What Are Tar and Gravel Roofs, and Are They a Good Option?

Have you ever found yourself gazing up at a building and wondering about the kind of roof it has? I know that happens to me! It's interesting that roofs, which are major protectors of a building, rarely cross our minds unless there's an issue. Today, I want to talk about tar and gravel roofs - this traditional roofing choice has stood the test of time - and there's a solid reason why it might just be the shield your building needs.

Tar and gravel roofs are as reliable as everyone says - aren't they? Let's find out together. I'm excited to see if it could be the perfect set for your next project. Who knows. When we reach the end of our talk, we might become tar and gravel roof fans!

History and Construction of Tar and Gravel Roofs

Tar and gravel roofs have both a rich history and a practical job in today's roofing scene. These roofs first appeared in the early 20th century and quickly became popular for commercial buildings because of their durability and cost-effectiveness. Initially their easy structure consisted of organic rag felts sealed with coal tar pitch - a useful combination for protecting buildings from UV rays and physical wear and tear.

I have personally seen the change of tar and gravel roofing pointing to important improvements in the parts and methods used. Improved quality asphalt and the addition of synthetic fibers have extended their lifespan and enhanced their performance. These advancements clearly point to the industry's needs to meet the increasing demand for tougher low-maintenance options.

Putting these roofs together means care and expertise. The process begins by pouring hot tar to waterproof the roof - followed by adding layers of roofing felt for extra strength. These layers alternate with more tar to increase the roof's durability, and the construction finishes with a heavy layer of gravel.

Gravel on a Roof

Over the years, I have learned that the specific layering of tar and gravel roofs is major. The sequence in which the parts are applied will ensure strong bonding of each layer, protecting the building from water and air leaks. Seeing pros at work shows that constructing these roofs combines art and science - accounting for the characteristics of the parts and environmental factors.

Throughout my time in the roofing industry, I have seen adaptations to these roofs, especially in areas where flat roofs are common on commercial buildings. Even with the introduction of new parts and methods like Modified Bitumen and Thermoplastics, the basic qualities of tar and gravel roofs have persisted. Their adaptability makes them a smart choice for all sorts of building types, securing their place in the history and future of roofing technologies.

With the right maintenance and occasional updates, these roofs continue to perform well over the years, proving their worth in the construction industry.

Benefits of Tar and Gravel Roofs

Tar and gravel usually come to mind when you think about the best roofing option for a flat or slightly sloped roof. Usually referred to as built-up roofs or BURs - these roofs have a few layers that strengthen them considerably. Let me talk about why these roofs are popular among many owners.

You will find that tar and gravel roofs are pretty affordable. I've seen that the cost of installing tar and gravel roofs is usually lower than that of other types. This is because of their construction: just some layers of tar roofing felt, and gravel laid sequentially. This easy process also keeps labor costs low, which makes tar and gravel roofs a great choice if you're on a tight budget.

Talking about durability is a good idea because it's a big benefit. These roofs give you a strong barrier against all sorts of features. With right care they can last anywhere from 20 to 25 years. In my experience I have seen them last even longer giving great value over an extended period.

These roofs are great in weather protection. The layer of gravel on the top reflects sunlight - protecting the roof from UV damage and keeping your building cooler during warm months. The gravel also gives fire resistance a big benefit in areas susceptible to wildfires. Also these roofs are pretty good at managing minor standing water - adding another layer of protection.

A Tar and Gravel Roof

Maintenance of these roofs is relatively easy. While no roof is very maintenance-free, tar and gravel roofs need minimal upkeep. A yearly inspection and removing any debris usually suffice. But it's a good idea to conduct more regular inspections following major storms to ensure safety.

In terms of aesthetics, tar and gravel roofs are more functional than beautiful. They have a utilitarian attitude that might not be the most attractive but fits well with many commercial buildings.

From a practical standpoint, I have seen these roofs on many city buildings where people value easy and useful solutions. Their cost-effectiveness, durability, and low maintenance make tar and gravel roofs a sensible choice, especially in settings where performance is prioritized over appearance.

Challenges and Disadvantages

Tar and gravel roofs are well-known for being tough and affordable. But, they definitely present unique challenges that need careful consideration before making a decision. As I continue to look at this roofing option, understanding the pros and cons in detail is major for me.

One major factor to keep in mind is the weight of these roofs. They consist of heavy layers like asphalt-soaked felt tar (or bitumen) and a gravel topping - which really adds to the weight your building's structure has to support. Sometimes, strengthening the structure is needed to make sure it safely bears the load.

The installation process for these roofs is also difficult, and skilled professionals are needed to make sure it is done correctly. The quality of the installation can really affect the roof's longevity - a poorly installed roof may lead to early failure. Regular maintenance is really important for a tar and gravel roof - this means replacing gravel sealing seams and fixing any flashing to stop leaks and water damage.

These roofs can suffer damage from foot traffic, falling debris, or harsh weather conditions. Though the gravel gives protection from UV rays and moderates temperature fluctuations, it can become dislodged or wash away, exposing the underlying parts to potential harm.

