Business and homeowners who are looking to replace their old flat roofs often choose to install a TPO membrane, without being aware of some very important problems that exist with this roofing material.
Since TPO is very well marketed in both residential and commercial roofing markets, offers a good price point and a number of attractive features, many people don’t think twice before putting a TPO membrane on their roof.
Lets take a closer look with at some concerning problems that TPO roofs have, to help you decide whether this is the right roofing material for you.
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What Is The Problem With TPO Roofing?
One of the major issues with TPO roofs has been premature aging and seam failures due to prolonged exposure to intense heat.
TPO membrane failures were particularly frequent in the states that experience the most heat and UV radiation all year round.
These TPO roofing problems sparked serious concerns from MRCA and NRCA / NRCC, both of which issued advisories back in 2010 and 2011.
NRCA urging roofing contractors to be aware of these issues and take extra precaution when installing TPO roofs.
Moreover, MRCA called a panel of TPO manufacturers to take a closer look and discuss these problems.
Since TPO was documented to be experiencing major problems, it would be expected that both organizations would continue to periodically issue updates for roofing contractors.
However, there have been no updates since the dates of the initial advisories and discussions (about 5 years).
Here is a “printout” of MRCA TPO Advisory – we added it since it has magically disappeared off MRCA / NRCA / Roofing Contractor Magazine and other prominent roofing publication websites.
ASTM International was also closely involved, and worked on testing the membrane, as well as revising and improving standards for TPO formulations.
The last revision of ASTM D6878 TPO standard, dates back to 2011, at which point the organization stated that further tests and research will be conducted and more updates will follow. However, it has been over 5 years, and ASTM has not issued any updates.
In a nutshell, the latest revision of ASTM standard (Revision D6878-11a) required the top ply (weathering surface) of a TPO membrane to be increased by 25% from 12 mil to 15 mil (15 mil = 0.015″).
A typical TPO membrane installed today is 60 mil in thickness, thus even by new standards, the weathering surface of the membrane is still only 1/4 of total thickness.
However, in the standard’s review article by RCI, the conclusion is that 15 mill is sufficient, and 25% thickness increase provides exponential (not linear) growth on increased membrane life – source.
Do note however, that this report was written by two Carlisle Syntec employees, which is a major manufacturer of TPO in the US, and therefore is “somewhat subjective”.
Other “post-ASTM-revision” concerns that we have are: when will the new standard be applied in the manufacturing process, and how will it affect the cost of TPO roofing?
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1) How do you know if the TPO membrane installed on your roof was manufactured after “D6878-11a” was issued and meets that standard? Many suppliers are sitting on excessive inventory of “old” TPO membranes, and will want to get rid of them as fast as possible.
2) Contractors will want to buy seemingly inexpensive TPO materials, without any concern for which generation it is. Most contractors do not even know anything about these standards.
3) The cost of TPO roofing that meets D6878-11a revision will increase drastically. Manufacturers will have to use significantly more expensive raw materials in the top ply.
The bottom ply has no UV or weathering stabilizers, as it is not exposed, and therefore is much cheaper per 1 mil to produce.
Hence the bottom ply is so much thicker than the top ply (cost cutting and maximizing profits). How will this affect the final cost to consumer?
Lack Of Information On TPO Membrane Performance From Manufactures
TPO roofing manufactures have not posted any new information on their websites about TPO performance, simply ignoring the issue.
The only company that addresses durability and performance of TPO in detail and provides assurance of their product’s quality is Versico ( a private label for Carlisle).
The company provides in depth educational information on TPO for their clients, which is in sharp contrast to the minimal information found on other manufacturer’s sites.
Recently, GAF put out a comparison study of their TPO membrane products vs other manufacturers, which was supposedly conducted by an independent laboratory.
Surprise, surprise GAF’ TPO roofing products significantly outperformed the others. We will review this study in greater detail in a separate post.
Finally, a Google search on “TPO roofing” and related keywords returns no posts in the last 12 months that would address the issue and shed light on whether TPO membranes have been performing well.
You do however get many generic articles extolling the benefits of TPO roofing as a durable, inexpensive and energy efficient material.
Savvy consumers should wonder whether this overall silence means that the problems have been addressed, or that they are being swept under the rug, because TPO roofing is such a lucrative and profitable business.
