We hope this information will make you a more knowledgeable consumer and, when the time comes, a smart roof system buyer.
All steep-slope roof systems (i.e., roofs with slopes of 25 percent or more) have five basic components
There are a number of things to consider when selecting a new roof system. Of course, cost and durability head the list, but aesthetics and architectural style are important, too. The right roof system for your home or building is one that balances these five considerations. The following roofing products commonly are used for steep-slope structures.
Asphalt roof shingles possess an overwhelming share of the U.S. steep-slope roofing market and can be reinforced with organic or fiberglass materials. Although asphalt shingles reinforced with organic felts have been around much longer, fiberglass-reinforced products now dominate the market.
Organic roof shingles
A roof shingle’s reinforcement has little effect on its appearance. Organic and fiberglass products are available in laminated (architectural) grades that offer a textured appearance. Zinc or copper-coated ceramic granules also can be applied to organic or fiberglass products to protect against algae attack, a common problem in warm, humid parts of the United States. Both types of shingles also are available in a variety of colors.
Regardless of their reinforcing type and appearance, asphalt shingles’ physical characteristics vary significantly. When installing asphalt shingles, NRCA recommends use of shingles that comply with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards-ASTM D 225 for organic shingles and ASTM D 3462 for fiberglass shingles. These standards govern the composition and physical properties of asphalt shingles; not all asphalt shingles on the market comply with these standards. If a shingle product complies with one of these standards, it is typically noted in the manufacturer’s product literature and on the package wrapper.
Wood roof shingles and roof shakes are made from cedar, redwood, southern pine and other woods; their natural look is popular in California, the Northwest and parts of the Midwest. Wood shingles are machines awn; shakes are handmade and rougher looking. A point to consider: Some local building codes limit the use of wood shingles and shakes because of concerns about fire resistance. Many wood shingles and shakes only have Class C fire ratings or no ratings at all. However, Class A fire ratings are available for certain wood shingle products that incorporate a factory-applied, fire-resistant treatment.
Tile roof shingles—clay or concrete—is a durable roofing material. Mission and Spanish-style round-topped tiles are used widely in the Southwest and Florida, and flat styles also are available to create French and English looks. Tile is available in a variety of colors and finishes. Tile is heavy. If you are replacing another type of roof system with tile, you will need to verify that the structure can support the load.
Slate roof shingles is quarried in the United States in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is available in different colors and grades, depending on its origin. Considered virtually indestructible, it is, however, more expensive than other roofing materials. In addition, its application requires special skill and experience. Many old homes, especially in the Northeast, still are protected by this long-lasting roofing material.
Metal roof shingles , primarily thought of as a low-slope roofing material, has been found to be a roofing alternative for home and building owners with steep-slope roofs. There are two types of metal roofing products: panels and shingles. Numerous metal panel shapes and configurations exist. Metal shingles typically are intended to simulate traditional roof coverings, such as wood shakes, shingles and tile. Apart from metal roofing’s longevity, metal shingles are relatively lightweight, have a greater resistance to adverse weather and can be aesthetically pleasing. Some have Class A fire ratings.
Synthetic roofing products simulate various traditional roof coverings, such as slate and wood shingles and shakes. However, they do not necessarily have the same properties.
Before making a buying decision, NRCA recommends that you look at full-size samples of a proposed product, as well as manufacturers’ brochures. It also is a good idea to visit a building that is roofed with a particular product.
One of the most critical factors in roof system durability is proper ventilation. Without it, heat and moisture build up in an attic area and combine to cause rafters and sheathing to rot, shingles to buckle, and insulation to lose its effectiveness.
Therefore, it is important never to block off sources of roof ventilation, such as louvers, ridge vents or soffit vents, even in winter. Proper attic ventilation will help prevent structural damage caused by moisture, increase roofing material life, reduce energy consumption and enhance the comfort level of the rooms below the attic.
In addition to the free flow of air, insulation plays a key role in proper attic ventilation. An ideal attic has:
A roof system’s performance is affected by numerous factors. Knowing about the following will help you make informed roof system buying decisions:
Buying a new roof system is an important investment. Before you spend your money, spend time learning how to evaluate roofing contractors. You should insist on working with a professional roofing contractor. NRCA wants to assist you in getting the kind of results you expect—a quality roof system at a fair price. All roofing contractors are not alike, and NRCA recommends that you qualify roofing contractors to get the job done right the first time. The following guidelines will help you select a professional:
A: All too often, roof system problems are discovered after leaking or other serious damage occurs. Periodic (twice-a-year) inspections often can uncover cracked, warped or missing shingles; loose seams and deteriorated flashing; excessive surface granules accumulating in the gutters or downspouts; and other visible signs of roof system problems. Indoors, look for cracked paint, discolored plasterboard and peeling wallpaper as signs of damaged roof areas.
