arial view of TPO commercial roof
WRITTEN BY The Embry's Team 8 minutes READ

With commercial roofing, choosing the right material is crucial for ensuring durability, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. One roofing solution that has gained significant popularity over the years is TPO roofing. But what exactly is TPO roofing, and why is it so highly regarded? This guide will discuss exactly what is TPO roofing, including:

  • What is TPO roofing?
  • Material composition
  • Benefits of TPO roofing
  • 7 Step installation process
  • Maintenance and longevity
  • Potential drawbacks
  • Comparing TPO to other roofing materials

🤔 What is TPO Roofing?

TPO roofing materials

TPO, or Thermoplastic Olefin, is a type of single-ply roofing membrane. It is a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber that is typically reinforced with polyester. This roofing material is commonly used in commercial and industrial buildings due to its excellent performance and relatively lower cost compared to other roofing options.

🛠️ Material Composition

TPO roofing is known for its distinctive white color, although it can also be found in other shades like gray and tan. The material composition includes:

  • Base Layer: The base layer is a combination of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber, providing flexibility and durability.
  • Reinforcement Layer: This layer typically consists of polyester fabric, which adds strength and puncture resistance to the membrane.
  • Top Layer: The top layer is made of thermoplastic polyolefin, which is UV-resistant and reflects heat, contributing to the energy efficiency of the building.

✅ Benefits of TPO Roofing

TPO roofing offers several benefits that make it a popular choice among building owners and contractors. These include:

  • Energy Efficiency: One of the standout features of TPO roofing is its reflective surface, which helps to reduce the building’s cooling costs by reflecting the sun’s rays. This can lead to significant energy savings, especially in hot climates.
  • Durability: TPO membranes are resistant to punctures, tears, and impact damage. They can withstand harsh weather conditions, including high winds and hail, making them a reliable choice for various environments.
  • Flexibility: The material’s flexibility allows it to accommodate building movement and settling, reducing the risk of cracks and leaks over time.
  • Ease of Installation: TPO roofing systems are relatively easy to install, which can lower labor costs and reduce installation time. The material is lightweight and can be installed using various methods, including mechanical attachment, ballasting, and adhesive.
  • Environmental Friendliness: TPO roofing is considered environmentally friendly due to its recyclability and energy-saving properties. It also does not contain harmful chemicals like chlorine, which are found in some other roofing materials.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to other single-ply roofing membranes like EPDM and PVC, TPO is often more affordable while still offering comparable or superior performance.

7 Step Installation Process

drone image of TPO flat commercial roof

The installation of TPO roofing involves several steps to ensure a proper and long-lasting application. Here is an overview of the typical installation process:

1. Preparation

Before installation begins, the existing roof (if any) is inspected and prepared. This may involve removing old roofing materials, repairing any damaged areas, and cleaning the surface to ensure proper adhesion of the TPO membrane.

2. Insulation Installation

Insulation boards are installed over the roof deck to improve the building’s energy efficiency. Common types of insulation used with TPO roofing include polyisocyanurate (ISO), expanded polystyrene (EPS), and extruded polystyrene (XPS).

3. Membrane Placement

The TPO membrane is rolled out over the insulation boards. The membrane sheets are typically available in widths ranging from 6 to 12 feet and lengths of up to 100 feet. The sheets are laid out and positioned to minimize seams and ensure proper coverage.

4. Securing the Membrane

There are several methods to secure the TPO membrane to the roof:

  • Mechanical Attachment: This involves using screws and plates to fasten the membrane to the roof deck. The screws and plates are installed along the seams of the membrane sheets.
  • Ballasting: Ballasting involves placing heavy materials, such as gravel or pavers, over the membrane to hold it in place. This method is often used for flat roofs.
  • Adhesive: Adhesives can be used to bond the TPO membrane directly to the insulation or roof deck. This method is suitable for roofs with a slight slope or where mechanical attachment is not feasible.

5. Seaming

Seaming is a critical step in the installation process, as it ensures the watertight integrity of the roof. The seams between the membrane sheets are typically heat-welded using a hot-air welder. This creates a strong, durable bond that prevents water infiltration.

