Built Up Roof Basics

A wide range of options are available when it comes to roofing your property, but if you have a flat roof, or one with a shallow slope, a built up roof might be just the thing you need.

What is a Built Up Roof?

Take a look at any flat-roofed building. You’re looking at a built-up roof!  They’re also known as “tar and gravel” roofs, or sometimes a “developed roof.”  They’re composed of layers of tar and topped with either gravel or asphalt roofing tiles. In recent years, newer roofs have a layer of insulation as well. You’ll notice a preponderance of flat roofs in Egyptian, Persian, and Arabian architecture, as well as on many commercial buildings.

Installing a Built Up Roof

That doesn’t seem so tricky, does it? Honestly, it’s not. Installing a built up roof is hot, sweaty, and smelly work though. Before you jump on the do-it-yourself bandwagon, remember that you’ll have to haul pounds upon pounds of hot asphalt, hot tar, and gravel up to the roof. Doesn’t sound as easy as it did a few minutes ago, does it? Not only will you have to haul all that stuff up there, but it needs to stay hot, needs to be done in the sun (roofing crews get rained out all the time), and you’re going to need some specialized tools to boot. Once you get all that up to the roof, there’s still all the work to be done! A built up roof is one project that is best left to the pros.

Energy Savings

While built up roofing installations have been the go-to for most commercial buildings for more than 100 years, there have been advances that can increase the energy savings significantly.  These roofs typically lay flat and are made of dark, heat-absorbing products. You can only imagine what that can mean in the summer. That’s one hot surface, and the heat moves down into your building. The air conditioning costs alone are frightening. Until recently, there’s very little that contractors could do to combat this. Their only options were to use a lighter colored gravel or asphalt tile as a surface product, which doesn’t do a lot. Thankfully, there’s a host of things you can do to turn your roof into a “cool roof.”

Cool Roofs

Ever wanted a rooftop patio, covered in greenery, possibly with a vegetable garden in the corner? Built up roofs are perfect for that, and the patio acts as an energy saver! There are three categories of cool roofs — green, inherently cool, or cool coated. Green roofs, also known as living roofs, are partially or entirely covered in vegetation. The plants sit over a waterproof membrane and a drainage layer. Green roofs can be quite a labor-intensive project. Make sure that’s what you truly want, and you’re prepared to do the maintenance before you sign on.

Inherently cool roofs use light colored materials that deflect 80% or more of the sun’s rays, significantly reducing the heat the building will absorb.  Cool coated roofs turn a regular roof into a reflective one by applying specially designed Energy Star rated white coatings (white paint won’t be enough) on the surface. There is a myriad of reflective roof products available in the US, and all the ratings can are on the Cool Roof Rating Council (http://coolroofs.org/index.php/index.html) website.

Essential Maintenance

The gravel on the surface of built up roofs protects the under layers from the weather. They prevent your roof from cracking or blistering. Those cracks can eventually let water in, creating leaks. The number one reason these roofs fail is ignorance about the maintenance they require or sheer lack of maintaining them. Leaks tend to go unnoticed on these roofs for long periods of time. The water penetrates and soaks into the structure below, leading to mold and rot. The mold can potentially lead to severe health problems within your home or business that are hard to detect. This damage can also cause the structure to weaken and eventually collapse over time. Undetected leaks can require extensive repairs, so save yourself some money and make sure you do your maintenance!

Finding a Built Up Roof Contractor

Before you go full steam ahead on your next built up roof, it’s important to learn all you can about your options. Talk with your neighbors and find out who did their roofing, or take a drive around your neighborhood and look for signs. The name you hear repeatedly is a pretty good bet for your next contractor. Go over all your options with your chosen contractor and get to know all the ins-and-outs of the solution you’ve chosen. Once you’re comfortable with your contractor, it’s time to get that new roof on, or get your current one repaired! Be prepared for a few days of hammering and banging. It’ll all be worth it when you can enjoy your new roof.

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