A Comprehensive Guide to Installing Rubber Roofing While Avoiding Common Pitfalls

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By George Taylor

Updated: Jan 25, 2024

8 min read

Installing Rubber Roofing

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    When it comes to roofing solutions, rubber roofing has emerged as an increasingly popular choice among homeowners and commercial establishment owners alike. This is mainly due to its cost-effectiveness, durability, and ease of installation.

    Rubber roofing, or EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), has a life expectancy of up to 20 years or more if installed correctly, which means it's a long-term investment in safeguarding your structure. Whether you're considering a do-it-yourself installation or planning to hire a professional, knowing the process and the intricacies involved can significantly aid in ensuring a successful rubber roof installation.

    Importance of Proper Installation

    A successful rubber roof installation is pivotal for several reasons. Firstly, it's about safeguarding your investment. Improper installation could lead to water leakage, which in turn could cause severe damage to the structure of your home or building. Over time, water damage can escalate repair costs and decrease the property's value.

    Also, Read: What Is Rubber Roofing? The Complete Guide

    Enhanced Longevity and Performance

    Proper installation ensures that the rubber roofing will last for many years without requiring significant maintenance or repairs. Rubber roofs are known for their durability; however, their longevity is significantly influenced by the installation quality.

    A well-installed rubber roof can withstand harsh weather conditions, providing a robust protective layer against rain, snow, hail, and intense sunlight.


    Ensuring a correct installation process saves money in the long run. An improperly installed rubber roof might require frequent repairs or even a complete replacement much sooner than one that has been correctly installed.

    Additionally, rubber roofing is an energy-efficient choice as it reflects heat during summer and retains warmth during winter, thus reducing your heating and cooling costs.

    Aesthetic Appeal

    A well-installed rubber roof not only functions well but also enhances the aesthetic appeal of your structure. It offers a sleek appearance and can be customized to fit the unique architectural aspects of your building.

    Moreover, rubber roofing materials come in various colors and designs, which can be chosen to complement the existing aesthetic of your home or commercial building.

    Environmental Responsibility

    Rubber roofing materials are eco-friendly, as they are often made from recycled materials and can be recycled again at the end of their life span.

    By opting for rubber roofing and ensuring its proper installation, you are making a responsible choice towards reducing the environmental footprint of your home or commercial space.

    Pre-Installation Preparations

    Before embarking on the path of installing rubber roofing, the journey of a thousand miles begins with pre-installation preparations. It's the unsung hero of any successful rubber roof installation adventure.

    Gathering Necessary Tools and Materials

    Much like a knight collects his armory before a battle, collecting the necessary tools and materials is your first step. The list includes, but is not limited to, utility knives, roofing nails, hammer, a sturdy ladder, roofing adhesive, seam primer, and of course, your rubber roofing material, typically in the form of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer).

    Having a comprehensive list and all materials at hand will ensure that you are not scrambling at the last minute, making the process of installing rubber roofing as smooth as sailing through calm waters.

    Safety Precautions

    Installing rubber roofing is not a stroll in the park, and ignoring safety precautions could lead you into stormy weather. Ensure you use a stable ladder, wear protective gear like gloves and safety harnesses, and work with a buddy if possible.

    A safe environment is the cornerstone for the installation of rubber roofing on your abode, be it residential or commercial rubber roofing.

    Roof Inspection and Repairs

    Before you lay down the new rubber roofing, it's pivotal to inspect the existing roof deck thoroughly. Look out for any signs of damage, rot, or moisture. Any rotten or damaged areas should be repaired or replaced to ensure a solid foundation for your new rubber roofing.

    It's much like preparing a canvas for a masterpiece; the smoother and cleaner the canvas, the better the outcome.

    Weather Considerations

    The temperament of mother nature plays a crucial role in the success of your rubber roof installation. Ideal conditions would be a calm, sunny day with no forecast of rain. Wet or icy conditions could turn your roofing adventure into a slippery slope of hazards.

    Therefore, keeping an eye on the weather forecast is akin to having a good map before you set sail.

