The traditional hot-tar-and-gravel roof is built from three or more plies of waterproof material alternated with hot tar and ballasted by a layer of smooth river stone. Once made of tar paper, these types of roofs gradually are using more-advanced materials such as fiberglass membranes.
Pros: Gravel is an excellent fire retardant. Attractive for windows and decks that overlook the roof. It’s the cheapest of the four roof varieties.
Cons: Very heavy. Joists sometimes have to be strengthened. Smelly and messy to install. Installation’s not recommended for occupied homes. It’s not a DIY installation job, and it is hard to find the source of leaks. Gravel can clog gutters and scuppers.
A single-ply rolled roof similar to ice-and-water shield, but impregnated with a mineral-based wear surface. Torch-down systems involve heating the adhesive as the material is unrolled. Newer peel-and-stick systems are safer and easier.
Pros: Peel-and-stick material can be installed by homeowners. Its light-colored mineral surface reflects heat and cuts energy bills. Its price is in the middle of the pack.
Cons: Torch-down application is a fire hazard, and not recommended for occupied buildings. It’s not as scuff- or tear-resistant as rubber-membrane roofs (see the next item).
EPDM (short for ethylene propylene diene monomer) is a true rubber. The durable material resembles an inner tube, but it’s engineered to resist damage from sunlight. EPDM can be mechanically anchored with fasteners, ballasted with stone, or glued.
Pros: Homeowner-friendly installation. The material’s relatively light yet highly resistant to scuffs and tears. Leaks are easy to patch.
Cons: The standard black material absorbs heat, and light-colored coatings (recommended in warm climates) add 30% or more to the cost. Even the black version, though, costs more than BUR or modified bitumen. It’s also more vulnerable to punctures than other choices.
This material is sprayed directly onto the roof of the church, where it “foams up” and solidifies before a protective coating is added. Because of its flexibility, foam is especially useful for roofs with unusual shapes or configurations. A foam roof offers several advantages over other types of flat roofing systems. For example, it protects against thermal shock and greatly reduces your air conditioning bills.
Pros: Fast, and easy to install, helps with insulation.
Cons: If you don’t keep the protective coating well maintained and new layers added every so often it becomes a favorite for birds. Birds love to pick at the foam once they know its under the protective covering. It also doesn’t stand up well to hail.