When I was growing up, we were told to say "rooves," with a hard "v." These days, "roofs" is the more common pronunciation. I might say either or both today in our podcast mini lesson about choosing the right roofing material for your home.
When choosing the type of roof you want for your new home, you’ll need to consider how much money you want to spend and how often you want to maintain, and potentially repair or replace your roof. The roof is first and foremost a functional structure, but don’t dismiss the importance of choosing a roof that is aesthetically pleasing.
We often give quite a bit of thought to the way the front of our house, or the front elevation, will look. But we sometimes fail to give the color and texture of our roof as much consideration. What roof you choose will have a big impact on your home’s curb appeal. I recently read that if we think of the front of the house as your home’s face, then the roof is like your home’s hair. And you know how important someone’s hair is to their overall appearance.
So today I’ll give an overview of the 6 most common types of roofing materials. We’ll talk about how they function, how much they cost and how they look.
Before we get to the mini lesson, let me correct a mistake that I made in the last episode, episode 20. The episode was what I called a semester exam and it was a whole episode of questions and answers that helped us review the information that we’ve learned over the past several weeks. I misspoke when explaining the answer for question #24. The question was:
True or false: The standard new home has a HERS index score of 50?
Well, the answer is false, and I said that part correctly. Where I misspoke is when I was explaining the answer. I said A house with a HERS score of 50 is 50% LESS energy efficient than a standard new home. That’s wrong. A house with a HERS score of 50 is 50% MORE energy efficient than a standard new home.
Remember that the lower the HERS rating, the more energy efficient a home is. So, I apologize if I confused you. With the help of my awesome editor John, I went back and corrected last week’s podcast. But I wanted to clarify that for those of you who listened last week and might have been confused. Ok, now, let’s go on to today’s pro term.
Today's pro term is Square. NOT square footage, but square. Very often in construction, square feet are used when estimating building materials or when communicating the size of an area, but roofers rely on squares. A square is a
10-by-10-foot patch of roof, so it’s equal to 100 square feet. Roofers order materials and charge for their work using “squares."
Now, on to this week’s mini lesson.
I’ll give you a brief description of the 6 most common types of roofing material and talk about the pros and cons of each. Let’s start with the roofing material that most of us are familiar with, asphalt shingles.
1. Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material used in residential construction in the United States. Asphalt shingles are easy to install and are economical. In fact, this is one of the least expensive roofing options. Asphalt shingles come in a variety of colors and work with many architectural styles.
They’re made of a woven fiberglass base, which is covered with a waterproof asphalt coating and topped with ceramic granules that protect the product from the sun’s harmful rays.
Asphalt shingles have a shorter life span than many other roofing materials and the quality can vary considerably. The thicker and heavier the shingles are, generally, the more durable and the longer the warranty. Little to no maintenance is required for asphalt shingles.
You can choose coated asphalt shingles that could meet the Energy Star standards for a cool roof and that might earn you a rebate. I’ll cover a little bit about cool roofs at the end of the lesson, but right now, let me tell you about the 2 main categories of asphalt shingles— 1. 3 tab asphalt shingles and 2. architectural asphalt shingles.
Three-tab shingles are thinner and less expensive than architectural shingles. They’re becoming less and less popular because they come in just one size and shape and they are less durable than architectural shingles. 3 tab shingles may even lower your home’s value, so on a new, custom built home, 3 tab shingles may not be the best option.
Architectural shingles, on the other hand, are a great option for new homes and are very popular. They are sometimes called laminated or dimensional shingles. The tabs on architectural shingles vary in width and vary slightly in color to give a more dimensional appearance, which mimics the look of more expensive roofs. This is in contrast to 3 tab shingles which have a completely flat look when installed.
Architectural shingles are heavier and more durable than 3 tab shingles. In fact, architectural shingles weigh about 50 percent more than the 3 tab shingles. And, as you can imagine, they are more wind and hail resistant than the 3 tab variety.
