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What is Membrane Roofing & How Much Does it Cost?

Membrane roofing is made of rubber. Rubber is waterproof and weatherproof, making it an ideal choice for wet climates. Being flexible, membrane roofing can be sold by the roll, which can generally decrease its cost for the purposes of shipping. Membrane roofing tends to be much lighter than other roofing materials as well.


  • Average highest cost: $1.50 per square foot

  • Average lowest cost: $0.30 per square foot

Rubber membrane roofs have some of the lowest costs of all roofing materials. The difference in price stems primarily from location, material thickness and coloration. Membrane roofs will be more varied in price in areas that have a large number of flat rooftops and wet climates where membrane roofs are most advantageous, and the increase in popularity will result in an increase in price variance.

Being rubber, membrane roofs are black unless otherwise coated. Coating a rubber membrane takes more than paint, and this coating can frequently add up to as much as 50 percent to the final cost of materials. The most common coating color is white. This coating will cost more in arid, sunny locations where it is more of a necessity to lower roof temperatures.

Generally, thicker membrane materials will cost more. However, the value of a thicker membrane is a point of contention, so thicker membranes may vary in how much more they cost depending on where they are acquired.

It will usually be more inexpensive to purchase a membrane on one's own through a hardware or roofing supply store than through a roofing contractor.


The most common rubber material for membrane roofing is EPDM. EPDM stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer. As a synthetic rubber, it is carefully engineered to have particular material properties. The most notable trait is its resistance to damage from sunlight. This is why membrane roofing can be functional in dry, sunny areas in addition to damp ones.

Unlike some forms of roofs, membrane roofing can be installed by a variety of methods. The most common materials used are simple fasteners like construction staples. Other options include adhesives and weighted ballasts. Because membrane roofing is designed for flat roofs, it is considerably easier to find a suitable material for affixing it.

In arid, dry areas, a white coating is highly recommended for membrane roofs. White coatings reflect far more sunlight than they absorb. This would cause too much glare on a pitched roof, but it is an ideal means of climate management on flat rooftops. This coating tends to cost more, but it is a functional necessity if a homeowner intends to keep their home cool in the summer.

Advantages of Membrane Roofing

Because membrane roofing is sold by the roll and can be installed by many different methods, it is relatively simple to install. This ease of installation will frequently mean low installation costs as compared to other roofing types. In many cases, it is possible for a homeowner to install it on their own without the help of a roofing contractor. Membrane roofing is very lightweight, especially with a thinner membrane, making it easy to move around and transport with minimal additional equipment.

While it can be a challenge to locate leaks in a membrane roof, it is very simple to repair leaks in membrane roofing, especially as compared to shingle roofing and other pitched roofing types. Membrane patches can simply be glued over the location of the leak, effectively sealing it. In emergency situations, the same kind of materials that are used to repair a tire can be used to patch a leak on a temporary basis.

Membrane roofing is very durable for the kinds of weather it is designed to protect against. Rubber is essentially unaffected by rainfall and will never warp as a result of changing weather. The kinds of temperature differences that would cause damage to a membrane roof simply don't happen in a brief enough span of time for this to be a concern. While intended primarily for wet climates, EPDM is uniquely designed to withstand intense sunlight, making it fine for most locations, especially if sunlight-reflecting coatings are applied to it. Additionally, membrane roofing is very resistant to scuffing and tearing.

The cost of membrane roofing will vary most greatly in damp areas where it is more plentiful. This means that low prices can be found with relative ease if one is willing to call around to get multiple local quotes. Costs can be further reduced if one has the expertise of a roofing professional behind them to assist with selecting an ideal membrane thickness.

Disadvantages of Membrane Roofing

While membrane roofs are very sturdy and resistant to weather, tearing and scuffing, they are extremely vulnerable to punctures. It is possible for a membrane roof to be punctured by something as simple as a falling branch or a dropped tool. There is also a risk that rolls of membrane roofing will be punctured in transit, so it can be important to verify the materials before a homeowner purchases them.

Leaks can be difficult to locate on an uncoated membrane roof. Much like trying to locate a leak in a tire, the matte coloration can make the leak difficult to locate unless the membrane remains wet. While leaks are very easy to repair once found, identifying them to begin with can be a serious challenge for an inexperienced roofer.

Finally, the cost in dry climates can be a concern. While membrane roofing is uniquely specialized for flat rooftops, EPDM is black unless coated, meaning it will absorb a large amount of sunlight. This will greatly increase the temperature of the building it is installed on. Acquiring the appropriate sun-reflective white coating can add considerably to the cost of material purchase, and failing to do so will result in a dramatic decrease in climate control efficiency for the building with the attendant costs.

If a homeowner consults a professional roofing contractor, they stand the best chance of having a quality membrane roof installed for a reasonable price.

Last updated on Jul 1, 2014

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