One of the most important decisions when a new roof is going to be installed is the selection of the best roofing material for the structure as well as for the budget. Here are 4 categories of roofing materials with definitions of the best structural characteristics, expected service life, and where they sit in terms of cost.
1) Asphalt shingles – Asphalt shingles are made of fiberglass infused with asphalt and covered on the outer surface with mineral granules designed to provide protection from ultraviolet rays, add color options, and increase the fire resistance of the roofing system. These shingles are the most popular roofing material, due in large part to their affordability as well as the relative ease of installation and are best suited for structures with a roof pitch of at least 3 to 4 inches of rise per 12 inches of horizontal run distance. The expected service life for this material averages 20 to 25 years, which is reflected in the typical duration for warranty coverage.
2) Wood shake – Wood shake shingles are most often made from western red cedar, redwood, or southern yellow pine and are then reshaped for specific roofing purposes. Increasingly tight local fire codes have restricted the use of this material in some areas, but it still remains a popular choice. Optimal uses for wood shake related to structural characteristics are similar to those of asphalt shingles, as is the duration of the service life. Depending on the specifics of these shingles, their cost can be up to twice as much as asphalt shingles.
3) Tile – Tile roofing materials are commonly found structures with Mediterranean, Santa Fe, and Mission architectural designs with service life durations exceeding 100 years, in some cases. Tile is a suitable choice for buildings with roofs having lower pitches, but its weight requires a stronger supporting structure than either asphalt or wood shake shingles. In terms of cost, tile sits near the high end of the price range for roofing materials.
4) Slate – Slate is so durable that materials exceeding 100 years of use are often installed on new projects under the assumption that they will last at least as long as on its previous structure. Slate will have different colors and characteristics depending on where it is quarried and, generally speaking, is the most expensive roofing material. Much like tile roofs, the heavy weight of slate necessitates far greater structural support than buildings with asphalt or wood shake roofs. Slate is also the most complex roofing material to install, so make sure the roofing contractor doing the installation has experienced master roofers to do the work.
If your new roof is going to be installed with the same materials as the old one, weight bearing issues probably aren’t going to be a problem. If, however, you plan to install a heavier roofing material than the one being replaced, be sure that the structure has adequate support and include the costs of any necessary upgrades in the roofing budget.
Maintaining your roof may not be one of the top items on your weekend chore list, but what if you knew that taking 5 steps a few times per year could potentially save thousands of dollars on repairs or save even more by extending the service life of the system and delaying the need for a full replacement for years. Here are 2 sets of maintenance steps that can keep money in your pocket and your roof in place for years longer than average service life estimates.
Maintenance for the spring and fall:
1) Do a visual inspection – In the fall, look for accumulations of leaves and debris that should be cleared to prevent them from clogging the drainage system during the first big winter storm. The spring inspection should focus on potential damage to the roofing system from winter storms. For the highest level of protection, do these inspections after extreme weather events as well.
2) Check and clear gutters and downspouts – Much like the visual inspection, check the drainage system in the late fall for clogs resulting from trees dropping their leaves. Run the hose to ascertain that downspouts are running free as well. The spring maintenance routine should focus on the integrity of the system, especially if gutters and downspouts were holding accumulated snow over the winter.
3) Check all flashing – When water seeks the easiest path to flow into a structure, it’s often through weakened flashing that surrounds vents, pipes and chimneys that are cut through the deck. Look for dents and places where flashing has separated from the structure, both of which may be indicative of compromised seals around roof penetrations.
On an “as needed” basis:
4) Keep trees trimmed away from the roof – Trimming tree branches away from the roof prevents several problems including; the depositing of leaves and debris, the wearing down of roofing materials (especially the granules on asphalt shingles) from branches that constantly brush against the roof, and denying access to animals that may try to go from the roof to the attic.
5) Be aware of roofing materials that you see on the ground – Roofing materials that are found on the ground are an indication that there is a problem with the system, either due to long term wear or some sort of event. An example of long term wear on an aging roof would be increasing amounts of granules from an asphalt roof or chips and splinters from wood shake materials. Other common events that damage roofing materials aren’t weather-related at all and occur when structures such as satellite dishes or air conditioning systems are installed. In these instances damage may occur in two ways; roofing materials (particularly tile and slate) are broken as the installer walks across the roof or the installation of the structure snaps the shingles.
