You may not be as excited about choosing a roof as you are about choosing wood floors, granite or paint colors. From an aesthetic standpoint, roofs often go unnoticed, but when it comes to keeping your home safe and sound your roofing choice is one of the most important decisions.
If you’re building a home or replacing a roof, you’re in for a staggering assortment of options. Materials range from traditional asphalt to plastic polymers to rubber made to look like slate. In general, more builders are using engineered products. They cost less, last longer and are fire-resistant or even fireproof.
All materials have advantages and drawbacks, so it pays to do your homework. Weight, durability, sustainability, and cost are certainly factors, but you should also think of roofing as a unique design element. Your roofing contractor can shed light on what will work best with your home’s frame and roof slope, but here are some options you can start thinking about.
The low cost of asphalt shingles accounts for their popularity; around 80 percent of U.S. homeowners use them. They also come in a wide variety of color choices. Standard three-tab shingles were once notoriously unstable, but they’re now improved to last longer than they used to. It’s not unusual to get a 20- or 30-year warranty.
Asphalt shingles are made of either fiberglass or paper fiber mat. Fiberglass is more resistant to fire and damp conditions, and paper fiber mat stands up to cold, windy weather. If you live in a humid area, choose an algae-resistant shingle that’s guaranteed to resist staining.
Asphalt can be recycled, but being petroleum-based, it’s not the most eco-friendly.
Staggered architectural shingles are a significant upgrade that’s well worth the additional cost. They’re twice as thick as ordinary asphalt three-tab shingles and have a more pleasing appearance.
All kinds of metals, including aluminum, steel, copper and zinc alloy, make good roofing materials. Their chief advantages are durability and resistance to fire and wind.
As design elements, metal roofs are extremely flexible. Some come in corrugated, galvanized sheets for a rugged or industrial-chic look. Some are cut into interlocking shingles meant to imitate other materials. The fasteners may be either exposed or hidden. You could choose a painted finish or opt for unfinished copper that takes on a green patina as it ages.
If you live in a region with hot summers, it’s worth noting that metal roofs absorb about 33 percent less heat than asphalt shingle roofs.
Prices range from moderate to expensive, but you can expect a metal roof to last up to 50 years. Copper is the priciest option, but even if a full copper roof is out of your budget, consider using copper as an accent on dormers or other roof details for a unique look.
Wood Shingles and Shakes
Cedar, redwood and pine roofs seem to deliberately weather to match the natural landscape around them. Their aesthetic appeal is timeless, and wood is also a 100 percent eco-friendly choice. However, installation can be expensive, and a wood roof requires periodic maintenance to keep it looking good and prolong its life.
Shingles are smooth and uniform. Shakes are thicker and more rustic-looking because they’re split from the logs rather than neatly sawn off. Wood roofs are sturdy against heavy winds, but they must be treated with fire retardants. Some regions where wildfires are common disallow them altogether. Maintenance includes washing away the moss and mildew that inevitably collect and reapplying the oily wood finisher. The roof won’t last near as long if it’s neglected.
Many homeowners opt for imitation wood shingles made of fiber cement, a cellulose-reinforced composite material. They have realistic-looking wood grain, last a long time, require no maintenance and satisfy the fire marshal.
Plastic polymer shingles have all the same characteristics but are more lightweight.
If your framing is stable enough to support a heavy roof, go with classic terra-cotta barrel tiles for a Mediterranean look. It’s important, though, to spring for a quality product that’s been hard-fired. Cheap tiles tend to absorb moisture and crack in freezing temperatures.
The main drawback to tile roofs is their cost. Installing them is extremely labor-intensive. You’ll pay up to three times what you would for a standard asphalt shingle roof, but a tile roof typically lasts for 60 to 80 years. The materials in traditional roofing tiles are all-natural and perfectly fire-resistant. Modern tiles engineered to look like them might be made of concrete or plastic.
Slate is one of the oldest roofing materials. It was once the go-to material in the Northeast because it’s impervious to snow and ice. Natural slate is also quite beautiful, but nobody uses it much anymore; the extreme weight and high cost make it impractical for most homeowners. Not only that, but installation requires specially trained workers and particular tools.
Nowadays, synthetic imitations made of recycled plastic and rubber look and function just like the real thing. Installing imitation slate doesn’t call for reinforcing an existing roof structure. It is one-third the heft and cost of slate, and it’s guaranteed to last for around 50 years.
Before you make your final decision, understand that this investment should pay off for decades. Budget constraints may prevent you from choosing the very finest, but a roof that has to be repaired often or replaced every 10 or 15 years is no bargain at all. In short, make sure that your expectations about the cost vs. performance (aka value) are realistic. Buy only from trusted manufacturers and carefully read their warranties and if you have questions, call up several of your local lumberyard or roofing supply stores and start asking questions about their recommendations. Contact Franklin Building Supply for any contractor supplies. They can help you with mud and all of your building supply needs.