As every homeowner knows, the houses we live in are in constant need of repair. It seems like there’s always a squeaky door or dripping faucet crying out for attention. But there’s one important part of your house that may go unnoticed, yet it’s responsible for protecting everything you own. It’s your roof — and it may be showing signs of failure.
The roof protects your most valuable asset — your home and your family! But it’s easy to overlook or take for granted, and problems there can cause problems elsewhere if not fixed promptly. In addition, getting a new roof is a great way to update the look of your house overall and can significantly enhance the curb appeal.
If your roof has asphalt shingles and is more than 10 years old, you should conduct a check-up to make sure your roof is performing properly. A simple visual inspection from a ladder or by viewing the roof through binoculars from the driveway and the backyard can reveal some tell-tale signs that your roof may be in need of repair or replacement. Local professional contractors can give you an even better idea of your roof’s condition and may even be willing to look at it for no charge.
It’s normal to have some granules dislodge from the shingles and collect in the gutters, especially when the roof is new. However, if granules are missing on the surface of the shingle, exposing the asphalt or fiberglass mat below, it can decrease the life of your roof. On aging shingles, areas of missing granules indicate your roof has reached the end of its lifespan and will need replacement
A number of factors can cause shingles to buckle: improperly applied felt, wrinkled underlayment, poor roof ventilation or new shingles applied over an existing layer of shingles. If buckling is caused by wrinkled felt below the shingle, a roofing professional can simply remove the affected shingles, cut the wrinkle and replace the shingles. If the cause is poor ventilation, you’ll need to add ventilation to the attic space to allow heat and moisture to escape and keep attic temperatures lower.
If buckling shingles are left untreated, the shingles will begin to crack and tear and will need to be replaced immediately to avoid significant damage to the roof or roof deck which can lead to leaks and rotting. Consult a roofing professional for this job. If your roof has more than one layer of shingles, the top layer will eventually conform to and reveal any imperfections of the layer below. The only solution is a complete tear-off and re-roof.
Curled edges on shingles can be a result of improper fastening (such as high nails or too few nails), poor roof ventilation or lack of a back-coating on the shingles. Curling is more common in organic shingles such as wood and will often start at the bottom edge of the shingle. However, it’s important to note that if roofing is installed on a cold day, some temporary curling or cupping is natural. As soon as the temperature increases the shingles should lay flat. If the problem persists, contact a roofing professional as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the roof.
Rotting is caused when the mat at the core of the shingle absorbs moisture. Rotting is more common when the mat is made from organic compounds. Replace rotted shingles with ones made from non-organic compounds, such as fiberglass, which resist moisture and are less likely to rot.
Detecting the warning signs of a rotting roof is easier than you’d think and doesn’t require a roofing expert. By simply standing on the ground and looking up at the roof, look for shingle irregularities. Depending upon the roof, these irregularities appear as discoloration, black spots or large spaces of missing color granules. Because granules protect the shingle from the harmful affects of UV light, without granules the asphalt is exposed to the elements and will turn black and begin to rot.
Blisters are sometimes found in non-organic shingles and are caused by trapped moisture in the shingle. Not all blistered shingles need to be replaced. But if blistered shingles break open, they can leave shingles susceptible to other damage such as granule loss, color fading and may even lead to water leakage and should be replaced. While blistering shingles are rarely visible from the ground, a punctured blistered shingle will be easily spotted because it will likely appear to have black spots — which are actually the exposed asphalt shingle.
Stains on your indoor ceilings may be caused by a leaking roof. Check your attic to find the source of the leak, and examine the rafters for leaks that travel away from the original source. On the exterior, check the chimney and vents for cracks in the flashing. It is advisable to have a roofing professional who is safely harnessed to the home, conducting checks on these key areas.
Roofs with wood shake shingles present additional challenges. Like shingles, shakes can experience many of the same problems mentioned above. Other problems to watch for with wood shake shingles include:
• Moss/Algae growth
On a shingle roof, algae growth is unsightly but doesn’t affect the service life of the roof. With wood shake shingles, algae can reduce the long-term performance of the roof. Moss and algae growth are most noticeable in damp or humid climates or on shaded areas of the roof. Replace damaged shakes with moss/algae resistant ones.
Splitting can be the result of natural aging or caused by stress, such as walking on the roof. The condition is aggravated by water infiltration in wood, cement tile or fiber reinforced cement shakes and is compounded in damp climates with repeated freezing and thawing. Small cracks can be caulked, but larger ones required the damaged shakes to be replaced.
