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Built-Up Roofing 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Installation

TL;DR: Built-up roofing (BUR) systems, with over a century of proven reliability, are a durable choice for commercial and industrial buildings with flat or low-sloped roofs. These systems, consisting of multiple layers of bitumen and reinforcing felt, offer excellent protection against the elements and can last up to 40 years. Professional installation and regular maintenance are crucial for optimal performance and longevity. Despite being cost-effective and durable, BUR systems are heavier and may emit toxic fumes during installation. Partnering with experienced roofing professionals ensures successful installation and long-term satisfaction. Contact us today to explore how BUR systems can enhance your project.


Built-up roofing (BUR) systems are a staple in sheltering commercial and industrial buildings, especially those featuring flat or low-sloping roofs. With a proven track record of over 100 years in the U.S., these roofing systems offer unparalleled durability and protection. Their design incorporates multiple ply sheets and asphalt layers, providing redundancy and excellent defense against the elements. 


This article will guide you through the essentials of built-up roofing systems. You’ll learn more about the installation process involving skilled workers and get maintenance advice that ensures customer satisfaction. Whether you’re curious about roof design, roof flashing, or the long-term advantages and considerations of built-up roofs, you’ll find comprehensive insights here. 

Understanding Built-Up Roofing

Built-up roofing systems, a basis in the roofing industry, especially for flat or low-sloped roofs, have evolved to meet the diverse needs of modern buildings. At their core, BUR systems are composed of multiple layers that work in unison to offer unmatched protection.

Core Components

The system starts with a base layer, often over insulation or a cover board, followed by multiple layers of bitumen (asphalt or tar) and reinforcing felt. This robust combination is then topped with a cap sheet or a flood coat of asphalt and granules, providing a seamless, waterproof barrier.

Variability and Adaptability 

The versatility of BUR systems is evident in their construction, which can vary in the number of layers and materials used, affecting performance and longevity. Typically, these systems include three to four layers but can be adjusted based on specific building needs and climate conditions.

Protection and Performance 

Beyond waterproofing, BUR systems offer significant advantages, including ultraviolet (UV) protection, fire resistance, and energy efficiency. Their durability is notable, with some systems lasting up to 40 years. However, they carry challenges, such as their weight and potential vulnerability to moisture if not properly installed.

Understanding these fundamental aspects of built-up roofing systems before installation ensures you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions for your roofing project, prioritizing durability, efficiency, and protection.

Materials Used in Built-Up Roofing Systems

Key materials make BUR systems robust and reliable. These materials work harmoniously to provide a durable, waterproof barrier that protects buildings from weather conditions.

  • Bitumen: Acts as the primary waterproofing component. It’s available as asphalt (a petroleum product), coal tar, or cold-applied adhesives.
  • Ply Sheets: Reinforcing layers that provide structure and strength. These can be made of fabric or fiberglass, saturated in asphalt, or cold-applied adhesive.
  • Insulation: Typically polyisocyanurate insulation or cover board, it provides thermal insulation and energy efficiency.
  • Flashing: Strips of metal or other materials used to seal the edges and seams of the roof.
  • Surfacing: A top layer that may include gravel, mineral cap sheets, or alternative coatings like aluminum and elastomeric coatings for added protection and aesthetics.
  • Substrate or Decking: The base layer over which the BUR system is installed.
  • Venting Base Sheet: Ensures proper ventilation.
  • Top Layer: A cap sheet or flood coat of asphalt and granules, or slag/gravel in asphalt for durability.

High-performance ply sheets and reflective surfacing options enhance the BUR system’s performance, offering better durability and energy efficiency. When layered correctly by skilled workers, these materials create a Built-Up Roofing System that ensures long-lasting protection and customer satisfaction.

Installation Process of Built-Up Roofing

The installation of the BUR system is complex and requires skilled workers. Here’s a breakdown of the main steps involved.

Preparation and Base Sheet Attachment

The process often begins with removing old roofing material, although BUR can sometimes be applied directly over it, reducing costs. The first layer, or base sheet, is then attached to the roof deck, providing a foundation for subsequent layers.

Application of Felt and Bitumen

Multiple layers of roofing felt are laid down, each interwoven with bitumen. This bitumen is heated and melted, a step that requires precision and safety precautions due to the high temperatures involved. The layers are meticulously applied to ensure a waterproof barrier, highlighting the necessity of experienced roofing contractors.

