what is torch down roofing

What is Torch Down Roofing?

Torch down roofing, also known as modified bitumen roofing, is a popular roofing system that has been used in the construction industry for decades. It consists of a multi-layered membrane that is applied to a roof using a propane torch. The heat from the torch melts the bitumen-based material, allowing it to adhere to the roof’s surface and create a seamless, waterproof barrier.

This roofing system is commonly used on commercial, industrial, and some residential buildings due to its durability, ease of installation, and versatility. Torch down roofing can be installed on a variety of roof types, including flat, low-slope, and even some steep-slope roofs.

Benefits of Torch Down Roofing

  • Durability: Torch down roofing is known for its exceptional durability, with a lifespan of 20-30 years or more when properly installed and maintained.
  • Waterproofing: The seamless, continuous membrane created by the torch down process provides excellent waterproofing protection, helping to prevent leaks and water damage.
  • Versatility: Torch down roofing can be installed on a wide range of roof types, including flat, low-slope, and some steep-slope roofs.
  • Energy Efficiency: Many torch down roofing systems are available with reflective or insulating properties, which can help improve the energy efficiency of a building.
  • Easy Installation: Compared to some other roofing systems, torch down roofing can be relatively easy to install, especially for experienced roofing contractors.

Torch Down Roofing vs. Other Roofing Materials

When it comes to choosing a roofing material, there are several options to consider. Here’s a comparison of torch down roofing to some other popular roofing materials:

Roofing Material Durability Waterproofing Cost Installation Difficulty
Torch Down Roofing High (20-30 years) Excellent Moderate to High Moderate
Asphalt Shingles Moderate (15-20 years) Good Low to Moderate Easy
Metal Roofing High (40-70 years) Excellent Moderate to High Moderate to Difficult
Slate Roofing Extremely High (100+ years) Excellent High Difficult
Tile Roofing High (50-100 years) Excellent High Difficult

As you can see, torch down roofing offers a good balance of durability, waterproofing, and cost, making it a popular choice for many commercial and industrial buildings.

Torch Down Roofing Installation Process

The installation of a torch down roofing system typically involves the following steps:

  • Preparation: The roof surface is cleaned and any necessary repairs are made to ensure a smooth, level substrate.
  • Primer Application: A primer is applied to the roof surface to help the torch down membrane adhere properly.
  • Base Layer Installation: The first layer of the torch down membrane is installed, typically a base sheet or ply.
  • Torch Down Application: A propane torch is used to heat and melt the bitumen-based material, allowing it to adhere to the base layer and create a seamless, waterproof barrier.
  • Cap Sheet Installation: A final cap sheet is installed on top of the base layer, providing additional protection and a finished appearance.
  • Inspection and Cleanup: The completed roof is inspected for any defects or issues, and the work area is cleaned up.

It’s important to note that torch down roofing installation should always be performed by experienced, licensed roofing contractors to ensure proper installation and safety.

Materials Needed for Torch Down Roofing

The primary materials required for a torch down roofing system include:

  • Torch Down Membrane: This is the main waterproofing layer of the system, typically made of a bitumen-based material.
  • Base Sheet: A base layer that provides a stable foundation for the torch down membrane.
  • Primer: A liquid applied to the roof surface to help the torch down membrane adhere properly.
  • Propane Torch: Used to heat and melt the bitumen-based material during installation.
  • Miscellaneous Accessories: Items like edge strips, flashings, and sealants to complete the installation.

The specific materials and quantities needed will depend on the size and complexity of the roof being installed.

Tips for Maintaining Torch Down Roofing

Proper maintenance is key to ensuring the longevity and performance of a torch down roofing system. Here are some tips for maintaining your torch down roof:

  • Regularly Inspect the Roof: Conduct visual inspections of the roof at least twice a year, looking for any signs of damage, wear, or deterioration.
  • Clean the Roof Surface: Regularly remove debris, leaves, and other materials that can accumulate on the roof surface.
  • Address Repairs Promptly: If you notice any issues like cracks, blisters, or leaks, have them repaired by a professional as soon as possible.
  • Consider Roof Coatings: Applying a reflective or protective coating to the torch down membrane can help extend its lifespan and improve energy efficiency.
  • Avoid Damage: Be cautious when performing any maintenance or repairs on the roof, and avoid activities that could potentially damage the torch down membrane.

By following these maintenance tips, you can help ensure your torch down roof continues to perform at its best for many years to come.

Common Torch Down Roofing Problems and Solutions

While torch down roofing is a durable and reliable system, there are a few common issues that can arise. Here are some of the most common problems and their solutions:

  • Blistering: Blisters can form due to trapped moisture or improper installation. The solution is to have a professional contractor identify and repair the underlying cause.
  • Cracking and Splitting: Exposure to UV radiation, weathering, or physical damage can cause the torch down membrane to crack or split. Repairing the damaged area and applying a protective coating can help prevent further issues.
  • Ponding Water: Inadequate roof slope or poor drainage can lead to ponding water, which can accelerate the deterioration of the torch down membrane. Addressing the drainage issues and potentially adding additional roof slope can help resolve this problem.
  • Punctures and Tears: Sharp objects or heavy foot traffic can cause punctures or tears in the torch down membrane. Repairing these issues promptly is essential to prevent leaks and further damage.
  • Adhesion Failure: If the torch down membrane fails to properly adhere to the roof surface, it can lead to peeling or delamination. Proper surface preparation and following the manufacturer’s installation instructions can help prevent this issue.

Addressing these common problems quickly and with the help of a professional roofing contractor can help extend the lifespan of your torch down roof.

Hiring a Professional Torch Down Roofing Contractor

When it comes to installing or repairing a torch down roofing system, it’s essential to hire an experienced, licensed, and insured roofing contractor. Here are some tips for finding the right professional:

  • Check Credentials: Ensure the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured to work in your area. This protects you from liability in case of accidents or damage.
  • Look for Experience: Choose a contractor with extensive experience in installing and maintaining torch down roofing systems.
  • Ask for References: Request references from past clients and check online reviews to gauge the contractor’s quality of work and customer satisfaction.
  • Get Multiple Quotes: Compare quotes from several contractors to ensure you’re getting a fair price for the work.
  • Understand the Warranty: Inquire about the contractor’s warranty on their workmanship and the manufacturer’s warranty on the materials.

By hiring a professional torch down roofing contractor, you can be confident that your roof will be installed correctly and will continue to perform at its best for many years.

Cost of Torch Down Roofing

The cost of a torch down roofing system can vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • Roof Size: Larger roof areas will generally cost more than smaller ones.
  • Roof Complexity: Roofs with multiple levels, angles, or other architectural features may require more labor and materials.
  • Material Costs: The cost of the torch down membrane, base sheet, and other materials can fluctuate based on market conditions.
  • Labor Costs: Hourly rates for experienced roofing contractors can vary depending on your location and the demand for their services.

On average, the cost of a torch down roofing system can range from $8 to $15 per square foot, installed. This includes the materials, labor, and any necessary repairs or preparation work.

It’s important to remember that the final cost will also depend on the specific requirements of your project. Obtaining quotes from multiple contractors can help you determine the most accurate and competitive pricing for your torch down roofing installation.


Torch down roofing is a durable, versatile, and reliable roofing system that has been used in the construction industry for decades. With its seamless waterproofing, long lifespan, and relatively easy installation, it’s a popular choice for commercial, industrial, and even some residential buildings.

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