Thanks to their durability and versatility, EPDM roofing membranes are used worldwide and in various climates. But just how durable are EPDM roofs, and why? And why bother learning more about EPDM longevity now?
For a couple of reasons. One, because as the EPDM Roofing Association points out, "global statistics confirm the increasing frequency of more extreme weather: intense tornado outbreaks, record-setting heat, catastrophic wildfires, heavy downpours, longer droughts, and more frequent hurricanes." These events require everyone — from material manufacturers to contractors to property managers — to commit to building and maintaining more resilient structures.
Resilient structures and roofs are the solution. The Department of Homeland Security defines a resilient structure as one that can "adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies." A building's roof system is an essential component of resilience — it's the first line of defense against a disaster, natural or otherwise.
Also, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Firestone EPDM roofing membrane. It was installed for the first time in 1980 on the roof of Albo Manufacturing Co. in West Bend, Wisconsin. Even after 40 years of service (and many seasons of freezing winters and hot, wet summers), the roof is still performing.* shows little sign of cracking or weakening.
Learn more about the resilience of EPDM roofs as we dive into long-term weathering studies and the science behind Firestone EPDM roofing systems.
How long does an EPDM roof last?
EPDM roof membranes remain stable over time and can have a life expectancy of over 50 years.** Made from synthetic rubber, EPDM roofing membranes have two primary ingredients, ethylene and propylene, which are derived from oil and natural gas.
The following factors support the exceptional durability of EPDM roofing membranes.
As a cross-linked thermoset material, EPDM is dimensionally stable and can inherently recover and return to its original state after a severe swing in temperature or weather event. This cross-linking is at the heart of EPDM's excellent durability and resilience.
EPDM is naturally pliable, too, so it can absorb impacts (like those from hail) without fracturing. For example, the flexibility of Firestone EPDM membranes, combined with an elasticity of more than 300%, allows them to withstand severe weather and accommodate building movements.
A recent long-term weathering study facilitated by the EPDM Roofing Association showcases this resilience in the field. The study examined five EPDM roof systems from 28 to 32 years old, and found that all of the systems were still performing "like new." This study was the fourth EPDM Roofing Association study to confirm the long-term performance of EPDM membranes.
There are three options for EPDM installation and each comes with its own performance benefits.
- Adhered: The membrane is glued with special adhesives. Adhered systems are ideal for any roof with limited load-bearing capacity due to the system's lightweight nature and flexibility. Adhered systems can also enhance a structure's overall resilience due to their high wind uplift rating.
- Mechanically Attached: The membrane is secured to the insulation and roof deck with fasteners. This is a fast and affordable installation method, particularly for wood and steel decks.
- Ballasted: A layer of stones or pavers anchors the membrane in place. Installation is quick and easy with the right tools, and can even occur during almost any weather. Ballasted EPDM roofs are one of the most affordable systems to install.
Plus, no flame is required to install EPDM, and its availability in large sheets limits the number of seams, making installation safer, quicker, and easier. Fewer seams also mean fewer potential points for moisture penetration.
Firestone FullForce EPDM actually installs 4.6x faster than a standard EPDM membrane since there's no need for seam tape or adhesives.*** For FullForce specifically, no seam tape means no seam tape vulnerabilities. And no adhesives means no harmful odors, which makes FullForce a great choice for buildings that need to remain occupied during installation.
EPDM membranes are also available in two colors: white and black. While color does not have a direct impact on an EPDM membrane's resilience and longevity, it does play an important role in a structure's response to hot and cold temperatures. In southern climates, a white EPDM membrane helps save energy by reflecting heat and reducing air conditioning usage. In cold climates, a black EPDM membrane absorbs heat and helps to reduce heating costs.
EPDM Covers You Better
The longevity, durability, and value of an EPDM roof make it an excellent choice for almost any application. It's the definition of resilient, and can stand up to the whims of the natural world, from extreme heat to cold snaps to UV rays. Browse technical specs and product sheets for Firestone EPDM roofing membranes online. Then find a Firestone Sales Rep or licensed contractor near you to see why even after 40 years, No One Covers You Better™ than Firestone EPDM.
*Results may vary.
**“Evaluation of the useful life of EPDM roofing membranes”, SKZ (Süddeutsche Kunststoff-Zentrum).
***Testing shows that FullForce installs 4.6x faster than standard EPDM, as validated by a third party.