Asphalt shingles are used in over three-quarters of roof installations due to their affordability and versatility. This popularity, combined with a relatively short service life, puts approximately 11 million tons of asphalt shingle materials in landfills after being torn off for replacement every year, despite the fact that 100 percent of these materials are recyclable. In addition to the problems related to mass and weight of asphalt shingles, the duration for decomposition can exceed 300 years. Seeing both a solution to a problem as well as a financial opportunity, recycling facilities are now being opened across the country.
The Recycling Process
The majority of asphalt shingles that end up going to recycling centers are the result of tear-offs as the old materials are removed before new shingles are installed. During the tear-off the old shingles, weighing an average of 2 tons for a standard sized home, are collected in dumpsters. After the tear-off has been completed, the materials are sorted into asphalt and non-asphalt collection areas. The sorting process can include high-powered magnets that are used to separate nails and a flotation phase that separates wood materials.
Uses for Recycled Asphalt Shingles
After the materials have been separated, the asphalt shingles are deposited into grinders that cut the shingles to specific sizes, depending on the intended end use. Asphalt shingle recycling facilities typically accept materials to be recycled at either no cost or for a minimal charge, which benefits roofing companies through the avoidance of paying landfill fees. The recycling centers make their money through the sales of the recycled materials for a variety of end uses, which include:
1) Road building materials – According to the EPA, incorporating recycled asphalt shingles at a ratio of 1/20 with standard paving materials results in reduced wear, water resistance, limited rutting, and decreased cracking due to issues related to heat and age-induced fatigue.
2) Patching materials – These materials offer solutions for commercial applications including patches for roads, parking lots and sidewalks. Residential uses include patching private roads, driveways and sidewalks. These uses are likely to expand as municipalities ease restrictions based on asbestos concerns, as evidence of low and safe levels continue to be documented in recycled asphalt shingle materials.
3) Being formed back into asphalt shingles – These recycled materials can be re-purposed back into asphalt shingles again and go back to a rooftop until they are torn off and recycled again.
Recycling asphalt shingles reduces stress on landfills, fortifies paving materials, creates jobs, and reduces oil demand by two barrels per recycled ton. If your near term roofing plans include the tear-off of an asphalt shingle roof, insist that the company that will be doing the job recycles the old materials.
It is very common for leaks to enter a structure and then travel to point where they become visible, often far away from the point of entry. If you’re trying to hunt down the source of a leak, the movement of water can make the search frustrating, especially if the assumption is that the hole in the roof is directly above where the water is being seen. To hunt the source of a leak that is bringing water into your home, start your process in the same way that professional inspectors do by starting on the roof and then working your way inside.
- Check the ventilation and plumbing penetrations – These are pipes, ducts, and vents that have been cut through the roof deck and then sealed with liquid rubber and metal flashing. These penetrations are a natural source for leaks as any cracks in the seal or separation from the pipe, duct, vent, etc. will allow for water to enter the structure.
- Flashing – Flashing is the thin metal strip that protects the sealant around the pipe or duct as well as the hole cut through the roof deck. Damaged or missing flashing is the source of a high percentage of leaks due to being moderately fragile as well as its proximity to penetrations. This combination makes these areas a logical place to hunt for the sources of leaks.
- Skylights – Skylights are another form of penetration that tends to leak, either due to the breakdown of sealants or improper installation. Check the lowest edge for moisture as water leaking from any edge of the skylight with likely channel there before going anywhere else.
- The chimney – The uneven surfaces of a chimney can be challenging to seal and the surfaces of these structures can catch driving and falling rain. A chimney that that sits below the top of the roof may also block runoff. The combination of tentative seals and water running down toward them makes this structure a common source of leaks.
- Additional structures on the rooftop – Air conditioners and satellite dishes are both common sights on a rooftop as well as common sources of leaks. These leaks normally occur due to the structures being improperly fastened to the roof with screws, bolts or nails that have been driven through the roof deck.
- Damaged or aging shingles – If properly maintained, shingles may be the last roofing material to break down, but age will eventually take its toll. This inspection can start before going up on the roof, with look at the mouths of the downspouts for granules that are washing off of asphalt shingles. The inspection can be carried on to the roof to check for missing or deformed shingles.
Hunting down roof leaks is a lot easier when you know what to look for. By starting with the usual suspects for leaks, you’ll probably shorten the duration of your searches and repair problems a lot faster.