Engaging in these regular maintenance steps can keep your roofing system’s performance at its highest level and lead to repairs while problems are at their earliest stages. The benefits are twofold; your roof will last longer and cost of repairs will be minimized.
Roofing materials such as tile, slate and copper have seen gains in popularity over the last several years, but most roofs (approximately 7 out of 10) are still installed with asphalt shingles, due in large part to their affordability. Despite being far less expensive than high-end roofing materials, doing a full replacement with this material is still considered to be a significant investment, with the best return resulting from a long service life. To optimize your roof investment, there are several steps that can help to ensure that the system lasts well into the long end of its expected usable life while requiring minimal repairs along the way. These steps include:
1) Doing regular exterior inspections – Surveying the roof can provide early warnings that can facilitate repairs before potential problems occur, or help to catch small leaks before they turn into big ones that cause extensive damage. Pay close attention to the flashing around structures that penetrate the roof deck such as fans, vents, and the chimney to ensure that they still have a tight fit and that they are sealed off to prevent leaks.
2) Take a close look at interior surfaces – Checking the attic as well as ceilings that are directly on the underside of the roof deck can alert you to the presence of leaks at an early stage so that action can be taken before extensive damage occurs. Focus closely on the areas around skylights, vents, and the chimney to see if there are any stains, bubbling paint, or discoloration, any of which may be indicative of a leak.
3) Check for deteriorating and/or broken shingles – The deterioration and/or breakage of even one shingle can result in a dramatically weakened roofing system that becomes highly susceptible to further damage due to the vulnerability of materials that would normally be protected by the shingles. In this situation, replacing a handful of shingles will be far less expensive than doing repairs on the exterior and interior of the structure at a later date.
4) Trim away branches that overhang the roof – Over-hanging branches pose two problems for a roofing system; they deposit leaves and other forms of debris that can clog the drainage system and falling branches can cause sudden and catastrophic damage. Trimming branches back from your roof solves both issues.
5) Protect shingles with a water/weatherproof coating – Adding a sealant specifically formulated for the type of shingles on your roof can minimize water saturation while also offering protection from everyday exposure to UV rays. In addition to prolonging the life of your roofing system, the second benefit of regular treatment applications is that your roof will look like new long after its installation.
Being proactive with inspections of your roofing system can result in early actions to address potential problems and repairs, which typically reduces associated costs. When these measures are combined with preventative steps such as trimming branches and applying protective treatments, your asphalt shingle roof will look great, require minimal repairs, and last for the long term.
Installing a new roof can be a substantial investment that presents temptations to cut a few corners in attempts to save a couple of bucks here and there. While there is nothing wrong with trying to make the installation as cost-effective as possible, there are several areas where taking money-saving shortcuts can end up costing a lot of money, including:
1) Skipping the tear-off – Doing a tear-off adds approximately $2 per square foot to the cost of the project, which presents a meaningful level of savings if it can be avoided. In the vast majority of cases, however, doing a tear-off is the best way to ensure both the structural integrity of the roof deck and that the new roof provides maximal protection for as long as possible. The problem with this shortcut is that the savings that may be realized by overlaying a new roof can be lost many times over if the existing materials are already deteriorating. In these situations, the weakening foundation that sits under the new roof will likely require repairs long before materials that are installed on a clean deck.
2) Ignoring the attic – The importance of controlling the environment in the attic is often underestimated with the installation of vents and insulation being perceived as costs that can be avoided to reduce the overall price of the project. The problem with ignoring the attic is that it creates a space through which heat can be lost through the roof deck during the winter months, moisture can be trapped, and heat can radiate into the structure in the summer, resulting in higher energy costs, the potential of developing roof dams, and humidity that supports the growth of mold and mildew.
3) Going with an abnormally low bid – If you have collected several estimates for your roof installation, there is a good chance that the bid prices will be pretty close to one another. With several bids in hand, beware of any estimate that is substantially lower than the others, as there is a high potential that the work is rife with shortcuts that may include subpar materials, inexperienced labor, and/or a lack of insurance coverage, all of which can quickly become very expensive problems.
When it comes to the installation of a new roof the saying, “You get what you pay for” almost always applies. Using the above examples, doing a tear-off will put the new roof on a solid foundation, venting the attic will control moisture in the space, adding insulation will control the transfer of heat, and working with a contractor that charges fair prices for quality work will result in the installation of a roofing system that needs minimal repairs and lasts for the long term.