What Is Built-up Roofing

When it comes to roofing solutions for commercial and industrial structures, one name that frequently emerges is Built-Up Roofing. With its solid reputation for durability and longevity, what is Built-Up Roofing, and why is it such a popular choice among property owners

In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of this well-established roofing system, exploring its various components, advantages, cost considerations, and addressing common misconceptions. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of why Built-Up Roofing remains a reliable option for those seeking strong and dependable roofing solutions.

What Is Built-up Roofing

Built-up roofing (BUR) is a roofing system comprising multiple layers of bitumen, commonly asphalt or coal tar, alternating with reinforcing fabrics like fiberglass or felt. This layering creates a strong, waterproof membrane that provides excellent weather protection. BUR roofs are highly regarded for their durability and fire resistance, often chosen for commercial and industrial buildings. 

Although BUR installation can be labor-intensive, it yields long-lasting results with low maintenance requirements, making it a practical choice for structures requiring reliable and cost-effective roofing solutions.

Components of Built-up Roofing

Built-up roofing is a time-tested method consisting of key components that ensure durability and functionality. Let’s explore these essential elements and how they come together to create a strong roofing system.

  • Base Layer: The base layer, often composed of roofing felt or fiberglass mat, plays a pivotal role in a Built-Up Roofing system. It functions as the structural foundation for the roof, delivering essential strength and stability to support the upper layers.
  • Bitumen: Bitumen, a viscous and dark substance, serves as the central element of Built-Up Roofing. It is applied in multiple layers and serves as a highly effective waterproofing agent. Bitumen can be applied either hot, using methods like torching or mopping, or cold, using adhesives, depending on the specific roofing project’s requirements.
  • Surfacing: A top layer of aggregate, such as gravel, asphalt, or mineral granules, is applied to shield the bitumen and enhance waterproofing capabilities. This surfacing layer also provides protection against UV rays, contributing to the roof’s longevity, and aids in making the roofing system fire-resistant.

Advantages of Built-Up Roofing

Built-up roofing (BUR) systems offer a winning combination of durability, waterproofing, fire resistance, UV protection, and low maintenance. Discover how these qualities make BUR an exceptional roofing solution.

  1. Durability: BUR systems are renowned for their remarkable durability. When properly installed and maintained, they can endure for 20 to 30 years or even longer. This longevity is a result of the strong materials and construction methods employed in BUR systems, making them a cost-effective pick for building owners seeking a lasting roofing solution.
  1. Waterproofing: One of the primary strengths of BUR lies in its exceptional waterproofing capabilities. The multiple layers of bitumen, applied meticulously during installation, create a watertight barrier that is highly resistant to leaks. This reliable waterproofing ensures that BUR systems provide long-term protection against water intrusion, a critical factor for the structural integrity of any building.
  1. Fire Resistance: BUR systems are inherently fire-resistant, making them an ideal choice for structures where fire safety is a top priority. The combination of multiple bitumen layers and the use of gravel surfacing helps enhance their resistance to flames, meeting the stringent fire safety standards set by the National Fire Protection Association. This inherent fire resistance can provide peace of mind for building owners and occupants.
  1. UV Protection: The surfacing materials applied to BUR systems serve a dual purpose. In addition to their waterproofing role, they also offer effective protection against damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. This UV shielding not only extends the lifespan of the roof but also helps maintain its aesthetic appeal over the years.
  1. Low Maintenance: BUR systems are known for their low maintenance requirements, which can translate into significant cost savings over time. While periodic inspections and minor repairs may be necessary, these systems generally demand minimal upkeep. This makes BUR an attractive option for building owners seeking a roofing solution that is both durable and budget-friendly.
Cost Considerations for Built-Up Roofing

Built-Up Roofing offers durability but comes with specific cost considerations. From initial installation and ongoing maintenance to potential energy efficiency investments, understanding the financial aspects is crucial. Here’s a breakdown of BUR cost factors.

