1. How can you tell if it’s time for a new roof?
There are three ways you’ll be alerted to the fact that your roof needs replacement. The first two are the most innocuous – you’ll either see loose or missing shingles on the roof, or you’ll see other homeowners in your neighborhood, with homes built the same age, start replacing their roofs. The third option is the least desirable – your existing roof is leaking. If that’s the case, you’ll probably see brown spots on the ceiling or walls or it smells wet or damp along interior walls. Those are sure-fire signs of water damage, which is probably coming from your roof (unless it’s a plumbing leak.) Be sure to proactively investigate and fix the problem because water damage from a leaky roof can cause serious (and extremely expensive) damage to your home’s structure or even dangerous mold.
Most local ordinances require you to pull a permit before you replace your roof. If you’re hiring a licensed roofing contractor, they’ll be able to advise you on local regulations and even obtain the permit for you before they start the job.
3. Shingling over your existing roof or ripping it off.
Sometimes, you have to tear off the initial shingles and roofing materials before you install a new roof. But it may be possible to re-shingle right over the existing roof. This saves you money but there are drawbacks; if you have defects in the old roof, they still need to be addressed before you cover them with nee shingles. You may still have condensation or ventilation issues that are masked when you put on a new roof, but not fixed. When you tear off your old roofing you get to thoroughly examine the condition of the wood deck underneath, as well as lay a new underlayment, which helps protect against water damage. Most municipal codes only allow a certain number of re-roofs before you have to rip it out and start clean, typically three.
4. Underneath your roof.
Under your finished roof lies a protective layer called the underlayment, or roofing felt. Its purpose is to add an additional layer of moisture between your roof deck and your shingles. This is very important in area where extreme cold temperatures and snow and ice can cause ice damns underneath the roof. Beneath the roofing felt is a “deck” of plywood sheathing, which is attached to the rafters underneath.
Many homeowners don’t realize that a house’s roof and structure are not a “closed system,” but actually requires proper ventilation to allow it to “breathe” and dry out. Efficient ventilation will reduce attic heat, reduce attic moisture and condensation, and prevent weather infiltration. A roofing contractor will be able to inspect your current ventilation and advise you on best options, including building codes in your area.
6. Roofing penetrations.
Penetrations are the area where there are intrusion points through the roof. It may seem like a roof is one continuous plane, but in fact there are pipes, vents, chimneys, antennas, and skylights that breach the roof. It’s so important to have the right specialty flashing and proper instillation techniques to keep your penetration points weatherproof. The best roof in the world will do you no good if water still gets in!
Likewise, rafters are areas of the roof where two separate angles intersect and need to be laid out and sealed correctly. Usually a trough forms at this intersections, where debris and water can collect and sit, so it’s important there is proper angled drainage and a tight seal.
When choosing a roofing product, it’s also important to identify your roof’s pitch. The most common roof pitches are A-frame roofs (traditionally found in cottages,) gable roofs, hip roofs, shed roofs, and flat roofs.
Each roof has it’s own slope, or steepness (rise vs. run,) that makes different types of roofing materials a better choice. For instance, a roof slope below 2/12 (2 inches per one foot) cannot use shingles. But roof slopes between 2/12 and 4/12 (flatter roofs) require specific low-slope application techniques, including application of waterproofing underlayment. While roof slopes above 21/12 require steep-slope application techniques to install it correctly.
10. Types of roofing.
You find this usually on homes with flat rooflines or very steep rooflines. Metal roofs are particularly practical on homes in cold climates, where snow will slide off the metal grooved channels instead of sitting and accumulating, where weight, ice damns, and water when it melts can cause serious damage. Some luxury homes even have copper roofs. Metal roofs usually last up to 50 years.
Tiles shingles are extremely strong and durable, lasting up to 80 years. They’re usually found on Mediterranean or Spanish-style homes. However, it takes a very good roofing contractor to know how to install a tile roof correctly, and the cost will be much higher.
Also called, “shake” roofing, for a period around the early 1980’s, wood shingles were very popular among builders, and considered a high-end look. But they served to be impractical, susceptible to drying, cracking, and leakage. Most people have to replace their wood shingle roof after about 20 years, and choose a new material. However there are some areas where they still use good quality wood shingles – made out of redwood, not cheaper cedar.
Asphalt shingles are the most common type of roofing material. They come in many different colors and qualities vary. It’s important to do a little research and ask your roofing contractor for a recommendation, because some shingles are better than others and often they come with energy rebates. But be careful when it comes to believing audacious claims about warranties – the fine print usually disqualifies homeowners from ever collecting a dime in 99% of cases. A good asphalt shingle should last you 20-30 years.