Is a rubber roof better than shingles? Well, that depends! When you think of rubber roofing, you probably think of commercial roofs first. This is because rubber roofing isn’t generally suited for residential homes, but if your home isn’t suitable for standard shingles, then rubber roofing might be your best option.
Rubber roofs are popular because they last for years and require little maintenance. Whether you’re looking to DIY a flat rubber roof or shingles, this guide can be your go-to for the job. Installing rubber roofing is a big job so we always recommend hiring a professional installer like Gouge, but it can be done if you follow the proper steps. First, let’s cover the different types of rubber roofing.
Different Types Of Rubber Roofing
A rubber roof is, you guessed it, a roof made of rubber materials. But it’s much more complex than that. There are actually many types of rubber roofs, each with its own benefits, disadvantages, lifespans, and installation methods. Today we’ll walk you through each and help you determine which is best before tackling your DIY install.
EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer, which is the chemical makeup of this highly durable, commonly used roofing material. EPDM often comes in large rolls that can be laid on flat or low slope roofs to create a seamless watertight seal for commercial structures.
EPDM can be fully adhered or mechanically attached, using special adhesives or tape to seal the edges. This makes it one of the fastest and easiest rubber roofs to install, repair, or replace.
EPDM is primarily available in black and white and is commonly used for flat roofs because it has the added benefit of being UV-resistant which means less chance of cracking due to sun damage.
The most common complaint about EPDM rubber roofing is that it can be quite slippery when wet—but this isn’t a major concern when appropriately installed on structures with little foot traffic.
TPO or thermoplastic polyolefin roofing is probably the most affordable option of the three main rubber roof options. TPO comprises various types of rubber, including polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rather than layers of plastic materials, making them incredibly flexible and durable.
TPO roofs can be used interchangeably between residential and commercial structures, depending on needs and aesthetics. They are naturally UV resistant, easy to install, and incredibly energy efficient. The heat reflective properties of TPO roofing can bring massive energy savings to anyone who installs it.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic roofing is a fantastic single-ply roofing solution compared to TPO and EPDM. It’s made from a lower percentage of oil and petroleum products than thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) or ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM), making it much more eco-friendly.
PVC roofing is much more costly than its previous counterparts but brings many benefits that outweigh the added cost. For example, PVC is more durable, longer-lasting, stronger, eco-friendly, and more resistant to moisture, wind, fire, and chemicals.
If you are looking for a rubber option for residential roofing, rubber is used in many synthetic shingles, such as synthetic slate or tile. Synthetic roofing materials look and feel like the real thing (slate, concrete, clay), but with the lower price tag of rubber.
One of the most significant benefits of rubber shingles is that they are much stronger than asphalt shingles and can last for nearly three times as long. Rubber shingles are also much lighter than other roofing materials and contain no fiberglass or harsh chemicals, making them safer for installers.
Things You’ll Need to Install Rubber Roofing
Now the fun part—how to install your own rubber roofing. Because many rubber roofs might have a lower lifespan compared to other roofing materials (20-30 years), it can save a lot of money by knowing how to DIY rubber roofing repair and replacement.
So today, we’ll walk you through the steps to get it done right the first time. Of course, if you doubt your abilities and instead have the pros take care of it—call Gouge Roofing.
Materials and Tools You’ll Need
- Sturdy roofing ladder
- Safety gloves and goggles
- Seam probe tool
- Silicone hand roller
- Seam adhesive
- Membrane adhesive
- Seam tape
- Solvent-based cleaning solution
- Roofing brush
- Membrane scissors
- Penny roller
- Roofing rolls and underlayment if necessary
These materials may vary depending on the type of rubber roofing you install and your expertise or accessibility to such roofing tools.
