EPDM, TPO, and Torch Down Rubber Membranes

Three Types of Roofing Systems explained

This video gives a brief explanation of the three types of roofing materials used on flat roofs

Roofing contractors will do a rubber roof installation of their choice. There are three types of roofing systems most commonly installed. These are EPDM, TPO, and Modified Bitumen Torch Down membraneTPO is a vinyl roofing membrane.

Here are some links to see more about EPDM and TPO

EPDM Rubber is the most famous rubber roof installation among roofing contractors

Of the three roofing systems, roofing contractors favor EPDM. This type of roofing system is relatively easy to install and requires little labor and skills. EPDM rubber is very thin rubber and is of the same materials as that of an inner tube of a tire.

EPDM rubber roofing is aesthetically pleasing with its smooth and clean surface. It has a black surface and gets very hot during the summer.

Just because this is the choice roofing system across the country doesn’t mean it’s the best. Watch videos of EPDM failures we have made.


  • Fewer seams that make it aesthetically pleasing
  • Skills – doesn’t take much to teach someone to install EPDM
  • Inexpensive tools to install – paint brush, rollers, and utility knives or scissors
  • Flexibility makes for easy installation
  • Most contractors provide a 15-year warranty


  • Adhesives used on seams fail due to extreme heat
  • Rubber fails before the warranty expires
  • Requires constant maintenance  within 3 – 5 years of installation
  • EPDM Rubber degrades and shrink causing seams and flashing to separate
  • The black surface absorbs harmful Ultraviolet rays and makes the building heat up more than necessary

Watch the video to see how Ultraviolet rays have destroyed an EPDM rubber roof.

This video show an EPDM Rubber roof which was damaged by ultraviolets

Modified Bitumen Torch Down Rubber Roof Installation

Modified Bitumen was the most popular roofing system and seen on most buildings around the country. The skills involved in a Torch Down Rubber Roof Installation is more than that of an EPDM roofing system. A torch Down roof will always outlast an EPDM rubber roof.

Advantages of a Torch Down system outways the disadvantages. As the name implies, the membrane is Torched Down to the substrate surface, and the seams welded together. Unlike EPDM using adhesives that fail due to Ultraviolet rays in a short period, the welded seams of the Modified Bitumen rubber are not affected by any weather conditions.

Torch Down Pros

  • The rugged, thick material can withstand heavy foot traffic
  • Installed over any surface with little preparation
  • Embedded ceramic granules protect it against UV
  • White ceramic surface will keep the roof cool
  • Warranties of up to 40 years available
  • Can be repaired by an inexperienced person with reg. tar
  • Seams are fused together and will not separate
  • Requires very little maintenance over its lifetime
  • Installing two Torch Down rubbers on top of each other have added benefits

Torch Down Cons

  • Not many roofing contractors will install torch down
  • Requires more skilled labor than EPDM rubber
  • Takes more time to install

Torch Down Rubber Roof Installation

The Torch Down Roofing System still outperforms all other roofing systems. They are much thicker and can handle much more foot traffic and abuse.

We have been in the Torch Down Rubber Roof Installation for over 25 years. Here are some images of our roofs we have installed over 20 years ago. They still look the same as when we did install them.

Torch Down Rubber roof Installation of over 20 years ago
This Torch Down Rubber roof is well over 25 years old and still we never had to go back to make any repairs

Watch this video on the three roofing systems explained

This video explains why a Torch Down Rubber roof is far better than that of EPDM or TPO systems

TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin)

TPO is a vinyl type of material, and a heat gun is used to fuse the seams together. The membrane is only the thickness of that of a quarter. TPO is glued down to the roofing deck.

At the installation of TPO, the calibration of the heat welding machine for the temperature and weather condition of the day is very important, because this will affect the weld as temperatures fluctuate during the day.

The problem with the heat welding process is that the roof technician can never be sure if the seams are being welded correctly or not.

Therefore he will take a sharp edge pick and test every seam to inspect the welds. This method does not ensure a proper seam and many times seams have popped loose because of this very issue.

TPO Roofing Advantages

  • Seams are welded rather than glued, thus making it harder to separate
  • The TPO manufacturer certifies contractors that in turn will honor the warranty
  • The white surface of TPO reflects much of the Ultraviolet light, resulting in a cooler building
  • The manufacturer enforces high-quality workmanship

TPO Roofing Disadvantages

  • Quite a new roofing system with a lot of revisions since its inception
  • Ultraviolet rays cause shrinkage putting stress on seams and flashing
  • Temperature plays a major part with installation and can affect the quality of the installation
  • Warranties are only 15- 20 years
  • Highly skilled roof technicians that that install TPO is required

An image of a TPO roof that was installed ten years ago with the construction of the when Marriot Hotel and the seams were already separating, and in some areas, the UV rays have damaged the roof.

We were called out to this roof in Rhode Island because it started to leak and it was only ten years old. A TPO vinyl roof is better than an EPDM Rubber roof but also have its flaws. A Torch Down Rubber Roof Installation will outperform all other roofing systems.

TPO Roof installed on Marriott Hotel Roof Rhode Island
This is an image of a TPO Roof. This roof was less than 10 years old and had serious issues due to ultraviolet degradation

There were 2 layers of TPO roofing membranes on this roof installed. Five years after installation we were called to find the leaks and make repairs

TPO-Roof-Seams separating
We had to remove this TPO Roof because it was leaking in to many areas
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1 thought on “EPDM, TPO, and Torch Down Rubber Membranes”

  1. Hurricane Irma damaged my flat roof (tree limbs). Thank you for clarifying the types of flat roofs out there and for helping me pick out the best flat roof to use for Hot & Sunny Central FL!

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