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TPO Vs EPDM RV Roof: Which Is a Better Roofing System?

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

tpo vs epdm rv roof

My RV roof needed a large overhaul, so I was searching for the best material available today. As I learned about RV roofing material, I always encountered the TPO vs EPDM RV roof debate. Both are single-ply roofing materials, but the similarities end there.

TPO reflects light, making it more energy-efficient than EPDM. However, it’s more expensive and more challenging to install.

In this article, I’ll elaborate the differences between TPO and EPDM in terms of cost, durability, and many more factors. But before we do that, let’s examine each RV roof material individually.

TPO RV Roof System

Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) RV roofs mainly consist of a single layer of synthetic components and various rubber types, typically a mix of ethylene-propylene and polypropylene.

Together with a fabric reinforcing scrim, the membrane becomes strong and steady for better performance. Two ways to bond a TPO membrane to the cover board are adhesive and mechanical fasteners.

TPO is rapidly becoming popular because of its many benefits, like energy efficiency. A TPO RV roof reflects sunlight, allowing air cooling systems to perform more efficiently. This results in more energy savings and less cooling costs.

When it comes to puncture resistance, TPO tends to offer more protection than EPDM. However, you need to use an electrical source to power the welding equipment during TPO installation, making it more challenging for repairs. Also, this type of material tends to become less pliable as it ages, causing cracks on the membrane.

EPDM RV Roof System

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An Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) roof is built from an extremely sturdy synthetic rubber roofing membrane consisting of two main components – propylene and ethylene.

EPDM can be installed through the membrane with large panels or in the side laps with narrow panels. The membrane is then affixed to the steel deck underneath using fasteners.

When it comes to single-ply roofing, EPDM has been the leader for many years. This roofing material is ideal for RVing during hailstorms. Hail will only bounce off, leaving less damage to the RV roof. TPO roofs, on the other hand, might become damaged, and worse, require professional inspection for repair.

The best part about EPDM is it’s easier to make roof repairs because it doesn’t need an electrical source for welding and doesn’t facilitate moss growth. You’re also better off with EPDM when installing solar panels for off-grid travel as this material won’t obstruct sunlight absorption.

EPDM vs TPO RV Roof Comparative Analysis

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Selecting between TPO and EPDM might depend on your location, climate, and other external factors. Let’s see which roof material suits your situation.

1. Energy Efficiency

A TPO roof membrane for RVs offers more energy efficiency than EPDM, as mentioned above.

On the other hand, EPDM roofing may force the cooling systems to work harder as it absorbs heat with its dark surface. You can get a white EPDM roof, but it doesn’t provide the same level of energy efficiency as a TPO roof.

2. Cost

EPDM roofs are more affordable than TPO, making it a better choice if you’re on a tight budget. EPDM costs around $4-$8 per square foot while TPO costs slightly more, about $5.50-$9.50 per square foot. Also, you can do the EPDM installation yourself, saving costs for labor and installation.

A TPO roof material is expensive because it’s difficult to manufacture. It also involves additional costs for heat welding/glue and sealants during installation.

Regardless of which material you pick, it’s better to spend on a thicker membrane as it seems to last longer and offers more protection. It’s also going to save you from constant replacements and repairs in the future.

3. Durability

EPDM roofs have properly tapered seams and intricate flashlings, making them seem more durable than TPO. They should last for 25 years or even more. An EPDM also provides great UV resistance.

When it comes to seam strength, TPO outperforms the EPDM taped seams and adhesive. However, this durability is inconsistent as TPO is a new material that’s undergoing development. TPO is weak against ponding water, due to the presence of seams set up in small sections.

4. Style

TPO RV roofs are available in many colors, typically lighter ones to absorb heat and light. This increases the curb appeal of your RV. Also, the shiny luster adds an aesthetic level to the top layer.

On the other hand, EPDM is dominantly available in black, making it look plain. To rival the energy efficiency of TPO, newer EPDM models come in tan and white. However, these lighter colors may cost more than the regular black models.

5. Installation And Maintenance

An EPDM RV roof is easier and quicker to install than a TPO membrane. You don’t need any special equipment or specialized knowledge for installation. Any new contractor can install an EPDM membrane, whereas only an experienced contractor can install a TPO roof to prevent leaks.

EPDM roofs are only treated with an adhesive on the seams, making them more susceptible to coming apart. This means you need to seal cracks the moment they appear to prevent serious damage, especially from water intrusion.

TPO RV roofs are as hard as EPDM when it comes to maintenance, as it’s challenging to weld new materials to this membrane. The lamination on TPO roofs means they’re prone to shrinkage, and cheaper TPO tends to be worse in this area.

Watch how to replace your RV roof with EPDM or TPO in this video.

Final Thoughts

In the TPO vs EPDM RV roof debate, it all boils down to personal preference. For ease of installation and durability, the EPDM roof seems to have the upper hand. TPO is more energy-efficient, but it’s slightly more expensive than EPDM.

Since EPDM can do well with hail storms, it suits best for cool weather conditions. For warmer climates, TPO RV roofs are more suitable as they absorb sunlight for optimum energy efficiency.

Which do you prefer – TPO or EPDM? Let us know in the comment section below and share this article if you like it.

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