Brief History of EPDM Roofing

Mobile Home Roofing

EPDM Roofing - A History of Success

The roofing industry has undergone many dramatic changes over the last forty years. One of the earliest new products that caused the "industry revolution" was EPDM. This product endures today as a leading element in the market segment designated "flexible membrane roofing." Here is the history of the development of this product type and some of the factors that have contributed to its long-term success.

EPDM is an elastomeric polymer synthesized from ethylene, propylene and a small amount of diene monomer. It was first introduced as a roofing material in the early 1960s. In its typical form for roofing applications, EPDM sheeting is a cured, or vulcanized, material and is thus classified as a "thermoset." Simply defined, this means that the polymer's molecular structure is "set" as a result of heating during the manufacturing process. The chains of the polymer are joined together, or "cross linked." By the time the finished membrane is packaged for shipping, it is fully cured. Uncured EPDM membranes are sometimes used for flashings; but this material will eventually cure as it naturally ages under the exposure to UV light and heat. EPDM membranes for use with mobile homes are produced in black and white, are non-reinforced and in a thickness of 45 mils.

These membranes have achieved code ratings and approvals for installation in a number of different application configurations including mechanically fastened and fully adhered systems.

There are several reasons for the success these products have enjoyed over the years. These can be classified as material benefits, design benefits, installation benefits and manufacturer/supplier support and stability.

Weathering Benefits

One of the most important features a roofing material must possess is the ability to retain its physical characteristics throughout its service life. RoofWrap EPDM is highly flexible and pliable, making it able to accommodate structural movement and high and low temperature thermal stresses. It is resistant to some chemicals found on roofs, such as acids, alkalis, certain oils and oxygenated solvents. It is not, however, resistant to aromatic, halogenated or aliphatic solvents or other materials such as prolonged exposure to cooking grease of animal fats.

Design Benefits

As stated, EPDM membranes for mobile home roofs may be installed with two types of system applications. The most common installation is mechanically attached utilizing screws and attachment strips. EPDM membranes may also be partially or fully adhered to rigid insulation board or an appropriate structural deck with water or solvent-based adhesives. Both systems eliminate the weight of other recover systems.

Many owners and contractors prefer mechanically fastened system because they are lightweight and easy to install. These systems are very attractive, smooth and clean in their final appearance.

Application Benefits

Early in the flexible membrane market explosion, owners and contractors recognized EPDM roofing as a cleaner, cooler and generally easier product to handle than the built-up roofs (hot tar or asphalt) to which they were accustomed. With very little capital investment, they were able to obtain all the tools and equipment needed to properly install an EPDM roof. These systems also offer low maintenance, easy repair options and low annualized cost. As with all roofing systems, careful attention to preparation and detail during installation is stressed. With the introduction of 'peel and stick' detail accessory products for EPDM systems, the application became even easier, cleaner and more simple. Many contractors have taken pride in establishing crews that specialized in the installation of EPDM membranes, thus positioning themselves to respond to owners' growing demand for flexible membrane systems. The versatility in application methods has been very important to roof designers as they are able to create a design using EPDM for any roof shape, slope, height, and climatic exposures. Acceptance of EPDM as a suitable roofing material has been one of this market segment's primary reasons for success.

Manufacturer Support and Stability

As competition in the industry intensified, one of the most often considered factors in product selection was the stability of the company supplying the product. Many of the early suppliers of EPDM roofing systems made a strong commitment to the industry by establishing extensive research and development efforts within their organizations, as well as a focus on customer support. This support took the form of contractor training, architectural specification guidance, and field support, as well as roof maintenance training for building owners. The number of companies still participating in the market evidences the stability of these suppliers. Those companies that failed to provide the necessary support were unable to sustain themselves. While those that remain today have upheld integral standards of quality control, customer focus, research and development, and design support. RoofWrap's EPDM source has been trusted in roofing since 1908.

Rounding out the picture is the fact that EPDM has always been a competitively positioned product that has historically compared favorably against other roofing systems in terms of installation cost, availability of long-term warranties and attractive life cycle cost. These features provide good reasons for the architects, installers, building and homeowners to continue to select EPDM roofing systems.