Pros and Cons of TPO roofing for your South Florida home
Flat roofing continues to gain popularity in the state of Florida since we started seeing its use in the early 1990s, especially as more and more homeowners are going for that modern and simplistic look. Not to mention, TPO roofing, which is made from thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) is low cost and offers resistance to ultraviolet, ozone, and chemical exposure. Further, these single-ply roofing systems are heat-reflective and energy efficient.
TPO is one of a few different types of rubber, usually a blend of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber. These single ply roofing systems are a dependable and energy efficient roofing system that lowers your home’s overall construction costs. TPO roofing systems are quite common in both home and commercial roofs in Florida. The color and associated reflective properties, reduction in energy costs, and durability in hot climates such as in Florida, can mean a sizeable decrease in maintenance costs.
However, these roofs come with a variety of pros and cons, and homeowners need to think carefully before selecting TPO in lieu of a more traditional option. The life expectancy of a TPO roof is 22 to 30 years, far more than the standard 15-year lifespan.
The pros of TPO roofing for your South Florida home
- A tremendous benefit to installing TPO roofing on your flat roof is the cost. TPO is one of the least expensive materials available on the home construction market, costing far less than EPDM (a type of synthetic rubber) or other rubber roofing options. An additional benefit to using TPO is the color. This type of roofing tends to be white on top, which reflects the sun’s light, and stops heat build-up indoors.
- TPO can be installed in various ways, making for easier installation than more traditional roofing systems. TPO can be attached with adhesives or attached directly to the roof deck. It can also be heat-welded around chimneys and other accessible. TPO resists corrosion and breaks down when it comes into contact with numerous materials, which makes for this flexibility in installation.
- TPO is less likely to experience mildew or algae growth and doesn’t require pressure washing. TPO is very good at resisting dirt build-up, punctures, and tears as well. This means a strong roofing product that can save you money in the long run as the roof will need to be cleaned less often. In addition, TPO is the top single ply roofing commodity for expansion and contraction, and its flexibility allows for a wide variety of choices when it comes to relocating or settling a building.
- TPO roofs have a lifespan of 22 to 30 years in most situations.
- As mentioned previously, TPO is very energy efficient. The use of TPO on your roof can mean lower cooling costs due to UV resistance.
- While TPO is energy efficient, it is also made from environmentally friendly products. So, TPO can actually help to lower carbon emissions. And, TPO currently exceeds the standards that are set by Energy Star. So, in the summertime, you can likely experience increased energy efficiency as well as a lower energy bill, all while enjoying the comfortable temperatures in your home.
The cons of TPO roofing for your South Florida home
- While a large amount of TPO is inexpensive and white, there is a great deal of variability in TPO quality amongst the various manufacturers. This means that you may get a good quality roof from one TPO also comes in a wide range of different thicknesses, and some buyers mistakenly believe that the thicker materials are better quality and will last for much longer. But this is not the case, as durability and thickness do not go hand in hand. TPO tends to wear at the same rate, regardless of thickness. Since TPO compounds have changed in recent years, it is difficult to precisely estimate how long current roofs will last.
- The lamination that is used for the top layer of the roofing can create weak points that can cause the material to shrink, crack, and deteriorate over the years. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some TPO roofs (often those that are less expensive) to develop cracks in the surface pretty quickly.
- TPO comes in rolls, that are pretty small in width. Because of this, contractors need to create seams every six to eight feet, which creates the potential for the seams to expand and contract with the weather. Thus, these roofs are more susceptible to weakening and creating loose seems where water can get in.
- While TPO itself is relatively low-cost, labor rates for TPO and flat roofing can get quite expensive. This may seem counter-intuitive, as one would think that installing a flat rough would be easier than a pitched roof. But it turns out, that working on flat surfaces is harder on the back, and can slow down the process for roofing contractors. Not only that, but flat roofs require an adhesive application, and in some cases, a torch is required to heat up the seal.
- Flat roofs are more susceptible to water build-up on the roof, especially when gutters and downspouts are clogged. When water isn’t able to make its way to the downspout and away from the home, the home is more likely to experience a leak.
- TPO is well-known to be heat-reflective, which is one of its many benefits. However, TPO roofing does not handle high heat very well. As southern states such as Florida are warmer all year and temperatures can get very high, and stay high for days if not weeks on end, it is possible that the roofing could fail to withstand the excessive exposure to the heat. This can weaken the roof and shorten the lifespan considerably.
