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All About Plastic Roof Panels

Last modified: 2023-01-31 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

While traditional roof coatings are still highly sought after, it's important to recognize some of the newer materials hitting the market. These latest options, which feature new technologies, are worth considering, and amongst them are plastic roofing panels. 

Plastic Roof Panels

Source: Unsplash

Corrugated roofing panels, though they are a relatively new product, are particularly easy to shape and adapt to all needs, and allow for a wide range of alternatives. This material is generally made of PVC or polyvinyl chloride. It's composed of two raw materials: 57% sea salt and 43% oil. It can either be rigid or flexible, transparent or opaque, colourless or tinted, all according to your needs.

Possibilities and Advantages Galore

PVC, which is used as a roofing material, can imitate traditional cedar shingles, clay tiles, or slate. It can replace these materials and create a rather surprising result. The range of colours and finishes is extensive: opaque white, opaline, crystal, maroon, etc.

Additionally, corrugated PVC panels have similar roofing properties to those of traditional materials. However, they have certain advantages, such as being lightweight, having easy installation properties, and being fairly simple to cut/trim. Lastly, they benefit from superior waterproofing. If properly installed, plastic panels offer excellent resistance to weather and impacts.

Types of Polycarbonate Sheeting

Typically, there are 2 types of polycarbonates used for plastic roofing:

  • Alveolar polycarbonate is mainly used for pergolas or verandas, because of its transparent nature, which allows sunlight to filter through. It can also have an opaque appearance to provide shade. Note that the more cells per m², the more the sheet is resistant.
  • Corrugated polycarbonate roofing is made for steel panels or sandwich panels. However less aesthetically pleasing, it's particularly resistant and is guaranteed for 10 years.

What Is PVC Roofing Used For?

Source: Unsplash

Plastic roofing is made of plastic sheet panels with UV-resistant treatment. So, if it isn't opaque, PVC roofing panels allow sunlight to seep through and can be used for sunrooms, verandas, and pergolas.

But… PVC can also be used for:

  • New or existing houses;
  • Buildings;
  • Shelters or outbuildings;
  • Public, industrial, or commercial buildings.

Phrased simply, there are many ways to use and customize plastic roofing. It also has a plethora of advantages, such as its durability.

Material Durability

Plastic roofing is made from reinforced plastic. As a result, it's a high-insulating and recyclable material. However, it's not yet clear how durable it actually is. After all, it's a relatively new product and there isn't yet much data available regarding its lifespan. Nonetheless, we estimate its minimum life span at 25 years.

Benefits of a Plastic Roofing Panel

As mentioned, the benefits of this corrugated roofing plastic are extensive:

  • Waterproof and insulating;
  • Low-maintenance;
  • Easy to cut/trim and install;
  • Lightweight;
  • Resistant to impacts, fires, UV rays, and rust.

Indeed, on top of their high-performance insulation, corrugated acrylic panels are also very easy to maintain. They don’t require any particular cleaning products, as is the case with wood shingles and tiles.

However, plastic roofing panels are far simpler to install. They’re easy to cut and don’t require panels to overlap/interlock. Plastic roofing is extremely light, rot- and rust-proof, and UV ray resistant. Lastly, this material withstands impacts and isn't affected by rain or hail. Note that the price of this siding is also particularly appealing. In fact, PVC's one of the most affordable materials on the market.

Product Maintenance

Corrugated plastic roofing doesn’t require any particular maintenance. Simply check the plastic panels on occasion to prevent leaks or water infiltration. 

You can use a soft, lint-free microfibre rag to wipe your roof clean. You can also use a polycarbonate cleaner, but avoid using mineral turpentine, solvents, benzene, or acetone. Likewise, don't use a pressure washer, as it may damage the corrugated PVC panels.

Installing Plastic Roofing Panels

Polycarbonate sheets are light, hence easy to handle, but also easy to cut or perforate. Panels measuring approximately 0.50 m² make installation even easier. They're usually fitted at an incline of at least 10 cm per metre. It's important to position the plastic sheets with the protective film facing upwards, as this is the side that is most resistant to UV rays.

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Step-by-Step Plastic Roofing Panel Installation

Steps to installing plastic roofing:

  • Prepare your tools: saw, drill, polycarbonate profiles, moisture-resistant adhesive tape, etc.
  • Ensure that the panels are sealed with anti-condensation adhesive tape in the lower part and waterproof adhesive tape in the upper section.
  • Next, secure the panels with mounting profiles made for this purpose. To do so, you’ll need to drill holes along the profiles, in a row and 40 cm apart. 
  • Before installation, cut the panels as required. Allow for about 6 mm of clearance per metre along the top and bottom of the panels; bear in mind that the plastic expands with heat.
  • It is recommended that you paint your beams (purlins) white or cover them with aluminum to help prevent heat build-up. 
  • Once the panels are assembled, simply secure them to the beams and side profiles, which are fitted to the outer connecting profiles.
  • Finally, apply a silicone seal to the upper edges.

Hire a Professional

Even though installing this type of roofing is relatively easy, it still requires a bit of know-how. Therefore, it’s best to hire a professional to carry out the work, should you deem your skills sub-par. 

Ill-fitted roofing can lead to numerous weatherproofing issues and cause severe damage along the way. The best course of action is to call in a professional roofer to ensure everything is regulated and done properly. 

Besides, note that depending on the type of PVC panel used, installation varies:

  • Corrugated PVC panels are fitted with screws;
  • Tile-like PVC panels are installed on composite wood panels covered with a waterproofing membrane according to ASTM D1970 standards.

Plastic Roofing Price Chart

The price of plastic roofing panels varies depending on the thickness, style, and quality of the product. However, PVC panels can range from $7 to $12/sq ft. If it's a relatively affordable installation, such as for a garden shed, you may want to consider DIY-ing it. That'll save you labour costs. 

Conclusion

Plastic roofing panels are particularly convenient and cost-effective. They're lightweight and inexpensive, and offer a wide range of possibilities and advantages. It can be an interesting alternative, whether it’s for your home, veranda, pergola, garden shed, garage or greenhouse, especially if you can DIY the installation. You can also use these plastic panels in certain areas of your roof solely to create skylights. 

Last but not least, PVC is an excellent alternative for new homes, as well as for renovation projects. However, when it comes to large-scale projects, it's best to call in a professional.

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