When it launched in the latter half of the 20th century, membrane roofing was nothing short of revolutionary. It brought with it an entirely new approach to roofing that offered new levels of resilience and aesthetic appeal.

The innovation has continued. Membrane roofing now has many different subsets based on the differing materials used. Each offers a unique set of benefits or lends itself better to a particular structure type. In this article, we’re sharing all things membrane roofing, including the various types available and the pros and cons of using it.

What is Membrane Roofing?

Membrane roofing is a type of roofing that is flexible or semi-flexible. It comes as a roll of membrane typically made from a material such as EDPM, TPO, or PVC. There are, however, even stronger options, such as Built-Up Roof membranes (BUR).

The beauty of the product is in its adaptability and durability. Membrane roofs are deft at water resistance, making them an ideal choice for flat or low-sloped roofs.

Types of Membrane Roofing

There is quite an array of membrane roofing options to choose from nowadays. Your choice will depend on key factors like climate, roof style, and aesthetics. We start with the traditional single-ply versions of membrane roofs.

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer)

Unsurprisingly, we call this single-ply membrane by its acronym EPDM. This synthetic material is made from rubber and is renowned for its incredible durability. It can withstand rain, snow, wind, and almost anything the elements throw at it.

EPDM is black, which is one of its benefits in cooler climates. The coloring makes for an excellent insulator, absorbing heat from the sun and keeping the building below warm.

TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin)

If focusing on energy efficiency is essential, then TPO is one of your best options. It is resistant to ultraviolet radiation, ozone, and chemicals. It also fulfills the polar opposite role of EPDM and is famed for its white color. That makes it excellent at reflecting the sun’s energy and repelling heat. This means expensive air conditioning is reduced, and buildings can be made cooler in warmer climates.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC is a well-known material used in a variety of different plastic products. PVC is the third most produced plastic in the world (with the leading being Polyethylene and Polypropylene). PVC is resistant to chemicals and grease. That makes it a popular choice for those in the food industry who don’t want the roof near their vents getting greasy and grimy. PVC can last over 20 years, making it a popular choice based on lifespan.


Bitumen roofing is a step away from single-ply membranes, instead relying on multiple layers. It’s the halfway house between our first three options and our final version (BUR). Bitumen is a black mixture that is thick and dense and is usually spread over a surface to create a waterproof layer. Membranes are then layered on top, forming a sandwich effect. These roofs are highly resistant to extreme temperatures and require very little maintenance.

BUR (Built-Up Roofing)

BUR is our final version of membrane roofing, but at a glance, you wouldn’t think that BUR belongs on this list. To create a BUR roof, you first layer reinforced membranes and bitumen. You then cover it in a layer of aggregate, usually some gravel or stone. This creates one of the most robust roofs available and delivers some of the best protection from the elements.

The Advantages of Membrane Roofing

It’s no surprise that membrane roofing has grown rapidly in popularity. They offer a great selection of advantages compared to more traditional roofing options.

Durability and Lifespan: Membrane roofs are incredibly hardwearing. They can withstand everything the local climate throws at them, including the extremes of hot and cold. Thanks to this durability, they last considerably longer than other roofing materials.

Energy Efficiency: There are options to maximize energy efficiency depending on the climate of the building. TPO is an excellent choice in warmer areas, EPDM in cooler.

Design Flexibility: The membranes themselves are incredibly flexible. This means, from an architectural point of view, there are fewer roadblocks. Property developers can get creative with their roofing solutions and know that a membrane roof can adapt to protect it. Although some membranes have a color as standard, they can be made in various colors and finishes.

Fewer Leaks: The last thing you want is a leaking roof. Thanks to the way membrane roofs are installed without seams, you won’t need to be worried about water entering your property. That, in turn, means fewer repairs.

The Disadvantages of Membrane Roofing

It isn’t all plain sailing. There are some considerations you should bear in mind before launching into a membrane roof installation.

Initial Costs: Membrane roofs are a significant long-term investment but have a high initial upfront cost. The materials don’t come cheap compared to other types of roofing, and you’ll need specialized installers.

Maintenance: There are fewer maintenance issues with membrane roofs compared to normal roofs. Still, there are some issues to watch out for. Punctures, shrinkage, and seam failure can all cause a headache. That means you should get a membrane roof regularly inspected.

Installation: Installation is a complex and specialized process. This isn’t a type of roofing that DIYers should undertake. Instead, consult professionals who understand the nature of pooling and other potential pitfalls.

Key Takeaways

Membrane roofing is a great option for those who need a durable, energy-efficient roof that will last for a long period of time with minimal maintenance. Just make sure to see it as a worthwhile investment to put down the hefty initial finances.

  • There are various types of membrane roofing, plus the enhanced versions with added components such as Bitumen and BUR.
  • If weatherproofing your property is a major concern, membrane roofing could be your answer.
  • Always have membrane roofing installed by a professional.

If you’re looking for a professional company that understands the intricacies of membrane roof installation, then look no further than Trenton Roofing.

Alex Valentino

Alex Valentino – Vice President

Leading the way for the company’s second generation of family and employee ownership, Alex’s mission is to create lasting relationships built on trust and respect by providing uncompromising workmanship and unparalleled customer service. With a focus on safety and consumer education, Trenton Roofing strives to set the bar for the advancement of the roofing industry and the betterment of our local communities. When he is not working, Alex can be found traveling with his fiancée, watching football or playing a relaxing round of golf with his friends.