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A History of TPO and its Rise in Popularity

A History of TPO and its Rise in Popularity
August 2, 2016 Greg Word

While there are several material options available to those in need of a dependable commercial roof, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) is one of the most recent. If you are a property manager in need of a new roof, learn more about how TPO might be a good option to consider for your new project.


A Brief History

The TPO membrane was introduced to the roofing market to serve as an economical and efficient option alongside PVC roofing products. TPO is a single ply roofing system that consisting of a thermoplastic polyolefin membrane composed of three layers: polymer base, polyester-reinforced fabric center, and TPO-compounded top ply. Common fillers include talc, fiberglass, carbon fiber, wollastonite, and Metal Oxy Sulfate. Popular rubbers used in TPO manufacturing include ethylene-propylene rubber and EPDM.

TPO first came into use back in the 1970s as a more malleable material that could be used for heat welding. It was great to use on roofs because it was free of both plasticizers and halogen. Before being used on roofing, TPO was initally ised in the automobile industry as a surface protector and for various geomembrane applications. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the material was implemented as a material for a roof membrane by a company called Montell. Today, most of the material is supplied by a merged company called Lyondell-Basell.

By the early 1990s, TPO started to become widely used in membranes. A fortified membrane called VersiWeld was promoted along with Hi Tuff EP from JPS Elastometrics. This is also the time when TPO roofs came under controversy due to the halogenated fire retardants they contained and the way they altered UV resistance. The situation resulted in businesses altering their TPO formulas to use magnesium hydroxide as a flame retardant instead.

Major Changes

The next major change to take place was in the mid-90s when the company Carlisle Syntec Systems released a thermoplastic polyolefin membrane called SureWeld. Now-heavy fitters Firestone and GAF stepped onto the playing field during this period of time, which is also when a Nevada-based business called Serrot International served as the principle TPO roof membrane supplier to GAF and a handful of additional roofing businesses. Serrot International was eventually absorbed into Firestone in the early 2000s.

Popularity of TPO

Now that you have a bit more backstory on the popular material, it’s time to delve into why it’s become such a widely used and reliable option for commercial building owners like yourself. TPO is a great alternative to PVC because it offers many of the same benefits, such as hot air-weldable seams, but is less pricey. Some of the most beneficial properties of the material include:

  • Resistance to the elements and ozone
  • Heat aging properties
  • Energy efficient
  • Available in white, light grey and black reflective color options
  • Resists mold growth, dirt accumulation, tears, impact and punctures
  • Flexible and can allow for a home’s or building’s movement or settling

TPO is also a tempting choice because is made to be flexible and can allow for a home’s or building’s movement or settling. Reinforced TPO membranes can handle a building’s thermal expansion and contraction more effectively than other single ply roofing products. It is easier and quicker to have installed. These characteristics have made it possible for TPO roofing to rise in both use and popularity over the last few decades.

If you are weighing options for a new roof, contact Restructure Corp. at 214-234-2596 and speak with our roofing experts.