A building's roof takes more abuse than any other part of the structure. It is the first line of defense against rain, snow, wind, and even hail. Without a strong roof, you won't have a strong building. So which type of roof is best suited for the job? Many commercial building owners and even homeowners are opting for flat EPDM roofs, which are a great choice in most circumstances. However, even flat roofs have pros and cons to consider.
Pro: EPDM is waterproof.
EPDM is a specialized rubber material. Like all rubber, it is waterproof, and water rolls right off of it. You do not have to worry about the roofing material becoming waterlogged or letting water penetrate after a heavy storm. It also won't suffer from water damage over time, unlike asphalt shingles and cedar shakes.
Con: EPDM roofs can be tricky to install.
Finding a roofing company that installs EPDM roofs can be a little tough. Almost every roofing company installs asphalt shingles, but you may have to call a few places before you find someone who installs EPDM. It's a more difficult material to install, and it requires a lot of precision to install properly. Since there are fewer companies to choose from, you may pay a bit more for the service. There's less competition to keep prices down than with other materials.
Pro: EPDM roofs last about 25 years.
EPDM roofing is not the longest-lasting roof material, but it has a substantial lifespan. It lasts longer than modified bitumen roofing—a common choice for flat roofs. It also outlives cellulose fiber, asphalt shingles, aluminum coating, and TPO. Metal roofing has a longer lifespan, but it comes with other downfalls, such as a heavier weight and the need for specialized draining equipment when used on a flat roof.
Con: EPDM can leak around chimneys and vents.
Sealing the EPDM roof to the chimney, vents, and other items that project from the roof is quite difficult. If you hire an experienced roofing contractor, they should pay close attention to this area and make sure you won't get leaks. However, less experienced roofers may not adhere the material well—so you'll want to watch for leaks. These leaks also become more likely as the roof ages. Water can seep under the edge of the EPDM and cause the underlying material to deteriorate.
Pro: EPDM is very lightweight.
EPDM does not weigh much compared to other materials like metal and asphalt. As such, you can generally have it applied to flat roofs without the need for a lot of reinforcement. This can help keep your roofing costs down. And it also means your installation may take less time. The roofing company won't need to install beams or concrete berms before putting the roof on.
Con: Rubber roofing can be torn by tree branches.
If there are any trees near your structure, you should have them well trimmed to ensure the branches do not sweep across or land on the roof. If the branches do scrape the roof, they can tear the membrane, leading to leaks. The membrane can also be damaged by people walking across it with rough shoes, so if you ever get on the roof for any reason, you'll need to wear soft rubber sneakers.
EPDM roofing can be an affordable, durable choice if your building has a flat roof. As long as you're willing to trim back trees and take the time to find a reputable installer, it might be the right roof material for you! Contact a roofing company to learn more about your options for flat roofing materials.