Skip to Content

Built Up Roofing: Pros & Cons

built up roofing pros and cons

Many owners are on the fence when it comes to whether or not they want built up roofing.

It is an expensive project, and can be difficult to maintain, but if you put in the time and effort it can last for decades.

There are some important factors that you should consider before deciding if this type of roof is right for you.

This article will go over the pros & cons of built up roofing so that you can make a more informed decision about what type of roof would work best for your needs!

What is Built Up Roofing?

Built up roofing, or BUR as it is often referred to by those in the industry, has been around as a form of roofing for as long as some if not all of us can remember.

In fact, some suggest that it’s been used since the time of the Egyptians.

While the exact origin of it is unknown, what is known is that the earliest instances of BUR are believed to have been used in ancient Mesopotamia.

  • BUR was developed as a roofing material because it was cheap and provided adequate shelter from the elements.
    • It’s simple design has stood the test of time- not much has changed since its inception really other than some modification and new ways to install it.
  • Built up roofing is basically a collection of asphalt layers which are combined with gravel, felt (paper), and possibly fiberglass matting.
    • Asphalt was the primary choice for the material used in BUR because it could withstand high temperatures that were common in many old buildings, especially warehouses or factories.
  • The gravel serves to provide the BUR with some additional protection while also serving as texture- it is typically applied in 1/4″ thickness while giving the BUR a rough feel.
    • The final component of a typical Built up roofing system is felt paper, which provides an additional layer of protection and separation between the asphalt and fiberglass matting.

There are two types of built up roofing that exists: hot-mopped and cold-applied.

Hot-mopped roofing is composed of three layers with the base sheet, the asphalt itself (which can be made from many different petroleum products), followed by a mineral surfaced cap sheet.

Cold applied built up roofs are only two layers, where the cap sheet is installed first, followed by asphalt.

Whether built up roofing is hot-mopped or cold applied, the process of installation is similar. The first course of asphalt is laid down onto a clean and smooth base sheet.

This layer can be rolled or floated to ensure that it becomes entirely fluid.

The second course, generally an oversize roll made out of mineral surfaced cap sheet, is then rolled over the first course.

The overlap of the second course must be continuous to ensure that there are no leaks.

Asphalt can also be poured out onto the sun baked mineral surfacing in order to cool it off before another layer is placed atop it.

The Pros of Built Up Roofing

There are many advantages to built-up roofing.

  • Built-up roofs are one of the most cost-effective roofing systems for both individuals and businesses.
    • Built-up roofs are among the least expensive to install in terms of material expenses.
    • This discount is immediately reflected in the price paid by the consumer, making them very popular among individuals, builders, and contractors.
  • It also provides excellent weather resistance that can last up to 50 years for individual owners and even longer in commercial applications.
    • For those that live in climates with extreme weather conditions throughout much of the year, built up roofs can be life savers.
    • Because they are composed of several layers, they do not tire under high volumes of snowfall or ice accumulation.
  • They also provide great protection against strong winds, which can wreak havoc on poorly installed roofs.
  • Built up roofs are also very durable if they are properly maintained.
  • If they begin to show signs of wear and tear, most owners can clean them themselves- with the necessary protective gear, of course- without the need for hiring a professional roofing company.

The Cons of Built Up Roofing

There are some cons to consider with built up roofs, however.

  • For instance, they are not the best choice for individual owners who wish to install solar panels on their roof because the mineral surface of built up roofs is too porous for them to function properly.
    • Furthermore, roof maintenance can be an especially daunting task for owners that do not have the necessary equipment to handle the job.
  • Built up roofing is also not the best choice in wind prone areas, because they require too much support.
    • Built-up roofs cannot be installed on structures that are set atop posts or pier foundations, for example; instead they must be installed with trusses and rafters.
  • Furthermore, in order to be properly waterproofed, built up roofs must be installed in accordance with local building codes.
gravel flat roof

How much does Built-Up Roofing Cost?

Built Up roofing is a relatively inexpensive option for commercial building owners, especially those looking to re-roof.

