In the past, aluminum or tin was the popular material used for roof construction on RVs or campers, although they come with some downsides, such as the thermal bridging effect.
However, the game has changed with the introduction of rubber roofing membranes, including EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer) and TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin).
So if you’re going to change your RV’s roof, You need to answer: “TPO Vs EPDM roof for RV, which will suit you best?” Keep reading to know which one to use by comparing TPO vs EPDM RV roof!
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What Is RV TPO Roof
What is a TPO roof on an RV? Thermoplastic Polyolefin, or TPO for short, has been used as a popular substitute for PVC since the early 1990s. It is now commonly RV roof material used in roofing for recreational vehicles for two main reasons: it’s cheap and features a white color.
You can expect to attach this roof easily using specialized adhesives to glue it on the surface or utilizing heavy-duty materials to join it mechanically.
- Affordable Price
TPO is a budget-friendly pick, making it ideal for all RVers, including those on a tight budget. In addition, you can expect it to last a long time if you give it good care and maintenance.
That’s not all. It allows you to enjoy some of the benefits that you can get with PVC, such as hot-air weldable seams, at a significantly lower cost. All those factors make this option the best bang for the buck.
- Highly Durable
RV owners also appreciate the incredible durability of the TPO. Compared with any other thermoplastic membrane, this material is superior in mildew resistance, limited dirt accumulation, and the ability to minimize puncture and impact.
Beyond that, the TPO’s flexibility allows it to adjust itself to the camper’s every movement with ease. It is also carefully reinforced to resist contraction and expansion, which are caused by changes in weather. In that way, your RV journey can take place in any area.
The TPO roof allows you to save energy and reduce your electricity costs by reducing your heating and cooling costs.
In fact, the white variant can keep the inside of your camper cool on summer days, and its surpassing EPA’s EnergyStar requirements prove that. In addition, other color variations are also helpful in resisting UV rays.
- Straightforward to Install
TPO panels are typically manufactured in wide panels and are lightweight, allowing you to install one yourself on your trailer quickly and easily at a meager cost. However, you will probably need specialized tools to get the job done.
Previously, RV owners typically chose lighter-colored roofs to avoid absorbing heat. Today, TPO roofs have inherited the advancement of modern technology to provide superior UV protection. Therefore, you can choose any color for your TPO roof and still get the same heat absorption effect.
- Its Lifespan Is Not Truly High
The biggest downside of TPO is that it doesn’t last long since it is still a fairly young technology, and most manufacturers are still attempting to find ways to make their products more durable to last longer while not significantly increasing costs.
- Go Bad Faster in Hot Weather
Another notable disadvantage of TPO roofs is that they will quickly deteriorate if exposed to the hot sun for a long time. That may annoy RVers living in places that get sunlight for most of the year.
What Is RV EPDM Roof
EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer, which is also known by other names such as rolled rubber roofing, rubber membrane roofing, or rubber roofing. Like its counterpart TPO, EPDM rubber is also a favorite pick for RV roof material.
These RV roofs are typically made from recycled materials, such as slate dust, recycled automotive tires, and sawdust, making them a budget-friendly pick.
The EPDM roof is considered more durable than the other option. If you get one from a trusted provider, you can expect your roof to last twenty years.
Moreover, these roofs are made in the form of wide sheets. It means leaking is no longer your problem.
It is not easy to scratch or scuff EPDM sheets. But if leaks happen, it is easy to patch them by using RV roof coatings or sealants. These sheets can also withstand high heat, which makes them superior to the RV TPO roof.
Low-priced is also a factor that makes these sheets so popular in the RV world. The fact of the matter is that this RV poof is always a budget-friendly pick for any RV owner.
So no matter how big your camper is, you can replace your entire roof with new EPDM sheets without breaking the bank.
- Easy to Install
Installation of these EPDM sheets is straightforward as they are very light. All you need to do is remove all of the remaining roofing material, put your new EPDM sheets in place, and secure them with screws or glue. It is okay to use fasteners to facilitate you in removing your RV roof later.
This installation process almost does not cost you money and too much time. Even if you work alone, you can expect to get the job done quickly.
- Absorbs Heat
These sheets are usually available in black, absorbing heat very quickly. As a result, they can heat up the inside of your camper quickly if you park in a sunny spot.
You can solve this by purchasing lighter colored EPDM sheets, but they will be more expensive.
- Unattractive Appearance
The EPDM roof’s unattractive appearance makes it not ideal for aesthetics-focused RVers. If you look at it from a distance, you will see it looks like your camper is covered by a rubber tire stretched.
EPDM is also available in other colors, such as tan or white, which are more expensive. So you need to decide if you’re willing to spend more money for an attractive appeal.
TPO vs. EPDM: Which One is Better?
It is time to compare these two rubber roofs to find the correct answer to “Which RV roof is better EPDM or TPO?”
In most cases, an EPDM membrane will be cheaper than an equivalent TPO membrane.
Therefore, EPDM sheets, no doubt, tend to be preferred by RVers who have a tight budget or don’t want to spend a lot of money on roof replacement, and this is especially true when they only need a single-ply roofing membrane.
However, the cost you need to spend will depend on how thick you want your RV roof and how many layers you need. So it is essential to take roof measurements and do some calculations to consider the average price.
2. Color and Heat Absorption
TPO is available in various colors, such as tan-white, and gray, which will effectively reflect sunlight. Meanwhile, the EPDM comes in black in most cases, which absorbs the sun very well and quickly heats up the inside of your RV.
For example, if their camper features light color, they won’t want the roof of their vehicle to be black.
Some studies show that TPO can last 15 to 20 years, while EPDM has a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.
For the RV world, 15 years is too long. But many RVers decide to go with EPDM sheets, so they don’t even need to worry about their RV roof because not many keep their camper for more than 30 years.
In addition, EPDM is one of the best and most reliable roofing materials. EPDM features good UV resistance. Beyond that, this material is amazingly resistant to oxidants and extreme weather conditions.
4. Ease of Installation
You can expect to install EPDM quickly without the help of specialized equipment. Meanwhile, installing TPO sheets will require hot air welding tools, which are usually only available to professionals.
So, the EPDM RV roof kit will be suitable for DIY enthusiasts, while TPO rubber roofing will probably require you to get help from a specialist roofing contractor.
5. Ease of Maintenance
You won’t need regular EPDM roofing maintenance to keep it serviceable, as long as you make sure it’s appropriately installed. So with regular care and cleaning, your EPDM roof can last a long time with no need for repairs.
Meanwhile, you will need more diligent maintenance of TPO rubber roofing to keep it in top condition. Like fiberglass, the seams have no other adhesive or protectant as they do on rubber roofs. Therefore, they rely solely on the protection of a sealant.
Remember to avoid these materials coming into contact with oils and solvents. Moreover, you will also be advised not to use cleaners that contain abrasives, harsh chemicals, or petroleum-based products, which can cause severe damage to your RV roof.
By comparing TPO vs EPDM roof for RV, we can see that EPDM roofing seems to be a bit more dominant over its TPO counterpart overall.
But EPDM has been around for about 60 years, so it has a big reputation, while TPO can be considered relatively new within 20 years.
Generally, TPO and EPDM differ in structure and features, and each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. No one is completely better than the other. For example, EPDM is cheaper and lasts longer, while TPO is lighter and easier to install.
So “EPDM vs TPO RV roof: which will suit you best?” The choice is yours!
Glen’s a camping addict since way back when, a time he could barely remember. He loves tools, equipment, gears, accessories, and doing repair on his RV. He’s a confessed DIYer, performing even the maintenance of his RV. Glen also loves dressing up his recreational vehicle to keep it in style.