Choosing the right roofing materials for your home might not be the most exciting way to spend your time but sooner or later you'll need a new roof. That's why it's important to understand what you're getting into (or under) so you can maximize the return on your investment.
What you basically need to know is that there are a range of roofing choices available to you, each with their own attributes. The important point here is that these options allow you to tailor your choice based on what factor is most important to you, be it budget, longevity, style or a combination of all three.
Typically, lower-cost roofing comes with a shorter lifespan while more expensive roofing has greater longevity. The trick is finding the right balance between those characteristics.
You should also be aware of the fact that the roof covering (the shingles or sheet metal) is part of a larger roofing system. That system includes other important items like sheathing, underlayment, flashing and similar provisions necessary for a leak-proof roof. Proper insulation and ventilation also play an important role in the roofing system.
A good roof protects everything underneath it. Paying close attention to what's available and how they perform will serve you well in getting a roof that's durable, long lasting and economical too.
Knowing what's available is your first step toward making the right roofing choice. There are tried-and-true roofing materials made from a variety of materials, some which have been around for centuries. Others aren't so old and take advantage of newer technologies that offer traditional looks while aiming for lower cost and/or better performance.
To get familiar with the kinds of roofing choices that are available here's a list of the most common types along with their highs and lows.
Asphalt Composition Shingles
Relatively inexpensive / most economical of roofing options
Class A fire rating for fiberglass-backed asphalt shingles (organic-based shingles have Class C rating - lower than Class A)
Premium grades have a longer life span than budget "3-tab" asphalt shingles
Plenty of product choices for various styles, color selections and budgets
Relatively easy to install - doesn't necessarily require a craftsman with years of experience in the trade (like slate)
Premium shingles have a longer warranty than basic shingles
Some U.S. states have asphalt shingle recycling programs
The premium architectural styles are more expensive than basic 3-tab shingles
Asphalt shingles degrade over time due to exposure to sun and the environment (it's not a 'forever' type of roof)
The more basic shingles are more prone to impact (hail) damage than harder roofing and more premium (thicker) asphalt shingles
Minimal to moderate color selection (vs. metal or tile with a wider range of color)
Visually appealing roof style with nice visual texture particularly on steeper roof slopes where more of the roof is visible
Wood roofing is a greener choice - made from sustainable materials and biodegradable once used up
Generally cooler than other types of roofs that are generally darker in color (like many asphalt selections)
Best installed by professionals with experience installing wood roofing
Not fireproof and not a good roof choice in fire-prone areas (areas with seasonal risk of wildfire and similar fire risks)
Subject to rot and decay over time unless treated periodically with preservative and fungicide and/or kept clean and free of debris
Weathers to a dull gray appearance
Requires more maintenance than other roof types such as keeping clean/clear of pine needles and other natural debris that can retain moisture, promoting decay
Metal Roofing Shingles / Sheeting
Standing seam metal roofs are made from panels with a small vertical flange at the joint where the panels meet similar to what's shown in the photo above. Metal roof tiles are installed in a similar fashion to other roofing tiles and shingles. Metal makes for a durable roof but requires careful consideration from a style perspective, particularly the standing seam variety. You'll need to consider how it will look relative to your home's design and the architectural style of the homes in your neighborhood.