Why TPO Roofing Is Popular Despite Membrane Failures
It is important to note that TPO roofing continues to grow in popularity both for commercial and residential applications. Currently, it is the fastest growing segment in the commercial roofing industry. There are two factors that account for this:
1. Increased demand for energy efficient materials. An increasing number of consumers are realizing that they can save a significant amount on their energy bills and help the environment by installing cool roofs that are Energy Star Rated.
TPO is designed as a white, solar reflective membrane and is Energy Star rated, rightfully attracting consumers. Its direct competitor, PVC membrane, is also an Energy Star rated, white cool roof, but costs significantly more.
2. Relatively cheap cost compared to its direct competitor, PVC membrane (TPO costs about 25-30% less).
Naturally, more consumers who are looking to save money or have a limited budget will chose a TPO membrane over PVC (a more expensive, but time-proven single ply roofing system), since both roofing membranes offer very similar features and benefits.
PVC vs TPO Roofing
PVC membranes have a proven track record of performance for over 30 years, with no recent revisions in the membrane’s formulation.
At the same time, lack of information on problems with TPO roofing also contributes to the fact that most consumers cannot distinguish between the two products, and go for the cheaper option.
In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, PVC membranes did have several serious failures in its early days in the 80’s when US manufacturer TROCAL produced an unreinforced sheet that would freeze and glassify in severely cold temperatures, and could shutter on impact (falling branch, tool, etc).
According to several former Trocal managers, the shattering problem mostly affected the PVC membrane imported from Germany – not the sheet produced by Trocal in US.
Trocal contained the shattering issues before it was bought by John’s Manville. The buyer took care of all the outstanding warranties.
No other major PVC roofing failures have been recorded. Many TROCAL roofs are still in service and are completely watertight.
Find out more from our comprehensive guide on TPO vs PVC Roofing
Recent TPO Roofing Projects Across The US
Commercial Facility, Leominster, MA
Boys and Girls Club, Fitchburg, MA
Apogee Instruments, Inc. Utah
UFCU Disch–Falk Field, University of Texas at Austin
Exeter Hospital, Exeter, NH
Final Verdict: Should You Install A TPO Roof?
If you are interested in a TPO roof, it is imperative that you get the best product and a reputable contractor who specializes in the installation of TPO roofing.
Especially if you live in a state that experiences high temperatures, take the time to talk to different roofers and ask what has been their experience with TPO: repairs, problems, material failures, etc.
Also, contact different TPO manufacturers and do research on their websites. Overall, it is best to get a TPO membrane from a manufacturer that has been in the business for at least 15 years.
Doing your homework will enable you to save money and get a quality roof that will serve you well for many years to come.
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can GAF everguard tpo be painted after it is installed
I strongly advise against painting/coating any single ply roof, including TPO from any manufacturer.
First, this will most likely void any warranty.
Second, if there is a need to repair your roof, the coat of paint will be between roof surface and any patch, thus, repairs won’t be effective.
GAF and most other manufacturers offer TPO / PVC in many different STANDARD colors, like grey, brown, green, beige, etc.
If you need a custom color, you are better off contacting a smaller manufacturers (like IB Roof Systems). However, the order size will have to be substantial for them to do custom color.
Hope this helps
I plan to install a new TPO roof on my flat roof grey stone here in Chicago, any feedback on brands to use? so far I have received recommendations for GAF, Firestone, and Versico. I’ve read about heat issues with the products but what about cold?
If a new TPO roof seams are failing,40 plus rewelded spots, within a few months, what should be done? Is this a failed roof needing replacement? Can it be covered with a whole new membrane?
Hello. I had a TPO roof installed, per my roofing company’s enthusiastic recommendation. However, a different contractor was just up there (I had not seen the roof) and was very worried. The membrane does not lie flat; it has long “rolls” where it is not adhered to the roof, where it appears bubbled up from the surface. My roofing company said it can take a while, sometimes, for the membrane to “settle down” in this hot, desert climate. But it has been over 8 months. Thank you for your opinion on this!
So the bubbles are not really detrimental to roof being watertight, and most likely your installer did terminate the perimeter of the roof with screws and plates, so likely very low possibility of wind uplift or blow-off.
As far as “it takes time to settle down” … that will most likely never happen now. They should have broommed and rolled in all the air bubbles during install. TPO is too stiff to settle down now.
Again .. this is mostly a visual / aesthetic issue.
I have installed many many TPO roofs and it has been my experience that there is very little shrinkage. I don’t think it’s going to just (settle down) in time.
