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Single Ply Roofing Materials


Single ply roofing systems have greatly benefited from their long track record in the roofing market. They have gained favor with many building owners who have used them in the past, and they have been improved upon over the years. With that in mind, it is important to note that they are still lacking in certain areas and are not the perfect roofing material. Let’s look at a basic overview and then get into the details of single ply roofs.

Single Ply Roofing Overview

Single ply roofing materials are composed of two main categories, thermosets and thermoplastics. Each of these categories has different types of single-ply materials under it. Thermosets consist of rubber roof polymers, EPDM, neoprene (which isn’t as common on roofs), and Hypalon roofing materials. Thermosets become set or hardened with the application of heat, as the name may suggest.

Thermoplastics consist of plastic polymers such as PVC roofing materials. Again, as the name suggests, these materials become more plastic, or pliable, or soft, with the application of heat. They may start out as pellets, and as heat is applied, they become soft and pliable, and can be manipulated on the roof surface and can bond to the roof.

Those are the two basic categories of single-ply roofing materials; let’s get more in-depth as we now look at specific materials.


single ply roofing materialsThese two roofing systems are extremely similar, and are often bundled together for learning and even selling purposes. The two roofing materials have similar performance, installation methods, and price points, so it makes sense that they would often be lumped together. These roofing materials are highly reflective, highly durable, and are lacking in water permeability, meaning they can resist standing water if the seams are properly installed.

The most glaring downside of PVC and TPO roofing systems is the fact that the system is installed in rolls, and therefore there are seams every couple of feet running the length of the building. If these seams aren’t properly installed and adequately taped, they will leak water almost immediately after installation. Even if the seams are installed correctly, they will present points of vulnerability and will more than likely lead to roof failure at some point down the road, even if they don’t leak at installation.


As stated above, EPDM roofs are installed in rolls and are adhered to the roof and neighboring rolls through several different adhesion methods. EPDM is a rubber compound, a thermoset, and is known for its durability. EPDM roofs have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years, and this has been almost entirely due to their durability.

Similar to TPO and PVC systems, the greatest danger in installing and trusting an EPDM roof is that the seams in the system often lead to leaks and roof failure, regardless of how they were installed. Seams are simply a weak point and if not treated properly, they may fail.

Modified Bitumen

The last single ply material that we will look at, modified bitumen roofs are typically installed by rolling and adhering the material directly to the roof surface. Because it is rolled on, similar problems with seams exist with this system as was discussed in other single ply systems. Another common complaint among users of this system is that it is highly prone to scuffs and marks, meaning it isn’t very aesthetically pleasing after a few months and can be more prone to wear and tear if there is much foot traffic.

Modified Bitumen roofs are often very reflective, and send a high percentage of the sun’s UV rays back into the atmosphere. This keeps the temperature in the building lower, and building’s energy bills stay lower.


Above are several single ply flat roofing materials, do any of these sound like good fits for your roof? If yes, give us a call. We’d love to talk more about your roof and offer you a quote or inspection on your building.

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