A: You have two basic options: You can choose a complete replacement of the roof system, involving a tear-off of your existing roof system, or re-cover the existing roof system, involving only the installation of a new roof system. If you’ve already had one re-cover installed on your original roof system, check with a professional roofing contractor. In many instances, building code requirements allow no more than one roof system re-cover before a complete replacement is necessary.
A: Not necessarily. Leaks can result from flashing that have come loose or a section of the roof system being damaged. A complete roof system failure, however, generally is irreversible and a result of improper installation or choice of materials or the roof system installation is inappropriate for the home or building.
A: Most work should not be done yourself. Professional roofing contractors are trained to safely and efficiently repair or replace roof systems. You can damage your roof system by using improper roofing techniques and severely injure yourself by falling off or through the roof.
Maintenance performed by home and building owners should be confined to inspecting roof systems during the fall and spring to check for cracked or curling shingles and cleaning gutters filled with dead leaves and other debris. If you must inspect your roof system yourself, use a firmly braced or tied-off ladder equipped with rubber safety feet. Wear rubber-soled shoes and stay on the ladder (and off the roof system), if possible.
A: Most new roof systems are designed to provide useful service for about 20 years. Some roof system types, such as slate, clay tile and certain metal (e.g., copper) systems, can last longer.
Actual roof system life span is determined by a number of factors, including local climatic and environmental conditions, proper building and roof system design, material quality and suitability, proper application and adequate roof maintenance.
Roofing product manufacturers offer a variety of warranties on their products. Take a close look at those warranties to see what responsibilities and financial obligations manufacturers will assume if their products fail to reach their expected lives.
A: The price of a new roof system varies widely, depending on such things as the materials selected, contractor doing the work, home or building, location of the home or building, local labor rates and time of year. To get a good idea of price for your roof system, get three or four proposals from reputable contractors in your area. Keep in mind that price is only one factor, and it must be balanced with the quality of the materials and workmanship.
For each roofing material, there are different grades and corresponding prices. There also are a variety of styles and shapes. You need to look at the full product range and make a choice based on your budget and needs.
Within the roofing profession, there are different levels of expertise and craftsmanship. Insist on a contractor who is committed to quality work.
A: When considering your roofing options, the following formula may help:
Total Cost (Materials and Labor) ÷ Life Expectancy of Roof System (in years) = Annual Roofing Cost
Terms you should know
Dormer: A small structure projecting from a sloped roof, usually with a window.
Fascia: A flat board, band or face located at a cornice’s outer edge.
Felt/underlayment: A sheet of asphalt-saturated material (often called tar paper) used as a secondary layer of protection for the roof deck.
Fire rating: System for classifying the fire resistances of various materials. Roofing materials are rated Class A, B or C, with Class A materials having the highest resistance to fire originating outside the structure.
Flashing: Pieces of metal used to prevent the seepage of water around any intersection or projection in a roof system, such as vent pipes, chimneys, valleys and joints at vertical walls.
Louvers: Slatted devices installed in a gable or soffit (the underside of eaves) to ventilate the space below a roof deck and equalize air temperature and moisture.
Oriented strand board (OSB): Roof deck panels (4 by 8 feet) made of narrow bits of wood, installed lengthwise and crosswise in layers, and held together with a resin glue. OSB often is used as a substitute for plywood sheets.
Penetrations: Vents, pipes, stacks, chimneys-anything that penetrates a roof deck.
Rafters: The supporting framing to which a roof deck is attached.
Rake: The inclined edge of a roof over a wall.
Ridge: The top edge of two intersecting sloping roof surfaces.
Sheathing: The boards or sheet materials that are fastened to rafters to cover a house or building.
Square: The common measurement for roof area. One square is 100 square feet (10 by 10 feet).
Truss: Engineered components that supplement rafters in many newer homes and buildings. Trusses are designed for specific applications and cannot be cut or altered.
Valley: The angle formed at the intersection of two sloping roof surfaces.
Vapor retarder: A material designed to restrict the passage of water vapor through a roof system or wall.