    Roof Deck Preparation

    The ship is almost ready to sail, but ensuring the deck is in shipshape is crucial before the rubber roofing material is rolled out. Preparing the roof deck is like preparing the soil before sowing the seeds. It's essential to clean the roof deck of any debris, old nails, or any other material that might be a hindrance in the smooth installation of the rubber roofing.

    The existing roof material may need to be removed, or in some cases, rubber roofing can be installed over the existing material. Ensure that the surface is level and free from any sharp objects. It's also advisable to apply a layer of insulation to create a flat and smooth surface.

    Lastly, sweep the deck clean, ensuring it's dry and smooth, ready to welcome the rubber roofing material like a blank canvas ready for a masterpiece. Now your stage is set, and you're ready for the show of installing rubber roofing, leading your home towards a sanctuary against the elements, crowned with a reliable, durable rubber roof.

    Choosing the Right Rubber Roofing Material

    Rubber Roofing Material

    Kickstarting your rubber roofing project begins with choosing the right material. The mainstay in rubber roofing is EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), valued for its durability, weather resistance, and long-term performance.

    Appropriate Types, Thickness, and Color

    • Types: Besides EPDM, TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) are other single-ply roofing options, each with unique advantages; EPDM for durability, TPO for energy efficiency, and PVC for strength.
    • Thickness: Rubber roofing materials vary in thickness from 45 to 60 mils. A thicker 60-mil EPDM rubber roof offers better durability and weather resistance. Your climate and project demands will guide your thickness choice.
    • Color: Common colors are black and white. Black absorbs heat, suitable for colder climates, while white reflects sunlight, ideal for warmer areas to reduce energy costs.

    List of Necessary Tools and Materials

    The process of how to install rubber roofing begins with gathering all the necessary tools and materials for the job. Here's a comprehensive list to guide you through:

    • Rubber Roofing Membrane: Get enough EPDM or chosen material for your project.
    • Adhesive: A special adhesive is necessary to bond the membrane to the substrate, ensuring the roofing material manufacturer recommends it.
    • Seam Primer and Seam Tape: Vital for sealing seams between rubber roofing sheets for a waterproof barrier.
    • Roller: Helps ensure the material lies flat and is well-bonded to the substrate.
    • Roofing Scissors or Roofing Knife: Useful for cutting and trimming the material to fit your roof.
    • Cleaning Materials: Have roofing membrane cleaners ready to prep the roof surface before installation.

    Step-by-Step Guide

    Installing rubber roofing, also known as EPDM roofing, can be undertaken by an adept DIY enthusiast or a professional roofer due to its durability, affordability, and simple installation process. Here's a condensed guide on how to install rubber roofing:

    Preliminary Preparations:

    • Roof Assessment: Check the roof's condition to ensure the decking is sound, repairing any damage found.
    • Material Purchase: Obtain necessary materials like rubber roofing rolls, adhesives, and other accessories.
    • Surface Preparation: Ensure the roof is clean, dry, and free of debris or sharp objects.

    Rubber Roof Installation Procedure:

    • Alignment: Position the rubber material on the roof, trimming the excess with a roofing knife.
    • Adhesive Application: Apply adhesive to both the roof and rubber material following the manufacturer's guidelines.
    • Securing: Once tacky, press the rubber material firmly onto the roof.
    • Seaming: For multiple sheets, overlap by 3 inches, apply seam primer, then seam tape to create a waterproof seal.
    • Edge Trimming and Finishing: Trim edges and install drip edge trim for water runoff.
    • Inspection: Ensure correct installation with no bubbles or loose edges.


    Minimal maintenance ensures the longevity and performance of rubber roofing.

    • Regular Inspection: Check bi-annually and post-severe weather for damage or loose seams.
    • Cleaning: Keep the roof clean from debris using simple sweeping.
    • Seam and Flashing Checks: Ensure seams and flashings remain intact, repairing any issues found.
    • Minor Repairs: An EPDM patch and seam primer can fix small punctures or tears.
    • Professional Assessment: For major issues, contact a professional roofer.
    • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Use gentle cleaning agents to avoid damage.
    • Trim Overhanging Branches: Prevent damage and debris accumulation by trimming any overhanging branches.