How to Install Rubber Roofing (Step-By-Step)
These steps will be a basic guideline for installing rubber roofing but may vary depending on if you are installing EPDM, PVC, TPO, or shingles. But if you follow these standard steps and follow manufacturer-specific instructions for installation, you should be in good shape.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials
First things first, you’ll want to gather all the necessary tools and materials for your project. This includes everything in the list above, but also make sure to check with any specific roofing manufacturer’s instructions before installing.
Step 2: Tear Off Existing Roofing
Technically, some rubber roofs can be laid over existing layers, but it’s always best practice to tear off the old roofing and replace it new. So once you have all of your tools and materials, it’s time to start tearing off the old roofing. Using a flat pry bar, carefully remove the existing shingles or rubber layers, flashing, nails/fasteners, vents, along with any other debris before moving on.
Step 3: Secure the Roofing Deck
Next, you’ll want to secure the roof decking as best as possible. The roof deck will hold your new rubber roof, and it’s the last line of defense against leaks. So make sure that there are no cracks, bumps, leaks, or rot on the roof deck before proceeding. If there is, make those repairs first before installing the new roof.
Step 4: Lay the Insulation
If your rubber roofing type requires an added insulation layer underneath, install that now, making sure to have a nice flat surface to work with and lay the rubber roofing on top. Be mindful of any chemicals in the insulation layers and wear the appropriate safety gear like gloves and goggles.
Step 5: Lay the Rubber Roofing
Now that your insulation is laid down, you can begin laying the rubber roofing. As mentioned earlier in this guide, different types of roofs require a specific installation method. But generally speaking, for all methods, lay out the sheets and pull them taught over any ridges or valleys to create a tight seal across the entire surface area before securing it into place.
Step 6: Adhere Appropriately
Various rubber roofing types require various adhering techniques. So whether you are fully adhering, mechanically adhering, heat applying, cold applying, or nailing down the material, do it to the proper specifications as laid out by the manufacturer.
DIY roofing mistakes most often happen during this stage, so be sure to take your time, use the appropriate tools and materials, and don’t guess—if in doubt, call the pros.
Step 7: Seal the Seams
The one place that leaves rubber roofs most susceptible to leaks is at their seams. So using your seam adhesive or seam tape, carefully lay it down on each seam, adhering it in place to ensure a watertight seal. Then, double-check your work and look for any gaps or cracks. If you need, apply another line of seam adhesive or tape to double layer over any cracks.
Step 8: Final Check & Clean Up
Once you’ve finished the entire surface of the roof, do one final check being mindful of any seams, roofing elements like vents and chimneys, and the edges of the roof. Look for gaps, bumps, peeling edges, and anything else that can be easily tacked down before finalizing the project.
All the while, be sure to tread carefully, as some rubber roofing can be loosened or torn by foot traffic. Watch your step, keep sharp objects off the roof surface, and be careful mounting and dismounting the roof.
Again, our steps are very basic and more of a guide to ensure you don’t miss anything while you DIY rubber roofing installation. Each step can vary depending on your rubber roofing style and technique.
Contact Gouge Quality Roofing For A FREE Quote!
If you ever feel like you’re over your head on this, please reach out to us for a FREE quote. The professional team at Gouge can help guide you through the proper installation steps or come by to make sure it gets done without fail.
Can you walk on a rubber roof?
Yes, you can walk on rubber roofs to an extent.
EPDM roofs are designed to take light foot traffic during installation and for maintenance or cleaning. Traditional materials can be laid over your rubber roofing for a more durable solution in spots that require more use like a balcony.
How long does a rubber roof last?
With proper maintenance and correct installation (EPDM) or rubber roofs can last up to 50 years. This incredibly long-lasting and durable roof option is made from recycled materials that are water resistant and protect from wind, hail, heat, fire, and even ultraviolet rays.
What are common problems with EPDM roofs?
Several common problems that are encountered with EPDM or rubber roofs are usually due to improper or incorrect installation. These can include problems such as:
- Wrinkles that extend into roof seams
- Incorrectly installed roof flashing
- Punctures or damage to the membrane