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How Long Does a Built-Up Roof Last? A Detailed Guide

Posted on June 2, 2023

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How Long Does a Built-Up Roof Last? A Detailed Guide

A well-installed built-up roofing (BUR) system can last up to 30 years. However, the actual lifespan depends on the quality of installation and the number of layers (or plies) the roof has. Each layer can add approximately five years of life to the roof, but no system will have less than three layers.

To calculate the lifespan of your built-up roof, you need to consider a few crucial factors and decide whether this roofing system suits your needs. As a commercial roofing specialist at North Star Roofing, I’m here to guide our readers and customers in choosing the right type of roof. In this blog post, I’ll explain the factors that affect a built-up roof’s life expectancy and give some tips that will help keep your roof in good shape for decades.

Built-Up Roof Life Expectancy: What Factors Affect It

The number and type of layers, installation quality, and other factors affect the longevity of this roofing systme. Let’s go over these factors in detail so you can make informed decisions when installing a built-up roof.

#1 BUR Layers

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A built-up roof generally has three to five layers. The base sheet is the bottom-most layer of the roof and serves as the foundation. It is usually made of insulation materials, such as rigid boards or fiberglass, which provide thermal resistance and structural support.

  • The asphalt layer is one of the critical components of a built-up roof. It is applied over the base layer and acts as a waterproofing and adhesive agent. The quality and thickness of the asphalt layer can significantly impact the roof’s durability.
  • The reinforcing layer consists of a mat or fabric membrane, such as fiberglass or organic felt, embedded in the asphalt layer. This layer adds strength and stability to the roof, enhancing its resistance to tearing and punctures.
  • The topmost layer of a built-up roof is called a cap sheet. It provides protection against UV rays, weathering, and physical damage. Common surfacing options include tar and gravel, mineral granules, and a reflective coating. The choice of cap sheet material depends on factors like climate, aesthetic preferences, and desired energy efficiency.

Keep in mind that more layers do not necessarily guarantee a longer lifespan if the installation and materials used are not of good quality.

#2 Weather Conditions and Roof Maintenance

There are plenty of benefits of a built-up roof, including waterproofing and resistance to hail, fire, and chemicals. But extreme weather events like blizzards, heat waves, and storms have a significant impact on the lifespan of most roofs, including a BUR. Not taking preventive measures and delaying repairs can accelerate the aging process of an otherwise sturdy and durable roof.

#3 Quality of Materials

The quality of materials used in the construction of a roof significantly impacts its longevity. Higher quality materials are generally more durable, resistant to weathering, and provide better protection against storms, snow, UV rays and heat. There are several reputable manufacturers known for producing high-quality BUR materials. Here are the top two options from the industry’s leading brands:

#4 Quality of Installation

Proper installation is crucial for the longevity of a built-up roof. Improper installation techniques or shortcuts can result in various issues that compromise the roof’s performance. Factors related to the quality of installation include:

  • Following the manufacturer’s installation guidelines correctly. 
  • Air pockets or imperfections in the layers can weaken the roof’s integrity and lead to premature failure.
  • Effective sealing around roof penetrations, such as vents, chimneys, or HVAC units, is vital to prevent water intrusion.

To ensure the longevity and performance of a BUR, proper care, and maintenance are essential. Let’s understand the ways you can extend the life of your BUR.

Maximizing How Long Your Built-Up Roof Lasts

By implementing proactive measures and adhering to best practices, you can significantly extend your built-up roof’s life expectancy. Here are some key strategies and considerations for prolonging the lifespan of your roof.

Choosing a Roof Maintenance Plan

Implementing a comprehensive roof maintenance plan is essential for maximizing the longevity of your BUR. A structured maintenance plan ensures that roof inspections, cleaning, and repairs are performed promptly, reducing the risk of major issues and ensuring it will last for decades to come.

How often your roof is inspected depends on factors such as roof age, climate conditions, and previous maintenance history. On average, most flat roofs need to be inspected every six months and after a severe weather event.

Maintaining a Suitable Drainage System

An efficient roof drainage system should be sloped property for water drainage and should be equipped with a snow-melting system to avoid leaks and water damage. The use of proper scuppers, gutter guards, and other mechanisms will help prevent roof leaks, mold and algae growth, and pest infestation.

Roof Coating

Applying a suitable roof coating can provide an additional layer of protection and extend the longevity of your built-up roof. Consider using reflective coatings specifically designed for BUR. These coatings can disperse a significant amount of sunlight, reducing the roof’s exposure to harmful UV radiation and minimizing heat damage, such as cracks and blisters on the top layer. Reflective coatings can also enhance energy efficiency by reducing heat transfer into the building, therefore lowering cooling costs and improving comfort levels.

Prompt Repairs

Timely repairs are vital for maintaining the integrity and longevity of your built-up roof. Do not delay addressing any identified issues, such as leaks, cracks, or damaged surfacing materials. Prompt repairs help prevent further damage and deterioration, minimizing the risk of costly repairs or premature roof replacement.

Finally, it’s important to hire a reputable and experienced built-up roofing contractor in your area. Focus on long-term benefits instead of choosing the lowest-charging contractor, which can lead to improper installation and early roof replacement.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your BUR lasts for decades without frequent or major repairs. If you’re looking for a reliable flat roof replacement service in Pennsylvania, contact us for a free consultation and estimate.

Discuss Built Up Roof Life Expectancy and Other Flat Roofing Needs With Our Experts

At North Star Roofing, you can rely on our experienced and friendly team to install built-up roofs in Lansdale or the surrounding areas. We’ve been helping property owners in Pennsylvania for years, and are proud to have gained the trust of hundreds of our customers. Whether you need a new built-up roof or maintenance services for your existing roof, call us at (484)-302-7663. We’ll be happy help.

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