What is a Built-Up Roof and Why Is it Recommended? | Big Easy Roofer
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What is a Built-Up Roof and Why Is it Recommended?

As building owners look for durable and cost-effective solutions for their flat roofs, built-up roofing has emerged as a popular choice. We’ll discuss the reasons behind its recommendation by industry professionals, including durability, longevity, cost efficiency, and versatility.

What is a Built-Up Roof?

built-up roof (BUR) is a type of flat or low-slope roofing system that consists of multiple layers of waterproofing materials bonded together with hot asphalt or coal tar pitch. These layers typically include alternating sheets of reinforcing fabric such as fiberglass or polyester mats called “plies” along with bitumen – either asphalt or coal tar pitch – which acts as an adhesive between plies.

Components of a Built-Up Roof

  • Ply Sheets: Also known as felts or membranes, these are made from organic fibers like jute and cotton rag fiber mixed with glass fibers for added strength. They serve as reinforcement in the BUR system.
  • Bitumen: This waterproofing material can be either asphalt-based (more common) or coal-tar-pitch-based depending on regional preferences. It serves both as an adhesive between ply sheets and provides water resistance when applied over them.
  • Surfacing Materials: The top layer protects against UV radiation damage while also providing additional weatherproofing benefits; typical surfacing options include mineral granules embedded in flood coat (a thick layer of hot-applied bitumen), smooth surfaced coatings like aluminum paint reflecting sunlight away from the surface reducing heat gain during summer months (Energy Efficient Home Design), or even a layer of gravel to provide additional protection and aesthetics.
  • Insulation: Although not always part of the BUR system, insulation can be installed beneath the roofing layers to improve energy efficiency and reduce heat transfer through the roof assembly. Polyisocyanurate (ISO) boards, expanded polystyrene (EPS), or extruded polystyrene (XPS) are frequently utilized as insulation for a built-up roof.

Advantages of a Built-Up Roof

Bur roofs, a long-proven solution to roofing needs, have been used for more than a century. Here are some key advantages that make built-up roofs popular among property owners:

  • Durability: The multiple layers in BUR systems create redundancy which helps protect against leaks while also providing excellent resistance to wind uplift, punctures from foot traffic during maintenance activities on rooftop equipment (National Roofing Contractors Association – Protection From Wind Damage) , and other potential sources of damage like hailstones.
  • Cost Efficiency: While initial installation costs may be higher compared to single-ply membrane systems like TPO or EPDM due to the labor-intensive application process involving hot-applied bitumen; long-term savings can be realized through lower maintenance costs and longer service life expectancy ranging between 15-30 years depending on quality materials used along with proper installation techniques by experienced professionals such as Big Easy Roofers.
  • Versatility: Built-up roofs can accommodate various types of surfacing options allowing customization based on aesthetic preferences or specific performance requirements like increased reflectivity for improved energy efficiency.

A built-up roof is an economical and versatile option for many commercial and residential properties. Its components, durability, longevity, and cost efficiency make it a recommended choice for property owners looking to invest in a long-term solution. Moving on from this discussion of what makes up a built-up roof, let’s explore why these roofs are so highly recommended.

Why is a Built-Up Roof Recommended?

roof and blue sky

A built-up roof offers numerous advantages, so let’s take a closer look at its benefits. From durability to cost efficiency and versatility, this roofing system offers numerous advantages that make it an excellent choice for both homeowners and commercial property owners.

Durability and Longevity

One of the main reasons why built-up roofs are so popular is their durability and longevity. These roofs are able to endure for long periods of time, with appropriate upkeep; some can last from 15-30 years or more. The multiple layers in a built-up roof create an incredibly strong barrier against water penetration, making them highly resistant to leaks. Furthermore, they can withstand harsh weather conditions such as heavy rain, snowfall, hailstorms, and high winds – you name it.

Cost Efficiency

Built-up roofs are not only durable but also cost-efficient. While the initial installation costs may be higher than other roofing systems like single-ply membranes or metal panels (due to the labor-intensive installation process), these expenses are offset by lower long-term maintenance costs. Additionally, because they have exceptional insulating properties thanks to their multiple layers and gravel surfacing material used on the top layer; this helps reduce energy consumption which translates into savings on heating & cooling bills over time.

The Versatility

Another advantage of built-up roofs is their versatility. They can be installed on various types of buildings, including flat or low-sloped structures, making them suitable for both residential and commercial properties. Moreover, they are compatible with different roofing materials like asphalt, coal tar pitch, or cold-applied adhesive; this allows property owners to choose the best option based on factors such as climate conditions & budget constraints.

In addition to material options, BUR systems also offer flexibility in terms of surfacing choices – from traditional gravel surfaces (for added durability) to reflective coatings that help reduce heat absorption by reflecting sunlight away from your building (aka cool roofs). The choice is yours.

A constructed roof is an advantageous pick for both commercial and residential properties, offering robustness, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility. With proper maintenance tips such as regular inspections, cleaning of components, and professional assistance when needed; you can ensure your built-up roof will provide years of protection against the elements.

Maintenance Tips for Your Built-Up Roof

Maintaining your built-up roof is essential to ensure its longevity and performance. Here are some useful tips that will help you keep your roof in top shape:

Regular Inspections and Cleaning of the Roof Surface and Components

Inspecting your built-up roof regularly can help identify potential issues before they become major problems. Look for indications of deterioration, such as splits or blisters, and any accumulation of dirt on the surface. It’s a good idea to schedule routine inspections, preferably twice a year – once in spring after the winter weather has passed, and again in fall before harsh conditions return.

  • Clean gutters: Ensure that gutters are free from leaves, twigs, or other debris that may cause waterlogging on the roof surface.
  • Check to flash: Examine metal flashings around vents, chimneys, or skylights for rust or damage.
  • Infrared inspection: Consider hiring professionals who use infrared technology to detect moisture trapped within the roofing system.


A built-up roof can be a great investment for both residential and commercial property owners, boasting long life expectancy, cost efficiency, and straightforward upkeep. With proper installation and regular maintenance checks, a built-up roof can last up to 30 years or more.

Investing in a high-quality built-up roof now will save you money in the long run while providing superior protection against weather elements such as wind, rain, snow, and sun damage. If you are looking for reliable performance at an affordable price point then look no further than a well-maintained Built-Up Roof.

Let Big Easy Roofers provide you with reliable and quality roofing services for all your repair, installation, and maintenance needs. Our experienced team of professionals will ensure that your built-up roof is the best solution to protect your home from the elements. Contact us for more information!

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