TPO roofing is the fastest growing segment of the U.S. single-ply roofing industry today. Since its inception in the 1990s, TPO roofing has soared in popularity in Louisville and surrounding areas. It is resilient in both extreme heat and extreme cold, while also being highly resistant to tears, impacts, and punctures. It’s easier to install than older methods and tends to last longer than competitors. 

As local experts in the industry, we are breaking down the basis of TPO roofing to give you all the information you need to know on how to install, when to repair, and what you can expect from your TPO roofing system. 

What Is TPO Roofing?

TPO is an acronym that stands for Thermoplastic Polyolefin, which is the primary chemical composition of the materials.

Materials ready for a TPO roof installation job in Louisville, KY.

In the roofing world, there are two types of single-ply roofing materials: Thermoplastic and Thermoset. TPO is part of the thermoplastic family, but the name is actually a little misleading. Rather than being a plastic, TPO is actually a blend of rubbers, typically used for commerical and industrial roofing applications. 

TPO combines the well-known advantages of a rubber roof with hot air-weldable seams, which enables the total seam strength to be three times stronger than other rubber roofs that utilize tape systems. 

TPO roofing is specifically suited for low-slope commercial roofing styles in Louisville, KY. While it comes in several colors, it’s most common in white, grey, and tan. It can also be used for homes, but is not is not typically recommended or warranted for residential use.

Installation of a TPO Roofing System

TPO roofing is installed in a single membrane application without multiple layers. This means installation is generally faster than other roofing methods. Installation of TPO roofing is fairly simple, but should only be handled by a local professional.

Step 1: The Membrane 

TPO roofing comes in three different membrane thicknesses. The thickness you choose determines how thick your roof will be, and also determines the cost. Economy TPO roofing is .045” thick, with premium being .080” thick. A thicker membrane will last longer and is more resistant to punctures, but is also more expensive.

Step 2: Attachment

The membrane is attached to the roof with either adhesives or fasteners, depending on the pitch of the roof, your climate, and your budget. Mechanical or ballast fasteners tend to work better for a flat roof, while adhesives are more ideal for pitched roofs. It may actually be possible to apply TPO roofing systems over your existing roof. The application of a new roofing system over existing roofing eliminates tear-off costs and reduces disposal expenses.

Step 3: Hot Air Welding

The benefits of TPO roofing are enhanced, because there are no seams or flashings. It is lightweight and put together using wide sheets. Using hot-air welding equipment, seams are welded together to create a seamless, smooth, and durable finish. It can also be welded around corners, chimneys, and air vents that create a flawless result.

This is the most important installation step; seam failures may lead to leaks or catastrophic failures from wind uplift. In more traditional commercial roofing, the seaming can be the weakest area. With a TPO roofing system installed by a skilled and experienced contractor, the worry of seaming issues is eliminated.

Although somewhat simple, this is not a DIY process or weekend project for a Louisville homeowner. Installing a TPO roof can only be done by a professional due to the equipment and expertise needed to properly install. Installing a TPO roof is cheaper than one using other materials because it doesn’t take as long, resulting in lower labor fees, which can save you significant installation costs.

Work on a roof in Louisville, KY.

Prepare for Repair: Materials and Tools for Your TPO Roof

Although TPO roofing is the most durable material on the market, it’s not completely impenetrable. Repeated exposure to the elements, such as extreme heat and structural stress, can lead to repair needs. The good news is, TPO is a weldable and re-heatable material, which means that it is possible to re-weld seams, even years later.

TPO uses heat welding during the installation process to create a strong and seamless finished product. This same process is used to repair tears, impacts, and punctures.

In order to make a correct repair, you’ll need a hot-air welding tool and patching materials – which are tools that professional roofing contractors will have on hand, but the average business owner probably will not. Using heat welding, small repairs are easy to complete and can protect your roof from further damage. This gives you a strong surface you can rely on for years to come.

While some business owners will try to get by with duct tape on the puncture, an asphalt patch, or other inadequate patch jobs, an improper quick fix is never recommended. These can all compromise the integrity of your roof and create bigger repairs later on. Improper DIY repairs on your TPO roofing system can also void your warranty. Any time you notice a small tear or puncture, get it repaired early and correctly by a professionally trained roofer with the right materials.

TPO Roofing Costs

TPO is the preferred commercial roofing material because of its durability, longevity, energy efficiency, and ability to be repaired easily, and in addition, is one of the least expensive options on the market.

Of course, each project is unique and can only be quoted individually, but the total TPO roofing costs should be somewhere between $7 and $13 per square foot. Most roofing estimates are divided between materials and labor. The material itself is delivered in large 10-foot sheets and because installation is easier than other methods, the labor costs are lower as well.

Pros vs. Cons of TPO Roofing

TPO roofs seem to be the fairy godmother of the roofing world, making everything perfect without a single flaw. However, there are still a few things to consider before you assume TPO is a fix-all solution.

Pros:

  • The biggest pro to TPO is the cost. It is one of the cheapest materials on the market, costing less than alternative options.
  • TPO roofs are durable to punctures and tears, but also resist grease, dirt, bacteria, algae, and debris build-up.
  • With its natural flexibility, TPO allows for a building’s movement and setting, without compromising the roof’s performance.
  • White TPO roofs offer solar radiant heat reflection properties with huge energy-saving potential during hot, southern summers.
  • Properly installed TPO membranes expand and contract with minimal cracking and blistering, even in the Louisville, KY sun.
  • Most manufacturer warranties last about 30 years, providing reassurance for repairs, if ever needed. 

Cons: 

  •  TPO roofing is the new kid on the block and manufactures are still tweaking the formula to figure out the best composition. This means when it’s time for a repair, the formula may be different than what you had installed initially.
  • There have been some TPO recalls in the past,and  although these issues have been resolved with new formulas, there’s always a risk with new products.
  • The most commonly reported problems include seams coming apart, leaks, and membrane failures, especially when exposed to excessive heat over a prolonged period of time.
  • If temperatures are tremendously high on a regular basis or if solar loads are increased beyond usual amounts, it is possible for TPO roofing to fail entirely. This is usually not an issue for Louisville customers.

Going Green With TPO

TPO system installation in Louisville, KY.

All TPO roofs are great insulators and are fully recyclable. The membrane can be fully recycled and used again in the TPO manufacturing process. This makes them a great option for buildings or businesses that are focused on being energy efficient and environmentally friendly. 

Because of their insulating properties, TPO roofs are ideal for areas that get extreme weather conditions. Their reflective properties may improve energy savings and reduce wasted HVAC energy in both the summer and the winter.

Some types of TPO are even Energy-Star rated and do not use any harmful chemicals in either the manufacturing or installation process.

Working With a Louisville Roofing Contractor

TPO Roofing is something that requires the skill and knowledge of an industry expert. TPO membranes provide the safety, stability, and endurance commercial business owners rely on. 

Our experts have the training and expertise to install and repair commercial TPO roofs so you can keep doing what you do best. Louisville business owners (and homeowners, too) rely on Abrams to handle the roof, so they can handle their business. For repair or installation, contact Abrams Roofing & Sheet Metal today!