Buying new roofing systems is a huge investment. It’s a good idea to gather as much information as you can before you start interviewing contractors. Being a knowledgeable consumer will help you buy smart, when you are ready. This article addresses general guidelines so you can ask the right questions throughout the process.
Roofing Systems Components
The most basic understanding of roofing systems starts with the type of roof you have. There are two general classifications:
- sloping roofs
- flat roofs
Each type of roof requires slightly different components. Let’s take them one at a time:
Roofing Systems: Sloping Roofs
Sloping roofs: The most common type of roof for residential homes, sloping roofs (i.e., roofs with slopes of more than 25%) are easy to maintain, especially given the wide fluctuations in temperature we experience in North Carolina. Roof system components for sloping roofs are as follows:
- Roof covering: consisting of asphalt, slate, metal, or wood shingles
- Sheathing: wood planks or sheet metal that are attached to the rafters covering a house or other building
- Roof structure: rafters and trusses constructed to hold up the roof
- Flashing: sheet metal or other material used to seal various joints and valleys to prevent water leaks
- Drainage: design features of roofing systems such as shape, slope, and layout that enable it to shed water
When it comes to choosing one of the roofing systems that are right for you, the most significant (and fun!) decision you, as the homeowner will make, is about the type of shingles you want. Are you focused primarily on price or do you want to get a high-end look? Are you willing to spend a bit more for materials that will hold up longer?
However you answered, here are your basic options when it comes to roofing systems and shingle types:
- Asphalt shingles:These are the most common type of shingles used in North America because they are affordable, long-lasting, offer reliable waterproofing, and come in a wide variety of colors and styles. Asphalt shingles are also easy to install, so they save on labor costs.On average, asphalt shingles will last 20 years before needing to be replaced.
- Slate and tile shingles: These offer an added architectural touch. Slate and tile are attractive, upscale, fire resistance, and easy to maintain. The expected lifespan of these shingles is up to 100 years. But because they are heavy, easily broken, and less flexible than asphalt shingles, a high degree of expertise is needed for installation. All of this makes slate and tile a more expensive option.
- Metal roofing: One of the newest popular options, especially in the southeast, is metal shingles. Metal shingles are lightweight and low maintenance. When the paint fades or rust occurs, they can be sanded down and repainted, so they are seen as more environmentally friendly. They also require additional expertise to install correctly.
- Wood shake and cedar shingles: Another green-friendly option, especially if recycled wood is used, wood shake or cedar shingles give your home exterior a natural look. One important consideration here is that some local building codes limit the use of wood shingles because of concerns about fire resistance. Make sure to ask your contractor to check with local authorities before set your heart on these.
Roofing Systems: Flat Roofs
Flat roofs: A bit more complicated are flat roofs, which can require a good deal of maintenance. Flat roofs require regular cleaning to prevent leaves and debris from clogging gutters. The sun can cause damage too. Because of these factors, flat roofs need to be replaced more often (every 15 years or so).Roof system components for flat roofs are as follows:
- Built-up roof (BUR) membranes:a sticky layer of tar (the membrane) covering the roof that is typically covered with gravel.
- Metal panel systems: like sloping roofs, flat roofs can also be covered with structural metal panels.
- Polymer-modified bitumen sheet membranes: composed of alternating levels of fabric that carries hot polymer-modified bitumen rolled out over the roof(similar to sod you might have laid down around your property).
- Spray polyurethane foam-based (SPF) roof systems: a spray application weatherproofing that can be installed in various thicknesses to provide additional slope for drainage.What type of roof membrane system is right for your flat roof will depend on the level of weatherproofing you need based on the location of your home. An experienced roofer will help you determine what’s best based on your home’s specifications. For a more detailed explanation of available roofing systems, visit the National Roofing Contractors Association website.
Roofing Systems: Warranties
Warranties: When purchasing a new roof or having repairs done to your existing roof, there will be two warranties to consider. First, there will be a manufacturer’s warranty, which covers defects in manufacturing of the materials used. What materials, finishes, and length of coverage will vary depending on which of the roofing systems you choose. Shingle warranties range from 20 years to as long as you own your home. Much like when you buy a car and the dealer provides paperwork for your warranty, the contractor should provide a certificate for your records.Second, the contractor will provide you with a warranty covering his team’s craftsmanship. This typically covers issues related to installation. Make sure that the warranty specifies precisely what is covered and what will cause the warranty to be voided. Although there is no industry standard, most contractors offer one or two years of coverage.
- Hire a Licensed, Insured Contractor: It’s very important to insist on working with a professional roofing contractor. Don’t be shy! Don’t hesitate to ask any contractor to provide proof of liability insurance and workers’ compensation. Working with a licensed, insured professional can mean the difference between getting a quality roof that lasts for 25 years or longer and being slapped with a lawsuit because a piece of your incorrectly installed roof flew off and injured a neighbor.
In addition, a professional contractor will happily inspect your roof and provide an estimate for services. Get several bids and compare them before making a final decision. Remember also that it’s smart to maintain a healthy skepticism when it comes to the lowest bid. The old adage holds true: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Price is only one consideration among others such as professionalism, experience, and evidence of quality workmanship.
When you are ready to replace that roof, make sure that you have done your homework. Find a friendly, professional contractor who has your best interest in mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’re here to help you understand your roofing system so you can make an informed decision. Contact us today!
Chief Roofing 919-732-5028