The Atlanta area experiences a wide range of temperatures from season to season, with winter readings dropping below freezing and summer days that average around 90 degrees but can reach into the 100s. These extremes in temperature require the regular usage of the most energy intensive appliances in the typical home; the heating and cooling systems. In Atlanta, the costs of running these climate controls can exceed $2,000 per year in an un-insulated home, but these expenses can be reduced by 30 percent or more by installing the recommended amount of insulation and venting in the attic. Here are the measures that can save over $600 per year.
1) Insulation – Determine the optimal amount of insulation for your home – The Department of Energy sets the recommended amount of insulation for homes based on their geographic location, which is expressed as an R-Value. In Atlanta, as with most areas in the U.S., the minimum recommended R-Value for the attic is 30, with the highest level of energy efficiency being delivered by insulation with an R-Value of 60. These will be the baseline numbers for homes with no insulation. Many homes do have some insulation, but if the home was built prior to 1980 and no insulation has been added since, the typical R-Value will be under 15. According to the DoE, bringing the insulation up to recommended standards and sealing leaks in the living areas of a home can reduce heating and cooling bills by an average of 20 percent.
2) Ventilation – Ventilating and insulating the attic at the same time may seem counterintuitive, but each measure serves a different purpose. Insulation is meant to inhibit the transfer of heat into and out of the house. Ventilating the space regulates the temperatures inside the attic, which can still reach 150 degrees in an insulated home during hot summer days. Regulating the temperature in an attic provides two benefits; it reduces heat that might otherwise radiate into the living areas of the home and lowers the level of heat that radiates up to the roof deck and the roofing materials. The rule of thumb for adequate ventilation is that for every 300 square inches of floor space, there should 1 square inch of open ventilation. For example, an attic that measures 500 square feet would be multiplied by 12 to get 6,000 square inches. To calculate the amount of square inches for ventilation, 6,000 inches would be divided by 300 with the result being 20 square inches of ventilation. In this example, the 20 inches allocated for ventilation should be split between intake vents at the soffit and exhaust vents at the highest point in the attic to facilitate circulation.
While many home improvements don’t return much on the investment, the same is not true for adding insulation and ventilation to an attic. With savings that can range from $400 to $600 per year, the initial investment for insulation and ventilation will likely be returned many times over in the years that follow.
Roofing systems can suffer damage in several ways including falling branches, being blown off by high winds, and being damaged by debris that blows across the roof’s surface. While any of these events can be considered as catastrophic, many of the most devastating incidents are roof collapses caused by excess weight bearing from accumulated snow or water. Here are several measures than can define the “red line” for trouble and help to avoid a potential roof collapse.
1) Develop an understanding of the weight bearing capability of your roof – Generally speaking, an undamaged roof should be rated to support at least 20 pounds of snow or water per square foot. Areas with higher amounts of snowfall may require roofs that are rated for much heavier weight loads. The requirements for weight bearing capacities in your area can determined by consulting local building codes or by calling local roofing companies.
2) Learn the dynamics of how efficiently your roof sheds water – Snowmelt and rainfall are shed most efficiently by roofs with a pitch ratio of 3 to 12 or higher (an increase in slope of 3 inches for every 12 inches measured on a horizontal axis. There is a direct relationship between increasing pitch ratios and the efficiency of drainage off of the roofing system. The risks of inefficient drainage increase as the pitch ratio of the roof decreases from a 3:12 ratio, with flat roofs having the highest propensity for accumulated snow and/or ponding water.
3) Know the approximate weight that your roof is bearing at any given time – Water at 1 inch deep weighs approximately 5 pounds per square foot, meaning that trapped water that is more than 4 inches deep will be pushing the red line for weight bearing capability. A foot of fresh snowfall also weighs about 5 pounds per square foot, which would put the red line at an accumulation of 4 feet. Packed snow is 3 to 4 times heavier than fresh snow, stressing the roof at a depth of one foot. The weight of ice on a square foot basis is roughly equivalent to water, so a thickness of anything more than 4 inches can put stress on the structure.
4) Take action if you see accumulations at levels that may be approaching the red line and stressing the structure – The most common cause of pooled water is clogged drains, so clearing them may provide a quick fix. If accumulated snow is the issue you may be able to remove it using an extendable snow rake.
Knowing where the weight bearing red line is for your roof can lead to fast actions that can prevent a catastrophic collapse. Be aware that going on the roof to deal with weight bearing issues is extremely dangerous, so if you can’t reach drains when standing on a ladder or the snow rake is too short to cover the whole roof, bring in professional roofers to lighten the load immediately.