Because they are thicker and more durable, architectural shingles usually have a longer warranty. Typically a warranty for architectural shingles is a minimum of 30 years, but lifetime warranties are not uncommon. 3 tab shingles may only have a 15 year warranty.
Asphalt shingles require almost no maintenance. Simply have your roof checked periodically and replace damaged shingles. This is especially important after hail storms. The price of asphalt shingles will vary depending on their durability. Asphalt shingles typically range from between $120 and $300 per square, installed.
Here’s a quick tip about asphalt shingles: specify algae-resistant shingles so your roof doesn’t develop ugly black streaks over time. Although those streaks won’t affect the performance of your roof, you might as well avoid them since they are not very attractive.
2. Wood Shingles or Wood Shakes
For those willing to spend a bit more, you might want to consider wood shingles or shakes. Wood shingles and shakes are typically made from cedar, redwood and southern pine. Wood shingles are machine-cut and give a more crisp, clean look. Wood shakes are handmade and more rustic looking.
Wood roofing materials are definitely not as practical as modern asphalt shingles, but you might want to use them for a traditional or historical-style house. Wood roofing goes well with Cape Cods, cottages, bungalows, Craftsman and Tudor-style homes. I think of homes in the Hamptons when I think of wood shingles and shakes. Many homeowners love the look of wood roofing and like how it weathers to beautiful shade of gray over time.
Despite their beauty, you may want to avoid wood roofs if you’re building in a wet climate, since shingles and shakes can mold, split or rot. These wood roofing materials can also be a concern in regions prone to wildfires.
Fire codes in some areas, especially on the West Coast of the US, prohibit the use of wood roofing. If you live in a fire-prone area, your building code might accept Class A ,fire-rated wood roofing products that are treated with a fire-resistant coating. Just Check with your building inspection department to be sure.
The cost of wood shingles and shakes varies from $400 - $900 per square, installed. Depending on which grade you decide to purchase, wood roofing will last for varying lengths of time. In general, the thicker the shake or shingle, and the better the grade, the longer your roof will last.
The typical wood shake or shingle roof will last 30-40 years, especially if it is well maintained. Maintenance on a wood roof includes removing leaves and debris from the rooftop, especially before the rainy season in your area starts. Rain water tends to accumulate around leaves and debris and that accelerates fungal growth and rot.
WOOD SHAKES WOOD SHINGLES
3. Metal roofs
Metal roofs are resistant to wind, rain, hail, fire, and rot. They are lightweight, recyclable, durable and energy-efficient. Think beyond the corrugated metal roofs that looked like they should be on a barn.
Today’s metal roofing products come in variety of styles and are appropriate for many homes, including bungalows, cabins, contemporary, transitional and cottage-style homes. Metal roofs are available in panels and shingles and can be made of aluminum, copper, stainless steel or zinc.
Of all the common roof types, the metal roof has the most myths associated with it. Let me address some of these myths.
Myth #1. Metal roofs are prone to lighting strikes. Although metal will conduct electricity, electricity is not drawn to metal. And since a metal roof is non-combustible, it may actually be safer than some other roof types, like wood during a lighting storm.
Myth #2. Metal roofs are noisy in the rain. Since most metal roofs will be installed over insulation and an attic space, metal roofs are no louder than other roofs in the rain.
Myth #3. Metal roofs are susceptible to hail damage. Ok, fair enough, extremely large hail can dent a metal roof, but extremely large hail can damage other types of roofs, too. Average sized hail is not a problem for metal roofs and with a textured metal roof, minor denting is not very noticeable.
Myth #4. Metal roofs make your house colder in the winter. Again, remember there should be a good amount of insulation under the metal roof, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
So really, the main disadvantage of a metal roof is that it’s expensive, usually ranging from $300 - $700 per square, installed, but some styles can cost a much as $1,000 and $1,500 per square. Metal roofing can last 40 to 75 years.
