TPO vs. EPDM RV Roof: Which is Best?

When it’s time to start looking for a new roof for your RV, you’ll quickly realize that there are more than a few options available to you. Most of the options available for RV roofs are safe choices, but it’s still advisable to understand what you’re getting and whether or not a particular option is better suited to your needs before making a decision.  That’s why it’s worth comparing TPO vs. EPDM RV Roof.

As with any big purchase, it’s worth avoiding making a rash decision and buying the first option that is presented to you. It’s worthwhile spending some time examining the options available, weighing up the pros and cons, and understanding what product will work best for your RV roof. Two of the most popular options, when you’re shopping for a new RV roof, will be TPO and EPDM.

So, out of TPO vs EPDM, which one is the better product? Read the rest of this TPO vs EPDM RV roof article so that you can better understand which product offers you the most benefits.

TPO vs. EPDM RV Roof

TPO RV roofing is one of the most used and popular options in use today, and that’s largely due to two reasons. It’s cheap to buy and it’s white. The TPO membrane can either be fitted with screws or mechanically attached. Alternatively, for full adhesion, it can be glued down. When it comes to detailed work and seams, glue can be used on the membrane or heat can be used to create a seal.

One of the defining features of TPO is its laminated appearance. TPO will come with a visible top layer which is shiny and white, while the bottom layer is plain and off white colored or grey. The top outward facing layer is hard wearing, waterproof, UV and heat resistant, and resistant to degradation over time.

TPE can be further enhanced with the addition of fiber reinforcement, which serves to increase the durability and strength. However, the downside of this is that it will increase the products rigidity, which will increase the difficulty of installation.

EPDM is another popular option for an RV roof, and it differs from TPO in many ways. EPDM is a material which can vulcanize, which means it’s possible to dry and cure into sheets. Alternatively, EPDM can be used when it’s not vulcanized, which means it’ll never completely solidify.

It’s not uncommon to use both types in tandem for an RV roof. Vulcanized EPDM will be used for the roof membrane, while non-vulcanized EPDM will be used for flashing and for detailed work.

EPDM is a form of synthetic rubber, which is in part as to why it has a distinctive black color.

So, which is better for an RV roof, TPO or EPDM? Besides the materials and color, what differentiates these two products? Which one is going to offer the best value for money and which one do we recommend? We’ll compare these two products based on a number of factors allowing you to make your own decisions.

Cost

For most RV roofing projects, a TPO membrane is going to cost you more than an equivalent EPDM membrane. For that reason, EPDM roofs tend to be more economical, which is especially true when a single-ply roofing membrane is required.

It’s important to factor in the thickness of any membrane when weighing up the costs, thicker will generally cost more. The upside of choosing a thicker membrane is that both TPO and EPDM will deliver excellent performance and longevity if a thicker membrane is chosen, so it’s worth taking into consideration when you’re deciding on what to buy.

Longevity

The method and skill used during the installation of the RV roof will have one of the biggest impacts on the longevity of the products. Seams should be sealed with the greatest care and use permanent techniques were possible. Poorly implemented and installed seams are the biggest cause of leaks in any roof, and far less likely to occur due to a failure in the membrane.

As TPO is one of the newer roofing products, it’s longevity is the least assured out of the two products. However, industrial installations and significant product testing and development would suggest that it’s longevity are perfectly well suited for use in an RV.

Having said that, EPDM has a significant history of use and a proven track record of longevity.

Durability

As we’ve already discussed, EPDM has a well established and deserved reputation. It’s made from a form of rubber compound and has been used in numerous applications for decades. Additionally, it’s a relatively straightforward installation with proven methods of creating fantastic seams, means it should easily last 25 years or more of use.

Additionally, significant numbers of roofing industry experts will tout EPDM has been one of the best and most reliable roofing materials. It provides ultraviolet light resistance, as well as resistance to extreme weather conditions and oxidants. EPDM has also been proven to have better performance and longevity when exposed to colder weather conditions.

On the other hand, the strength of the seams used in TPO will outperform the adhesive and tape used with EPDM. TPO can be as strong and durable as EPDM if it is installed correctly and if quality products are used. One issue is that not all TPO are created equally, and there are several varieties available with varying degrees of performance.

Additionally, TPO tends to react poorly to ponding water and will crack and split with time when exposed. It also has less resistance to extreme heat and cold. It’s for these reasons that EPDM is clearly the superior product when it comes to durability.

Ease of Installation

In terms of ease of installation, EPDM is widely recognized as being easier and quicker to install. It requires little in the way of specialized equipment. TPO requires tools that facilitate hot air welding, which is not something everyone has access to, meaning installation will often cost more and be more complex.

Additionally, EPDM can often be installed by a DIY enthusiast if proper care is taken, while TPO will often require the services of a specialist roofing contractor. This is largely due to the complexities involved with installing TPO, proper care must be taken to avoid leaks and costly repairs.

Ease of Maintenance

EPDM will require little in the way of maintenance in order to keep it in serviceable condition, provided it was originally installed correctly. On the other hand, TPO will require more diligent maintenance in order to keep it in tip-top condition, including regular treatment of seams in order to avoid leaks.

It should be noted, both RV roof types should not be exposed to solvents and oils. Additionally, avoid the use of cleaners that contain harsh chemicals, abrasives or petroleum-based products, these products can easily lead to significant amounts of damage to the roof.

Conclusion

TPO and EPDM RV roofs both boast a range of pros and cons, which is one of the reasons that you’re reading this article. We would encourage you to weight the strengths and weaknesses of each product in order to make an informed decision. However, we’re of the opinion that EPDM is the better product, at least for the time being. If you’ve tried both and your experience differs from our, please let us know in the comments below.

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