At XL Roofing (an Edmonton Roofing Contractor) we often get asked which membrane is the best system to install.
Many years ago we used to give the customer only two choices: Tar & Gravel (T&G) or SBS (commonly known as torch-on). Over time new products have emerged to share the market. Today we can add PVC, TPO, EPDM, hot rubber type flood Coates and spray foam type systems.
I am a firm believer that manufactures of certain roof systems should show proof that their product/products will in fact last the said 20 or 25 years they state. I don't believe in weather room simulators. A Canadian weather is probably one of the harshest climates one will come across. We have extreme cold winters (-25 to -40) mixed with Chinooks that can go as high as (+10) all in 24 hours. This is very hard on membranes of any kind. Snow melting, turning to ice, and continually repeating the cycle. Ice is always pushing and prying. Summers can get as hot as plus 37 ° degrees Celsius, and very dry!
I am a tar & gravel/SBS guy from way back. Some of these T&G roofs can last up to 35 or 40 years with a good installation and preventative maintenance . To say all T&G roofs will last this long is a far stretch. I am just stating what I have come across in my 30+ years of experience.
SBS was introduced to the Edmonton Roofing Companies in the mid 1970's through Pool construction. A manufacturer called Soprema was making this product in a place called Strasbourg, France, then soon opened up a plant in Quebec, Canada. I was trained to install this product around 1983. This product took awhile to catch on, but by the mid 1990's it became very popular. Roofing inspectors loved this new tech roofing system, and soon convinced School boards, government, and commercial property owners that this was the way of the future. And so Tar and gravel took a backseat. Other Manufacturers followed; IKO has been making a very good equivalent product with equal warranty. The end result is both manufactures back and support their products to very strict architectural standards.
It's 2014 and both SBS and Tar & Gravel for Edmonton roofing seem to be holding up well to the Canadian climates. The proof is in the pudding. T&G is a little tougher to find leaks and repair. One has to be a very experienced and a qualified roofing installer to be successful at T&G repairs. SBS on the other hand, it's easy to see the deficiencies as not covered in gravel. Simply spot the ridge, bridging, blister or hole, cut out affected spot, prime with an asphalt based primer and re-torch one or two plies of same product.
Other new products that have come out in the last 20 years stating that their product is better is up for a little criticism. As an experienced Edmonton roofing contractor and most would agree, is that the jury is still out on some of these other products. I can honestly say that one or two of the single ply membrane manufacturers that say their system lasts 20 years is questionable! I'd have to say this is a stretch and to say if they did last this long, it wouldn't be for a day longer. Most are tenting on the walls, pulling at the glued seams, heating and air conditioning contractors leave screws and sheet metal on an already fragile roof system.
Each membrane has its purpose in the Edmonton Roofing Industry. Big open warehouses with little equipment on the roof are more suited for an EPDM system. Sun Decks with living space underneath, a good quality PVC or SBS will do. Sarnafil Canada installed their system on the old Maple Leaf Gardens, the blue Jay's Skydome, and the Saddle Dome in Calgary. They make specialized deck membranes as well. One product our company uses for EPDM is Firestone, a company that's been around a very long time. TPO is a single ply membrane; it is a combination of rubber and PVC. I won't throw this membrane under the bus, as I feel manufacturers have put a lot of effort into bringing this product to the forefront to compete. Inspectors and architects have been pushing this product as well, so a good qualified installer should be able to make this product perform!
We as an Edmonton Roofing Contractor generally look at every roof to see what product will suit you best. So google away and consult with a reputable roofing company or an accredited roofing inspector.
Don't forget to ask roofing companies for proper credentials, example liability insurance (open flame, if SBS or T&G), and WCB.
Founder and owner of XL Roofing Edmonton Alberta since 1997