Topping It Off

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



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photograph courtesy Metal Depots

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,” says Ken Buchinger, vice president of business development for Metal Depots, a Houston-based firm that recently opened a facility in Memphis. “It can last 40 years or longer, it’s sustainable since it’s usually manufactured from 40 percent recycled materials, and it’s 100 percent recyclable when it’s finally time to be replaced.”

Other advantages include fire resistance, strength, and even energy efficiency, since the metal reflects back much of the radiant heat from the sun. Though metal roofs can be copper, aluminum, or even zinc, the most common product is galvanized steel.

As with shingles, “hundreds of colors are available,” says Buchinger, and though years ago fading was an issue with certain metal products, “the paint is now baked on, and warranties are now available for up to 40 years.”

Metal roofs can be applied to almost any home, and Buchinger points out that metal can be used when the pitch of the roof is too steep to hold shingles and heavier products. It can even be installed over an existing shingle roof, though spacers are often used so any curling or warped shingles won’t affect the flatness of the metal sheets.

“It can last 40 years or longer, it’s sustainable since it’s usually manufactured from 40 percent recycled materials, and it’s 100 percent recyclable when it’s finally time to be replaced.” – Ken Buchinger

And if you’re envisioning bland strips of grey steel, think again. Metal roofs are available in various styles and textures, and can even be manufactured to duplicate the look of conventional shingles.

Regardless of the material selected, as with any home improvement project, proper installation is key to the success and longevity. Roofing is a difficult task, and flashing — installing the copper or sheet metal trim that seals shingles around chimneys, gables, and other protrusions — requires a skilled craftsman. The best roof in the world is worthless if the edges aren’t sealed properly, as anyone who has tried to trace the source of a leak can tell you.

“Proper installation is definitely key,” says Tyrrell, “but homeowners also need to hire a roofer that knows and follows the manufacturers’ requirements for whatever materials they are using, whether it’s regular composition shingles or other materials. They have to use the proper base material, they have to use the proper fasteners, or that 20-, 25-, or even 30-year warranty will be null and void.”

When choosing a roofer, first of all we suggest considering the companies listed on page 95 of this issue. After that, Tyrrell suggests that homeowners get detailed estimates from at least three companies. Check their business history with the Better Business Bureau. Look up customers’ comments on Angie’s List, a website that lists local contractors. Ask for references from the companies you are considering, and then go look at the work they did on those homes.

Above all, ask questions. If you have a special challenge, such as a stone chimney (often difficult to seal properly), or a flat roof (a variety of materials can be used here), ask how the company plans to tackle that problem.

Also, find out exactly how the roofer plans to protect your bushes or flowers while the work takes place — especially important if workers will be shucking off chunks of old roof and hundreds of rusty nails.

“A new roof is a major project that you will live with for years,” says Tyrrell, “so above all else, be an informed consumer.” 

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