Pros And Cons Of Built-Up Roofing For Large Commercial Buildings

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Pros And Cons Of Built-Up Roofing For Large Commercial Buildings

2 November 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles


Built-up roofing, also known as BUR, has remained a common commercial roofing type for decades. However, it you are considering having a new roof put on your existing building or trying to decide what type of roof to put on a new one, it's not wise to just settle on BUR because of its popularity. To help you make an informed decision, here's a look at what a BUR really is, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this type of roof.

What is a built-up roof?

BURs are comprised of layers of tar and gravel. When the initial roof is composed, an underlayment membrane, often made of fabric, is laid down on top of the building's top surface. Then, layers of gravel and tar are applied alternately. Sometimes, asphalt is used in place of these materials. This creates a waterproof and weatherproof shield. When the roof begins to get worn down, additional layers of tar and gravel can be applied to reinforce it.

What are the advantages of a BUR?

BURs are easy to repair and maintain. 

If a BUR starts to leak or become worn down, there is no need to tear off the existing roof and spend hours replacing it. Your contractor can simply apply a new layer on top of the existing layers, and your roof will be functional again. This also ensures less waste is created. You don't have to dispose of roofing materials or replace the underlying layers each time your roof needs work.

BURs have a long track record of success.

Some roofing options, like metal and spray foam, are rather new in terms of their use on commercial buildings. BUR, however, has been a staple for decades. Contractors are already familiar with common issues that can occur during application, and then know how to solve them. If you have an issue, such as leaking or premature deterioration, contractors who have experience with this type of roof will know just what to do because the industry has had time to experiment and hone its preferred techniques.

It's easy to find companies that apply BURs.

As this is a common type of commercial roofing, you're likely to find several companies in your area that offer it. This competition generally keeps prices down, and it allows you to choose a company that you feel will best meet your needs, rather than going with the only company in the area that offers a certain style of roof -- which you may be forced to do with a less popular style of roofing.

What are the disadvantages of a BUR?

The smell during application can be off-putting.

BUR roofing does consist of tar or asphalt, both of which are rather odorous when first applied. Of course, this is not an issue in many industries, but if your structure is a restaurant, food manufacturing plant, spa, or the like, you may worry about the smell offending your customers. This may force you to have to shut down business for a few days after the roof is applied and each time it is re-coated. If the idea of a tar smell in the air is off-putting, you may be better off with a different style of roof, such as metal or spray foam.

Installing the roof requires a lot of labor.

While the cost of materials is typically low, it does take a lot of time for a construction team to apply a BUR, and thus the final cost is likely to be comparable to that of other types of roofs. Also, applying a BUR roof takes longer than applying a different style of roof, since each layer has to set before another one can be applied. If you're in a hurry to have your construction project completed, a BUR may not be your best choice.

If you have the time to wait and don't mind a tar scent for a few days, then a BUR can be a low-maintenance, durable choice for your commercial roof. Talk to a roofing contractor in your area to learn more about this option.