TPO vs. EPDM Roofing: Which to Choose?

TPO vs. EPDM Roofing: Which to Choose?

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Despite their differences, both commercial and residential buildings alike need to have good roofs. After all, the roof keeps out the sunlight, the water, the weather, and everything in between. However, if you are new to the world of roofing, you might not know what kind of material to use.

There are many different roofing systems out there. Two popular options at this time include TPO and EPDM. We’re going to do a side-by-side comparison of both to see which one is better for your situation.

What Is TPO Roofing?

To start, we have TPO roofing, which stands for thermoplastic polyolefin. This is one of the fastest growing types of roofing systems in the world, and indeed one of the most popular as well. However, the name can be quite misleading, because it really doesn’t have much to do with plastic, but rather rubber. Specifically, a combination of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber is used in this roofing system.

These two types of rubber are attached to one another to form a single sheet which is then applied to the roof deck along with a reinforcing scrim.

This type of roofing system can be used to cover a variety of semi-flat and flat roofs and is usually reserved for commercial applications. Something that is interesting to note is that TPO was specifically designed to be a better alternative to PVC roofing and other similar alternatives.

However, whether or not it is a superior choice to EPDM roofing remains to be seen. That said, a big advantage that you get with TPO roofing is that it is usually fairly cost-effective.

What is also nice is that this roofing is usually white on top, which helps reflect sunlight away from the building, which in turn may help to reduce the cooling costs during summertime.

Another big advantage here is that it can be attached to a roof using either adhesives or directly using fasteners. It’s also durable enough that it can be seam welded in certain areas, such as around chimneys.

TPO roofing is also preferred by many because it is very resistant to breaking down due to contact with various chemicals such as petroleum, and it’s also very resistant to corrosion. It also happens to be quite good against algae growth and mildew.

One of the only issues that TPO suffers from is that it generally doesn’t last all that long, usually only about 10 years, and it doesn’t have a great track record yet either. Remember that this is a very new type of roofing system, so it still needs to be used more extensively to make accurate judgments about it.

What Is EPDM Roofing?

We then have EPDM roofing, which stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer roofing. This is a very new type of roofing material that is often used in flat roofing systems. It is extremely practical, durable, and usually not too expensive, and it has many advantages.

However, looking good is not one of them, as most people would agree that this isn’t the most visually appealing roofing option.

This is decidedly one of the ugliest types of roofing systems around, although other than that, it appears to be extremely beneficial, particularly because it can last for up to 30 years, if not longer. This type of roofing system tends to be extremely durable and resistant to various forms of damage.

It resists UV radiation, temperatures, thermal shock, hail, wind, and more, plus it tends to be quite fire-resistant, flexible, impact-resistant, and lightweight. This is one of the best types of roofs to use if you live somewhere that has a lot of extreme weather.

Furthermore, this material is ideal for both flat roofs and low-slope roofs, especially if you can’t see them from the ground. What’s also nice is that EPDM roofs generally require minimal maintenance, and when they do need to be maintained, the job tends to be quite easy.

TPO Roofing vs. EPDM Roofing: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both TPO roofing and EPDM roofing are, let’s figure out what makes these two different from each other.

Durability and Longevity

What is interesting to note is that TPO tends to be more durable in terms of impact and air resistance. It’s actually quite easy to puncture an EPDM roof, as it is really just a layer of rubber.

That said, in the grand scheme of things, EPDM will last longer, usually up to 30 years, whereas TPO usually only lasts up to 10 years. The reason for this is that EPDM tends to be much more temperature, weather, fire, and chemical resistant.

Temperature and Weather Resistance

Another difference here is that EPDM roofing is fantastic in terms of temperature resistance. It can handle extremely high and low temperatures with ease. This is not something that should get fragile and break due to extreme cold, or melt in the summertime.

Now, TPO roofing is no slouch on this front. This roofing also does well in various types of weather and temperatures, but just not quite as good as EPDM. If you need something weather-resistant, EPDM is likely your best choice.

UV Light

Something else worth noting is that both of these types of roofing are actually very resistant to UV light. That said, TPO roofing tends to perform best in the summertime, as it is usually white. That white color allows light to reflect away from the building, therefore reducing cooling costs.

TPO itself is also relatively UV-resistant. On the other hand, we have EPDM, which can be either black or white. If you live in a very cold climate where absorbing sunlight is best, you can get black EPDM roofing, and if you need something reflective and cooling, you can get it in white.

Chemical Resistance

TPO roofing is fairly resistant to various chemicals such as petroleum, although there is a limit, especially when it comes to grease. But, generally, this material is surprisingly resilient to chemicals such as petroleum, oil, grease, and more.

EPDM roofing on the other hand is not. This roofing does not easily resist grease, oil, petroleum, or anything else of the sort. This type of roofing will quickly take massive damage from any such corrosive chemical.

Fire Resistance

Now, TPO roofing is perfectly resistant and it’s not like there is much of a risk of it combusting. However, EPDM roofing is even more fire-resistant. It’s very difficult to catch an EPDM roof on fire, and that is a big deal for many people.


Okay, it’s not like a TPO roof is the most visually appealing type of roof in the world, but it can look all right. On the other hand, we have EPDM roofs, which are not very nice to look at. Most people would never use this for a residential application because it just doesn’t look very good.

Maintenance and Costs

Another big benefit of EPDM roofing is that it is extremely easy to maintain. If maintenance is required, it can be done in sections, and it doesn’t cost very much either. On that note, EPDM roofing tends to be more cost-effective in general.

Depending on who you go to, TPO roofing can cost you up to $15 per square foot, whereas EPDM roofing usually won’t cost you more than $10 per square foot, if not even less.

TPO vs. EPDM: Which One Should You Choose?

If you need a long-lasting roof that is cost-effective and does well in extreme weather and varying temperatures, EPDM is perfectly fine.

However, if you need something that can easily resist various corrosive chemicals, looks decent, and is great for cooling in the summer, then a TPO roof is fine as well.


You should now know what all of the major differences between these two roofing options are, so you can choose the one that works best for you.