PVC, short for polyvinylchloride, is made of thick, flexible thermoplastic material that, like TPO, is highly resistant, versatile and durable. PVC can be made to fit a flat roof shape, and it is easy to install. PVC roofing, however, is not used as much as TPO in terms to intense weather conditions, such as torrential rain, snow or ice.
The life span of a PVC roofing system often depends on the weather conditions, as well as proper installation by a contractor. It is suggested that all PVC roofing systems be inspected twice a year.
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As opposed to thermosets, which must use adhesives, the seams on thermoplastic single-ply membranes can be hot-air welded together to form cohesive laps. When thermoplastic membranes cool, they return to their original material type. PVC and TPO are two of the most commonly installed thermoplastic single-ply membranes. According to SPRI, “Most thermoplastic membranes are manufactured to include a reinforcement layer, usually polyester or fiber glass, which provides increased strength and dimensional stability.” And because these membranes are characteristically light in color, they provide excellent reflectivity, resulting in potential energy savings. PVC membranes are manufactured from a combination of PVC resin, stabilizers, pigments, fillers, plasticizers, biocides, and various processing aids. Unlike TPO membranes, which require additives to increase fire resistance, PVC roofing membranes are naturally fire retardant. While problems back in the 1960s with PVC membranes may have colored some facilities professionals’ views on these thermoplastic roofs, the use of chemical plasticizers that evaporated (causing embrittlement and shrinkage) have long since been discontinued.
The other popular thermoplastic membrane on the market today is TPO. “TPO polymers are blends or alloys of polypropylene plastic or polyprolylene and ethylene propylene rubber (EPR) or ethylene propylene diene terpolymer rubber (EPDM),” SPRI reports. TPO can be installed in a multitude of ways and with the introduction of peel-and-stick products, installation time can be reduced significantly. Like PVC, TPO remains hot-air weldable throughout its service life, simplifying repairs and maintenance.