Commercial Roofing Materials Part 1: What is EPDM?

Commercial Roofing Materials - EPDMThere are several types of industrial and commercial roofing materials. In this 5 part series we will cover each of the following: EPDM, thermoplastic, built-up, modified bitumen, and metal. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages and any of them can be the right chose depending on your building, climate, and budget. First, let’s begin with EPDM.

What is EPDM?

The EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) roofing system is a synthetic rubber based material used very successfully on large commercial buildings. While not a new invention, EPDM is still relatively new to the roofing industry, yet has become one of the top choices for low slope roofing over the last 40 or so years. It is made of rubber similar to that used as seals in cars (around doors or the trunk) or the seals around the doors of walk-in freezers or fridges.

EPDM Background

The EPDM systems have remained mostly unchanged for the last several years though a few improvements to adhesives and the reflective qualities of the material have enhanced performance. Many of the EPDM systems you will see today have been around since the 70s and though the originals don’t have a few minor updates featured by current versions, they have proven to be long lasting and durable. Since there are EPDM roofs still in use which are 40 years old, a 30 year guarantee is often available upon installation.

Advantages of EPDM

There are many great features about EPDM roofing systems which make them attractive to building managers.

  • Very durable and long lasting
  • Low cost life-cycle
  • Rapid installation
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Material is nearly 100% recyclable
  • Low fire danger
  • Nearly waterproof when installed in one piece

This is a potent lineup of advantages which has made EPDM’s wildly popular as a low slope commercial roofing option.

Disadvantages of EPDM

As with all types of roofing, there are also drawbacks to EPMD which must be considered.

  • HVAC units, piping, and other fixtures can cause the possibility of a leak and may need to be resealed.
  • Leaks, though rare, can be hard to find if they do occur
  • Unqualified roofers incorrectly installing EPMD

To the last point, this is a common occurrence. Double check your roofing company to verify that they are actually experienced in rubber roofs. This is extremely important as this is not a simple shingle residential roof.

EPDM Ballasted System

The most frequently used EPDM is the ballasted system (about 35% of modern commercial EPMD installations). This system starts with approved roofing deck at the bottom, upon which sufficient insulation is placed. The EPDM panel is then laid on top of the insulation and held in place by smooth stone or concrete pavers. This creates a low cost, durable, water tight, heat reflecting, and fire proof roof. EPDM roofs are often combined with solar panels.

When you are deciding what material to use for your commercial building you should consult with an experienced, licensed roofing contractor. All Weather Tite, of Marlborough MA, is a GAF Master Elite® certified roofing contractor, which guarantees that we are fully licensed, adequately insured, have a proven reputation for quality, and are committed to ongoing professional training. Check out the commercial roofing section of our website or contact us to talk to our expert team. You can request a free estimate and we will be happy to explain your options regarding recoating your roof. Our expert services cover all aspects of roofing from new roofs to minor repairs.

Posted in Commercial Roofing.