after installation to maintain your roof.

Start by doing research online and in your community to find viable candidates. Look online for commercial roofing companies and focus on those that have at least 4 stars from sites that look at their quality. Another key indicator is to review their industry affiliations and memberships.

Once you have your list of potential candidates, it’s time to narrow them down and find the best one. Begin by looking at their experience and reputation. Browse their website to look for reviews and any information about their past work to help you make your choice. Additionally, your commercial roofing contractor of choice should also be able to quickly produce proof of licensure and insurance. 

Once you’ve found the right candidate, ask about the warranties for their materials and get an estimate. Trustworthy contractors will provide both.

Which Single Ply Roofing System & Commercial Roofing Company to Choose

A single-ply roofing system is an excellent solution for building owners looking for a material that has good durability and longevity while still being cost-effective. You’ll have several options to choose from, including thermosets and thermoplastics, and a variety of system assemblies (ballasted, mechanically attached, fully adhered and metal retrofit).

Whether you have a flat roof or low-slope roof, picking the right commercial roofing contractor is just as important as picking the right roofing material for your building. Make sure to work with a contractor that will provide you the best service and roofing system at the right price.

TEMA Roofing Services is proud to be the best commercial roofing company throughout Youngstown, Akron and all of northeast Ohio. We can also deliver service nationwide, providing a variety of commercial roofing solutions, including replacements, maintenance and more. 

Contact us to get a quote and find more information today.