Comparing Butyl Rubber and EPDM Pond or Lake Liners

Sep 20

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Friday, September 20, 2013  RssIcon

We are often asked about the difference between Butyl and EPDM rubber lake liners used for lining ponds, lakes, reservoirs, slurry lagoons or other structures used to contain water. Here is an explanation and a look at the features and benefits of both types of lake liners. 

The first thing is to dispel a common myth. Neither product contains any natural rubber (latex). The confusion arises from the fact that the word “rubber” has become mainly associated with natural rubber when it is actually just a reference to the elastic properties of the material.

Butyl rubber is a synthetic product which was first developed by Standard Oil (ExxonMobil) in the US in 1937, and was later used as a substitute when natural rubber supplies were cut off during the war.  The product is a co-polymer of isobutylene with isoprene. It is often referred to as Butyl Rubber IIR, standing for Isobutylene Isoprene Rubber.

Butyl rubber is waterproof and impermeable to gases; it is highly resistant to sunlight and ozone and has a working temperature range of -45°C to +130°C. Apart from its use in waterproofing and sealing systems for roofs, ponds, tanks, etc., Butyl rubber is also widely used in tyre inner tubes, chewing gum, cling film and as an additive for oil, diesel and petrol.

Butyl rubber became established over the years as the firm favourite for small and large pond construction in the UK and is often the recommended choice by installers - landscapers.

Ethylene propylene diene monomer, or EPDM, is also a synthetic rubber.  It was first manufactured in Europe in the 60s specifically for applications in the Middle East where its exceptional performance in low and high temperatures made it ideal for roofing and water collection applications. 

In spite of its performance, EPDM was initially slow to establish itself in the UK – but that is gradually changing. The truth is that EPDM is a remarkable product. It is not affected by UV light, extremes of temperature or length of service. It is highly resistant to compressive loads, to rodent attack and to movements in the substrate. And, as it does not contain any plastizers or additives that could be leached out in use, it will not shrink, lose weight or become brittle. Plus, it also means it is safe for wildlife and fish.

Whichever lining material you choose, it is important to select a well-known brand.  To convert Butyl and EPDM into lining materials, the basic elastomers are mixed with reinforcing carbon black, fillers, process chemicals, antioxidants and vulcanising agents to provide strength and flexibility. This is a complex industrial process, which will determine the quality of the finished product. Buying a known brand is the best way to ensure the success of your project. 

So, which should you use?  EPDM is slightly tougher and more flexible of the two, but you could choose either and get an excellent result.  Both will normally come with a lifetime guarantee for most applications.

If you want a simple answer, choose EPDM pond liners available in three different thicknesses for small to more demanding applications.  It is the more modern material, it looks virtually the same, it is slightly more flexible and so easier to install and, best of all, it is typically 30% cheaper than Butyl.


Russetts Developments Ltd fabricate Butyl and EPDM rubber liners to required dimensions. Contact Us to place an order or discuss a bespoke water storage project. 

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