FS Roof System Blog

Flat Roofing Options: The Shift from Tar and Gravel, to TPO, EPDM, and Spray Coating Membranes

Whether you own a commercial building, or a residential one, the deterioration of your flat roof can cause significant issues. Roof replacements can be costly, and quite stressful depending on the flat roofing options that you choose.

These days there are far more flat roof replacement options available, than there used to be. Traditionally, tar and gravel roofing systems were widely used, and many building owners still request this flat roofing system due to its low cost, and insulating capabilities. Slowly buy surely however, new types of flat roofing systems are breaking through. These roofing systems are made from a variety of materials, provide similar insulating benefits, and some come in at an even lower cost than the tar and gravel option.

These other options include:

  • TPO
  • EPDM
  • Spray Coating membranes

Any of these options can be used to replace the ugly and outdated system that is tar and gravel. And you may even end up saving in the long run, as some of these other options will help to reduce your annual heating and cooling costs as well.

Let’s take a closer look at these other up-and-coming flat roofing systems:

  • EPDM

EPDM roofing membrane is a highly durable, synthetic rubber. This rubber membrane has been used for almost 40years, though it is gaining more mainstream popularity. The two main components of EPDM are ethylene, and propylene, both of which are derived from natural gasses and oil. Available in two colour options, black and white, this membrane can be installed using a number of methods. EPDM is installed in sections, with the seams in between the rolls sealed with either a quality liquid adhesive, or a specialised tape.

  • TPO

TPO and EPDM are often confused as being the same product. While similar, they are actually different types of roofing materials. TPO, which stands for thermoplastic polyolefin membrane, is a single ply membrane that is installed on the building before being sealed together using a combination of hot air sealing and chemical glue. Like EPDM, TPO is available in both light and dark colour options. TPO is very flexible, allowing it to function effectively on a variety of roof types.

  • Spray Coating Membranes

Spray coating membranes for flat roof replacements are a fairly recent development in the flat roofing industry. Though not yet a front runner, mostly due to its newness, there are many advantages of spray membranes for flat roof replacement. The most common types of spray coating membranes are aluminum, silicone, and acrylic. These membranes have incredible reflective qualities that help to deflect the worst of UV rays, and are weather resistant. Their flexibility helps them move with the roof as it expands and contracts with hot and cold weather. Due to the nature of their application, spray coating membranes are seamless by design, reducing the chance of leaks. Now just like every type of flat roof replacement option there are pros and cons with these spray coatings, they can be expensive, and application can be a tedious process.

When comparing the above three flat roof replacement options with the option of Tar and Gravel, TPO, EPDM, and Spray coating come out on top. The process of tar and gravel roof replacements are messy, and quite dangerous. When applying tar and gravel, hot tar is used. Not only is this extremely hot tar a hazard for those working with it, and those in the vicinity, it also produces a rather foul odor. The alternative options above, are not nearly as dangerous, and they do not produce as strong an odor.

When making the change from Tar and Gravel, to TPO, EPDM, or Spray Coating Membranes, you will likely notice the temperature shift within the building immediately. These flat roof replacement options provide significant insulation, which will help to regulate the temperature within your residential or commercial building, helping to reduce your energy costs.

Another upside to switching from Tar and Gravel, is the look of your flat roofing system. Though you may not have a ton of foot traffic up there, TPO, EPDM and Spray Coating Membranes will drastically improve the attractiveness of your flat roof.

Much of Canada is making the switch to a more eco friendly, and more attractive flat roof replacement option. Before replacing your flat roof with the old and tired Tar and Gravel, take the time to research some of your other options. You’ll be glad that you did.