What are the Pros and Cons of an EPDM Commercial Roof?

Guide Roofing Systems insetAs a property owner or property manager, you need to understand the kind of roofing system that’s on your building so you can manage it properly and make an informed decision when it’s time to re-roof.

This series of blog posts covers the pros and cons of the most popular types of commercial roofs. This month it’s all about EPDM, and our other posts include TPO, metal, asphalt, vegetative, and slate and tile.

You can also see our Guide To Commercial Roofing Systems: Pros and Cons that covers the highlights of each system in a PDF you can view online or download.

Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer (EPDM) Commercial Roofs

EPDM commercial roofing systems are highly resilient and popular for low-slope roofs. They’re made of a durable synthetic rubber membrane that typically consists of two main ingredients — ethylene and propylene. The membrane is either white or black, typically comes in widths ranging from ten to twenty feet, and is available in different thicknesses.

An EPDM system may be fully adhered, attached mechanically, or ballasted while the seams are sealed with a liquid adhesive or specialty tape. They’ve been around for decades so you may have an EPDM commercial roof on your building.

The Pros

EPDM is an excellent choice for resiliency. These systems have an average life span of 30 years when properly installed and maintained. Not only is this great for your budget but it’s good for the environment. Less re-roofing means less material going to landfills and less energy used to create and deliver new product.

EPDM commercial roofs also offer:

  • Resistance to thermal shock
  • Resistance to hail damage
  • Resistance to breaking down
  • Effective in most climates
  • No shattering in extreme cold
  • Ability to withstand damage from UV radiation
  • Adaptive to structural movement
  • Can be recycled when re-roofing

The Cons

The cons of EPDM are minor and often due to poor installation. They require clean, dry conditions to properly seal the seams and should not be installed over asphalt-based materials containing petroleum — those materials need to be removed first to prevent the rubber membrane from exposure to a solvent.  Other chemical reactions between materials and adhesives can result in blistering from insufficient adhesive curing.

Damage from abuse (rooftop activity) and storms and debris are other things that can cause an EPDM commercial roof to experience problems. Always participate in a good annual maintenance program to help keep your roof in top shape no matter what kind of roof it is.


Warranty options for EPDM roofing systems vary widely depending on the thickness of materials used and the methods used on the flashing details. The coverage ranges from 10 to 30 years and you can even purchase riders covering high wind, hail and punctures. Review these options with your installer to determine which will best meet your roofing asset budget.

Sentry Roof Services has worked with EPDM commercial roofs for many years. One memorable project was the 1995 renovation of the John Deere Plow Company building in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood in Atlanta. Originally built in 1914, the building was reclaimed from a dilapidated and abandoned state to prepare for the 1996 Olympic Games. Recreated as loft space, the building was used as the housing and hospitality base for Nike during the Olympic Games and as an anchor to redevelop the now thriving area of Atlanta.

If you have questions about maintaining your current EPDM commercial roof, please let us know.

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