Understanding Membrane Roofing: What You Need to Know

Understanding Membrane Roofing: What You Need to Know

How can we make sure that the roof over our heads is stable? All roofs are made different, depending on the material, the area you live in, and what the weather there is typically like. Those factors determine what exactly you need to make sure that your roof lasts longer and keeps you safe from the elements. 

Roof repair, worker with white gloves replacing gray tiles or shingles on house with blue sky as background and copy space, Roofing - construction worker standing on a roof covering it with tiles.

One thing that helps with that is membrane roofing. Membrane roofing can be made from different materials. It is usually a thin layer of material designed to prevent water from leaking into homes or buildings. The most common type of membrane roofing is made out of tar and pitch. Today, there are synthetic materials that have been found to work even better.

To figure out what the right type is for you, here are the different types of membrane roofing:

This Article Contains

Membrane Roofing for Flat Roofs

In the past, the most common way for builders to get water off the roof was to build it as a slope. That way, the water can just slide down on its own with no issues. Historically, this has always been the easiest solution to water and precipitation pooling on the roof. However, people are designing flat roofs, which require some innovation to ensure that water on the top doesn’t become a problem.

Flat roofs cannot rely on gravity to get rid of precipitation. Water will likely gather into the lowest area of the roof. The most important thing to do when you have a flat roof is to figure out how to get water off of it. Otherwise, you will be dealing with leaks in your home. A possible solution is to create a very slight, almost imperceptible slope to your flat roof. You’ll also have to ensure that your roof is watertight.

Asphalt Roofs

A mixture of pitch, tar, and gravel creates the asphalt that covered flat roofs. Roofers will lay down roofing felt before spreading hot tar all over it to create flat asphalt roofs. They apply the tar, pitch, and gravel mixture in multiple layers. The layers are responsible for the watertight seal.

Although this has been the main form of roofing for flat-roofed structures for years, people no longer find it as reliable or worth it anymore. This method requires roofers to be meticulous and skilled. They must toil and endure the laborious process of creating layers and layers of asphalt to ensure that the roof is watertight once they are done. 

Synthetic Membranes for Flat Roofs

People use synthetic materials for their roofing membranes because of how labor-intensive and difficult asphalt roofing is. As technology progresses more and more, synthetic roofing membranes are also becoming more advanced and of greater quality. Thanks to the developments made in rubber and plastic materials, it is easier to ensure secure and watertight roofs.

Aside from better materials, these modern membranes are also much easier to install. The seals are more secure, resulting in almost leak-proof roofs. You would be hard-pressed to find a flat roof that wasn’t in danger of leaking at some point. Homes, businesses, and any other structure can now enjoy more reliable roofing.

Although you will find numerous synthetic membranes available, all of them can still fall under three categories.

Thermoset Membranes

Thermoset membranes are typically formed out of chemically inert substances, like the ones found in tires. It becomes firmer when heated. The big advantage with these membranes is the way it attaches roofing materials. In the past, roofing materials needed some kind of joint to secure them. Metal roofing materials were soldered, while asphalt roofs could not come in separate pieces because of the application method. 

Thermoset membranes created a whole new way to attach materials. These membranes use strips of roofing material and turn them into a single piece. 

Most of these roofs fall under the synthetic rubber category. You’ll find them under the names EPDM, CSPE, CR, and ECR. Whatever type of roofing you choose, all that material is joined together to become chemically cross-linked, meaning it becomes an individual giant sheet of roofing over the entire structure. Following the manufacturer’s specifications down to a T ensures that your roof will be leakproof and long-lasting. 

Thermoplastic Membranes

Thermoplastic membranes are made out of plastic materials. There are still many types of roofing membranes under this category, identified through its acronyms. You might be the most familiar with PVC, polyvinyl chloride. This is a material that is commonly found in most home building items, like PVC pipes. Other types of plastic used that are less familiar to the average person are CPA, CPE, EIP, NBP, PIB, and TPO.

The main difference between thermoplastic roofing and thermoset membranes is the joining process. Each uses a vastly different method but with similar results. Thermoset chemically cross-links materials, while thermoplastic welds the pieces together, either with heat or solvents. While the material won’t be molecularly consistent, it will still be just as strong and reliable if done correctly. 

Unlike asphalt roofs, thermoplastic roofing membranes will give you a watertight and leakproof roof for the roof’s longevity.

Modified Bitumen

Modified bitumen is the modern equivalent of asphalt roofing. It combines the traditional tar, pitch, and gravel with other materials like solvents, rubber modifiers, and other synthetic ingredients. This modern evolution of asphalt roofing allows roofers to apply this method in various ways. 

When before, the material only allowed for layer-by-layer application, one of the ways modified bitumen can be applied is with strips that are joined together using heat. It can be hot-mopped like traditional asphalt roofs. Now there are even materials that don’t require heat to be joined, using special and powerful adhesives instead. 

A modified bitumen roof is still not as advanced as a fully synthetic roof, but it is a better solution for people that want an asphalt roof. This modern alternative provides a more reliably leakproof roof that will last for a longer time.


A home is only as strong as its foundations and roof. You need to make sure that you can rely on your roof to protect your home, business, or any other structure from the elements. Roofing membranes are designed to prevent your roof from leaking and degrading too fast. 

There are many types that you can opt for depending on your needs and preferences. Synthetic roofing is easy to install and functions better than asphalt roofing. However, asphalt, with the help of professionals, can also do wonders.

If you’re struggling with deciding on the perfect roofing material and installation, we’ve got you covered. Southern Premier Roofing is the best and most reliable roofing contractor in Fayetteville, Hope Mills, Raleigh, Boise, and Charlotte. We specialize in high-quality roofing for residential and commercial structures. For more information, give us a call!

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