TPO vs. PVC Roofing

The roof style you choose for your commercial building will not only cover the top of your building but also protect against rain, sunlight, wind, snow, and extreme temperatures. At Alpine Roofing and Construction, we’ve been in the roofing business for over twenty years and know that actually deciding what type of roof is the right fit for your project is a big choice. For flat commercial buildings, the two most popular roofing styles are TPO and PVC. But what does this mean? Well, we’ve put a little comparison together to help you wrap your head around everything so that you can decide what you prefer for your own building.

PVC — Oldie but a Goodie

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. You might be reading this, saying, “Hey, isn’t this the stuff I usually see pipes made out of in the plumbing section?” Yes, the chemical make-up is similar, but instead of being formed into pipes, PVC roofing is actually rolled onto a roof and forms a membrane that is then attached or glued in place. PVC has been around since the1960s and is a trusted building material.

TPO — New Kid on the Block

TPO stands for thermoplastic polyolefin. TPO roofs are membranes constructed from ethylene propylene rubber that are installed very similarly to PVC, either using adhesive or being mechanically fastened in place. TPO has been around since the 1990s and has had a few chemical changes and upgrades, but it has proven to be a strong competitor to PVC and continues to grow in popularity.

Pros and Cons

Overall, TPO and PVC roofs are extremely comparable when it comes to installation, cost, overall benefits, and chemical make-up (they are both thermoplastic materials, but the formula is different). For flat top commercial roofs, membrane-style roofing materials like PVC and TPO are also designed to withstand pooling and standing water, whereas traditional roofing materials like shingles or tiles would leak like crazy on a flat roof. When TPO was designed in the 1990s, the idea was that it would be superior to PVC, but the two ended up being very similar, and PVC held its ground.

Now, depending on your contractor and their experience, building professionals naturally tend to lean toward one or the other. Your budget and project scope will also come into play when making a decision and there are a few differences between TPO and PVC worth noting. Below, we’ve compiled a few main points to show you what both types have in common and also some pros and cons for each. Here they are:

Both are recyclable building materials.

  • Both have a reflective surface that reduces UV radiation and thus helps with your building’s energy efficiency by reducing the need for excessive air-conditioning usage. This is extremely helpful where we are located in Texas, good for the pocketbook, and also more environmentally friendly.
  • Both have a reputation for durability (the goal of a good, solid roof is to last a while).
  • PVC is highly resistant to chemical damage, while TPO might not be the best choice where grease or harsh chemicals are involved. So if your project involves a new roof for a commercial restaurant that has a grease trap or cooking exhaust that will affect a roof, PVC is suggested.
  • PVC is more flexible, and TPO is stiffer. And this can affect the ease of installation. Remember, you will have material costs and labor costs for your project, so both need to be taken into consideration.
  • Because TPO is stiffer, it’s more resistant to tears and breaks in particular, but PVC is still super durable.
  • PVC is considered more fire-resistant.
  • Both boast their deterrence to mold and algae.
  • PVC tends to be more expensive per square foot, but TPO usually takes a little longer to install (the material cost vs. labor cost comparison again).
  • The most popular install color for PVC and TPO is white, but both can come in other colors.
  • PVC and TPO membranes vary in thickness, which affects both the lifespan and the cost (the thicker the membrane, the better the longevity).

We also want to add that regardless of the material, a warranty is recommended for any new roofing project. When choosing a roofing company, material demand and availability are also decision-makers for a project. Depending on the supplier, PVC or TPO might or might not be carried, or the supplier might not have enough for your project. This is something to ask your contractor about if you’re leaning heavily one way or the other.


At the end of the day, when it comes to TPO vs. PVC for your flat roof commercial project, the decision is specific to the type of building, the project scope and timeline, and the project budget. The good news though is that you do not need to do this alone. Whether you are located in our backyard in the Dallas or Fort Worth area or a state or four over, contact us for more information. We’re here to help you navigate through all of this.

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