• Termite damage
Wooden shakes provide sustenance for termites. To exterminate termites, the home must be tented and fumigated. After the termites are gone, replace the affected shakes with new ones.
Choosing Replacement Roof Materials
The choices for roofing materials range from asphalt shingles to wood shakes and clay tiles, from steel panels to rubber look-alike slate. There is an increasing move towards engineered roofing materials. This change is being driven by a few different factors. One is simply the high cost of wood. The second is that in many cases, codes now mandate the use of fireproof construction materials. And third, people understandably want to build with materials that not only look good but also are very long-lived.
The roofing material we mostly see these days — the one that covers the roofs of a great majority of houses across America — is the standard three-tab asphalt shingle. One of the least-expensive roofing options, asphalt shingles are available in a dozen or so different colors both solid and blended. The shingle products being made today are usually guaranteed for 20, or in some cases 30 years, making them an excellent value. Value is the principal advantage of this roofing material, which explains its commonality. The disadvantage, however, if there is one, is the fact that it is so common.
The next upgrade from a standard three-tab is a thicker variation called an architectural shingle. These shingles are built up to be about twice as thick as a normal shingle with the layers staggered to give them a heavier, more substantial or “architectural” look. In some colors they resemble slate, and in other colors wood shakes. With only a modest upgrade in cost and up to a 30-year guarantee, architectural shingles also represent an excellent value with an added touch of style.
For looks, it is hard to beat a wood shingle roof. Over time it weathers out to a gray or soft silver that seems to root the house to the landscape. Several common species are Western Red Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar and Eastern White Cedar. Shingles are relatively smooth and cut to a uniform thickness, although they vary in width. Wood shakes are thicker and rougher, being split rather than sawn from the logs. Wood roofs are meant to breathe and should be laid over a substrate that allows air to circulate behind them. One method of getting air circulation behind the shingles is to lay them on pressure-treated lattice.
For all their great looks, shingles and shakes are expensive to install and do require some periodic maintenance, typically in the form of washing to remove any mildew or moss, and then re-oiling with a clear wood finishing product. A properly installed and maintained wood roof should last at least 30
to 50 years.
Slate and Fake Slate
In the Northeast slate was a traditional roofing material for high-end houses and municipal buildings. It is beautiful, lasts for generations, sheds ice and snow, and is very expensive. Because of its cost and weight, which requires a beefier roof structure to support, slate is not often used these days. Because of this, “engineered” products have become available that give the look of slate. At a reduced weight and cost from slate, these shingles can be installed using standard tools and techniques. From the street, the discerning eye might be able to tell the difference between engineered and the real slate, but most people would never notice. Plus, these shingles are guaranteed to last for as long as 50 years.
Metal roofs, in the form of corrugated, galvanized sheets, have been a standard feature of barns, sheds and other agricultural and utility buildings for years. This type of roof is cheap, rugged, long-lasting and easy to install — perfect for a utility application. On the other end of the spectrum is a copper roof, elegant enough to grace the country’s finest mansions and public buildings. Graceful bay and bow windows are often roofed with sheet copper soldered at the seams. Regardless of the style you choose, in general, a properly installed metal roof should last at least 50 years.
Ceramic tile roofs are found throughout the Mediterranean and Levant — and of course in the Mediterranean-Revival-influenced architecture of Florida and California. Barrel tiles, the most common type of ceramic tile, resemble half cylinders about 16 inches long. In the old days they were individually made by hand, their tapered shape achieved by forming the clay over the top of the thigh.
Tile roofs are quite heavy, so the roof framing must be stout enough to support the load. Waterproofing is achieved via a waterproof membrane laid directly on the roof sheathing. Then the clay tiles are 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 whole process is quite labor intensive, which makes an authentic tile roof quite expensive.
In addition to barrel tiles there are a number of variations of clay roof tiles. Some are shaped like thick shingles, some like slates. A high-quality tile will be hard-fired and will not absorb moisture that could fracture the tile when frozen. Thus such tiles are suitable for colder climates. All high-quality tile roofs are expensive, both in terms of the material and the installation, and so clay tile roofs are fairly rare. Yet, in the long run, the most expensive might be the most cost effective, since you can expect to get 60 to 80 years or even more out of a well-installed tile roof.
If the conditions of your roof imply that it may be time for a replacement, consider which type of roof you would like to be your replacement. For help determining which type is best suited for your home contact a contractor or roofing specialist.