How to choose a new roof for your house

High angle view of a new roof made of traditional clay tiles
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Your home is your biggest investment and can be a source of pride for you and your family when it is well maintained. Maintaining your home and keeping its value up means you may need a new roof at some point during your house’s life in order to protect it from the elements and keep your family comfortable by holding in heat and keeping out cold. It can be difficult to know where to start when replacing your roof. What kind of roofing materials will be used? How expensive is the cost of labor and materials? Are roofing contractors reliable and do they offer a warranty on the roof after the work is done? Are there any hidden costs? What style of roofing shingles should I get? We will discuss the answers to these questions and more as they can differ according to the contractor and the home that they are doing the installation on. The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely you are to get the best roof for your home.

Do You Need a New Roof?

If a home has been touched by fire or natural disaster, it is painfully obvious when a roof repair is needed, as a tree may have fallen through the home or debris may have gathered and created a hole into the attic. Sometimes, however, it can be more difficult to determine when a roof is healthy or in need of replacing. A single drip of water through the attic can be enough to cause major damage over time in the structure of your home and roof. While it is possible that a leak can be fixed with caulk and a few extra shingles, it can often lead to a discovery of heavy roof damage. In order to keep the full value of your home and make sure you maintain that value over the years, you need to consider your roof just as important as your foundation or any other essential part of your home and get it replaced. Make sure to have a licensed professional assess the damage and decide what needs to be done. Shingles that are cupped , sticking up, dry, or flaky should be replaced immediately, and structural damage should be rooted out in the area. Cracked shingles will let in water, threaten your family’s health with possible mold or other contaminants, and damage the structure of your home over time. If you notice all of your neighbors are replacing their roof, and your home was built around the same time as theirs, it may be a good sign to replace your roof before any damage occurs. It is recommended that you replace a roof after 20 years, even if it isn’t damaged, as the materials will have broken down and it is unlikely to be covered by warranty after that much time. Different roofing materials have different lifespans, and we will discuss that further so that you can be as informed as possible when buying a new roof.

Roofing Terminology

Roofers use different terminology, and being educated on this ahead of time can help you stay ahead of the game. Instead of simply using square feet to measure, they will measure per “square,” which is a ten by ten foot square. When discussing price and roofing tiles, make sure to get the exact measurements of your roof, so that you are both on the same page. You will usually receive an estimate on the cost of the roof material and labor based on the amount of squares and on the existing condition of the roof and house. If there is fire damage or other structural issues in the existing roof, this can make installing a new roof dangerous or more costly, at the very least. Also, a flat roof will be priced differently than a roof with many gables and angles.

Roofing Materials

Each home is different and the type of materials that can be used are dependent on the original architecture. For example a home that has a heavily slanted roof may not be able to support a metal roof or heavy concrete tile. Residential roofing is differently designed and the shingles must be chosen accordingly. The most common type is the asphalt shingle. These are the cheapest to install, and also the cheapest to manufacture. Getting laminated asphalt shingles can improve the life of your roof and is recommended. Wood shingles, sometimes called “shakes,” are still used, but are prohibited in certain places due to fire code. They also have a life of about 25 years, which is a similar range to asphalt shingles, which can last from 15 to 25 years, if laminated. Cedar, redwood, and pine are the usual types of wood used for wood shingles today. Metal roofs are much more expensive and can use metals such as copper, aluminum, lead, or an asphalt and copper hybrid. A metal roof is generally more durable and lasts longer, but the materials can be very heavy, making them unsuitable for some projects, as well as more costly for labor and transport. Sometimes they are installed as individual shingles that are soldered together, or they are laid in sheets, called “architectural shingles,” in certain cases, depending on the architecture of the existing roof. Tile and Cement roofs are not as common anymore, as they are extremely heavy materials. They are extremely durable, though, and you will see them on Spanish Colonial and Mission style architecture standing the test of time to this day. Slate is one of the most durable of all roofing materials, but is also the most expensive. It has high durability, however, if the house can handle the immense weight. These are the most commonly used types of roofing and should give you a good guide of what to shop for when searching for shingles and making sure you are getting a good value from your roofing contractor.

The Appearance of your Roof

The roof of your home is often the first thing people will see when they view your house from the street. The color and materials should match the rest of your home and look natural in comparison. Consider the style of architecture of your home and the original roofing material. You probably shouldn’t mix architectural styles, rather rely on the original design of the home and try to improve on it. Consider your roof a part of your outdoor decoration and how it might blend in when relaxing in your backyard or viewing it from the house across the street. It can be difficult to match the color of your shingles to the overall color scheme of your home. Color isn’t just a stylistic choice, either, as a dark colored roof can take in more heat and a light colored roof can reflect the heat away from your home. This can impact heating and cooling costs. Just remember that your roof can be up to 40 percent of the visible exterior of your home, and you should take care and take your time to make sure the colors and materials you choose for your roof and shingles match properly. Clay shingles that are made to imitate wood might be a good choice if you want a natural wood aesthetic but want the durability of clay. Imitation shingles that mimic the exterior of other materials exist to give you these extended options when designing your dream roof. If you always wanted an aluminum roof, you may be able to get that aesthetic with special asphalt shingles instead.

Roof Installation

Flashing will most likely be needed on your home. This is a process of adding metal or plastic strips at areas where different materials join together in order to further weather proof your home against the elements. Do not allow your contractor to use tar for joints, as this is an outdated way of setting up your roof and can lead to damage in the future. Instead, tar paper should be used and rolled on before adding the roof tiles. Depending on the climate where the house is located ,a shielding can be added to help keep out further ice and rain, if desired. The cost of installation should go up based on several factors: the steepness and complexity of the roof, the heaviness and difficulty of transporting materials, and the material of the shingles chosen.

What Should You Expect in a Warranty?

You will often be offered a life-time warranty by most roofing contractors, but beware that this usually only covers the first 10 years of your roof’s life and often only the roofing material. Make sure to read the fine print in an agreement as sometimes they will only pay the depreciated value of your roof shingles over time and not what they were worth when you had the roof installed. Asphalt roofing or clay tiles might have a different warranty than metal roofs, for example, which could be considered more durable. Also make sure the warranty is on the work done on your roof itself, if possible, and not just on the roof materials, as these can depreciate over time. If you want to add solar panels or make other changes to your roof, be careful, as this may void the original warranty on your roofing. Because of all these factors, you should make sure to choose the most durable material and the best reviewed contractor you can find, as many homeowners are realizing that this is the best way to protect their investment over time.

Maintenance and Your Home’s Future

The durability of the materials and the quality of the installation will mostly determine how the value of your roof holds up over time. This has a huge impact on the overall value and comfortability of your home. Make sure to root out any leaks or cracks in the shingles of your roof as quickly as possible and be sure to have a professional come out to assess the damage so you can repair it quickly before it becomes a larger problem. The slope and weight of your roof will have a large impact on the foundation of the home over time as well so make sure to use the proper materials for your home as it was designed by the architect and keep things up to local building codes. Residential roofing is an interesting business and being educated on all these ins and outs can help you stay on top during future negotiations. Keep these tips nearby so you can get the most durable roof for your money and get a quality installation from your roofing contractor.