The southern Florida weather is a critical consideration for your roof
There are many benefits to living in Florida. It is hot and sunny almost every day. There is no snow, and it is pretty rare that you need to scrape frost off the windows of your car. There are oodles of beaches and state parks to enjoy. If you love the outdoors, especially yachting, sailing, diving, swimming, fishing, etc., then Florida offers world-class experiences for all of those passions. If you like to golf, you don’t have to drive too far to find an amazing golf course. And there is no state income tax!
Those are pretty amazing reasons to live in Florida, especially southern Florida. But, it is important to know that one or two hurricanes make landfall in the eastern United States every year. Of those, almost half hit Florida. In fact, Miami, Key West, and Tampa, Florida, are three of the top five cities in the United States most likely to experience the effects of a hurricane.
When living in these hot, and sometimes weather hostile areas, you want to make sure you have a roof that can withstand the wrath of Mother Nature, or at least stand a fighting chance. In the continental United States, Florida ranks at the top of the list of states most likely to experience a hurricane. With ocean-side coastlines that span 1,350 miles, the east, west, and southern borders of the state are all exposed to the Atlantic. While this can mean for some fun in the sun when the weather is good, Florida often finds itself close to the eye of the storm during hurricane season.
If you’ve ever watched the news after a hurricane, you will see hours of footage showing homes destroyed and all but demolished by the fury of these powerful storms. In 1992, hurricane Andrew generated wind speeds that topped 165 mph, and created $25 billion in damages to the state. Approximately 125,000 homes, located in just Miami-Dade County alone, were severely ravaged if not completely destroyed.
The various building and construction codes throughout Florida have faced quite a bit of scrutiny in recent years, and as a result, have undergone extensive updates, particularly for areas in high-velocity hurricane zones. In particular, these areas include Miami-Date and Broward counties.
The laws that embody the construction of both residential and commercial roofs in these areas are very specific. The legal changes that were made just over a decade ago came about so that roofs stood a better chance of surviving the high winds and pressures that are associated with high category storms. To review the codes for yourself, you can see the depth of the requirements on the Hurricane Mitigation page of the MiamiDade.gov website.
How do TPO roofs hold up in hurricanes?
So, if you like the look and cost of a TPO roof, you are not alone. Flat roofs are very popular in coastal living, and thus, in Florida. For residential dwellings, a roof that is entirely flat is not uncommon at all, but when balconies or patios are added to the equation, it is the roof above that may be flat.
And though installation of TPO roofs can sometimes be hard on the backs of the roofers, contractors and homeowners often select flat roofing for modern aesthetics as well as for the convenience. Plus, if you are adding on to a home, such as adding an additional bedroom, or a three-season porch, a flat roof can look very nice as a blend to the existing roof design. Varied roof pitches can add dimension to a home, and are very unique.
For flat roofing materials, wind resistance is actually less of an issue, and the material tends to have little derogatory impact from salt spray. The main concern from the Florida building code is that any structures or vents that reside on the flat roof need to be adequately fastened and sealed.
This all said, of course, the main job of the roof is to create a barrier between the building below, and the elements up in the atmosphere above. While in Florida, snow is not much of an issue, rain is, especially when it comes to hurricane season. So while the roof may be less likely to be torn off because it is more aerodynamic, a TPO roof is likely to experience water build-up, especially after the storm. Water build-up is even more common on the roof if gutters have become blocked from flying debris that is stirred up during the storm. Any time that water pools on the roof, your home becomes more suspectable to a leak.
It is important to note, however, that flat roofs aren’t really completely flat (or when constructed correctly, they shouldn’t be). Contractors do add a slight angle to the roof, even just a few degrees, so that water can work its way to the gutter, and can make its way away from the home. Again, this only works when gutters are free and clear, and that water can make its way to the downspout.
Whatever roofing style you select for your home, make sure you have a conversation both with your insurance company as well as an experienced contractor. Your insurance company may have guidance for you on the best roof based on where you live and their history with insurance claims. While insurance is designed to help you in the event you need a new roof, it is always best to look for options that will result in the least likelihood that you will need to file a claim down the road. If something goes wrong with your roof, it is altogether possible that you have experienced other damage in your home as well. And that is no picnic.
Further, a conversation with your contractor can assure you of their experience working with various materials. They can also assess your home in detail to ensure that the design and style you are looking for can actually be executed based on the specifics of your home. Taking the time to have these conversations before making a decision, will pay off in the long run.
Now that you know the pros and cons of getting TPO roofing for your home or commercial property in Florida, what comes next? If you’re in need of a new roof following a home disaster and you need help with your insurance company, reach out to Bulldog Adjusters for a free damage inspection! We’ll help you get the largest possible settlement in order to afford the repairs that your home needs.