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The RV roof protects you from harsh weather, rain, sunlight, and heat. The roof material of your vehicle goes a long way in how comfy the inside will be, and there are two common materials used – the TPO material and the EPDM material.
TPO roofs are more costly, but they have a better cooling effect. Meanwhile, EPDM roofs are cheaper and more durable, but they tend to retain a lot of heat.
People often have difficulty deciding which type of roof works best, so I want to teach you about the TPO and EPDM roof materials. In the end, I’ll do a TPO vs EPDM RV roof comparison, and you can easily decide which one suits your RV.
What is TPO?
TPO is one of the most common materials on RV roofs – it is a specially designed membrane-like material. TPO or Thermoplastic Polyolefin is an artificially derived material from ethylene propylene polymers, talc, carbon, and fiberglass.
The primary constituents of TPO are rubber and propylene – the other components are included to strengthen the material further and produce a durable sheet used for roofing. If you’ve seen the roof of an RV before, then you’ve most likely seen TPO.
TPO is manufactured in single-ply sheets, and they are used mainly for flat roofs or roof decks – like the roof of an RV or small utility buildings.
TPO is designed to cut down costs and also increase durability. Some advantages come with this material, but it also has its drawbacks. Let’s look at some of the selling points and the disadvantages of this material.
Why Should you use TPO Roofs?
Most people just use the roofs that come with their RV and don’t even know the differences or contributions it makes to their vehicle. Now that you’re interested in changing your roof, here are some reasons why TPO is a good choice.
One of the main reasons the TPO membrane was created was to cut down the roofing costs for RVs and mobile homes. We mentioned earlier that TPO is a single-ply membrane, and it is also made from everyday materials.
It is very easy to produce TPO, and the production cost is meager compared to other materials like aluminum. You can get a TPO material for as low as $3 per square foot, and this is way cheaper than the majority of the options for roofing your RV.
When considering materials for roofing your mobile home, durability is a huge factor that you have to consider. TPO is cost-effective, but it also gives you a fair degree of durability, assuming you will be on the move.
Thermoplastic Polyolefin is not like your regular thermoplastic polymer – it is a relatively new discovery, and it has some chemical adjustments that make it tougher than others.
With the TPO roof, you don’t have to worry about rain causing damage to your roof membrane – it is highly resistant to mold. Also, the roof material doesn’t stain easily, and you don’t have to worry about washing your roof frequently.
The structure and flexibility of TPO are also great for mobile homes. You don’t have to worry about your TPO membrane getting out of shape from the ever-changing position of your vehicle.
When I say TPO is energy efficient, it is because it saves you a lot of money in terms of keeping your RV cool or hot.
TPO doesn’t retain heat as much as other roofing materials – the nature of TPO makes it very reflective and slightly absorbent to heat.
During a hot summer afternoon, your roof isn’t going to trap all that heat energy being radiated onto the surface – instead, the material reflects the major part of the heat away from the interior of your vehicle, and your RV stays cool all day.
TPO is mostly produced in white, and white is not good at retaining heat. There are other material colors available, and they are also poor heat absorbers.
Easy to Install
TPO is made as a single-ply material which means that it is just a single sheet of thermoplastic polymer. You don’t have to go through a lot of stress to install TPO – all you need is strong adhesive or fasteners.
Rip off the old material on the roof deck, apply a generous amount of glue or adhesive of choice, slap your TPO roof on, and leave it to dry. If you want to use fasteners, ensure they are well fixed and tightly screwed so that the roof won’t blow off when your RV is in motion.
Available in Different Colors
For those who are fashion-conscious and want their RV to look attractive, TPO is an excellent choice for you. Recent developments have made it possible to get TPO in different colors, unlike EPDM, which is only available in black.
Also, as I mentioned above, the material still provides you with the same cooling effect as white despite the different colors.
Drawbacks Of TPO
Although the TPO roof has many advantages, there are also some areas in which this material is lacking.
Not Good for Long Term use
TPO will perform well when it is new. However, if you want something that will stay on your RV for years, then TPO is a bad choice.
From experience, I’ve come to know that the integrity of this material reduces quicker than most others. The thermoplastic formula of TPO is not perfect, and efforts are still being made to improve it. After some time, it is not uncommon for the material to start drying and cracking.
Susceptible To Heat
TPO doesn’t do well under intense heat or prolonged exposure to sunlight. If you leave your RV parked under the sun for too long with TPO roofing, it will start to degrade rapidly.
This might not be much of an issue if you’re traveling to areas with low heat and sun intensity. If you want to go camping in hot regions, using a TPO roof is not desirable.
What Is EPDM Roofing?
EPDM is also a membrane-type roof, and it is known as Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer. EPDM is a rubber polymer derived from the synthesis of ethylene, propylene, and diene monomers.
EPDM is more of a rubber roofing material than TPO, and it is the next most used RV roofing choice. EPDM, used for making roofs, are products of recycled materials such as sawdust, slate dust, and recycled tires.
Why use EPDM Roofing?
Let’s see some of the benefits that come with this choice of roofing material.
EPDM is probably the cheapest roofing material for your RV – you can get EPDM as low as 8 cents per square foot.
If you have a large RV, or fifth-wheel that requires a lot of roofing materials, you should consider the EPDM roofing sheet. It will cost you way less, and you can get more for your money.
EPDM is also a single-ply material, and it comes in single-layer sheets. The sheets are very light, and you won’t have any problem getting them to the roof deck of your vehicle. Also, you don’t need any special tools to install them on the deck – you can use a strong adhesive or screws and fasteners.
Installing an EPDM roof requires only a few hours, even if you don’t have prior experience.
EPDM is a stronger polymer, and it can withstand a vast range of conditions. You can easily use EPDM roofing in very cool or hot areas without worrying about damage or leaking.
The toughness of EPDM makes it last – you can use this material for years to come, and there’s a higher chance of your RV spoiling before the roof even shows signs of damage.
Drawbacks to EPDM Roofing
EPDM roofing is not perfect, and it also has its disadvantages.
If you go for the EPDM roof, you will be sacrificing looks for functionality. The roof is not appealing to the eyes, as it just has a plain black appearance.
EPDM roofs are also available in white and tan, but they cost way more than black – this defeats the whole point of the reduced price.
The heat retention ability of the roof is a big drawback. The roof material is available mainly in black, and black is excellent at trapping heat. If you don’t have a cooling unit in your RV, it can get super hot and uncomfortable.
TPO vs EPDM RV Roof – Comparison
I’ve gone through both roofs of interest, and you should have spotted some of the differences already. If not, I have listed them out for you here.
TPO is more expensive than EPDM, although both options are still way cheaper than other materials.
Although EPDM is cheaper, it still offers more durability compared to TPO. EPDM is more resistant to harsh heat conditions, while TPO gets damaged after extended exposure to heat.
TPO wins the debate for this point – it is highly reflective and doesn’t trap as much heat as EPDM roofs.
If you want to save extra on cooling costs, I advise you to go for TPO, but you can pick the EPDM roof if you don’t mind the additional expense.
TPO has a better visual appeal, and it comes in different colors. Also, the colors don’t affect the reflective nature of the material – they all cost the same.
EPDM is not attractive – it just has a plain black appearance. You can get other colors of EPDM roofs, but you will need to pay extra.
I’ve broken down TPO and EPDM roofs, and you can see that both have their strong points and drawbacks.
I’ve also outlined a TPO vs EPDM RV roof comparison, and there is no perfect answer to which is better. You must decide which one you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice.
Life on the road is fun, and there are many things you can learn to improve your experience.