EPDM roofing, sometimes called rubber roofing, is frequently used in flat roofs. EPDM stands for Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer, which is the material that makes up the rubber membrane. This is a singly ply roofing membrane that is durable and cost-effective, which is why it is such a popular option. Durability doesn't mean that it can't suffer damages, though. It's vital to know some of the most common EPDM problems so you can spot issues early for a prompt repair.
1. Membrane Punctures
Punctures of the rubber membrane are the most common type of issue. Although the membrane is strong and damage resistant, blunt force can pierce it. Overhanging branches, for example, can scrape the membrane or be blown down in high winds. Punctures can also occur when there are work or maintenance crews on the roof, but the installation of walkway pads can minimize this danger. If a puncture occurs, you likely won't need a new roof. The good news is that EPDM roofs can be easily patched and that the patches have just as much longevity as the original membrane.
Exposure can lead to membrane degradation, which can cause adhesives to fail or the membrane to develop holes and cracks. Some weather events, like hail, can lead to punctures. The most common weathering issue is simple sun exposure. UV rays weaken adhesives over time, which can cause the membrane to wrinkle and come loose. Then, wind can lead to uplift so that moisture seeps beneath the membrane. Proper installation helps minimize UV exposure to adhesives, but annual inspections are the best defense. Weak areas can be spotted early so that repairs can be done before major damages necessitate a roof replacement.
3. Acid Degradation
Much like weathering, exposure to acidic conditions weakens the membrane. The effect of acid degradation typically affects the membrane itself rather than the adhesive, which means the whole roof needs to be replaced if the damage is severe. Acid rain and pollution can cause some degradation, but the biggest culprits on a flat commercial roof are birds. Bird droppings are quite acidic and can literally eat through the membrane. Prevention tactics, such as the installation of anti-bird devices, can be effective. You may also need to schedule annual roof cleanings if the bird pressure is heavy on your roof.
If you suspect issues with your EPDM roof, contact a commercial roofing contractor as soon as possible.