Installation of Gravel or Cap Sheets and Final Asphalt Layer

Depending on the chosen finish, gravel or cap sheets are installed as the top layer for extra protection and durability. A final asphalt layer is applied, sealing the roofing system and ensuring its integrity against the elements.

Given the technical nature and the heavy materials involved, BUR installation is not recommended for DIY enthusiasts. Planning the installation during a cool, dry season can provide a more comfortable environment for the roofing crew, emphasizing the importance of timing in these projects. 

Always entrust this task to a professional roofing company experienced in built-up roofing systems to ensure quality and customer satisfaction.

Maintenance and Repairs

Maintaining your BUR system ensures its longevity and performance. While BUR is recognized for its durability, regular maintenance, and timely repairs are essential. Conduct inspections annually to catch any issues early. Recoat every 10-15 years to maintain waterproofing and UV protection.

Check for and clear any blockages regularly. You should also try monitoring for point loading and secure condensation pipes to avoid leaks. 

If necessary, repair with patches or consider replacement for severe cases. These often indicate water damage and immediate repair is necessary to prevent further issues. Invest your time into cleaning accumulated dirt and debris to avoid moisture buildup.

Reapply the ultraviolet protection layer every five years, sealing any leaks or cracks beforehand. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Built-Up Roofing

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of BUR systems is essential before making a decision. 


BUR is two to three times less expensive than asphalt shingles, ranking it the most budget-friendly option for flat roofs. With a typical 20-year warranty and some systems lasting up to 40 years, BUR offers a durable solution resistant to wind (at least 110 mph) and fire.

It offers excellent waterproofing, UV protection, and wind and temperature variations resistance. It’s known to require minimal upkeep, thanks to its robust water resistance and efficient use of space.


BUR systems are heavier than other options, potentially posing issues for buildings with weight restrictions. Hot asphalt can release toxic fumes, raising environmental and health concerns during installation.

Despite its durability, BUR can be prone to water damage, especially in areas with freeze-thaw cycles or high rainfall, which can lead to leaks or blisters in the top layer.

Wrapping Up 

It’s clear that several key factors, including materials, installation processes, and maintenance, must be considered in the selection and implementation of built-up roofing systems. 

Now that you know everything you need to know before installation, it becomes evident that professional consultation and expertise are needed to navigate the complexities of installation and maintenance. 

For those contemplating the adoption of a BUR system, partnering with an experienced roofing company can significantly improve the outcome. 

To explore how Built-Up Roofing can enhance your project and seek expert advice, consider reaching out to Elite Roofing and Construction. We are a fully certified company with more than 15 years of experience. Contact us today and improve your home!

Solve Your Commercial Roof Issues With Tailored Solutions in Tucson

TL;DR: In Tucson’s harsh climate, commercial roofing faces challenges from extreme heat and monsoon rains. Tailored solutions like heat-resistant and waterproof materials are essential for durability. Regular maintenance and knowing when to repair or replace help prolong roof life. Elite Roofing offers customized solutions to address local weather challenges and ensure long-lasting protection for commercial properties. Contact Elite Roofing for a free estimate.


In Tucson, your commercial roofing must be built to last, as the area has scorching temperatures most of the year, but when the monsoon season hits, it brings high winds and heavy rain. These conditions can wreak havoc on your roofing materials, leading to faster degradation, leaks, and the need for frequent repairs.

That’s why opting for tailored solutions that address these specific challenges ensures the longevity and durability of your roof. You want your investment to last, protecting your property and everything inside it against the harsh Tucson climate.

This article will provide tailored solutions for commercial roofing challenges in Tucson. You’ll find insights and advice about what works best in our local environment. Whether you’re dealing with the aftermath of a monsoon or planning to protect your roof against the summer heat, you’ll find actionable strategies to keep your commercial roof in prime condition, year after year.

Tucson’s Roofing Challenges

Tucson’s roofing challenges are unique and demanding due to its climate. The intense sun and high temperatures can start to degrade the roofing materials. Your commercial roof can go through temperature changes throughout the day and night. It also has to withstand large amounts of water during some periods of the year. 

The most difficult challenges for Tucson roofs are:

Extreme Temperatures

This city experiences extreme temperatures, with summer days often soaring above 100°F. The intense heat and UV rays can cause asphalt shingles and other materials to crack, curl, or even fade in color, compromising the roof’s integrity and aesthetic appeal.