I have a TPO roof. I am installing a tubular skylight. The roof curb is 17″x`7″. Is there a problem constructing it out of treated 2×12’s instead of untreated 2×12’s when using TPO flashing?
You should be fine with either pressure treated or untreated lumber. PT lumber is routinely used with TPO / PVC roofs for wood nailer around roof perimeter, etc.
I recommend finding appropriate size round TPO flashing for your solar tube skylight, before you start cutting any holes in the roof.
Thanks. The tubular skylight is by Natural Light LLC. It comes with a custom made curb mount that simply fits around the box.
Btw, the TPO manufacturer tech support says do not use PT lumber.
If manufacturer says not to use PT lumber, then you should follow their advice. However I see no reason why they would say that.
Does the box that skylight will be mounted on, already exist? Or you will need to cut a hole and install the box + skylight?
Again, you should have TPO materials that will go around the box ready, as well as at least 4 un-reinforced outside corner flashings ready before you cut the roof!
I say at least, because sometimes, those get “messed up” during installation, and if you don’t have a spare one, you may end up with a roof leak.
Who is the manufacturer of your TPO roof?
I built a house in 1984 and built an addition in 1988. The addition has limited slope. I didn’t realize low slope is very bad for “Tin” roofing ( contractor didn’t advise me either) Replaced original roof in 2003, it failed after approximately 6 years…, Contractor recomendé TPO. I live in SW Texas (hot… multiple 100* days)… what are “fixes” for TPO?…can it be repaired? Contractor is giving 2 year “leak” warranty. Does PVC have better “track record in hot climates”….does PVC emit Chlorine gas?… hope you can answer these questions
We are neighbors above a new home that has just been built – We have lived here for 40 years a beauitful vista and unique views have put a premium value on our home. However, now below us is this awful eyesore of a Huge White TPO roof – we may have to move because thats all we see now – and our neighbors say they have terrible migrains if they sit on their deck with the reflection of the roof – we no longer can see our view because our eyes are drawn to the monstrous white TPO roof below
From your website some folks said if a TPO roof is painted then the warranty will not be valid if something should go wrong..
Please help us find a solution for our thoughtless and selfish neighbors….
1st – your neighbors (with TPO roof) are ignorant, self-centered idiots, and so was their roofer. They should have installed a grey roof – not white.
Anyway – in time, the dust and dirt will “settle” on that roof, making it less reflective / shiny… so it should get better … I just don’t know how fast.
TPO roofs should not be painted, although they can be… i’m just not sure your neighbor will agree to paint. You can try to take this up with building department / city hall, or if it’s a development / association, go to the board.
You may force the neighbor to do something… but yea, I completely understand.
When we did a roof “down the hill” with house above it, we advised the client to go with grey, to not annoy the neighbors.
Thanks so much – why won’t Graco paint not work? The manufacturers say it should work
On TPO AND THE PAINT HAS A LIFETIME WARRANTY AND IS ONLY AROUND $250
for 500 sq. Ft..
Nothing agains Graco – I just have an issue with coatings on single ply membrane roofs. I don’t think its a good match. If you have TPO now, it should be easily fixable by welding a patch. If you can’t weld to it (that is entirely possible, depending on who made it and when), you can still “glue” a patch to it, and fix leaks.
IF you coat it, it will be nearly un-repairable! Coatings will chip and peel, and once that starts to happen, any patch will be useless. I’ve seen coatings fail in less than 1 year on TPO & Rubber roofs, and once that happens, the roof is a toast.
So you can spend $250 and render your roof unfixable. I don’t think that experiment is worth it.
This is so frustrating – any recommendations?
Can another roof be applied on top of the white one? -.
Recommendations on what exactly?
Regarding the awful eyesore white roof below our home – I appreciated your feedback regarding painting the TPO – Can a new roof be applied on top of the (newly applied) roof? Do you have any recommendations on how to disguise the glare for the sake of neighbors? Thought I would ask just in case you had a suggestion – using the theory of no question is a dumb one…
Really like your website by the way…
I had a Gaf TPO Everguard 60 mil roof installed on a slightly sloped roof. The roof is not smooth it is all bumpy like the roofing was not pulled tight. The corner’s have some folds that are messy and I am concerned this roof was not installed correctly. There is no clamp around vent pipes or calking. Should it be like this? Who can I have inspect the roof. I want to be sure it is done right before I pay. I do not want the warranty to be voided. What type of warranty should I get from the roofing contractor.