A Heavy Tar and Gravel Roof

In terms of appearance tar and gravel roofs have a basic look that may not complement every building style. Options like colored gravel are available to help with the aesthetic but choices remain limited compared to modern roofing parts.

Environmental concerns are also well-known with these roofs. They consist largely of petroleum-based parts, which pose challenges to air and water quality. At the end of their life cycle, these roofs are not recyclable, leading to landfill waste, which is pretty disappointing.

Also, the flammability of tar/bitumen presents a fire risk. While the gravel layer gives some protection, it does not completely remove the threat of fire damage.

Gaining a complete understanding of these challenges is really important when deciding if a tar and gravel roof is a good choice for a specific project. Balancing factors like weight durability, installation difficulty, and environmental change is useful for making an informed choice. While maintaining these roofs can be demanding and will need careful care, being in sync about what to expect and how to handle potential issues can prevent many common problems.

Maintenance Requirements

Tar and gravel roofs are liked for their durability and effectiveness - but they need the right care to reach their full potential.

A tar and gravel roof consists of roofing felt soaked in tar covered by a protective gravel layer. This top gravel layer is major as it shields the tar from extreme sunlight and temperature changes and adds some insulation. But you have to keep a clean top layer to prevent the accumulation of debris and moisture which is harmful. Regular cleaning is very important.

In my schedule, I check the roof at least bi-annually and after big storms to notice any heat damage or cracks early on. Small issues can become severe problems if ignored. Making sure the gravel completely covers the tar is important to prevent the rapid deterioration of exposed areas.

It is also smart to remove dirt leaves or other debris that might trap moisture as this speeds up the roof's wear and tear and may lead to earlier replacement. Maintaining accurate records of every inspection and repair can be pretty helpful especially if you plan on selling your home. These records show right property maintenance.

Gravel on a Commercial Roof

The gravel layer needs close monitoring - serving as the roof's protection against weather and sunlight - its condition has to be checked every now and again. The number of layers needed might basically depend on your location. In warmer regions less layers might do - but in colder regions a thicker gravel layer is needed to stand up to snow and ice.

With repairs, think about resealing any seams applying more coating if the membrane is visible, replacing missing gravel and addressing water pooling or loose fasteners. Although you might want to handle these tasks yourself I recommend hiring a professional for big jobs. Professional roofers can notice problems you might miss and make safe , useful repairs.

With careful care, your tar and gravel roof can last between 20-25 years. The effort to keep it properly is surely worthwhile as it will make sure the roof keeps working over time.

Are Tar and Gravel Roofs A Good Choice for You?

When you think about options for a new roof, like possibly picking a tar and gravel setup known as Built-Up Roofing (BUR), you need to keep a few major points in mind. I always advise my clients to start by assessing the strength of their building. Tar and gravel roofs are tough and can stand up to nearly anything - But they are really heavy. If your building isn't strong enough to support this extra weight, you may need to strengthen the structure, which could increase your costs.

You also need to think about the local weather conditions. BUR systems are great at blocking rain and wind - making them perfect if you live in a region that experiences regular storms. But, in areas with high temperatures, the dark surface of these roofs may absorb more heat and possibly raise your air conditioning costs.

Next let's talk about the maintenance needed for a tar and gravel roof. It can be cumbersome - Because of the gravel which makes the process of finding leaks difficult. Walking on the roof might also displace the gravel and expose the underlying layer to weather damage. Also repairs can be messy and time-consuming, possibly disrupting your everyday activities.

A New Tar and Gravel Roof

In terms of appearance, tar and gravel roofs have an easy, practical design that may not appeal to everyone. They don't have the style of more aesthetic roofing options, leading some clients to choose alternatives that give more style and don't have an industrial look.

Here's an example from my experience: one of my clients who owns a flat-roofed building in an industrial area chose a BUR system because they valued its fire resistance and durability - valuable Because of their business requirements and local regulations. Over 15 years later with consistent maintenance their roof is still performing well showing that it was a smart choice for their needs.

Finally, picking a tar and gravel roof depends on how well it meets your needs and addresses the challenges you might encounter.

Protect The Roof Over Your Head

I was thinking about our recent talk about roofing options and saw that tar and gravel roofs have kept up well with modern needs even though they have a traditional nature. They handle wear and tear well and are overall useful. Their cost-effectiveness, UV protection, and fire resistance make them a great option for flat roofs that need to last. But there are a few factors, like the extra weight and if your maintenance team is ready for the workload these roofs bring.

If you're not sure which roof to pick, looking into more complete information or talking with roofing experts could help clear things up for you.

Tar and Gravel Roofing Contractors

It's a good idea to choose the right roof to protect your investment. Making the decision can be easier by asking for help from pros. At Colony Roofers we specialize in providing excellent roofing solutions customized for both homes and businesses in Georgia, Florida, and Texas. We're excited to drop in for a free inspection and help you choose. Professional advice and high-quality installation are a phone call away. Reach out to us and let Colony Roofers make sure the roof over your head is in the best possible condition.