You can protect your roof by choosing materials known for their UV resistance and reflective properties, such as metal roofing or tiles with a reflective coating. Regular maintenance checks are your best defense against extreme heat and constant sun exposure.

Monsoon Season and Moisture Management

During monsoon season, Tucson faces heavy rainfall, and up to 20% of all buildings are at risk of potential flooding. The roof must handle sudden downpours efficiently, directing water away from the building to prevent leaks, water damage, and structural issues. Without proper maintenance, water can accumulate and cause leaks, mold growth, and structural damage.

The gutters and downspouts must be clear of debris, and you can install additional waterproofing barriers to ensure your roof is up to the task. For those in particularly flood-prone areas, professional roofers can advise on specific solutions, like improved flashing and sealing techniques, to better protect any property.

Selecting the Right Materials for Tucson’s Climate

Selecting the right materials for your roof in Tucson’s climate isn’t just about finding something that looks good. It’s about choosing materials that can withstand extreme temperatures, resist water damage, and save money on energy bills and repairs.

Heat-Resistant Roofing Options

If your biggest concern is protecting your commercial property from the heat, you have several roofing options:

  • Tile Roofing. Tiles naturally provide excellent insulation and reflect heat away from the building. Their shape allows air circulation underneath, further enhancing their cooling effect. They’re also incredibly durable, often lasting for decades with proper maintenance.
  • Metal Roofing. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this is another good choice for heat resistance. Metal roofs reflect the sun’s rays and heat, which can lead to significant savings on cooling. Plus, they’re tough. They can handle Tucson’s extreme heat and are also surprisingly lightweight, meaning less stress on the building’s structure over time.
  • Reflective Coatings. A popular choice to add to roofs because they can significantly reduce cooling costs. These coatings are applied over your existing roof, reflecting the sun’s rays away from the building rather than absorbing them.

Waterproof Options

Tucson might be hot, but when it rains, it pours. In addition to heat resistance, you also need waterproof materials. Some solid options for water resistance include:

  • Modified Bitumen Roofing. This material is reinforced asphalt, which is flexible and waterproof. It’s a top pick for flat or low-slope roofs, common in many Tucson buildings. Modified bitumen stands up well to the scorching sun and heavy rains, making it a dual threat in your fight against the elements.
  • Built-up Roofing (BUR). This roofing option is made from bitumen layered with reinforcing fabrics to create a protective membrane. BUR is known for its longevity and is particularly effective in protecting against leaks, making it an excellent choice for buildings in areas prone to sudden downpours.
  • Shingle Roofing. Modern shingle materials can resist water penetration and withstand high winds. You can choose from many colors and styles, allowing you to customize the roof’s appearance without sacrificing functionality. When properly installed and ventilated, shingle roofs offer protection against the elements.

Maintenance Strategies for a Longer Commercial Roof Life

If you want your commercial roof to withstand the test of time, you must take the time to do regular inspections and proactive maintenance. 

Ignoring this aspect could lead to severe problems, including leaks, structural damage, and the need for repairs or a total roof replacement. So, what should you focus on?

  • Check for signs of damage, such as cracks, blisters, or gaps in the roofing material.
  • Look for water damage or leaks, especially after heavy rain.
  • Ensure all drainage systems are clear and functioning to prevent standing water.
  • Inspect the roof surface for any debris or vegetation that needs removal.
  • Schedule professional inspections at least twice annually, ideally in spring and fall, to catch and address any issues early.

Immediate Repair vs. Replacement

It can be tricky to decide whether it’s time for a replacement or whether the roof just needs a repair. Here’s simple advice: repairs are often enough in case the damage is minor, and your roof is somewhat new. However, if you find yourself constantly fixing different parts of the roof or it’s nearing the end of its life expectancy, it might be less expensive to opt for a replacement.

Working With a Professional for Tailored Roofing Solutions

You want a roofing contractor with a wealth of experience and the necessary construction licenses. They must also have an in-depth understanding of local building codes and weather challenges. A knowledgeable roofer will work closely with you to understand your building’s needs, budget constraints, and aesthetic preferences. This partnership ensures that your roofing solution is effective and customized to your situation. 