6. Flashing and Detailing

Flashing and detailing are essential for ensuring that vulnerable areas of the roof, such as penetrations, edges, and corners, are properly sealed. Pre-formed TPO accessories or custom-fabricated pieces are used to create a watertight seal around these areas.

7. Final Inspection

Once the installation is complete, a thorough inspection is conducted to ensure that all seams are properly welded, and there are no defects or areas that could lead to leaks. Any necessary repairs or adjustments are made before the final sign-off.

🧑‍🔧 Maintenance and Longevity

TPO roofing systems are known for their low maintenance requirements and long lifespan. However, regular inspections and maintenance are essential to ensure the roof remains in optimal condition. Here are some maintenance tips for TPO roofing:

  • Regular Inspections: Conduct bi-annual inspections, preferably in the spring and fall, to check for any signs of damage, wear, or potential issues.
  • Cleaning: Clean the roof surface periodically to remove dirt, debris, and algae growth. This helps maintain the reflective properties of the membrane.
  • Repairing Damage: Promptly address any damage, such as punctures or tears, to prevent water infiltration and further deterioration.
  • Seam Maintenance: Check the seams regularly to ensure they remain intact and watertight. Re-weld or repair seams as needed.
  • Drainage: Ensure that the roof drainage system is functioning properly to prevent standing water, which can cause damage over time.

🚫 Potential Drawbacks

While TPO roofing offers numerous benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Quality Variations: The quality of TPO roofing membranes can vary between manufacturers. It’s important to choose a reputable manufacturer to ensure you get a high-quality product.
  • Heat Welding: Proper heat welding of seams requires skill and experience. Inadequate welding can lead to seam failures and leaks.
  • Limited Color Options: While TPO is available in colors other than white, the color options are still relatively limited compared to other roofing materials.
  • Sensitivity to UV Degradation: Over time, exposure to UV radiation can degrade the TPO membrane, although modern formulations have improved UV resistance.

⚖️ Comparing TPO to Other Roofing Materials

When choosing a roofing material, it’s essential to compare TPO to other commonly used options to determine which one best meets your needs. Here’s a comparison of TPO with two other popular single-ply roofing membranes: EPDM and PVC.


  • Material Composition: EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) is a synthetic rubber roofing membrane, whereas TPO is a thermoplastic membrane.
  • Color Options: EPDM is typically black, which can absorb heat, while TPO is usually white and reflective, leading to better energy efficiency.
  • Seaming: TPO seams are heat-welded, creating a strong bond, whereas EPDM seams are usually bonded with adhesive or tape.
  • Durability: Both materials are durable, but TPO has better puncture resistance and is less prone to shrinkage compared to EPDM.
  • Cost: TPO and EPDM are generally comparable in cost, with TPO often being slightly more affordable.


  • Material Composition: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) roofing membranes are similar to TPO but contain plasticizers to enhance flexibility.
  • Environmental Impact: TPO is considered more environmentally friendly than PVC, as it does not contain chlorine and is more easily recyclable.
  • Chemical Resistance: PVC has superior chemical resistance compared to TPO, making it a better choice for roofs exposed to harsh chemicals.
  • Seaming: Both TPO and PVC seams are heat-welded, providing strong and durable seams.
  • Cost: PVC is generally more expensive than TPO, but it may offer better performance in certain applications.

🙌 Why TPO Roofing is the Best Choice for Your Commercial and Industrial Buildings

TPO roofing is an excellent choice for commercial and industrial buildings, offering durability, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. At Embry’s Roofing, we specialize in TPO roofing, bringing our expertise and dedication to every project. Our team is skilled in the flexibility, ease of installation, and low maintenance requirements of TPO, making us the preferred choice for building owners and contractors.

We understand that selecting a roofing solution involves considering the specific needs and conditions of your building. That’s why we take the time to assess your unique situation and provide tailored recommendations.

With our comprehensive knowledge of TPO roofing material composition, benefits, installation process, and potential drawbacks, Embry’s Roofing ensures you make an informed decision that offers lasting protection and performance.

Trust Embry’s Roofing for your roofing needs, whether you’re replacing an existing roof or installing a new one. Contact us today for a consultation and experience the reliability and versatility of TPO roofing with a team you can count on!

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