  1. Installation Costs: BUR installation can be labor-intensive, often resulting in higher initial costs compared to some alternative roofing systems. The cost involved in hiring skilled labor and the time-intensive nature of the installation process can impact your upfront expenses significantly. On average, BUR installation costs can span from $3 to $7 per square foot, contingent on various factors such as location and project complexity.
  1. Maintenance Expenses: Although BUR requires minimal maintenance, overlooking it can lead to more substantial repair costs down the road. Routine inspections and maintenance, while not particularly expensive, are essential to prevent larger, costlier issues from arising. Regular maintenance costs typically average around $0.15 to $0.30 per square foot annually.
  1. Energy Efficiency Investment: BUR systems may not offer the same energy efficiency as modern roofing options. The initial cost may involve investing in additional insulation or reflective materials to enhance energy efficiency, potentially affecting long-term heating and cooling expenses. On average, additional energy-efficient enhancements may contribute a supplementary $1 to $2 per square foot to the installation costs.
  1. Repair Costs: While BUR is durable, if it does develop leaks or damage, repair costs may be involved. These costs can vary depending on the magnitude of the damage and the need for professional repairs, making it essential to address issues promptly to minimize expenses. Repair costs can average between $5 to $10 per square foot, depending on the gravity of the damage.
  1. Life Cycle Costs: Evaluating the overall life cycle costs of a BUR system is crucial. While the initial installation cost may be higher, the system’s durability and longevity can result in lower costs over its lifespan, including reduced replacement or re-roofing expenses. The average life cycle cost for a BUR system, factoring in maintenance and occasional repairs, ranges from $10 to $15 per square foot over 20 to 30 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is BUR suitable for residential homes?

BUR is more commonly utilized in commercial and industrial settings due to its remarkable durability and fire resistance. While it can be employed for residential homes, homeowners often prefer other roofing options that are not only cost-effective but also offer enhanced aesthetics, which may better complement residential designs.

  • Can BUR be repaired if it develops leaks?

Yes, BUR can be repaired if it develops leaks. The repair process typically involves locating the source of the leak and then patching it with additional layers of bitumen and surfacing material. This repair method is effective and can extend the lifespan of the BUR system.

  • How does BUR compare to single-ply roofing systems?

BUR and single-ply roofing systems each have their advantages and considerations. BUR is known for its durability and resistance to fire, making it suitable for specific applications. Single-ply membranes, on the other hand, are lightweight and offer different energy efficiency options. The choice between them depends on factors like budget, climate, and building requirements.

Debunking Common Myths
  • Myth: BUR is outdated and no longer used.

Debunked: This is false. BUR is still widely used in commercial and industrial settings due to its remarkable durability and exceptional fire resistance. Its enduring popularity in these sectors speaks to its enduring value as a roofing solution.

  • Myth: BUR is prone to leaks.

Debunked: Properly installed and maintained BUR systems are highly resistant to leaks. The perception of leaks often arises from instances of poor installation or neglecting maintenance. When BUR roofing is professionally installed and routinely inspected, it can provide excellent leak protection, contributing to its long-lasting performance.

  • Myth: BUR is environmentally unfriendly.

Debunked: This myth doesn’t hold up when considering modern BUR options. Today, BUR systems can incorporate environmentally friendly materials and meet sustainability standards. Additionally, their durability and longer lifespan can reduce the need for frequent replacements, making them a potentially eco-conscious choice.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know what is built-up roofing, it’s evident that this roofing system offers a strong combination of durability, waterproofing, and fire resistance, making it a reliable choice for commercial and industrial buildings. Despite initial installation costs, its long-term benefits, minimal maintenance requirements, and environmental considerations make this roofing a dependable and cost-effective roofing solution for those seeking resilient and enduring protection for their structures.

At Strong Roofing, we offer exceptional roofing services tailored to your needs. Whether it’s built-up roofing or other roofing solutions, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for top-notch roofing expertise and assistance.