PVC Roofing – Pros & Cons and Prices
Most PVC roofing material is a single ply, though a few manufacturers use two plies fused together with a reinforcing material between them. Depending on the product and job factors, PVC roofing cost is $7.00 to $11.50 per square foot installed.
WHAT IS PVC ROOFING?
PVC is one of several single-ply / single-layer flat roofing materials, a group that includes TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) and EPDM (Ethylene propylene diene monomer).
Thickness ranges from 50 mils to 115 mils. A PVC roofing membrane of 80 mils or thicker is recommended for better resistance to tears and punctures. Of course, thicker materials cost more. Roll widths are from 6 to 12 feet.
Polyvinyl chloride is typically used on flat roofs because it handles water pooling very well, but is effective on roofs with pitches from 1:12 to 3:14. It is used on steep slopes too, as in this video showing installation with glue and mechanical fasteners. You might want to watch it with the sound off!
PVC seams are heat welded, and the entire membrane can be attached in one of three ways or a combination: Glued at the perimeter, fully glued or mechanically attached. These methods are used when the PVC is the top layer of roofing.
Ballasted PVC roofing material is a more recent development, often chosen when the roof will be used as outdoor living space. Seams are welded, but the membrane isn’t secured to the roof deck. Instead, ballast of 10-25 pounds per square foot is used. The ballast can be gravel, pavers, or green roofs consisting of dirt and vegetation.
A layer of insulation is often installed over the membrane and under the ballast. When ballasted, the PVC’s purpose is to serve as a waterproof barrier.
PVC ROOFING PROS AND CONS
As mentioned above, PVC membrane roofs are now very popular. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of flat roofing system?
Many consider PVC to be the best single membrane roof material. Here’s what it offers.
Toughness: A PVC membrane has a minimum breaking point of 300lbs per inch for 50-mil material, 50% above the minimum allowed of 200.
Proven performance: This material has been used since the mid-1960s with much the same formulation. It has proven durability and longevity. This is in contrast to TPO that has continued to undergo formulation changes to improve its performance.
Good warranties: They range from 15 years for thinner membranes to 30 years for premium PVC.
Versatility: As spelled out earlier, PVC is suitable for various roof types and installation methods.
Certified installers: Many roofers are trained and certified by polyvinyl chloride manufacturers for proper installation.
Cool roof technology: PVC has good solar reflectance and emissivity, reducing the need for air conditioning by an average of 10-15%. Here’s the current list of Energy Star certified PVC roofing. Most also contribute to LEED credits and are Cool Roof Rating Council rated and CA’s Title-24 compliant.
This Cool Roof Calculator from the US DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can be used to show you energy savings with the installation of a cool roof in your area.
Other Green Features: PVC doesn’t require as much energy to produce as asphalt or metal roofing. It is lighter, so transportation costs are less. PVC has the lowest environmental load of commonly used plastics. PVC is recyclable for reprocessing.
Color options: Pigment is easily added to the mix to create colors other than white. Light colors like tan and gray maintain the cool roof advantage. Darker colors are sometimes preferred in northern climates to promote melting of snow and ice.
Easy maintenance: PVC is easy to clean with a light water spray, though must be cleaned more often than TPO, which sheds dirt better.
Most concerns about PVC are about cost and the environment.
Material cost: PVC costs more than EPDM and is comparable to better grades of TPO. See PVC roof cost information below.
Preparation cost: In many installations, boards must be installed first to create a proper foundation for the PVC.
Improper installation: Separating seams and leaks where fasteners have been installed are the most common issues, but occur infrequently. We do recommend finding a contractor with a crew that has good experience with PVC.
Environmental problems: While recyclable, much of it is still dumped in landfills for convenience. Burning PVC can produce dioxins, though the presence of dioxin in the environment is down while PVC production is up. The material does contain plasticizing chemicals called phthalates, and they remain a concern due to their accumulation in the environment.
BEST PVC ROOFING BRANDS
Here are best-selling products and their warranty:
- Carlisle Syntec Sure-Flex: 10-30 years based on material thickness and installation factors
- Cooley C3 and SD: 20 years
- Flex Membrane International: Flex – Flex MF/R: 20 years
- GAF EverGuard XK: 20 years
- IB Roof Systems PVC: 15 or 20 years depending on product
- Johns Manville – JM PVC: 30 years
- Johns Manville – JM PVC SD: 20 years
- Mule-Hide Products: 20 years
- Sika Saranfil: Up to 30 years with a complete roof system
- Versico Versiflex: Up to 30 years with a complete roof system
The best warranties are often available when a complete roof system including deck board, insulation and the PVC membrane are included.
Used in Europe since the 60s and in the US since the 70s, PVC has a history of durability. You can expect 15 to 30 years of life from your PVC roof. For longest life, use 80 mil or thicker material and install it according to the manufacturer’s specific instructions.
PVC ROOFING COST
Residential and commercial PVC roofing costs $7.00 to $11.50 per square foot. The cost factors are:
- Thickness: Thicker material costs more (and offers better long-term durability and value)
- Roof complexity: Steep slope roofs cost more than low slope roofs, and the more obstacles such as HVAC mounts, skylights, dormers and vents there are, the higher the installation cost will be.
- Roof size: Large commercial roofs cost less per square foot to cover in PVC than small homes.
CHOOSING AN INSTALLER
There are many PVC roof installers, but take your time finding one with 5+ years of experience with the type of roof you have (residential, commercial, type of slope, what the PVC will attach to).
We recommend getting estimates from several licensed, insured installers. Check references and reviews, if available. If you’d like estimates from pre-screened PVC roofing contractors, there is no obligation to use our Free Estimate service.