• Tyler Davis

TPO vs PVC - Which is right for you?

In the commercial roofing world, single-ply membranes have become extremely common for flat or low-slope roofing applications. This is due to the fact that they are cost-effective, durable, and reliable. Two of the most popular versions of single-ply roofing are PVC and TPO. Invented in the 1960’s, PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is the original welded thermoplastic membrane used in commercial roofing; however, since the invention of TPO, its market dominance has declined. TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) was introduced in the late 1980’s as a competitive option to PVC roofing, and is now the most common membrane installed in the U.S. PVC is still the prevalent membrane specified by consultants and more PVC is installed in California than any other state in the U.S.

Although they look very similar, these two roofing materials are chemically quite different, and totally incompatible with each other. If you are in the market for a new commercial roof, there are a number of factors you should consider when determining which material is right for you.


There are a couple of ways these materials can be installed. Firstly, they can be mechanically fastened using plates and screws where the material is fastened directly to the roof deck. Alternatively, they can be adhered using a variety of adhesives depending on the particular membrane and roof system being installed. In this method, the roof membrane is glued to the surface beneath it. As is the case with all low slope roofing systems, proper installation and special care must be taken that wind does not cause the edges to peel up, which can lead to serious damage.


Although PVC is generally more expensive than TPO, pricing will vary depending on type and manufacturer. Modern single-ply membranes of both types can be installed with a manufacturer warranty of up to 30 years, however PVC has a longer track record with some roofs still in service after nearly 50 years. It is important to keep in mind that roof life-cycle is heavily dependent upon a multitude of important factors, including: Local environment, geographic location, facility type, membrane thickness, membrane formula, roof system components, etc.


When it comes to roofs of any kind, weather resistance is clearly a major concern. After all, the point of a roof is to be a barrier between your operation and the elements. In terms of weathering, Heat Aging Accelerated Weathering tests have shown that TPO outperforms PVC. In these tests, roofing materials were exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time. TPO’s superiority in weathering is most likely due to the advancements made in the formula over the years since it was originally released.

Chemical Resistance:

Though PVC may not hold up as well to heat as TPO, there are contexts in which it may be the better product. For instance, PVC has superior chemical resistance. As an example, it is substantially more resistant to oils and greases, making it an ideal material for restaurants and certain types of manufacturing facilities.

While many contractors may be driven by industry trends, it is always best to consider the context of the application and the specific needs of the client when choosing a suitable roofing material. While the industry at large may argue one material’s superiority over another, there usually is no such thing, there is simply the best material for the job at hand.

At Pro Roof, we believe in tailoring our services to YOUR commercial roofing needs. Call us today at 855-762-7663 for a free commercial roofing evaluation.

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Pro Roof, Inc.
Commercial Roofing Specialists
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Pro Roof, Inc. is a full-service re-roofing and maintenance company that specializes in commercial roofing solutions in Central California. Our services include low slope, steep slope, maintenance, repairs and coatings.