    Common Installation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

    Rubber Roofing Installation Mistakes

    Installing rubber roofing is gaining traction among homeowners due to its known durability and easy maintenance. While the idea of “How To Install Rubber Roofing” may seem straightforward, there are common mistakes made during the installation process that can affect the lifespan and effectiveness of your rubber roof. Let's dive into some of these mistakes and learn how to steer clear of them.

    Incorrect Installation of Adhesives

    One of the fundamental steps in a rubber roof installation is applying adhesive correctly. Some homeowners often apply too much or too little adhesive, which either leads to bubbling or inadequate bonding to the substrate. To avoid this:

    • Ensure you follow the manufacturer's guidelines on adhesive application.
    • Spread the adhesive evenly using a roller to avoid any bubbles or wrinkles.
    • Allow the adhesive to become tacky before placing the rubber membrane onto the adhesive.

    Not Preparing the Roof Surface Adequately

    An unclean or uneven roof surface can lead to improper adhesion and subsequent leaks. Before you begin the installation:

    • Clear the roof surface of any debris, dust, or old roofing materials.
    • If necessary, use a roofing primer to create a suitable surface for the adhesive.
    • Make sure the surface is completely dry to ensure optimal adhesion.

    Neglecting to Check Weather Conditions

    Rubber roof installation requires dry weather conditions for optimal adhesion and curing. Installing during rainy, snowy, or overly humid conditions can lead to installation failure.

    • Check the weather forecast to pick a dry day for installation.
    • If unexpected rain occurs, cover the roof with a waterproof tarpaulin and wait for dry conditions to resume the installation.

    Overlooking Seam Treatment

    Seams are the most vulnerable areas of a rubber roof and need proper treatment to prevent leaks.

    • Use a quality seam primer and seam tape to bond the seams securely.
    • Ensure seams are rolled properly to create a smooth, watertight bond.

    Not Allowing for Expansion and Contraction

    Rubber roofing materials will expand and contract with temperature changes. Neglecting to allow for this movement can result in tearing and leaks.

    • Install your rubber roofing with some ease; avoid stretching it too tightly.
    • Ensure the adhesive is fully cured before exposing the roof to extreme temperature changes.

    Skipping the Manufacturer's Instructions

    Every rubber roofing material might have different installation instructions depending on the manufacturer. Skipping or overlooking these instructions can lead to improper installation.

    • Thoroughly read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for your chosen material.
    • Consider consulting with a professional rubber roof contractor, especially if it's your first time working with rubber roofing.


    The increasing popularity of rubber roofing among residential and commercial property owners is a testament to its numerous benefits, including longevity, energy efficiency, and low maintenance. However, to reap these benefits, correct installation is key.

    By avoiding the common installation mistakes listed above, you are well on your way to ensuring that your rubber roof will serve you effectively for many years to come. Whether you're embarking on a DIY rubber roof project or hiring a professional, a sound understanding of what to avoid can significantly contribute to the success of your rubber roofing installation endeavor.


    Do You Need Underlayment for EPDM Roofing?

    Yes, underlayment is important for EPDM roofing as it provides added protection against harsh weather and ensures a smoother installation of the EPDM membrane.

    Can I Install a Rubber Roof Myself?

    Yes, with a good understanding of roofing systems and comfort working at heights, you can install a rubber roof. However, hiring a professional is advised for larger projects or inexperienced ones.

    Does Rubber Roofing Have to Be Glued Down?

    An adhesive is required to securely bond the rubber membrane to the roofing substrate, ensuring a watertight seal.

    Is It Hard to Install a Rubber Roof?

    The difficulty varies with experience and roof complexity. While straightforward for professionals, it can be challenging for novices despite being doable with proper preparation and tools.

    What Do You Use to Glue Down Rubber Roofing?

    A special adhesive designed for rubber roofing is used. It’s vital to use the correct adhesive as specified by the manufacturer for a successful installation.

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