The right contractor will consider factors like:

  • Insulation needs
  • Potential for solar panel installation
  • The best materials for durability against local weather conditions

They’ll outline a clear plan, including a detailed quote, timeline, and explanation of the work to be done. This approach keeps you informed and provides a level of customization that generic solutions can’t match.

Find Customized Roofing Solutions In Tucson, Arizona

Installing commercial roofing in Tucson demands a customized approach. The weather conditions and the specific needs of your building call for the right materials and roofing treatments. Whether it’s the intense sun or the unexpected storms, it all factors into finding the best solution for your roof.

If you want to repair or replace your roofing, Elite Roofing offers the best-tailored solutions for commercial roofing challenges in Tucson. We have been building and maintaining Arizona roofs since 2000 and always strive to give our clients the best possible results. 

Our company is certified and insured, and our roofing experts can identify and fix any issue with your commercial roof. If you want your business to stand proud among the Tucson landscape, get in touch today and get a free estimate!



How often should commercial roofs in Tucson be inspected?

It’s recommended to have your commercial roof inspected at least twice annually, preferably in the spring and fall. This ensures any potential issues are caught early and addressed promptly, prolonging the roof’s lifespan and preventing costly damage.

What are the best roofing materials for Tucson’s climate?

For Tucson’s hot and rainy climate, heat-resistant and waterproof materials are ideal. Options like tile roofing, metal roofing, modified bitumen, and built-up roofing (BUR) are popular choices due to their ability to withstand extreme temperatures and heavy rainfall.

What maintenance tasks should be performed on commercial roofs in Tucson?

Regular maintenance tasks include checking for signs of damage such as cracks or leaks, ensuring drainage systems are clear and functioning properly, removing debris or vegetation from the roof surface, and scheduling professional inspections to catch and address any issues early.

How do I know if my commercial roof needs repair or replacement?

Minor damages and relatively new roofs often only require repairs. However, if you find yourself frequently repairing different parts of the roof or if the roof is nearing the end of its expected lifespan, it may be more cost-effective to opt for a replacement. Consulting with a professional roofing contractor can help determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

Flat Roof Fundamentals: Benefits, Challenges, and Maintenance Tips

Flat roofs are a popular roofing option for many commercial and residential properties, especially in Arizona, due to their space-saving design, ease of construction, and relatively low cost. However, there are both benefits and challenges associated with flat roofs. It is essential to maintain a flat roof properly in order to reap the full benefits and to avoid the potential problems associated with them; some common maintenance tips include regularly checking for leaks or ponding water, and inspecting the roof surface and flashings.

Understanding the intricacies of flat roof maintenance is crucial for longevity and performance. Whether you’re contemplating the installation of a flat roof, looking to enhance your existing one, or simply curious about this roofing style, continue on reading to learn more!

Benefits of Flat Roofs

Flat roofs provide numerous benefits, from convenience and affordability to energy savings. They are the most common type of roof found in residential and commercial construction. Furthermore, due to their design, installation and maintenance are relatively easy.

Firstly, one of the most beneficial features of flat roofs is the lower cost of installation. These roofs require fewer materials than pitched roofs, making them a more affordable option for homeowners and business owners alike. Additionally, installation typically takes less time, which also helps to reduce overhead costs.

In contrast to pitched or slanted roofs, flat roofs provide fewer chances for rainwater to collect and pool. This characteristic, accompanied with improved drainage systems, can help reduce the chances of excessive water damage or flooding. While flat roofs typically require more frequent maintenance to ensure proper operation, this cost is usually outweighed by the cost of damage associated with other types of roofs.

Additionally, flat roofs are generally able to better absorb and reflect light, allowing the building to better balance its indoor temperatures. This can help reduce energy costs by reducing the need for air conditioning and other cooling devices. Having more reflective materials also helps reduce the heat-island effect in urban areas, cutting emissions and air pollution levels.

Therefore, flat roofs can be a great option for many buildings. Not only does it provide a lower installation cost, it also increases usable space and decrease energy costs. The fewer chances for water pooling can also help reduce the risk of water damage and flooding. Ultimately, flat roofs offer a sophisticated, sturdy, durable and affordable option with numerous benefits.

Challenges Associated with Flat Roofs

Flat roofs are an increasingly popular trend in commercial and residential buildings – offering unique advantages due to their large surface area. However, flat roofs come with some potential challenges that must be taken into account. One of the biggest challenges of owning a flat roof is the limited space; flat roofs are unable to accommodate storage spaces or annexes, resulting in a need to compromise when it comes to the design of compatible structures.

