EPDM from Firestone installed in a flat roof.

Guide to EPDM Roofing Material

If you have a low-sloped or flat roofed structure and you’re looking into roofing materials you can use for it, you might have heard of EPDM. It used to be that tar and gravel was the go-to option for covering a flat roof, but roofing material technology has made some amazing progress over the past few decades and there are many more options available now.

What is EPDM?

Not to get too technical, but EPDM is an acronym for its chemical name, ethylene propylene diene monomer. That might make sense to a chemist, but for the rest of us, EPDM is a type of synthetic rubber.

In manufacturing, synthetic rubber is used to make a huge variety of things from garden hoses to speaker cone surrounds. EPDM, like natural rubber, is frequently used in seals (think of how great a rubber stopper is at keeping liquids in glass containers). But its most popular application is in vehicles: Just think about all the seals there are in your car–the door seal, the trunk seal, window seals–and all those seals keeping fluids in their various containers.

When EPDM is used as a roofing material it is commonly referred to as “rubber roofing” and it’s gaining popularity in the housing industry because of its many benefits.

The Benefits of EPDM Roofing Material

Just as EPDM is great for sealing car doors and windows, it’s great for sealing your roof. An EPDM membrane is basically one giant seal that covers your structure. It protects from the elements and insulates the building at the same time.

Here are some other reasons to choose EPDM membrane for your roofing material:

Extreme durability: It is resistant to UV radiation and many common weather elements like acid rain, heat, cold, and wind.

It doesn’t leach toxins: For the environmentally conscious home or business owner, EPDM roofing is very attractive. Rainwater runoff doesn’t get polluted or contaminated and can be poured right onto your garden or down the drain without worry.

EPDM remains flexible: Even in the worst possible Canadian weather, your rubber roof will remain flexible. Expanding and contracting won’t put tears and cracks in EPDM like it would in other roofing materials. *Edmonton winters are very harsh and we have seen EPDM fail early.

Pleasant installation: Installation doesn’t involve horrible fumes like with installing a tar and gravel roof, and there’s no need for propane torches, which are used for other types of roofing installations. It’s also very quick to install because it comes in huge sheets.

Save on utilities: Rubber roofing can be installed with a heat-reflective coating, which can mean reduced cooling bills in the summer. It also insulates well in the winter for savings on heating bills.

Repairs are simple: The average home or business owner can patch a leak himself!

A rubber roof will last a very long time: Depending on care and maintenance, that could be anywhere between 20-30 years!

Compared to tar and gravel, which involves layering heavy materials, EPDM is extremely light. This is a huge bonus in Edmonton because we can get incredible amounts of snow in a short period of time, which is a major cause of roof collapse.

It will shift and adjust with your home: After it’s installed, it can shift, but this is a good thing. Shifting will help it settle into place.

Drawbacks of Using EPDM

As with almost anything, there are some drawbacks to using EPDM membrane roofing:

It is not indestructible: It can be damaged if something like a tree falls on it or if it’s exposed to frequent foot traffic. Repairs can be very difficult. They are also weak around curbs and over time they tend to pop or tear.

Single-ply membrane means trouble: It’s only a single ply membrane, so even the tiniest pinhole can cause significant damage. Finding a hole on an EPDM roof is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s a huge black surface covered in river rock.

Seams are the weakest part: If your roof has a lot of elements like pipes, exhaust vents, chimneys, or fans on it, the seals around them are going to be the weakest points of the roof. When you’re inspecting your EPDM roof, these are the places to check for wear.

Beware of unqualified installers: Since EPDM isn’t as popular as tar and gravel or SBS roofing systems, hiring a roofing company to install it can be risky. They may claim to be able to install rubber roofing, but not all roofing contractors are experienced with this material and they might not install it properly.

That said, our employees at Crest Roofing are experienced with EPDM and we are confident in our abilities to install it.

Wondering if EPDM roofing is right for you? Crest Roofers are qualified professionals and offer EPDM installation and repairs. We can give you a quote and answer any questions you have about it. Give us a call and talk to our roofing experts to find out. You can also send us a message or come in to see us! We’re happy to help!

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