What is EPDM Roofing?

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) is a petroleum-based “rubber” or ethylene, propylene, dione monomer.

EPDM Roofing System Problems:

Improper installation

EPDM is a popular choice in the industry because it can be purchased by a licensed installer with a warranty or it can be purchased by anyone at a big-box store.

The improper installation often leads to seam failure, adhesive failure, or both. Depending on how your EPDM roof was installed, the resulting leaks may be difficult to locate. EPDM systems are installed in one (or a combination) of three ways:

  • Ballasted system – smooth river rock or concrete pavers are installed to hold the roofing in place.
  • Mechanically attached – membranes are anchored using plates or strips to affix the roofing to the deck.
  • Fully adhered – the EPDM is bonded to the insulation, which itself is typically mechanically fastened.


Put simply; shrinking also leads to leaks. EPDM is a petroleum-based product that is continuously curing. Once all of the solvents are evaporated, the membrane becomes brittle, shrinks, weakens, and loses its elasticity. Additionally, EPDM seams are joined with either liquid adhesive or seam tape. Exposure to water will eventually erode the seams, so great care must be taken to keep them dry.

As the EPDM shrinks, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the fixed points and easily pulls the corners apart. Many unit and pipe penetration flashings have failed in this way.


While every roof should be inspected (ideally annually to catch problems early), old seams will need to be repaired/sealed in as little as 5-7 years to keep your service life. Due to the EPDM system’s reliance on adhesives, seam failure is an eventual maintenance item regardless of the quality of the original installation.


While EPDM is available in different colors, one of the most commonly installed is black. On hot, sunny summer days, the black, non-reflective EPDM roofing can be as much as 100 degrees hotter than the air temperature. As the heat increases, it is absorbed into the building making it more difficult and expensive to keep the inside at a comfortable temperature. It also increases the wear and tear on the HVAC equipment, reducing its useful life.

Other common factors

Early installations of EPDM commonly included utilizing a wood fiber insulation board. If leaks occur and allow water to enter the roof system, this leads to saturated wood fiberboard. This leads to adhesive failure and wood fiberboard degradation and compression, which in turn can lead to fasteners eventually puncturing the waterproofing layer.

Ballast Problems

About a third of all EPDM roofing installations use the ballast method. It features fast coverage at a relatively low cost. Over the years, freeze/thaw cycles have caused even smooth river rock to break into jagged, sharp blades. The weight from snow and foot traffic can push these sharp rocks into the EPDM and cause punctures. Ballast can also make leaks more difficult to detect and fix quickly.

Our Best Recommendation

For a permanent, warranted solution, we recommend installing a complete mechanically-fastened Springfield SmartRoof™ System.

The Springfield SmartRoof™ System is entirely maintenance free.* Certified Springfield technicians will install this system, and completed in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. It will be 100% inspected by the Springfield Team, and then by an inspector from the manufacturer. The manufacturer will then award a full 20-year warranty, which is the best on the market.

Springfield Smart Roof*Annual inspections and debris removal are recommended and included at no charge for the first two years of your roof’s life. These inspections help us track the performance of your roofing system and also keep abreast of any new developments that could occur over time. Please contact your Project Manager to schedule your inspections.

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