Take a moment to think about your roof. We don’t mean to just think about the nature of it, but to think about the tasks and trials it must endure, and just how important it really is. As a responsible homeowner or business proprietor, you’re of course aware, on a common sense level, that your roof is serious business, but have you really thought through the consequences of a shabby roof?
Your roof, if compromised, can bring on a host of unfortunate woes. The first, and absolute worst is water damage, which can be especially insidious. Water damage can rot away plaster and sheetrock, it can weaken the structure of a building and its roof, it can start electrical fires, and worst of all, it can cultivate mold. Black mold is especially toxic to pretty much everyone, but especially children and the ill or geriatric.
Of course, other problems are nasty too, especially the loss of climate control. This can cause your energy bills to go sky high, while making it impossible to maintain the comfort in your space which you desire. And, naturally, pests can get in, including flies, rodents, insects, spiders and even bigger animals of the damage is severe enough.
Finally, there’s the impact of a bad roof in resale value, insurance and curb appeal. If your roof looks like crap, it will cause your resale value to plummet as well as your curb appeal. This bad curb appeal affects the resale value of your neighbors’ property directly, which can also breed some hostility and malcontent amongst your fellow community members. Your insurance premiums can get very costly as well, and if it gets just bad enough, your home or business could be condemned.
Choosing the right roof is a big decision, that said. When it comes to a flat roof, you may feel like your choices are further limited on an extreme level. What can you do? Landscape it? Yeah, actually, you can do that. But it’s not practical in most cases. That leaves you with two basic choices, right? Those choices would be BUR (built up roof), also known as a gravel or gravel-asphalt roof, or some sort of PVC or other single membrane covering.
What is BUR?
BUR, which we’ll just call a gravel roof moving forward in this piece, is a very old but very refined and time-tested approach to flat roof spaces. Gravel roofs consist of layers of asphalt tar/pitch and fibrous material in a sandwich fashion. This produces a thick, durable layer of material which is extremely good at insulation, and has a potent resistance to precipitation and solar heat.
Gravel roofs like this have been used since the Victorian era, though over that century plus of time, the materials, processes and overall implementation have been greatly streamlined. This makes it much more affordable, and the installation process is very routine and more quickly done than other, more intricate modern roofing types.
Gravel roofs also have a layer of gravel, polished river rock, crushed shell, lava rock or sometimes artificial mulch. The latter is actually pretty neat, made from recycled tires, and upon even pretty close examination, it’s unmistakable for red cedar mulch.
Advantages of BUR/Gravel Roofs
There are a host of advantages to these gravel roofs, and we’ll look over some of them below. It’s worth noting that membrane roofs do share a lot of these same benefits, though at a higher cost. Others, which I will point out, are more exclusive to gravel roofs.
- Affordability – This is the most affordable flat roof material by far. While there are more layers to install in the traditional way, it tends to go more quickly, and it’s very routine for experienced roofers. It also produces a lot less waste. Membrane is costly.
- Ease of Install – While the old process does take some work, modern gravel roofs’ asphalt and felt layers are laid down in pre-assembled strips, sometimes adhered via heat activation, chemical activation or self-adhesion. This makes it remarkably easy to install for an experienced roofer. The gravel takes more work, but not by that much.
- Flexibility – It’s easy to cut and fit the strips used in gravel roofs, so various skylights, ventilation systems and the like shouldn’t pose the challenges they otherwise would. Membrane is more fiddly with this.
- Durability – You can expect up to half a century or more in lifespan from a well-installed gravel roof. They stand up to UV very well, and take a beating from hail without really flinching as well.
- Repairability – They’re often easy to mend. Usually, seams will shrink their way open, which can just be filled and sealed. Sometimes, a blister may form, which can be repaired by cutting the blister, and filling it with more adhesive and patching it with a little more sealant. Most membranes can be repaired similarly, but far less effectively.
- Safety – It’s pretty resistant to ice buildup, and very stable to walk on, and the gravel upper layer helps a lot with this. If maintenance or tenants need roof access, you can rest assured it’s a safe and stable surface.
Nothing’s perfect, and there are downsides to gravel roofs, of course.
- Age – While being tried and true is an advantage, the age of gravel roofs has become an issue. The materials aren’t that green, even when they claim to be green, and if the gravel is lost, it looks kind of bad.
- Replacement – If you have to do a tear-away roof replacement, it can be a bit of an ordeal to remove old built up roofing, and it may be costly. This results in some people layering more roofing material over what’s there, which you can get away with sometimes, but shouldn’t do.
- Gravel – Gravel is a good, anti-ice material, and it’s attractive enough. The problem is that it’s loose, and can cause problems. Sometimes it can be tracked into the building, where it’s a marble-like trip hazard. It can also clog drainage systems.
Is gravel right for you? It has a lot of advantages, there are reasons why it’s been used for so many decades. To learn more, fill out our contact form today!