On the other hand, flat roofs have their own unique drainage system that is often more efficient and cost-effective than sloped roofs. The lack of an inclined plane allows for shallow pools of water to be formed, which tend to disperse more quickly than the rainwater collected upon sloped roofs. In addition, flat roofs require the additional protection of a waterproofing membrane to provide adequate insulation and protection against water and other weather conditions. The membrane material can be purchased from a range of suppliers and installed by a professional contractor with experience with flat roofs.

Similarly, flat roofs are far easier to access and maintain than their sloped counterparts. This allows for simpler repairs and easy access to the roof system for annual maintenance inspections. Flat roofs are typically much less expensive to construct than sloped roofs, making them a favorable choice for urban areas where space is limited. As a result, flat roofs are a safe, cost-effective, and practical solution for many urban dwellings.

Consequently, with thoughtful planning, diligent maintenance, and robust waterproofing membrane, flat roofs can provide a safe and secure solution for many buildings. Understanding the various challenges associated with flat roofs is integral to ensuring a safe and secure environment for any building.

Maintenance Tips for Flat Roofs

Flat roofs provide an overall lower cost, but require a greater level of maintenance to ensure their optimal lifespan. However, having a deeper understanding of the main steps of maintaining a flat roof can help to significantly reduce the overall cost of ownership. Firstly, a flat roof should be inspected on a regular basis in order to spot any slight movement of the foundation, tears, punctures, gaps, and other damages. Moreover, it is important to clear off any leaves, dirt, and debris from the roof as plants can cause organic matter to build-up and damage the roof’s surface over time. Additionally, flat roofs are known for accumulating water so, for this reason, additional drainage capabilities should be installed to enhance the longevity of any flat roof.

In addition, having proper insulation systems in place is paramount to maintain the integrity of a flat roof over a longer period of time. Moreover, depending on the specific environment and climate, a flat roof should be regularly painted and maintained. Similarly, any minor repairs should be immediately attended to as these can easily become a major issue if left unchecked. Furthermore, it is essential to check for any possible slime or algae formation, as these can be extremely damaging to the roof’s integrity if left for a long period. Therefore, it is recommended to clean the roofing system on a regular basis to avoid such issues. As a result, it is clear that providing the necessary maintenance for a flat roof is a major determinant to ensure the optimal performance of the roof. Consequently, hiring a professional contractor to regularly inspect and maintain the roof is highly recommended.

Professional Roofing Services Near You

In conclusion, flat roofs offer many benefits such as saving on construction costs, easy access for maintenance purposes, and increasing usable interior space. However, they can potentially carry more risks due to their shallow slope and vulnerability to extreme weather conditions.

To ensure a flat roof has a long lifespan, there are certain maintenance tips that should be followed, such as regularly examining and cleaning the gutters, assessing the sealant, and clearing the roof of debris. When regularly maintained, a flat roof can be an excellent roofing system that offers many benefits.

For all of your roofing needs in Southern Arizona, Elite Roofing and Construction is your trusted partner! Whether you need a new installation, a thorough repair, or regular maintenance, we’ve got you covered with state-of-the-art materials and cutting-edge techniques. At Elite Roofing and Construction, we understand the unique challenges that the Arizona climate presents, and we’re equipped to provide solutions that are both durable and aesthetically pleasing. Trust us to protect your home or business with a roof that stands the test of time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Roof Repair

How can I effectively manage water drainage on my flat roof?

Effective water drainage can be achieved through regular maintenance to keep drains clear, installing proper drainage systems that prevent water pooling, and using waterproofing techniques.

What materials are best suited for flat roofing, and how do I choose?

Popular materials for flat roofing include PVC, TPO, EPDM, and modified bitumen. The choice depends on factors like climate, building structure, budget, and personal preferences. For instance, PVC and TPO are durable and offer good reflectivity, while EPDM is more budget-friendly and easy to install. Your professional roofing company can help you pick the best option for your property.

Are flat roofs more prone to leaks and damage than sloped roofs?

Flat roofs can be more prone to leaks if not properly maintained, mainly due to water pooling. However, with regular maintenance, the use of quality materials, and proper installation, flat roofs can be just as durable and leak-resistant as sloped roofs.