4. Clay and Concrete Tiles
Clay and concrete tile shingles are most often seen on Southwestern, Mediterranean and Spanish architecture. Tile shingles are some of the most expensive to purchase and install, but also are one of the longest-lasting and durable materials on the market. They are also fire resistant.
Concrete tiles are less expensive than genuine clay tiles, but like clay tiles, concrete tiles are heavy. They weigh 2 to 4 times as much as standard asphalt shingles.
Some homes might not be able to structurally support the weight of clay and concrete tiles, so you may have to beef up your framing if you are thinking about a tile roof. Consult with a structural engineer if you have any doubts about your home’s structure being able to support clay or concrete tiles.
Concrete tiles range from $200 - $800 per square installed and clay costs between $500 - $1,000 per square installed. Tiles will last around 50 years or longer. Maintenance includes periodic washing, painting and sealing the roof.
Natural Slate roofing is quarried from dense rock and is one of the most durable roofing options. Slate roofing is non-combustible, waterproof, and requires little to no maintenance. Slate is also a sustainable choice and can be recycled. A natural slate roof gives a distinctive, elegant look. When I see a slate roof, I think of old money, you know what I mean? Something you’d see on an estate home.
The slate roofs that I’ve seen have been gray. But slate roofs come in a variety of colors, including shades of black, green, grey, and even, shades of red and purple. Slate works well with French and other European home styles and with Colonials.
Disadvantages of Slate are that it is expensive and heavy, and it usually requires extra framing and highly skilled installers.
The price of a slate roof ranges from about $600 to about $1,500 per square installed. Slate can last from 50 to 100 years, and sometimes even longer.
6. Synthetic Roofing materials
If you want the look of slate, tile or a wood roof—without the high costs of materials, installation and maintenance, you might want to consider synthetic roofing. Products are lightweight, fade resistant, and many products are fire resistant.
Synthetic roofing products can be made of rubber, plastic or polymer and the quality of various products can vary. These products are made in colors that mimic slate, tile and wood.
Synthetic roofing products can work with almost any architectural style and they are not typically not as fragile, heavy or expensive as natural products.
Because they are newer products, we don’t have as much information about how the products wear over time. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) suggests you request samples of the synthetic product and check out homes in your area that have had their synthetic roofs in place for 10 years or more to see how the material wears. Ask local roofing contractors if they know of examples of synthetic roofs in your area.
Synthetic roofing ranges from $400 to $800 per square installed and most products are warrantied for up to 50 years. Companies known for synthetic roofing materials include CertainTeed, EcoStar and DaVinci Roofscapes.
SYNTHETIC SLATE BY DAVINCI
Before I end today’s lesson, let me briefly introduce the concept of a cool roof. Cool roofs are not yet commonly installed in residential construction, but they are gaining popularity as we are striving to build more energy efficient homes. A cool roof reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat than a standard roof. Cool roofs are achieved by using highly reflective paints and coatings on roofing materials or by using special sheet coverings or membranes.
Standard or dark colored roofs can reach temperatures of 150°F or more in hot climates. A cool roof under the same conditions could stay more than 50°F cooler. That means a cool roof can save energy and save money by using less air conditioning. There is so much more that can be said about cool roofs so we will talk more about them in a future podcast. But if you live in a hot climate, you may want to consider a cool roof.
Ok, let’s see how much you’ve learned today by doing 2 quiz questions.
1. Why should you consult a structural engineer before deciding on a clay, concrete tile or slate roof?
You should consult with a structural engineer to ensure that your home's structure can support the weight of a clay, concrete tile or slate roof. Very often, homes will need extra framing to support these types of heavy roofs.
2. All of the following statements about a wood shake or wood shingle roof are true except:
The answer is D. Wood roofing products are neither the most nor the least expensive option. They are moderately price at $400 - $900 per square installed. The most expensive roofing option is slate at $600 to $1,500 per square installed.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, Building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
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