Torch-on felt roofing: Advantages and Disadvantages

Torch-on felt roofing is a roofing solution that consists of three layers of felt. It is applied by being rolled out across the roof and heated with a blowtorch, melting the lower layer of the felt and essentially welding it to the roof. This forms an effectively impenetrable layer between the felt and the roof, excellent at both keeping the elements away from the roof and at keeping the felt stuck firmly in place.

Of course, the fact that installing felt roofing means being up on a roof, coupled with the fact that this system involves the use of a large blow torch, means that the installation of torch-on felt roofing is best left to professionals who have experience in the process.

This style of roofing has become extremely popular in the UK thanks to its reliability and cost-effectiveness, but is it right for you or your business?

Advantages of Torch-On Felt Roofing

Let’s start with the good. Here are five advantages of torch-on felt roofing, and why you might want to consider this roofing solution for your premises.

#1 A Waterproof, Impenetrable Seal

Once installed, torch-on felt roofing forms a remarkably resilient and water-tight seal with the roof on which it is installed. This serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it ensures that the felt stays in place, even through adverse weather conditions, such as strong wind. Secondly, it ensures no water can get through to the roof proper, and more than that, it can even seal up smaller cracks and imperfections in the roof itself. Finally, it makes repairing the felt much easier, since a replacement section of felt can be adhered to the area in need of repair. All of these factors come together to make felt roofing an extremely reliable solution.

#2 Easy to Install

While the installation process involves climbing around on a roof with a blow torch, the basic process of laying felt roofing is far simpler than most alternatives. Indeed, with the exception of the aforementioned blow torch, it is not much different to rolling out carpet. Of course, the roof needs to be adequately prepared beforehand, we’re not suggesting you should climb up there and do this yourself (we’ll get to that in the disadvantages), or that it is as simple as just unrolling the felt, but compared to many alternatives, it should take less time to install and, as a result, cost less money.

#3 It’s Strong and Durable

Roofing felt may not always have had a reputation for being durable, but modern torch-on roof felt is remarkably strong and, crucially, resistant to UV rays and heat.

While it’s not perfect, it would be fair to say that, for the most part, if something is doing enough damage to break through your roof felt lining, you’ve probably got bigger problems than the durability of the felt.

Once installed and set, the felt is hard and very strongly bonded to the surface of your roof, making it resistant to things like strong wind. You’re not going to be looking up during high winds and seeing pieces of roof felt flapping about after the wind got under them, because the wind won’t get under them.

#4 It Features a Versatile Design

One of the more useful traits of torch-on felt roofing is its versatile nature. Since it comes in relatively flexible rolled up sheets and can be easily cut to size and shape, it is considerably easier to make felt roofing work on roofs that are perhaps a little awkward, or have many features, like roof vents and skylights.

Once the felt is heated up, it becomes quite malleable, which makes it easy to work with, and quite forgiving. This aspect of felt roofing also makes repairs a much simpler task, since an appropriately-sized patch of felt can be cut to suit the area that needs repairing and simply torched into place, the same way you would when installing the initial layer of felt roofing.

#5 It Adds Long Term Value

In the grand-scheme of roofing solutions, torch-on felt roofing sits somewhere in the middle ground—not the cheapest option, but not the most expensive. As such, it is an acceptable compromise in many cases, where the property owner wants the best protection they can get but also needs to find a cost-effective solution.

 

Torch-on roofing felt is resistant to tears and leaks, is able to withstand all weather conditions, and requires little in the way of maintenance over time. All of this makes it an attractive prospect over the long term. Cheaper alternatives would require repair or replacement much sooner, and more expensive options don’t necessarily offer a significant increase in the durability of the roofing solution.

Disadvantages of Torch-On Felt Roofing

Now, in the interests of balances, let’s take a look at some reasons why you might not want to install torch-on felt roofing on your property, with five disadvantages.

#1 The Installation Process Represents a Fire Hazard

There’s no getting around the fact that any time you take a blow torch to part of a building, you are creating a potential fire hazard. Now, we don’t want to fill your head with unnecessary fear—the chances of starting a fire are small. Your felt installer should be experienced and qualified, and will take all the necessary precautions to make sure that an incident like this doesn’t happen. But the fact remains that the process involves pointing a blow torch at the roof, and there will always be some risk involved there. Always use a qualified and experienced installer.

#2 Felt Roofing Has a Shorter Lifespan Than Some Alternatives

While felt roofing is very durable compared to some alternatives, it is also less durable compared to others. As we mentioned, this roofing solution is something of a middle-of-the-road option, and that tends to mean that there are as many cons as there are pros. So, while the felt roofing can out do less expensive options in most areas, it can also be out done by the more expensive options, including durability and lifespan. 

It is best to weigh up all of your options and factor in as many variables as possible when choosing a roofing solution, and things like this are why.

#3 It’s Not Exactly Awe-Inspiring to Look At

Not every building needs to be an architectural wonder, but most business owners want their premises to look good. Torch-on felt roofing is a perfectly acceptable option from an aesthetic point of view, but only in the same way that black usually goes with anything. It won’t make your building look worse, but it won’t add anything to the visuals, either.

Felt roofing tends to be used on large, flat roofs where the roof itself is out of sight for the average passer-by, so it may not be a problem, but if it is important that your building stand out, you will want to look at a different option.

#4 Repairs Can Look a Little Scruffy

On a similar note to number three, the ease with which felt roofing can be repaired is a major advantage to this style of roofing, but as effective as these repairs are, they are not exactly pleasing to the eye.

A felt roof that has seen a lot of abuse in its can end up looking like a patchwork of random scraps of roof felt, which doesn’t exactly scream professional. Of course, these repairs will be on the roof, which means they’ll be out of sight for most people. But if your building is overlooked by taller buildings, you may want to consider a more aesthetically pleasing option.

#5 It’s Not Exactly a DIY Project

Okay, most roofing projects are not DIY projects, since they invariably involve climbing up onto a roof. Still, the majority of roof types that use felt lining like this are large, flat roofs, which make it much easier to work on.

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This is why we are focussing on the “torch-on” part of torch-on roofing felt when we say this solution is not exactly ideal for DIY. Using a large blow torch to install the felt without the proper experience and knowledge can, at best, result in a botched installation. More seriously, however, it can result in injury and property damage. We strongly advise you to let the professionals take care of it.

Conclusion

We mentioned at the top that torch-on felt roofing is one of the most popular options for businesses (and, really, any building with a large, flat roof), and not without good reason. There are cheaper options, and there are more effective options, but when it comes to price and effectiveness, torch-on felt roofing offers a compromise that is as close as it gets to the best of both worlds.

Given the dangerous nature of any roofing project combined with the use of a high-powered blow torch, we can’t stress enough how important it is to leave the installation of this kind of roofing material to the professionals.

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