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Built Up

By Dan Calabrese

ou know what it’s like when you’re going away for awhile and then coming durability lies in the fact that all plies of
old and reliable. People are always back. People who believe in it strongly – the roof are fused together into a single,
trying to find something better, school systems, municipalities – believe monolithic barrier that applies to the
even while they take you for granted and in hot, rubberized asphalt.” entire surface.
keep coming back to you when they need BUR dates back to the 1840s, when That eliminates numerous problems
something they can count on. it was known as composition roofing. inherent to other systems, including:
Built-Up Roofing (BUR) systems are The concept was so basic and viable that
used to it. People have been doing it to it rose to capture more than 90 percent of • No need for fasteners, which create
them for more than 160 years. the flat-roofing market by the 1960s. But additional risk of leakage.
For a flat roof that achieves the emergence of other systems, along • No need for ballast, which is often
waterproofing and drainage laid loose in the form of stones and
excellence, it’s hard to beat a The key to long-lasting can be blown off by heavy winds.
multilayered system whose • Less movement in the form of
cornerstones are among the most water-resistance is to install expansion and contraction, which
water-resistant combinations known leads to buckling, ridges and splits.
to man – asphalt and coal tar.
a roof that limits movement
So why does it get such fleeting and maintains its elasticity. Roofing elongation does not
respect? create an alarming risk of leakage so
“We’re seeing built-up go to sleep with a decline in workmanship among long as the roof maintains its elasticity.
for a little bit, waiting for the next big BUR practitioners, saw the method’s The problem arises, however, as roofs
failure,” said Mike Brigham, founder of market share decline in the 1970s to as age and become more likely to pull away
Mount Ranier, Maryland-based Built- low as 40 percent. from themselves during expansion.
Up Roofing Systems. “It has a history of The key to BUR’s strength and The key to long-lasting water-

resistance is to install a roof that limits For emulsion surfacing, use about Check with manufacturers first.
movement and maintains its elasticity. three gallons per square and apply an • The BUR system is often mopped
The idea of a BUR system is to attack aluminum reflective coating after the directly to structural concrete roof
the problem on both ends. First, BUR emulsion cures to reflect UV rays. decks – after the deck is cleaned –
systems are designed to limit movement You can install a BUR on just about although you can use mechanically
with high tensile strength well beyond any type of roof deck, but you don’t always attached thermal insulation as a
recommended industry standards of do it the same way. You need to know substrate. But with lightweight
200 pounds per square inch. Second, the some basic differences for application insulating concrete, as well as
blending of all materials in a monolithic with different types of decks, including: pre-cast gypsum panels or poured
compound preserves elasticity far longer gypsum, you’ll need to attach
than single-ply roofs. At the same • You can’t mop a BUR system to a venting base sheets with fasteners,
time, single-ply membranes essentially wood roof deck without putting after which you might install
offer just one shot to stop a leak. If the down a rosin sheet and base sheet. insulation in between the base
membrane is compromised, water will • Steel roof decks need a thickness sheet and the roof membrane.
get through. of 22-gauge, minimum, along with • Cement fiber roof decks will
When roofing contractors install some approved insulation, which definitely need a base sheet or
a BUR system, they fuse the multiple should be mechanically attached to insulation mechanically attached.
plies together with hot-mopped asphalt, the deck to provide a substrate.
resulting in a compound that self-adheres • Before you mop felts directly to As a general rule of thumb, a BUR
completely to the roof at all points. polyisocyanurate insulation, be roof lasts longer if it has more plies –
The natural water-resistance of sure the manufacturer will still although that is obviously impacted
asphalt only adds to the BUR’s system warranty the roof. You might need by outside factors such as climate, foot
effectiveness as a waterproofing strategy a coverboard, such as wood fiber traffic, materials used, workmanship and
– estimated at five times the water- or perlite, in order to preserve the roof slope.
resistance of a typical single-ply system. warranty. The same goes for the use Efficient drainage is crucial to the
Basic installation of a BUR system of adhesives to attach insulation. overall effectiveness of your BUR system.
involves the following steps:

