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Are the Days of Felt Roofs Out Numbered?

Garages, Porches, Dorma Window Roofs, Summer Houses and Extensions are all commonly roofed in felt. Being children of the 70’s and forever retrieving tennis balls and Frisbees from garage roofs – it almost feels like a material of our childhood. However, the history of felt roofing goes way back!  Originating from Tar Paper which is basically as it states (tar mixed with paper), the gold rush of the 19th Century saw a demand for low cost, quick build homes. So new towns and settlements were quickly constructed with the cutting edge, cost effective and waterproof tar paper material. Although it did not have a long life span it was sufficient for the demand at the time. The affordable housing demand of the post second world war, then brought about a mass development of urban dwellings. New houses were constructed with flat roofs and Asphalt Felt Paper (a bitumen product) was commonly used for flat roofing. Bitumen is a combustible product and a crude oil that is not considered to be a sustainable building material.

Organic felt papers were then used (containing hessian, wood or jute) but these are generally obsolete in today’s market. Inorganic base materials have been used in felt since the 1950s and came in roll mat format including fibre glass, polyester and of course this was when the use of asbestos mat was still permitted. Flat felt roofing today is built with several layers of roofing felt and the “roll on and pour” or the “torch on” are the 2 methods that are used. Both methods use heat during installation.

Today’s ever evolving building industry has now seen the development of a new much more durable roofing system – the Rubber Roof (the featured image is of the new Rubber Roof).  There are no hot liquids that need to be poured onto your roof and no use of naked flame because, unlike the Felt Roof it is “Cold-Fitted” and it contains no toxic ingredients so is environmentally friendly. It comes in Seamless Sheets (up to 15.24m in width and 61m in length) and is compatible with green roofing systems. Therefore creating garden roofs consisting of vegetation planted above a waterproof membrane – something that has become a common feature on buildings in recent years.

The traditional Felt Roofing system cannot sustain the long term effects of sunshine and heat so tends to fade and eventually perishes under the duress of weather. Rubber however,  is a bituminous waterproof material known as EPDM – Ethylene Propylene Diene Monome. Making The Rubber Roof an extremely weatherproof flat roof covering. One which can withstand the long-term effects of intense rain and sunshine. It is also easy to repair if any damage occurs (such as a tree falling on your property).

Despite being referred to as “the throw away society” in terms of the construction of our homes, and general building materials, we consider ourselves to be pretty savvy. We want quality products that will last in our properties, including windows, doors and roofs. We expect durability and weather resistance and it goes without saying  – a guarantee! Firestones Rubber Roof not only comes with a guarantee but it is one that last for 20 years and with a stated life expectancy of 50 years! (based on an EPDM scientific test survey carried out by SKZ—TeConA GmbH, Würzburg on 24/3/2004). There are not many products on the market which can match that of the RubberCover®.  For those unfamiliar with the brand Firestone they are more widely known as a Tyre Manufacturer. Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company were established in 1900 and are infamous for being the supplier of parts to the Ford Motor Company. Originating in America the company was sold to the Japanese firm Bridgestone in 1988 and has continued to develop its innovative products since. 

Common deterioration signs of a Felt roof are:

  • Roof Felting waring thin – especially on the edges
  • Water pooling on the surface – over time water pools degrade the felting material that is keeping your property dry
  • Damp patches on the ceiling inside – a sure sign your flat roof covering is already letting water in

Below is a picture of one of our recent RubberCover® installations.

rsz_rubber roof

So in consideration of the above deterioration evidence of a felt roof, it hardly makes sense to replace an already perished felt roof with the same product – does it? Our recommendation  is to opt for the rubberised (EPDM) solution RubberCover®. It ensures less hassle for the consumer during fitting and a worry-free long term solution. In most cases it can be laid over existing roof felting, if it is required. Therefore, eliminating the cost and environmental issues of disposing of the old material currently fitted on your flat roof. EPDM is recyclable so disposal, when the time does come to refit, it has no impact on landfill sites. From our base in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, we carry out RubberCover® Roof installations throughout Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex. Our fitters are trained and accredited to fit Firestone RubberCover® EPDM systems so as with all our work you are ensured a professional installation.


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