I don’t know about “bumpy” and corner folds (would need to see pictures), but no clamps/caulk on pipes is definitely not correct. However, I don’t see it as a that big of a deal, because pipe flashings rarely leak from the top. Now if they did that, they most likely cut a lot of other corners as well.
If you want me to see the bumpy things and corner folds, pleas upload them to Flickr or Imgur (or other) and reply here with image links. I will take a look. The higher res, the better.
I would recommend you call the manufacturer and have them send out a field technician to inspect the roof.
Contractor warranty covers labor only, and in most state should be at least 1 year. Anything longer than one year, is up to the roofer.
Have there been any reports of outgassing by TPO roofs? I live in Southern Arizona. No comment needed about heat. I was compelled to vacate a condo infected with mysterious toxic fumes later imputed vaguely to “the roof.” For an extended period the condo could not be sold, rented, or occupied, though the fumes were seasonal and limited to the summer months. After a stubborn period of denial by the HOA about my problems, the same fumes were detected in a second condo. Then, suddenly, I received action in the form of “closing a couple of vents.” There are hundreds of units in the development, about half, like mine, reportedly roofed with TPO.
Most if not all negative reports about TPO are suppressed by the manufacturers. Also there are so many brands and reincarnations (often incompatible generations) of TPO, it’s hard to know what you are dealing with.
However, this could also be relatad to insulation, if you had say spray foam installed before the roof (in the attic or on the roof). Spray foam roofing is/was popular in southern states.
To answer your question in an inderect way – it is possible that fumes come from TPO roof.
Good luck with selling your condo. Get out as soon as you can. You don’t want to waste money on new roof and other nonsense, if you plan to sell anyway.
Hi..I’m in Northern California on the coast. Is the current TPO good for coastal air and sun? Also, does someone in California have to be a licensed TPO installer to install TPO if they are just a licensed contractor? Is there a regulation about this that I can look at?
So last big public announcement about TPO in souther climates is from 2010 and it is not “positive” … please read this MRCA TPO advisory: http://www.tporoofing.org/overview-of-mrca-advisory-on-tpo-roofing/
Contractors do NOT need to be licensed to install TPO, as it’s sold through distribution (by roofing suppliers), and anyone can buy it. There isn’t a regulation on who can install what.
My advice – find a reputable contractor(you can try here), check quotes, and also consider IB PVC roofing (or other PVC brands) if you are concerned about TPO long term performance. Price difference is insignificant.
Interesting read. I didnt know TPO how cost effective this option were. As I pull up other articles about Thermoplastic polyolefin, Im becoming a fan. Interesting how a few changes in material and labor could totally change your bottom line. Awesome.
Hi, Help! I am struggling to find any recent articles on TPO improvements in recent years. We have a flattish roof on an old house (and located in the back of house as an addition). The tin roof is continuing to fail here and we are being told it has a lot to do with the low pitch. I have been reccomended TPO by 2 different roofers to solve our problem. Any recent advice? Thanks so much!
It’s hard to find articles on improvements to TPO because they are not being published and if they do go out, it’s heavily censored by TPO manufacturers (in my opinion) … Even Roofing Contractors Associations (Midwest RCA or MRCA) are “encouraged” to remove an negative press about TPO …
Since you have a sloped roof (albeit slightly), I don’t see a problem of using TPO there.
BUT if you are not 100% comfortable with using TPO, i recommend using PVC instead – it is a much more “proven” system, in my opinion, and installs EXACTLY the same as TPO – so your roofers should have no problem doing PVC instead of TPO
We are in need of a replacement roof on our flat garage & breezeway. Roofing company proposed White TPO 60 gauge (carlisle-syntec) and a mechanically fasten 1/2″ high density polyiscyanurate board over old roof (about 40 yrs. old) We are in the Toronto Ontario area and wonder if this would be a good replacement.
Hello. I want to re-roof an extension of my home. It is a flat roof of approximately 750 sf. I have hear good and bad things about TPO. Pro’s like it last for many, many years, many 30; never leaks, etc.
Cons- Be careful when you walk on TPO, not very good with hear.
I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico where the hottest days in the summer could reach 98-100 degrees, very little humidity.
Please give me your recommendations, thank you
I live in Albuquerque too considering a TPO roof. What did you get? Results? Which roofing compnay did you use?
There was industry chatter (Midwest Roofing Contractors Association issued an Advisory) that TPO membranes do not stand well to heat.