• Base sheets are mechanically

fastened, generally nailed, to the
deck or substrate.
• Felts are installed with either hot
asphalt or coal tar. You can also
use a cold-applied liquid adhesive,
LCR - Liquid Concrete Repair
sometimes known as solvent-based Fix Cracks in Poured Concrete the Easy Way
asphalt or cutback asphalt.
• Application of hot asphalt runs at
20 to 25 pounds of coal tar per 100
square feet between each ply, or
three-to-five gallons of cold-applied
adhesive per square.
• For the surfacing, install a cap sheet STEP 1 STEP 2 STEP 3 STEP 4
with the same amount of bitumen Clean Crack Apply Epoxy Paste Mix LCR Epoxy Inject LCR Epoxy

or lap cement as is used to install Do-It-Yourself individuals and Professionals alike can benefit from the various products
Polygem has to offer to repair concrete and accomplish other waterproofing projects.
the plies. Then apply a flood coat
of roughly 60 pounds per square
of asphalt or 70 pounds per square P.O. Box 609
of coal tar. Then embed 400-to-500 West Chicago, IL 60186
pounds per square of gravel, or 300 Ph: (888) 446-3987
Fx: (630) 231-5604
to 400 pounds per square of slag.

Spring 2008 23
The design of the deck and roof substrate partly because of improved materials, materials – not only fiberglass felt but a
must drain to enough outlets – situated particularly fiberglass felt. variety of hybrids and other new options.
in the right spots – to remove water such “The biggest improvement of late He worries, however, that they are not
that it can never pond longer than 24 has been the fiberglass felt as opposed always doing so for the right reasons.
hours. “A r c h i t e c t s ,
Many roofing
systems are
The proven nature of BUR systems, it seems, over
the years have
designed with combined with the constant quest for lost sight of what
integral drainage they’re really
channels, but new concepts, is creating new market buying,” Brigham
contact between said. “Now some of
the membrane
opportunities for those ready to seize them. them are buying a
and the insulation warranty instead of
can impede water flow. Installers should to rag felt,” James said. “This goes back a roofing system.”
take care to ensure that the finished a few years, but combined with proper The proven nature of BUR systems,
roof membrane has sufficient slope to practice and old-school workmanship, combined with the constant quest for
minimize the amount of water retained you get what you get with a built-up roof new concepts, is creating new market
after rain. – a good many years of service with a opportunities for those ready to seize
Steve James of St. Petersburg- reasonable price tag.” them.
based Florida Southern Roofing said Brigham says roofers are taking Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based Carlisle
this old system is regaining momentum a heightened interest in new roofing SynTec offers a variation on the BUR that

Reflective Roof Coating


Ply Sheet

Cover Board


Rigid Roof Insulation

Deck Surface

WR Meadows Mel-Drain Ad

Part of
the Complete

Designed for use as part of a complete

waterproofing system from W. R. MEADOWS,
MEL-DRAIN is the ideal choice for enhanced
it calls FleeceBACK. The product was systems in the south most likely include
waterproofing and positive drainage protection.
introduced 13 years ago. a white-reflective roof – which fends off
Used as part of a worry-free, single-source
It features multiple membranes UV rays and reduces air conditioning waterproofing solution, MEL-DRAIN incorporates
and is promoted as having outstanding usage in the building. BUR systems in a high compressive strength core combined
UV- and ozone-weathering ability, as the northern U.S., by contrast, are more with a varied selection of geotextile facings
well as an ability to last 50 years without likely to be dark colored so as to help to suit specific project needs. Its high flow
dropping below 200% elongation. retain heat. capacity prevents clogging and relieves
“Built-up roofing has been around a The currently heightened interest hydrostatic pressure buildup. Use MEL-DRAIN
long time, and you have building owners in energy-efficiency is helping to drive as part of your next waterproofing system.
out there who may have had a satisfactory this trend, particularly builders’ interest
experience with them, so they’re in seeing their buildings certified under
interested in going back to that multi- the U.S. Green Building Council’s
layer approach,” said Ron Goodman, Leadership in Energy and Environmental
FleeceBACK product manager for Design (LEED) Program.
Carlisle SynTec. On the surface, you might say,
“That would be one market driver. BUR systems seem relatively foolproof,
Another one we run into is compatibility which is probably why the concept has
with existing asphalt roofs. Building remained in use for the better part of two
owners are looking to conserve costs centuries.
and extend the life of the existing But the success of any particular
roof. Either they have an existing installation always depends on the right
smooth built-up roof, where we can go materials, the best workmanship and a
300 Industrial Drive
in and put on an EPM or TPO cap sheet sound design. As more roofers master P.O. Box 338
that’s hot-mopped to the smooth built- these techniques, BUR systems improve Hampshire, IL 60140-0338
up roof.” their chances of being around a century Phone: (847) 214-2100
One variable among BUR systems from now. (800) 342-5976
usually depends on geography. BUR

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