Photo source: EPDM Roofing Association
EPDM—commonly referred to as "rubber roofing"—is one of the most popular flat roofing choices. It’s an affordable, relatively durable and easy to install singly-ply roofing material. EPDM rubber roofing is ideal for both commercial roofing and residential flat roofing applications, making it a flexible material (pun intended) for virtually any flat roof installation. Here’s the lowdown about rubber roofing:
As with any roof, there are factors that influence the usable service life of the roof. Here are a few major factors that can cause degradation of EPDM roofing:
- Extreme weather (hot/humid, sub-zero temps, rain, snow, hail, etc…)
- Standing water that doesn’t evaporate within 48 hours
- Asphalt-based roof cement can degrade EPDM
- Petroleum, oils (vegetable, mineral, etc…), acid, fats and solvents can eat away at rubber roofing
- Poor installation – estimated 95% of failures caused by bad installation
There are various thicknesses available for EPDM roofing ranging from 45 mils (.045 inches) up to 100 mils (.10 inches). The thicker EPDM material lasts longer. The average expected service life of a 45 mil EPDM roof is about 12 years, while the lifespan of 80 mil or higher EPDM roofing is 25+ years.
There are documented cases of EPDM roofs lasting 50+ years under optimal weather conditions and when proper maintenance schedules are followed.
Minor roof repairs are almost inevitable during the service life of rubber roofing, but on the plus side are relatively inexpensive.
The majority of EPDM roofing products are vulcanized, meaning it’s a cured material. This means you can’t heat the rubber to a melting point to repair small holes or cracks. However, it’s easy to patch small roof damage using EPDM patch kits and/or rubber repair kits designed specifically for EPDM roofs.
The most common flat roofing repairs occur at the seams, flashing, and around vents. Standing water can also cause damage to rubber roofing—proper drainage is critical with any EPDM roof installation.
The majority of EPDM roof repairs are inexpensive and will greatly increase the service life of the roof. Use a licensed roofing contractor for EPDM roofing repairs to ensure the job gets done right. DIY repairs can sometimes void the manufacturer’s warranty, so it’s always best to let the pros do the work.
The cost of materials and installation of an EPDM roof is relatively inexpensive. It largely depends upon your location, quality/thickness of the EPDM, size of the roof and complexity of the installation.
On average, an EPDM rubber roof costs about $3 per square foot for materials and installation. For example, a 2,000 square foot roof would run about $6,000 installed.
EPDM can handle just about any type of weather thrown at it. It’s a flexible material that naturally expands and contracts depending on the outside temperature, so it won’t crack or tear easily in extreme temps.
If excessive heat is a problem in your part of the country, white EPDM roofing is available as a cool roofing choice. This type of roofing can lower surface temps of the roof by up to 80 degrees and keep the interior of the building much cooler. Black EPDM can also be painted white using water-based acrylic paint.
EPDM also stands up well to snow, hail, and wind. The primary villain of EPDM is standing water. If you live in an area that receives excessive rain, proper roof drainage is particularly important.
If the roof has no pitch at all, try to keep water ponding to a minimum by using a roof squeegee to remove water from the roof, and keep tree limbs trimmed back to allow sunlight to reach the roof and help speed up evaporation.
Manufacturer’s warranties range from 5 to 20 years for EPDM rubber roofing, although it’s not uncommon to not receive a warranty on residential EPDM applications. Check with your roofing contractor to be sure.
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a well-maintained EPDM roof can far outlast its warranty, many times showing no major signs of wear 25 to 30 years down the road.
So, don’t put too much weight on whether or not your particular installation carries a long-term manufacturer’s roofing warranty. You should be more concerned with making sure you choose a reputable, experienced installer for the job – a workmanship warranty from the roofing contractor will cover defects in the installation.
Read more about EPDM Rubber Roofing