How to determine type of roof

Please help me…How to determine what kind of roof this is? And what are your thoughts on how long this roof has left, after making flashing repairs?




It is a flat roof of a 4-flat in Chicago. Is it BUR, roof roofing…etc?

Looks like built-up to me that is in pretty rough shape (wrinkling and blistering). I would have it stripped and reroofed.

How did you report it Leon?

Buyer wants to know when he may need to replace it. would you give it about 3-5 years or so…if the flashing was replaced?

I haven’t completed report yet. Looking for suggestions…

What is roof roofing?
How did you report this in your report?
You should know what type of roofing this is before you get up on the roof.
Doing and inspection, taking pictures and coming here for answers is not the way to do an inspection.
Time to go back to school.

:oops: :ouch: ](*,) :|.)

What do you think it is?

It looks like BUR.

I wouldn’t give it any specified amount of time.

Report your observations.

Hot-mopped tar and felt paper= Built Up Roof
Look for cracking, bubbles that are unstable. Evidence of leakage. It’s obviously bad near the parapet, but those are weak areas anyway if the cap is not well sealed and the BU roof properly terminated.

I wouldn’t waste my money fixing the flashing. I would replace the complete roof now, from what I can see, Leon.


Linas may seem a bit harsh but does raise some very valid concerns…

  • What is roof roofing?

  • What is your opinion? You were there and had the best view. Those pictures are very small. Possible BUR as it looks brittle. Possible at the end of its expected life.

  • I’d be very careful doing multi-plex, commercial or flat roof inspections, especially if you have very little or no experience inspecting them. You should have a general understanding of the material types, defects to look for and general life expectancy of each type roof. Also seller disclosures, building age information, service records can be helpful

I’m not going to belittle anyone as that’s what we are all here for, helping and learning but again the way you phrased your question with very little description should give a great pause to making sure you are within your ability in terms of inspecting and capabilities. I only say this as I would hate for your to provide the buyer mis or bad information. Even worse having legal ramifications for issues arising in the future.

Please provide some larger photos and describe in detail what you saw along with what your best judgment was viewing the covering. Maybe then we could assist. You may want to hold the report and revisit the inspection site with a licensed commercial roof contractor, it’d be well worth the $$$

I suspect the OP meant to type “rolled roofing”, not “roof roofing”.

The photos aren’t clear, it could also be mod bit, if they use it in your City.


Sorry, I meant to say roll roofing. Sorry for bothering you guys if this was wrong. Flat Roofing is one of my weak points. Not a lot of experience with it. I am trying to improve in this area. Only my 2nd flat roof job.

I was hoping I could get help here from my brothers. Maybe not the right way. Hope I didn’t offend anyone.


I was a little hurt after one of the posts. Turned off the computer. I just came back and posted the above before reading the rest of the posts.

Thanks for the helpful comments. Sorry about the typo, guess I was typing fast and I didn’t review before posting. Anyway, I do admit I need more experience with flat roofs.

Leon you should take no offense and just get thick skin some on this BB just like to jump on any thing out of the ordinary.

If you hang around here just learn to give it back just like others give it out;-)

Thanks, you are right
Also, I should have refreshed my page before responding. After page refresh, I saw a lot of helpful comments, including a post from someone who saw my typo, just above my post!

Ho Leon
Just saw this.
The old Sears (original) tower in the background tell me you were at the near south side off Homen.
The roof needs to be replaced so recommend a Licensed roofer come out and give estimates.
The parapet wall material came down because it was never flashed correctly and the parapet walls most likely need to be re tuckpointed.

The white areas are water deposits indicating places where water is sitting (ponding).
Judging from what I see they tarred over the hatch so it must be a 2 story building.
Lots of alligatoring of the material.

Guessing but looks like a 4 flat so bet that is a rental building.
You scare me because I do not see your ladder rungs (yikes)
Did it have an illegal rental in the basement ?

Thanks very much.

You have good eyes. It is in Chicago, a little to the west of your guess. It’s a 2 story 4 flat. They tarred over the hatch, but there was another hatch on the enclosed porch roof, off of view, about 2 feet lower than building roof. I had to climb onto building roof from porch roof.

Basement was mostly empty except for 4 washer/dryer machines for the tenants. Building is 90 years old. I saw the allegatoring and the puddling evidence. I felt the roof was just about gone.

Since I didn’t see any evidence of leaking in either of the top floor apartments YET…a general contractor who was there said the roof only needs the flashing repaired for now. That caused me to wonder if I should give roof a couple of years or so on report. But after comments, my suggest will be to replace as soon as possible. It could go any time.

In retrospect: It would be in the contractor’s interest not to scare off the buyer, because then he will not get the renovation job. Dumb me!

Leon -

Don’t think the guys are being hsrd on you … They’re being straight. Too many of us go out for clients and try to inspect OR discuss things we know little about AND thats a real easy way to get your client burned OR yourself sued out of business. If you don’t know what you’re looking at … report the conditions and deficiencies that you saw (without trying to put a life on it OR tell them it HAS to be replaced … It might not), AND then refer a competent roofer to them for follow-up evaluation and service, repair or replace as needed.