The cost of installation can be as low as $1 per Sq. Ft., whereas the average price per Sq. Ft. starts at around $2 or so and goes up from there depending on quality options.

Careful Comparison Shopping will help you to find the best Built-Up Roofing Rates in your area.

Is Built Up Roof Worth it or not?

This is one of the most common questions that are being asked by roofing contractors who are just starting in built up roof construction.

For years, this type of roof has been used on flat or low-slope roofs, but it doesn’t have a very positive reputation because people think that the material used for built up roofing is old and outdated.

However, this type of roofing is still in use because, in some cases, it offers a fast and efficient way to cover a low-slope roof with a layer of protection from the elements without decreasing the life expectancy of the structure underneath.

Although built up roofs have been around since ancient times when they were made of asphalt and organic materials, this type of roofing has been modernized to include synthetic rubber or thermoplastic membranes.

These days, built up roofs are commonly made from EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) which is a tough material made from oil and natural gas derivatives that can be “stretched” to meet the demands of the roof.

BUR Related Topics

What is Felt?

Felt is a membrane material made from recycled fibers and coated with asphalt, rubberized asphalt, or a blend of both.

Felt manufacturers produce a variety of different felts with a variety of coatings, which can be used for many different applications.

What is Fiberglass Matting?

Fiberglass matting is a material that has been used as part of roofing for quite some time now.

It serves as an additional layer of protection between the gravel and asphalt, preventing the substrates from mixing together and compromising the integrity of the roof itself.

This helps to ensure that water doesn’t permeate the roof and become a bigger issue later.

When should I call for help with my roof – is there anything that can be done before calling for professional assistance?

If you are in need of built up roofing then it would be best to hire a professional to do the work for you.

If this is not an option, however, there are some things that can be done before deciding on one type of roof or another!

You should check your gutters and make sure they are free from debris so that water can flow freely and your roof will not be damaged.

Asphalt shingles and metal roofs should always have gutters that are completely free from debris, but built up roofing is only effective if the gutter has a good amount of space for runoff to accumulate.

If you do not want to hire help with your project then it would be best to check your gutters and take care of any problems before investing in a new roof.

If you do not have gutter sills, or if they are very narrow, then it is possible that water will seep under the shingles instead of flowing off properly!

Why not just hire someone else to fix our leaky or damaged roofs instead of doing it ourselves or paying for expensive repairs from professionals?

It is usually a good idea to hire help from professionals if you have any issues with your roof.

It will not only save time and money, but it can also be very dangerous for those who are not experienced in dealing with roofs!

If you do decide to fix the problem yourself then make sure that you know what type of material needs to be used, and that you have the tools necessary to complete your project.

If you are not experienced with roofs then it would probably be best if you call for help from professionals!

They can handle any issues that arise in a safe manner, so that no one is ever put at risk of being injured or worse.

Potential benefits of using an experienced contractor over DIY methods when installing a new shingle or tile roof.

An experienced contractor knows how to properly install shingles or tiles, and can help you choose the best one for your needs.

They should also be able to provide an estimate on how much it will cost so that there are no surprises when they start work!

Contractors who do not have experience with roofs may damage them because of their inexperience.

This can lead to leaks and even more damage down the line, which will end up costing you more money than hiring someone with experience would have in the first place!

They may also be able to recommend a type of roofing material that is not only cheap but durable as well so that your new roof lasts for many years without needing to be repaired.

flat roof with gravel


Built Up roofing is an affordable option when compared to other commercial roofs like metal or clay tiles.

As with most things, however, there are tradeoffs involved with the cheaper price tag.

One of the biggest considerations is quality; Built-Up roofing materials aren’t as thick and strong as traditional roofing materials, which means that they’re more likely to wear out sooner.

They’re also not known for their aesthetic value; there’s a reason why Built-Up roofs are usually covered with some other kind of material!

This is often the case on industrial buildings such as those found in industrial parks, where the roof is usually obscured by some other material (like metal).

However, they’re fine for small commercial buildings. 

Built Up roofing is a great option for the commercial-building owner on a budget.