EPDM Roofing – Pros & Cons and Prices
EPDM roofing is also called rubber roofing for its rubber-like appearance and performance. It can serve as the primary roofing material or be used as a waterproof layer beneath garden roofs and roof patios.
The cost of EPDM is $5.50 to $8.00 per square foot installed based mainly on the EPDM material thickness used. Most roofers avoid the thinnest grades, since they don’t offer good protection or durability.
This EPDM roofing guide explains this popular material, its strengths and weakness plus EPDM cost and factors.
WHAT IS EPDM ROOFING?
EPDM roofing competes with TPO and PVC, two other single-ply roofing membranes we’ve reviewed. It is mostly recycled tires and similar products mixed with wood and slate dust for strength, a blend that makes it the most affordable roofing of its kind. UV resistors are added to prevent the material from damage in direct sunlight, though matching EPDM color to your climate is still a good idea (see below).
This membrane roofing is used mostly on flat/low-slope roofs but sometimes and steep-slope roofs too. Because of its flexibility and ease of use, EPDM rubber roofing is often chosen for oddly shaped projects including domes and barrel roofs.
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) is available in 45, 60, 75 and 90 mil thicknesses, though 45 and 60 are most commonly used. Roll widths from 7.5 feet to 50 feet. Seams are spliced using liquid adhesive or primer and seam tape.
Standard and reinforced materials are produced. Cured or vulcanized EPDM is stable and doesn’t stretch well, so best for large expanses of roof. Non-cured material stretches and flexes better for use as flashing or for covering skylight curbs and similar protrusions.
Fleece-backed EPDM is available when a built-in underlayment is desired, often when the material is installed over existing roofing.
The material is typically fully glued or glued at the perimeter. It can be mechanically fastened, though less commonly. On some roofs, stone ballast covers the EPDM.
EPDM ROOFING PROS AND CONS
Rubber roofing is a very common material for flat roofs, so let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of using this roofing material for your project.
RUBBER ROOFING ADVANTAGES:
EPDM has the lowest cost of any single-ply roofing membrane. The material can last 20+ years with maintenance and minor repair as needed.
It’s many application options are described above.
Rolls up to 50’ wide give installers the ability to reduce or eliminate seams on any roof.
Easy to repair:
EPDM roofing repair involves cleaning the area and applying a patch, usually peel and stick, over the puncture or tear.
Coatings are available in nearly any color. Each top brand makes white or very light roofing to enhance solar reflectivity and produce a cooler roof. These light colors are recommended in warm climates. Most are certified by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC).
Handles cold weather:
Black EPDM is an excellent product for in cold regions because it promotes the melting of snow and ice. It won’t shrink and separate due to cold-weather contraction, and it doesn’t become brittle.
The material is often composed of recycled, post-consumer products. Less energy is used in its manufacture than in making most roofing materials. EPDM doesn’t leech contaminants into rainwater. When removed, the material can be reused or recycled.
RUBBER ROOFING DISADVANTAGES
Consider these disadvantages of EPDM before choosing it for your roof.
Unless coated, rubber roofs are black and transfer heat readily. That’s why most installation includes a layer of rigid foam insulation beneath the EPDM, an addition that raised cost. Also, in hot, warm climates, black and dark EPDM will deteriorate more quickly than in cool climates, so roofing with white or light-colored coatings are used.
Improperly glued seams separate, so most pros use primer and tape for more consistent results. While the material can last more than 20 years, expect seam repair issues to start sometime after year 10. Serious seam issues often lead to roof replacement as the cheapest option.
While EPDM is fairly stable, some materials will shrink after long exposure to sunlight. The most common problem with shrinkage is the material pulling away from roof protrusion, allowing for leaks.
The impact of these issues is alleviated with consistent roof inspection. It should be routinely checked twice a year, after severe storms with large hail, high winds or windblown debris or any time a sizable branch drops onto it.
BEST EPDM BRANDS
The three major manufacturers are Firestone, Johns Manville and Carlisle. Here’s an overview of their EPDM roofing products:
- Firestone RubberGard, RubberGard White, Max (reinforced), PT (pre-taped seams) and SA (self-adhering)
- Johns Manville NR (non-reinforced), R (reinforced) and White
- Carlisle SynTec Sure-Seal, Sure-White and Sure-Tough (reinforced)
Most EPDM warranties are 20 or 30 years, and that’s about how long you can expect your roof to last with regular care and maintenance. Some roofs will last 30+ years. Claims of 40-year and 50-year roofs are made by some installers, but that durability is unlikely.
EPDM ROOFING COST
The installed cost on most jobs is $5.50 to $8.00 per square foot. If your home or building needs a complete roofing system including a deck, underlayment and insulation, your cost will be quite a bit higher.
Cost factors when just EPDM is installed are:
- Thickness: Pros recommend at least 60 mil EPDM, but job factors are important to consider in deciding the right material. The thicker it is, the higher the cost, but the better the durability.
- Upgrades: Materials with enhancements such as reinforcement, fleece backing, coating, self-adhesive and pre-taped seams cost more, though reduce the need for accessories.
- Installation factors: Flat, open roofs are easier and more affordable to roof than those with obstacles such as HVAC equipment, dormers, vents, skylights and/or very steep pitch.
- Who installs it: You’ll pay more for an EPDM contractor with an experienced crew and a proven track record than by taking the low bidder. However, proper installation is critical for long-term EPDM roofing durability.
Our Free Estimate service provides homeowners with written quotes from pre-screened, licensed and insured installers, and there is no obligation for using the service.