How Is Vinyl Used for Roofing?

Published: Oct. 26, 2018

How are Vinyl Roofing Shingles Made?

Vinyl roofing, also known as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) roofing, is a durable roofing product that can come in membrane sheets or shingles. While PVC shingles are used on sloped roofs, PVC membranes are used on flat roofs.

Some eco-friendly PVC roofing shingles are made of a mix of recycled materials, vinyl, and cellulose fiber, while other vinyl roofing shingles are made of natural limestone and resins. PVC shingles are installed much the same way as slate shingles or cedar shakes with galvanized roofing nails.

On the other hand, PVC roofing membranes are made of two layers of mixed vinyl resin, plasticizers, heat stabilizers, ultraviolet light inhibitors, biocides, and color pigments with a polyester reinforcement scrim sandwiched in between. The bottom layer of a PVC membrane is black and contains more plasticizers for added flexibility. Additional polyester or fiberglass is included in the membrane for tearing resistance. While PVC shingles are installed like standard shingles, PVC membranes are installed by hot-air welding the seams of the membranes.


In 1966, a German company by the name of Trocal developed the first PVC (vinyl) roofing membrane. Use of the material became widespread as it proved to be great protection against water leakage. Within a few years, millions of square feet of roofing was covered in PVC membrane, and it eventually became the most popular single-ply roofing material in Europe. Since then, PVC has remained a commonly used roofing material for flat roofs, and in recent years, vinyl shingles have been introduced. Both vinyl shingles and vinyl roofing membranes offer homeowners a durable, eco-friendly option.

Vinyl's Advantages

  • Durability: Vinyl is an incredibly durable material that can be used in siding, flooring or roofing products. Most vinyl roofing shingles and membranes can withstand heavy wind and hail and are fire resistant. Additionally, PVC membranes are seen as effective protection against water leakage because they’re heat sealed during installation. These hot-air welded seams make them impermeable to moisture.
  • Eco-friendly: Vinyl is a recyclable material, so both vinyl roofing shingles and vinyl membranes can be recycled at the end of their lifespan. Most PVC membranes are also solar-reflective and can reduce both cooling costs and the heat island effect in cities.
  • Lifespan: Most vinyl roofs have warranties for over 20 years because of their durability and long life expectancy.
  • Appearance: Vinyl roof shingles can be designed to resemble high-end slate shingles or cedar shakes. These types of shingles can improve your home’s curb appeal.


  • Higher initial cost: Although vinyl roofing shingles last much longer than asphalt roofing shingles, they cost much more. Additionally, a typical asphalt roof can cost between $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot, while a PVC roof membrane usually costs $6.00 to $9.50 per square foot. However, both vinyl shingles and vinyl roofing membranes typically have double the lifespan of asphalt shingles, so they can make up for the high upfront cost with less replacement and repair costs.


There are several alternatives to vinyl shingles and PVC membranes that either resemble vinyl shingles and PVC membranes or are installed in a similar way.

  • Slate Shingles: Slate shingles are made from natural stone that is quarried from the earth and developed into roofing shingles. They have a high-end, natural appearance that can improve your home’s curb appeal, however, they can be brittle if impacted by hail or stepped on by anyone working on the roof. Vinyl shingles are more durable than slate shingles, and they can also have a similar appearance.
  • Cedar Shakes: Much like vinyl shingles, cedar shakes can last up to 50 years. In fact, water doesn’t penetrate cedar shingles until after 15-20 years of use. Cedar shakes are wooden roofing pallets with a split in one or both sides of the shake. They offer a natural, 3-dimensional look because of their staggered placement. Like vinyl shingles, cedar shakes are often recyclable.
  • EPDM Rubber: EPDM membranes are another option for property owners who need flat roofing coverage. Similar to PVC membranes, EPDM membranes are great for preventing water leakage, however, they are installed like a giant sticker, so precise placement is needed to avoid air bubbles. Furthermore, EPDM membranes are a little cheaper per square foot than PVC membranes, but PVC membranes last longer.
  • Composite Polymer Shingles: Similar to vinyl shingles, composite polymer shingles are 100% recyclable and can be repurposed after their use. Additionally, they have a long lifespan and offer another option for homeowners looking to imitate the natural slate shingle or cedar shake appearance.

Ratings (wind, hail, fire resistance)

Depending on the type of product selected, vinyl roofing can have a UL 790 Class A fire rating or Class C. Additionally, most vinyl shingles and membranes can withstand winds up to 110 mph and are impact resistant with a Class 4 (UL 2218) hail rating.

Solar Reflectivity

Both vinyl roofing shingles and vinyl roofing membranes come in light reflective colors that can repel infrared radiation from the sun. This process prevents the roof from excessive heat absorption and can lower your monthly cooling bills during the summer.