Roofing Alphabet Soup

Thursday April 25, 2013

By Christophor Jurin

Different roof membrane types including TPO and EPDM.

Looking at the roofing industry from the outside in can cause even the most educated person a bit of angst. The industry is filled with enough acronyms and abbreviations to bring on a headache for anyone attempting to understand roofing terminology and make an intelligent buying decision. In some ways it takes a PhD in order to understand these terms, no pun intended.

You may be asking why the roofing industry uses so many acronyms. In short, these acronyms come from the names of the chemical compounds used to produce roofing membranes and products. The basic products are developed using multiple formulations from a wide array of chemicals. As a result, in order to define the products the manufacturers string together the components used to construct those products in order to name the products.

Manufacturers and contractors then trim the full names of the products down in order to make it easier to refer to those products that are being marketed, sold and used on different construction projects. As a result, the world is left with an alphabet soup of products to learn about and compare in order to make a good buying decision for their building and roofing project.

The following are some of the more common acronyms for products used in the roofing industry.

  • PVC - Polyvinyl Chloride
  • TPO - Thermoplastic Polyolefin
  • EPDM - Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer
  • CSPE - Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene (also known as Hypalon)
  • BUR - Built-up Roofing
  • MODBIT - Modified Bitumen
  • SBS - Styrene Butadiene Styrene
  • APP - Atactic Polypropylene

These are some of the more common roofing membrane types available on the market. Each roof membrane type has its benefits and drawbacks depending on the application. It is best to ask a professional roofing contractor about these roof systems when choosing a roof assembly for your flat or low-sloped roof system.

What roofing related acronyms have you encountered?

Photo © Carlisle SynTec Inc.. Carlisle SynTec TPO, EPDM and PVC roof system types.

Photo © NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association. Modified roof system.


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