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If you aren’t sure what the difference is between TPO and PVC roofing, you might be at risk of buying a roofing system that’s not suitable for your commercial property needs. Even though these membrane roofing materials may appear to be the same, PVC and TPO systems are quite different.

What are TPO and PVC Made Of?

Looking at a completed PVC or TPO installation, you may think that these materials look identical. In fact, they are two totally different things.

TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) is made with polymerized polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber. A polyester reinforcement sheet is sandwiched between two plies of TPO. The production of TPO also includes color pigments, talc, fiberglass, and ultra-violet inhibitors.

Due to the makeup of the membrane, it is flexible without having to use plasticizers. This, combined with hot-air welded seams, means that TPO performs very well at keeping large buildings watertight, even in harsh conditions or in cases of pooling water.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is made using two PVC plies that sandwich a polyester reinforcement sheet. The production of PVC also includes color pigments, fiberglass or polyester reinforcement, plasticizers, and biocides to help prevent mold, bacteria, and algae.

Just like TPO, hot-air welded seams help PVC roofing remain watertight under a variety of weather conditions.

Pros and Cons of TPO

One of the biggest pros of TPO is that it is recyclable and environmentally friendly. The reflective surface reduces UV radiation and helps improve energy efficiency. However, TPO also has less resistance to chemicals than PVC, so it is not the best choice where the roofing may be exposed to grease or harsh chemicals. It can also be more difficult to install than PVC due to its stiffness.

Pros and Cons of PVC

PVC has been a mainstay in commercial roofing for over 30 years, and it has a long-standing reputation for durability. PVC does have an edge over TPO in that it is more resistant to chemical damage and punctures or weathering. It also tends to be more flexible and easier to install due to the addition of plasticizers in its production.

Unfortunately, the use of plasticizers may come at the cost of increased weathering, as some break down more quickly than the rest of the material, meaning a roof will wear faster. Additionally, the high durability of the material also results in generally higher material costs, and its non-recyclability means a higher environmental impact.

Choosing the Right Roofing for Your Commercial Building

The similarities between TPO and PVS make either material a good option for most flat roofing projects. When deciding between the two, there are a few considerations that can help you choose which is best suited for your project.

  • Cost

While TPO is cheaper than PVC per square foot of material, the amount of labor during installation is slightly more for TPO.

  • Industry standards

It’s essential to pick a reputable supplier when choosing TPO roofing, as some manufacturers may not follow the most recent standards. This risk is much lower for PVC.

  • Membrane quality

Regardless of whether the roofing project uses TPO or PVC, it’s important to vet and choose an experienced installer to ensure you’re getting the best quality material possible.

  • Energy efficiency

When it comes to energy efficiency, TPO has a slight edge over PVC. This means lower energy bills, especially during the summer months.

  • Durability/Longevity

TPO is typically more durable and has a longer lifespan than some PVC roofing, due to PVC’s use of plasticizers.

Choose the Right Roofing Material for Your Business

At Avondale Roofing, we know how important it is to make sure your business has a watertight, long-lasting roof. We have over 30 years of experience in handling all types of commercial roofing repairs and installations. Our highly experienced roofing experts can help you decide whether TPO or PVC roofing is the best choice to balance your needs with your budget. Contact us today to set up your Free Estimate. We proudly serve the Madison, WI area, Chicago, IL area, and beyond.