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Modified Bitumen: Costs, Lifespan, and More

flat roof types and their lifespan

Here’s a rarely talked about truth when it comes to owning property:

Even if you aren’t a roofing expert, you likely have some experience with a residential roofing system. After all, we visually see them all of the time, and most of us grew up with asphalt shingles or similar material on our homes. However, if you own commercial property, the flat roofing systems that come along with it can be a mystery.

However, your roof is a vital part of your building that assists in:

  • Protecting you from the elements
  • Increasing your building’s energy efficiency
  • Allowing water to evaporate

When your roofing system is old and outdated, you may find that you are missing out on the benefits that a more modern system can provide. One of the most popular flat roof styles these days? Modified bitumen roofing systems. But what is it that makes a modified bitumen roof stand out from the crowd? That’s exactly what we will be breaking down for you today!

What Is Modified Bitumen?

waterproofing coating on Modified bitumen

Commercial buildings are known for their flat roofing systems, which function a little differently than what you may be used to. While we call them “flat roofs,” they actually do have a slight slope to them that allows water to drain.

When it comes to a flat roof, you have many different roofing materials available to you. However, few of them have stood the test of time, as well as modified bitumen.

A modified bitumen roof is a slightly modified version of a BUR roof (we’ll get to that). Essentially, it relies on a combination of asphalt and polymerized rubber that is then reinforced with fiberglass to create an effective waterproof system.

It is also what is known as a “multi-ply system,” meaning that it has multiple layers that help with durability and create a waterproof seal.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Modified Bitumen?

Like any roofing material, modified bitumen comes with pros and cons. It’s important to do your research to ensure that you are choosing a roofing material that meets your needs. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you to help make your decision making process as simple as possible.

✅ Pros:

  • Time Tested – Unlike newer materials, modified bitumen has the historical data to back it up. It’s been used for over 40 years and is still being used today!
  • Durability – Modified bitumen has great durability against a variety of weather conditions but stands up particularly well to foot traffic. This means that it works wonderfully for rooftops that serve as a patio or if you frequently have to use the area for maintenance repairs.
  • Energy Efficient – Modified bitumen is a great choice for building owners who are looking to lower their energy bills and improve their carbon footprint. This is because this particular roofing style has a light color that reflects heat and keeps things energy efficient.
  • Works Well in Cold Climates – Cold weather can take a serious toll on your roofing systems. Choosing a material that works well in cold temperatures is key to maintaining the longevity of your roof. A modified bitumen roofing system is a great choice for those living in a cold climate, as the material will not shrink or become brittle. This reduces the chance of cracks or leaks forming.

❌ Cons:

  • Fire Hazard – Modified bitumen application relies on a process called “torch down.” During this process, your roofing professional will use a propane roofing torch that will heat the roof membrane and help it adhere to the roof. Modified bitumen roofing systems are one of the few roofing materials that still use this process, as it comes with inherent safety risks, including a higher risk of fire hazards.
  • Price – Compared to other materials on the market, you can expect to pay a bit more than average to install this particular flat roof style.
  • Pooling Water – One of the earliest signs of roof damage in a flat roofing system is pooling water. If you are noticing puddles forming on your roof that last more than 24 hours, you may be dealing with roof damage. And, unfortunately, if your roof is comprised of modified bitumen, you’re at higher risk for water damage.

How Much Does Modified Bitumen Cost?

Like any good, enterprising business owner, budget is likely top of mind for you. And when it comes to owning property, maintenance costs can take up a huge chunk of your budget fairly quickly.

Because of this, it is a good idea to research how much your new roofing system will cost before talking with a roofing contractor.

As we’ve mentioned, modified bitumen roofing can be a pricier option for a flat roofing system. The overall price will vary depending on the size of your roof and the area you live in. That said, national averages for a modified bitumen roofing system comes to $5,000-$14,000, on average.

How Long Will Modified Bitumen Last?

Most flat roof materials have a similar lifespan, and modified bitumen roofing systems are no exception. The average life expectancy of a modified bitumen roof is around 20 years, although regular maintenance can extend that occasionally.

Can You Install Modified Bitumen By Yourself?

After seeing the price tag associated with modified bitumen roof systems, it is possible that you might start looking for budget-friendly ways to install your new roofing system. In fact, you may even be considering taking a DIY approach and trying to install it yourself.

Unfortunately, it usually takes a professional to install modified bitumen. Not only does it require a specialized skill set, but the torch-down process used to help the roof membrane adhere to your roof can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.

4 Alternatives to Modified Bitumen

Not sure if modified bitumen is right for you? Check out these four flat roofing systems instead!

1) Built Up Roofing Systems (BUR)

built up roofing inverted gravel

BUR roofs are the oldest form of flat roofing system and are still in use today. BUR roofs are made up of multiple layers of felt and asphalt to protect your roof surface. It is then topped with a layer of gravel.

BUR roofs are an excellent defense against impact damage and can be customized to give you the number of protective layers that your want. That being said, this is not the most aesthetically pleasing form of roof, which makes it less than ideal if you are hoping to create a usable roof space. Additionally, repairs can be tricky with a BUR roof, as the damaged sections may be more difficult to locate.

2) EPDM Roof

EPDM roofs are also known as rubber roofs and are quickly gaining in popularity due to their low cost. In fact, it is one of the cheapest flat roof materials you can purchase. Because they can be purchased in white, they are also a great energy-efficient choice.

Be prepared, though, to make more repairs than usual if you choose an EPDM roof. They are not the most durable roofing systems and can often shrink with changes in the weather and age.

3) TPO Roof

If you are really operating on a budget, then a TPO roof is right for you. Also known as thermoplastic polyolefin, TPO is the most affordable flat roofing material. Like EPDM, it is also has a rubber roof membrane. This means that it has great flexibility, which means it stands up well to the shrinking and stretching that comes with weather changes. This durability means that maintenance is minimal.

Costs are also kept low by the quick and easy installation process.

4) PVC Roof

PVC roof systems are designed for maximum durability that can stand up to a wide range of weather conditions. This makes it a popular choice for homeowners looking for a roofing material that they can count on.

PVC does not work as well in cold climates, however, as it can become brittle and break easily. That being said, if you maintain it well, you can have a roof that lasts up to 20 years.

Talk With a Professional

Not sure what roofing system is right for you? Anchor Point Roofing has you covered. As leaders in the roofing industry, we can assess your property and come up with a roofing solution that fits your needs and budget. From commercial flat roofing systems to residential properties, work with the team that truly does it all! Contact us today to receive your free quote. 

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