Topping It Off

Thanks to better-quality products and energy-efficient materials, adding a new roof can enhance any home.

photograph courtesy Metal Depots

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If you’re watching TV in your den while a thunderstorm rages outside, and you have to hold an umbrella to keep the rain off your head, that’s one clue that you need a new roof. Cascades of water dripping into strategically placed buckets throughout your house, or streaks and stains creeping down walls are obvious signs of a leak, and ignore it as long as you can, but a leak almost never stops by itself.

Other signs of roof damage are more subtle, according to Tony Tyrrell, general manager of administration for Ark Roofing in Memphis. “Look for the little granules in your gutters or on the ground, curled edges on shingles, or missing or broken shingles,” he says. “Cracks in the valleys, the troughs where roof planes meet, can be other signs.”

A new roof isn’t sometimes as easy as adding new shingles. Sometimes the old roof has to come off, all the way down to the bare decking. Local building codes specify that homes can have only two layers of shingle roofs, because most houses aren’t designed to carry any more weight than that.

Removing an old roof practically doubles the cost, but often it’s worth it, because it gives workers the chance to replace rotten or warped decking, and install new, higher-quality underlayers of tarpaper and synthetic materials that improve leak resistance and even thermal efficiency.

In recent years, an increasingly popular roofing material is galvanized steel. “Metal is better able to withstand the elements than just about any other material.” – Ken Buchinger

When choosing a roof, Tyrrell says that “composition shingles are still the most cost-effective materials for most homes.” Most of these are composed of tiny stone granules, which provide, color, add strength, and resist damaging ultraviolet light. These are bonded to a “scrim sheet,” the thick layer attached to the house. Years ago, basic roof colors were red, green, gray and shades of brown, “but nowadays customers can choose just about any color they want.”

Standard three-tab shingles are the least expensive — generally costing about $75 for 100 square feet, but “architectural shingles” — with an extra dimension that gives each shingle more texture — are increasingly popular.

“Since they are thicker, these usually have a longer life,” says Tyrrell, “and they are designed to mimic other, more expensive roofing systems, like cedar shakes or slate.”

If your home is designed to carry the extra weight, Ark Roofing and other companies around town can install genuine slate shingles, wooden shakes, and even rows of colored tiles.  “For the most part, however, homeowners prefer composition shingles,” he says, “and if they are properly installed, they can last anywhere from 20 to 30 years, depending on the warranty from the manufacturer.”

In recent years, synthetic materials have also gained popularity, and in the Ark showroom Tyrrell shows banks of slate and cedar molded from colored and textured plastic. From a distance, they look like the real thing. “Fading used to be a problem with these,” he says, “but manufacturers have improved on the quality of these products, so you can have the look of a slate roof without the weight or cost.”


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