You may consider a time proven PVC material instead (such as IB Roof or Sarnafil)
Let me know what you decide to do.
Planning on replacing a leaking tar and chip flat roof here in Southern Ontario. Single story, 60×60 roof. My concern is that our weather here varies over the year from -40c to +40c, or in other words, 40 below to 120 above.
Cost is always an issue of course but I would rather spend the money and get a good roof than have to redo it in 10 years.
In 2010 the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association finished a 7 year study and found that TPO is the most stable of all the single ply’s out there. If you live in a high heat area, you might want to look at GAF manufacturer’s Extreme TPO. Extreme TPO is the best formulation of TPO out there and doesn’t give off toxic chlorine gas when being welded, like PVC does. PVC get’s dirty faster than TPO, and PVC grows mold quite a bit easier than TPO.
Do you work for GAF? I just wonder, because it’s your second comment promoting their Extreme TPO
I’m having 28 squares of .60 mil TPO installed today on the low slope roof of a 100 year old commercial building. After reading about the concerns with old material, I had the roofer show me the rolls before installing. The Firestone rolls were date coded, late 2013 so I know I’m getting material manufactured after the standard changed. I plan on coating the roof with an elastomeric coating for TPO every 5 years to hopefully extend the life.
I strongly recommend that you do not coat this new roof until warranty expires. If there are any issues with it, you will lose warranty (both labor and material) and the coating will make it IMPOSSIBLE to perform any repairs. Stay away from coatings for 15 years or all together. Every coating job on flat roof that i’ve seen was peeling and leaking.
Yo have to let the roof “be tested” for now for at least 1 year, to see if there are any installation problems. If you put coating on, you won’t be able to fix the roof and your roofer will walk away.
The roof should do its job properly without any coatings anyways.
Good luck with your roof. Leo.
I had TPO put on a small flat roof in between two peaks. Peak up then drops with a 6 ft wall down to flat, flat on other side meets up to beginning of low part of peak which goes up and drops with a 6 ft wall down to another larger flat, which still needs done. The installers covered the flat and on the wall side, they went up the wall maybe 12 inches, caulked it and secured it to the wall with a strip. On the other side it met the low side of peak, so they took it under the shingles. My problem is that the roof is leaking very badly where they went up the wall. I guess water slides down. They came and said it was my wall leaking, so I painted the stucco again with the proper paint. It still is leaking. So now I’m thinking it is the connection problem or the only other thing it could be is the top of the peak maybe it needs to be redone. They, roofers, obviously are saying its not them, now the warranty for workmanship has run out, only gave me two years. 50 years on the TPO. I’m on year 3 and it could of been leaking all this time, I just didn’t look for it, cause it was new. Any ideas on what I can do about this? thank you
1) If you come to them before warranty ran out, that’s what matters.
2) The leak can be coming from the wall itself, the roof above, or the bad connection. Try to make a video of where roof meets the wall, as well as describe other parts, and upload to youtube, and send me link in a follow-up comment. I will review the video and tell you what I think.
Without seeing this, I can’t tell you anything.
It is reliable, cost effective, energy efficient roofing material for ideal roof and the main benefits of TPO Roofing system is that it is very easy to install.
I ran across this website I am looking at getting a roof replaced on an old court house in albany ga. I am getting bids from several roofing contractors who is biding using tpo. I was reading here that their has been problems with tpo in hot climates. how old is this website and has any improvements been made to tpo to correct these issues. What brand of tpo is the best to use.
This is excellent question. Here is how what’s going on with TPO in hot climates.
In 2010 there was an advisory (warning) from Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA), about TPO failures, and a big stink followed this advisory, with several big manufacturers leaving the association and threatening to sue. In the end, MRCA removed the original advisory, but there are numerous copies saved around the web.
To answer your question is short – there has been a major overhaul of ASTM standard for TPO roofing, dealing with heat, weathering, and thickness (loss). The problem that we see is how do you know which version of material you get? Also this “NEW” material is better than old only on paper, and there is no testing done with it, as it’s too new.
You can take contractor’s word for it, but 99% of contractors do not even know anything about this issue, and will most likely use older material which s typically on sale at roofing supply.
My suggestion, if you are unsure, and this is a big risk to take, you may want to look at proven alternatives such as PVC, or if your roof has slope, you may consider EPDM rubber. Cost wise, these are not far apart.
Check out our TPO vs Rubber guide.