What is a Single Ply Roofing System?

Rolling Out a Black Singly Ply Membrane

Understanding Single Ply Roof Systems

Single ply systems account for the vast majority of commercial roofs nowadays. That’s because these solutions offer simplistic installation, capable protection, and very affordable costing. Still, many businesses and organizations aren’t familiar with how single ply membranes work or the diverse benefits they have to offer.

Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at single ply roofing to define them, explain their advantages, and understand their drawbacks. By the end, you should have a firm grasp of whether these solutions could be right for your next commercial roof installation. Let’s dive in!

What Does Single Ply Mean?

Let’s start with terminology. “Ply” is simply another word for layer. This term is fitting, because singly ply solutions are typically constructed using one membrane over a flat deck. The design is about as simple as they come, though roofers utilize several kinds of membrane. It all depends on the budget and functional requirements of the business.

Pros & Cons

Single Ply Roofing Pros and Cons

As single ply roofing contractors will tell you, there are clear cut benefits and drawbacks to selecting this form of flat system.

Benefits of Single Ply Roofs

  • Flat design makes it easy to store equipment on the rooftop.
  • Installation and material costs are remarkably affordable.
  • Any seasoned commercial roofer can install them quickly.
  • Maintenance is simple when compared with more complex systems.
  • Many single ply membranes qualify as energy-efficient “cool roofs”.
  • Single ply systems offer very capable protection for their size.

If your business desires a cost-effective roofing solution, single ply is an easy choice. Cool roof variants, such as TPO and PVC, offer perfect opportunities to conserve energy. Combine either of these solutions with energy efficient air conditioners, and you’ll start seeing significant savings in your daily operating costs.

On the other side, single ply roofs come with a few drawbacks. They offer a meager but unsurprisingly short average of up to 20 years. Premium solutions may last a decade longer, though these run higher in price. Single ply systems are somewhat vulnerable to ponding water, which accelerates cracking and opens up potential leaks. Finally, most single ply systems are vulnerable to mechanical damages (punctures, trauma from equipment weight, etc.).


Single Ply Roofing vs Built Up

How does single ply stack up against more complex systems? Fairly well! Let’s compare a gravel-topped built up roof (BUR) with our single ply membranes (SPMs).

  • Cost: quality SPMs range from $3.50 – $8.50 sq ft; BUR ranges from $5.50 – $8.50.
  • Longevity: BUR roofs outlast SPMs (max. 40 years vs 30 years, respectively).
  • Durability: BUR roofs enjoy considerably stronger impact protection.
  • Efficiency: BUR roofs offer UV protection, but TPO & PVC offer better reflection.
  • Water Resistance: SPMs have few seams, but BUR solutions are seamless.

Where single ply membranes offer simplicity, built up roofs offer stronger durability. It’s a toss up between the two, with the winner depending on your building’s particular needs.

Single Ply Roofing Types


What is Single Ply TPO Roofing?

TPO stands for thermoplastic polyfin. It’s actually a rubberized roofing material. However, it typically comes in a white color (unlike EPDM’s black surface), which allows it to reflect a high percentage of light. TPO roofs fall into the middle of the single ply price spectrum, just beneath PVC roofing.

TPO roofing doesn’t corrode easily, and it doesn’t cultivate mildew or algae. That’s good news if your business prefers easy to clean surfaces! If you’re looking for durable protection against the vast majority of roofing hazards, TPO is a great choice!


How Much Does it Cost to Install a PVC Roof?

PVC roofing comes at a slight higher price point than TPO, with an average maximum coming in at $8.50 per square foot. Similar to TPO, PVC is considered a thermoplastic. This means that strips of PVC can be bonded together using specialized torches, eliminating any leak-prone seams. Eventually, your roof is left with a large seamless blanked of membrane.

What is the difference between TPO and PVC roofing? PVC offers many of the same benefits of TPO, but it has notably better resistance against damage. In fact, PVC is manufactured to resist punctures, impact trauma, fire, hail, and chemical hazards.


How Long Does an EPDM Roof Last?

EPDM is an advanced form of rubberized roofing that offers very capable protection against the elements. On average, these systems last 20 years, with higher quality membranes lasting up to 30 years. Keeping these systems in good shape shouldn’t take too much effort, though you will need to pay special care not to puncture the membrane accidentally.

While upgraded versions may come in lighter colors, must EPDM systems come in black. This can cause the surface to absorb light and superheat the structure. It’s highly recommended to either install a lighter version or find a reflective coating.

A Large Flat Roofing System on Top of a Market Store

Considering Single Ply Roofing?

Talk with one of our seasoned professionals at WeatherShield Roofing Group about your upcoming commercial roof installation. They’d be happy to answer any questions you may have and provide you with an estimate for your project. If you’re in the market for single ply roofing in Longwood and Orlando, FL, give us a call at (407) 298-0100.