Offers long lasting durability
Good at shedding snow and ice
Some metal roofing products are made from recycled material and can be recycled when it they need to be replaced
Metal roofing has some of the better cool energy efficient roofing characteristics
The look, particularly standing seam (long panels) may not be consisistent with your home and/or neighborhood architectural style
Needs good corrosion protection (both steel and aluminum)
Steel (unprotected) will rust and even painted steel is not a good choice in corrosive environments such as coastal locations
Metal roofs, particularly flat standing seam panels, spill water at a faster rate than more textured roofs - rain gutters need to be sized accordingly to handle the runoff
Denting is a risk with falling tree limbs, large hail and similar debris
Clay or Concrete Roofing Tile
Durable, long lasting and relatively maintenance-free
Offers a range of architectural styles
Can be used to mimic other types of shingles like wood or slate
Good energy efficiency possible with tiles that have higher reflectance (reflecting the sun's energy)
Good insulating value due to the air gap between the tiles and the roof decking
More color options are available
Requires professional installation by experienced installers
More expensive than typical asphalt or wood roof installations (clay is typically more expensive than concrete)
Tile is heavy - roof decking and structure need to be engineered to support it)
Tile roofs are more fragile than other types of roofing and care must be taken when stepping on a tiled roof
Arguably one of the longest-lasting roofs you'll find - can last indefinitely
Adds a nice visual appeal on the right style of home
Slate roofing can actually be reused unlike other forms of roofing
Requires professional installation with contractors that have experience with this type of roofing
Underlying roof structure may need reinforcement / must be built to withstand the heavier weight of slate which adds to the home's framing costs
One of the most expensive types of roofs available
Composite Roofing (Rubber / Plastic / Fiber Cement)
|Photo Courtesy Of CertainTeed|
Offers a lower cost alternative to more expensive roofing styles (slate) and/or more maintenance-intensive materials like wood
Lighter than conventional slate or concrete tiles and can be installed over standard roof structures
Some products are made from recycled materials like old car tires
Has the potential for a very long-lasting roof (based on assumptions made about the material properties of these products)
Visual quality varies and is subjective - some products look more convincing (of other roofing products like slate) while others may have a more plastic look to them
Relatively new on the market so long term performance (durability, color retention) is not fully known
Choosing the right kind of roofing material requires you to take a number of factors into consideration. There's the aesthetic piece of course but you can't forget about the more mundane but still important aspects like your home's environment, how long you plan on staying in your home and other important factors.
Your starting point for making any decision begins with whether you're choosing an original roof (for a new home) or replacing a roof on an existing home. A similar situation to the latter is matching an existing roof on an addition.
If you're starting from scratch with a new roof on a newly-constructed home you have the luxury of considering all the choices that are available.
Choosing a roofing material to replace an existing roof involves different considerations, one of which is whether to stay with the old style of roofing.
So before you get your heart set on any particular type of roofing, consider these points to help you become a more educated buyer and hone in on the right roofing choice.
That doesn't mean you can't change the type of roofing on a pre-existing roof. However you'll need to determine whether the new roof will "work" and be functionally compatible with your home. A good roofing professional can help you make that decision should you want to re-roof with a different roofing material.
If you need a new roof now but plan on moving soon after, make more economical choices for your own benefit rather than putting on an expensive roof for the next owner.
Roof pitch also has an influence on the most appropriate roofing material for the situation. A steeper pitch is more beneficial for wood roofs since it sheds moisture faster and is less likely to collect tree droppings that harbor water and moisture.
On the other hand metal roofs naturally shed water and snow more readily than other roof types so using metal on a steeply pitched roof may require gutters that are sized appropriately to handle the runoff.
Steeper roofs are also more visible, making up a larger portion of what you see every time you drive up to your house. Choosing an aesthetically pleasing and complementary roofing shingle will certainly help bolster your home's curb appeal.
If your home has large trees over the roof you'd be better off trimming or removing the trees or choosing a more economical but sturdy and easy-to-repair roofing material like asphalt shingles.
Roofing manufacturers often tout the robustness of their warranty and you'll see references to 30, 50 and even lifetime warranty durations. To some degree there's some marketing going on since most of us naturally hear "lifetime warranty" and think that the stuff must be pretty good.
Well, with warranties like that, the material usually is pretty good. But don't be too swayed by what sounds like a rock-solid warranty term before understanding what's really covered, what isn't, and the conditions that apply.
Here are the main points about roofing warranties to be aware of:
When it comes to wind damage, warranties first specify that the shingles must have been installed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and not during a cool season (in the case of asphalt). Proving that these conditions were met might not be that easy although keeping your receipt that shows the time of year your roof was installed helps. If you installed your roof during the cool season you may not be eligible for this coverage.
Also, you'll need to conclusively determine that shingles were damaged by winds that did NOT exceed warranty limits. To do this some warranties require National Weather Service records or similar to validate maximum wind speeds when the damage occurred for your county or local area.
As you can see, the fine print of roofing material warranties deserves close examination so that you don't go into a purchase with unrealistic expectations.
This isn't to imply that roofing material manufacturers are trying to dupe anyone with their warranty claims. It's simply that they can be used as a marketing tool to some degree and it pays to really understand what they truly cover and how you are compensated for any problems. Don't buy a roof based simply on the fact that it has a 50 year or lifetime warranty. Do your due diligence and read the warranty first.
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