Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Systems: Features and Benefits

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Introduction to Built-Up Roofing Systems

Built-Up Roofing

Built-Up Roofing (BUR) systems have been a staple in the roofing industry for over a century. These systems, known for their durability and resilience, are a popular choice for both commercial and residential buildings. BUR systems are constructed with multiple layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabrics, creating a finished membrane that offers exceptional protection against the elements. In this article, we will explore the features and benefits of Built-Up Roofing systems, providing a comprehensive guide for anyone considering this robust roofing option.

Components of Built-Up Roofing Systems


Built-Up Roofing

Bitumen is a crucial component of BUR systems, acting as the adhesive that binds the layers together. There are two primary types of bitumen used:

  • Asphalt: Commonly used due to its cost-effectiveness and availability. It provides excellent waterproofing properties.
  • Coal Tar Pitch: Known for its superior resistance to chemicals and water, making it ideal for specific industrial applications.

Reinforcing Fabrics

The reinforcing fabrics, also known as felts or ply sheets, add strength and durability to the BUR system. These fabrics can be made from:

  • Organic Materials: Such as cellulose or wood fibers.
  • Fiberglass: Providing higher strength and resistance to fire.
  • Polyester: Offering flexibility and durability.

Surfacing Materials

The final layer in a BUR system is the surfacing material, which protects the underlying layers from UV radiation and weathering. Common surfacing options include:

  • Gravel: Applied in a flood coat of bitumen, providing protection and weight.
  • Mineral Granules: Similar to those used in asphalt shingles, offering additional UV protection.
  • Reflective Coatings: Enhancing energy efficiency by reflecting sunlight.

Key Features of Built-Up Roofing Systems


BUR systems are renowned for their longevity and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. The multiple layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabrics create a robust barrier against water penetration, wind uplift, and physical damage.


The primary function of any roofing system is to keep water out, and BUR excels in this regard. The continuous layers of bitumen create a seamless, watertight seal that prevents leaks and water damage.

Fire Resistance

Fiberglass reinforcing fabrics and certain types of bitumen provide excellent fire resistance. This makes BUR systems a safe choice for buildings requiring enhanced fire protection.

UV Protection

Surfacing materials, such as gravel or reflective coatings, protect the underlying layers from UV radiation, extending the lifespan of the roof and reducing maintenance costs.

Thermal Performance

BUR systems can improve the thermal performance of a building. Reflective coatings reduce heat absorption, lowering cooling costs in the summer. Additionally, the insulating properties of the multiple layers help maintain indoor temperatures.

Benefits of Built-Up Roofing Systems

Long Lifespan

One of the most significant advantages of BUR systems is their longevity. When properly installed and maintained, a BUR roof can last between 20 to 30 years or more, providing excellent value for the investment.


While the initial installation cost of a BUR system can be higher than other roofing options, its durability and low maintenance requirements make it a cost-effective choice in the long run. The reduced need for repairs and replacements translates into significant savings over time.


BUR systems can be customized to suit a variety of building types and climates. Whether for a commercial warehouse or a residential property, BUR can be tailored to meet specific needs, including resistance to chemicals, fire, and extreme weather conditions.

Ease of Repair

In the event of damage, BUR systems are relatively easy to repair. Small cracks or punctures can be patched with additional layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabric, restoring the roof’s integrity without the need for extensive repairs.

Proven Performance

With over a century of use, BUR systems have a proven track record of performance and reliability. Their widespread use in diverse environments is a testament to their effectiveness and resilience.

Installation Process of Built-Up Roofing Systems


Proper preparation is essential for the successful installation of a BUR system. This includes cleaning the roof deck, repairing any existing damage, and ensuring proper drainage.

Application of Layers

The installation involves applying multiple layers of bitumen and reinforcing fabric. Each layer is bonded together with hot bitumen, creating a strong, cohesive membrane. The number of layers can vary depending on the desired level of protection and the building’s requirements.


The final step is the application of the surfacing material. This can include a layer of gravel embedded in a flood coat of bitumen, mineral granules, or a reflective coating. This layer protects the roof from UV damage and enhances its durability.

Inspection and Maintenance

Regular inspection and maintenance are crucial for extending the lifespan of a BUR system. This includes checking for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks or blisters, and addressing any issues promptly.


Built-Up Roofing systems offer a combination of durability, waterproofing, fire resistance, and cost-effectiveness, making them an ideal choice for a wide range of buildings. Their proven performance and versatility ensure that they will continue to be a preferred roofing solution for many years to come. Get a free quote today! Contact us