Contrary to popular belief, tin or aluminum isn’t the most preferred roofing of a recreational vehicle. It’s a toss between TPO and EPDM. While tin or aluminum had been used in the early days, RVers have realized many of their disadvantages, such as lack of durability, thermal bridging effect which leads to excessive condensation, and heavy weight.
When it’s time for RV roof replacement, you might be thinking about what roofing to use, and it’s often a time-consuming process. In this article, I’m going to help you with the comparison: TPO vs EPDM RV roof.
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RV Roofing Material: TPO vs EPDM
At the very least, a rubber roofing membrane is a popular choice because it is breathable. Its technical name is Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM), but in recent years, RV roof manufacturers have created a new kind called Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO).
Both of them are safe and good choices; however, you should still understand their differences to decide if an option suits your needs well before spending your hard-earned money on it.
TPO vs. EPDM RV Roof Material
Selecting a covering for your RV depends on several factors, including your location, budget, and preferences. You should also consider the weather and the elements that come with it, such as heat, snow, rain, and hail. Other things to look into are longevity and maintenance. RV owners should also think about energy efficiency, UV resistance, and ease of installation.
To give you a clearer overview, let’s compare TPO and EPDM.
When a single membrane is needed, you’ll save more with an EPDM roof than with a TPO one, making EPDM more economical.
Speaking of longevity, it will be worth your time and effort to choose a more durable roof. But to actually take advantage of such an option, the skill and method in the installation should be considered because poorly installed seams are a cause for leaks.
A TPO roof is a newer material, so its durability will be less assured, but different product tests and industrial applications have proven that this material is reliable as an RV roofing material. That said, go for EPDM if you want to be extra cautious.
EPDM’s rubber compound has an established reputation in numerous applications, RV roofs included. Notably, it can last for up to 20 years with proper maintenance and care.
According to a majority of RV owners, they also appreciate the reliability of EPDM in terms of weather resistance. It is UV-resistant and is known for keeping up with cold weather conditions.
As for TPO, if quality products are used and installation is correct, TPO is also durable and strong. Its seam strength can outperform both the tape and adhesive in EPDM setups. But then, you must check before buying TPO because not all are the same in terms of performance.
Another issue: TPO isn’t as good as EPDM when it comes to ponding water reaction and resistance to changing weather conditions.
Hence, EPDM may be the clear winner in the durability department when all these factors are considered.
In terms of maintenance, properly installed EPDM roofs won’t need much of it in the beginning. But if you’d think about the adhesive-treated seams coming into play, EPDM is prone to coming apart. In this case, you need to keep them intact with the application of adhesives from time to time.
Take note: EPDM doesn’t respond well to oils and solvents. Thus, you must not use any cleaners or roof conditioners with citrus bases, harsh abrasives, and petroleum solvents because they can ruin an EPDM membrane.
It’s important to note that the membranes of TPO aren’t as easy to maintain as an EPDM membrane. For example, welding a new material to TPO can be challenging, especially if one’s dealing with an older compound. You might also have to use an activator to seal repairs.
TPO roofs require hot welding to install, which poses a challenge in terms of technical skills. The complexity of installing TPO means professional service is recommended for setups. Otherwise, leaks may be an issue with improper installation. Replacements and repairs may also be costly.
In contrast, EPDM is simpler to use, and regular people can handle the installation themselves.
What is TPO RV Roof?
TPO roof membrane for RVs was introduced to the market in the early 90s and initially was intended to cover flat roofs. Now, it’s been chosen by RV owners as an alternative for their RV’s covering.
One of the reasons for this is that TPO tends to be cheaper than any other option. Another is that its color is typically white, so motorhome owners do not need to paint it.
TPO roof sections are also easy to weld together and can last for years. They are also UV-resistant, allowing your roof to stay cool even in the summer and on hot days.
TPO is also mold-resistant, so it certainly can last long. It doesn’t also collect dirt and offers great resistance to strong forces. Plus, it can handle contraction and thermal expansion, allowing RV owners to camp in hot and cold climate areas without worrying about their roof’s integrity.
It’s not all good for TPO, though. Most RV owners claim that it doesn’t last longer than EPDM roofing, but this may be acceptable because it’s still a new technology that needs improvements. And for many, they prefer EPDM for the reason that TPO tends to be very shiny.
What is an EPDM Roof?
Often called rubber membrane or rubber roofing, EPDM is a popular choice for motorhome covering. This roofing type is made from different recycled materials, such as slate dust, recycled automotive tires, and sawdust. As they’re recycled, these materials make EPDM cheaper.
Aside from the lower cost, EPDM is also lighter when compared to other RV roofing materials. EPDM’s resistance to scratch marks and ease of installation have also made it popular for more than 50 years.
For its disadvantages, it typically comes in black color, and this is a downside because you don’t want your roof to be absorbent of the sun’s rays, especially in the summer. For this reason, RV owners can buy a white-colored EPDM, but this coloring would mean an additional 40% in the roof’s final cost.
There is no clear winner here, but using the comparison aspects we’ve shared earlier, we hope you’ll be able to pick the right one for your budget, needs, and preferences. Both TPO vs EPDM RV roof products have their strengths and weaknesses. One may be a winner in a specific department but the other is in another.
Compare and study your options well and choose the right roofing material for your RV. If you have any questions, we’re here to help and listen.
I am Stephen Ryan, content director for RV Web. After seven years of working as an interior decorator, I am confident in turning my clients’ dream houses into reality. I find it rewarding to help others make the best of their space and resources.