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Rubber or EPDM roofs are mostly installed on commercial buildings, but they can work just as well on residential properties with low-slope or flat roofs. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks associated with this type of roofing material will help you figure out if a rubber roof is a good fit for your needs.
Rubber Roofing Benefits
- Durability. Like all other roofing materials, rubber roofs are built to withstand any kind of weather. Whether your climate is hot or cold or wet or dry, they can adapt to most harsh conditions and last through decades of abuse. What’s more, rubber roofs are able to withstand a higher amount of foot traffic compared to more conventional roofing materials like wood shakes or asphalt shingles.
- Low maintenance requirement. It’s true that if you want to extend a rubber roof’s service life, you will have to give it a bit of TLC. The good news is that whatever maintenance you have to do is fairly easy: most of the time, all that’s needed is to clear the roof of debris and check for ponding water and tears. It’s important to catch minor signs of damage as soon as possible so they don’t develop into bigger roof problems.
- Low environmental impact. Rubber roofs are mostly made from recycled tires, so it is in fact one of the more eco-friendly roofing options available on the market today. Cool roof coatings that reflect heat make rubber roofs even more eco-friendly because they lower your household’s energy consumption and help keep cooling costs down.
- Ability to mimic traditional roofing styles. There’s nothing particularly exciting about rolls of rubber, but rubber roofs have in fact come a long way and are now available in shingle form. This means that if you’re interested in rubber roofs but aren’t sure if you like the look of a commercial roof, you have a perfectly viable option. Not only do rubber shingles look like standard asphalt shingles, but they’re easier to install as well.
A Major Drawback
The main drawback associated with rubber roofs is the cost of installation. This Old House calls rubber roof installation “homeowner-friendly” because of the material’s light weight, but if you truly want to make the most out of your roof, there is no substitute for professional installation.
While the membrane itself only costs about $50 to $100 a square (1 square = 100 square feet), a professionally-installed rubber roof can cost up to $450 a square. This is because not all roofing contractors are qualified to work with rubber, so you’re essentially working with specialists. The addition of energy-efficient coatings will add a further 30% or more to the total cost.
The silver lining is that the big upfront investment is more than worth it because you’ll be able to use that rubber roof for a good 25 to 30 years with minimal maintenance. You may also be able to save on installation costs because rubber roofs can be installed on top of existing roof material under certain conditions. And if something does go wrong with your rubber roof in future, leaks are very easy to patch, which means repairs are cheap.
Don’t be afraid to ask a trusted local contractor about rubber roofs and whether one will be suitable for your home.
Chris Zorzy, the owner and president of A & A Services, Inc., has been in the roofing, windows, doors, and siding business for more than 30 years. He started out in 1982 as a painter and handyman and worked his way up to become one of the most trusted names in the Salem home improvement industry.