Aside from keeping your house
dry, the roof contributes greatly to the look of the house,
so when building a new house, adding on, or re-roofing, it
may pays to consider your options. Currently there are more
options than ever.
Roofs range from asphalt
shingles to wood shakes and clay tiles, from steel panels to
rubber lookalike slate. The as is with home-construction
materials in general, there is an increasing move towards
engineered roofing materials.
This change is being driven
by; the high cost of wood, building codes mandating the use
of fireproof construction materials and people wanting to
build with materials that are long-lived and also look good.
The roofing material we
see the most of these days in America is the standard
three-tab asphalt shingle. Asphalt Shingles are the
least-expensive roofing options and are available in a dozen
or so different colors. The asphalt shingle products being
made today are usually guaranteed for 20, or more years
making them an excellent value. The principal advantage of
this roofing material is value. The disadvantage, if there
could be said to be one, is the fact that it is so common.
You can also upgrade from the
standard three-tab to a thicker variation called an
architectural shingle. These shingles are about twice as
thick as a normal asphalt shingle with layers staggered to
give them a heavier, more substantial look. With some colors
they resemble slate and other colors wood shakes. With a
modest upgrade in cost and a 30-year guarantee,
architectural shingles represent an excellent value with an
added touch of style.
Shingles (Shakes & Wood):
Shingle roofs look great.
Over time they weather to a gray or soft silver that seems
help the house blend into the landscape. Several species of
wood are used: Western Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar and White
Cedar. Shingles are relatively smooth and cut to a uniform
thickness, though they can vary in width. Wood shakes are
thicker and rougher. They are split rather than sawn from
Wood roofs need to breathe
and should be laid over a substrate that allows air to
circulate behind. Skip sheathing (wood strips) or battens
nailed directly to the roof rafters are the traditional
method of installing wood shingle roofs.
Wood shingles and shakes are
expensive to install and do require periodic maintenance, in
the form of washing to remove mildew or moss, then re-oiling
with a clear wood finishing product. A properly installed
and maintained wood roof should last 30 to 50 years.
Because of fire danger, local
codes now require all roofing materials to be fireproof. The
use of fake shakes (cement shingles manufactured to look
like a wood shake) is rapidly increasing, because they
satisfy the strict fire codes in the West and because they
are long lived and require no maintenance.
Slate and Fake Slate:
In some areas slate was
used as a roofing material for high-end houses and municipal
buildings. Its beautiful, lasts for generations, sheds ice
and snow and is very expensive. Because of its weight, which
requires a beefier roof structure for support and cost,
slate is not often used these days. In its place an
"engineered" product, a slate lookalike fabricated from
recycled rubber and plastic. At about one-third the weight
and cost of slate, these shingles can be installed using
standard tools and techniques. From the street, the average
person would not be able to tell the difference between
engineered and real slate. And, some of these shingles are
guaranteed to last for as long as 50 years.
pricing, can run from cheap to expensive depending on the
material used. A cheap example would be in the form of
corrugated, galvanized sheets, which have been a standard
feature of barns, sheds and other agricultural and utility
buildings for many years. They are cheap, rugged,
long-lasting and easy to install, perfect for a utility
An expensive example would be
a copper roof. They grace the country's finest mansions and
public buildings. Bay and bow windows are often roofed with
sheet copper soldered at the seams. Larger expanses of roof
are covered using the "standing-seam" method, in which one
sheet joins with its parallel mate via an interlocking
There are many products to
choose from between the galvanized low-end and the copper
high-end. There are a variety of powder-coated steel roof
"systems" on the market, some very cost-effective variations
on the galvanized sheet-steel. Others are factory-built
standing-seam roofs, custom made to your structure and
installed by a roofing contractor. The advantage of these is
that they require no special fabricating equipment and can
be installed by any qualified contractor.
In addition to standing-seam
roofs, there are several types of metal shingles available.
One, an interlocking tin shingle. Another variation
commercially available nationwide is an interlocking copper
A properly installed metal
roof should last at least 50 years.
Ceramic tile roofs are
found throughout the Mediterranean as well as Florida and
California. Barrel tiles, the most common type of ceramic
tile, resemble half cylinders about 16 inches long. Tile
roofs are quite heavy, so the roof framing must be stout to
support the load. Waterproofing is achieved via a membrane
laid directly on the roof sheathing. The clay tiles are then
laid one by one in a pad of mortar. Tiles turned upside down
form a trough, which is then covered by tiles laid right
side up. The process is quite labor intensive, which makes a
tile roof quite expensive, about three times the cost of a
standard three-tab shingle job.
There are a number of
variations of clay roof tiles. Some shaped like thick
shingles and some like slates. In the long run the most
expensive roof might be the most cost effective, since you
can get 60 to 80 years or even more out of a well installed
Choosing roofing materials can depend on your locality, and
your personal taste. Local styles and codes can also dictate
which type of roofing shingle you choose. Above all, when
choosing roofing shingles look at: features, cost, fire
retarding ability, and wearability.