Raising the Roof
By Tosha Kelly
It's time for a new roof and you say you want one that's inexpensive, maintenance-free and lasts forever. Simple enough, right? Not necessarily. With so many roofing choices out there, the process can get complicated. But choosing wisely from the start will help you avoid the frustration of poor performing roofing products, as well as the need to re-roof in a few years.
Beyond performance, it's smart to freshen up your exterior with a great looking roof, especially if you want to boost your home's curb appeal or if you're planning to sell your home. "Replacing that old shake roof is one of the best improvements you can make to increase your home's value," says Laura Halverson of RE/MAX Dynamic Properties. "Typically 40 percent of the curb appeal of a home comes from the roof." Halverson adds that an old roof or a roof with issues will substantially hurt the seller's bottom line and increase the home's time sitting on the market.
Don't start shopping for shingles – yet
You know you need a new roof, but before you start shopping for shingles, stop and think: How long do you want your roof to last? Some roofing materials are designed to last 15, 20, 30 or 40 years. If you plan on staying in your home for a long time, you might want to pay extra for a 50-year, lifetime or specialty roof. But if your growing family or retirement plans have you upsizing or moving in the next few years, don't put on a roof you won't stay to see the benefits of.
For example, some asphalt shingles are inexpensive to buy, but they have half (or less) the life expectancy of other roofing materials. But higher-quality asphalt shingles can be a viable option if properly chosen and can last 30 to 40 years or more. The moral? Even the same product type can have a wide range of quality, so be sure you know what you're getting before you buy.
The attraction of asphalt shingles is that they are affordable and lightweight — no additional engineering is needed to put them on your rooftop. Of all the roofing products available, they usually are the least expensive upfront, but proportionately less durable over time. Proponents, however, tout that asphalt roofs require little or no maintenance, so it goes on saving you money throughout the life of your roof. Also, asphalt roof shingles are easily repaired if damaged.
Michelle Holland, owner of Holland Roofing, recommends that homeowners look for SBS modified shingles, which means there is rubber in the asphalt. "It's more flexible, installs better in the cold weather and has a higher wind warranty." The 50-year SBS modified shingles, she says, combine the strength of "rubber" modified technology with an architectural, or designer look. "They're prettier, fancier, thicker and heavier, which tends to mean that they'll last longer."
Malarkey Roofing Products produces a shingle called the Alaskan, constructed using SBS rubber in the asphalt for our rugged environment. In fact, these shingles attracted quite a bit of attention nationwide in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. Dade County Florida rewrote building codes to help its citizens get roofing products that actually resisted high winds. For months, the only shingle allowed to be installed in that county was Malarkey's Alaskan Shingle.
Holland adds that it is especially important for homeowners to look at the wind rating before looking at the lifespan on any shingle product. "Wind zones in Anchorage have changed, and many of the 25-year shingles being sold are not rated for the wind."
Brent Eaton, owner of E/P Roofing, recommends IKO's Cambridge architectural shingles, which are fiberglass-based asphalt shingles. These affordable shingles provide a classic, wood shake look but with extreme protection against all kinds of weather and high winds. For those interested in green building, IKO's Cambridge 30 shingles are the first in the asphalt roofing industry to receive independent verification of recycled content from the prestigious Scientific Certification Systems organization.
Heavy metal has its following
There are many shingle options you won't find in Alaska – concrete, tile and slate, for example – because they aren't designed to hold the weight of Alaska's snow and ice.
In Alaska, your best choices are metal and the fiberglass-based variety, says Eaton. All metal roofing materials and most fiberglass shingles have a Class A fire rating, signifying the highest protection should fire threaten. In terms of longevity, Eaton says, a metal roof can't be beat. Metal won't deteriorate or be affected by extreme weather the way organic roofing materials will, and can decrease the chances of roof collapse, during earthquake or fire damage.
But if you're concerned that a metal roof would be better suited atop an agricultural outbuilding than your home, consider this: Today's metal roofing, made from steel or aluminum, comes in a wide array of styles or colors to complement your home perfectly. Metal shingles can be shaped to mimic the look of clay tiles or wood shakes, but are far less expensive and much lighter in weight.
But the single biggest advantage is probably a metal roof's ability to drive down your home energy costs. Because metal reflects heat, it creates a barrier that blocks the sun's summer heat. In the winter, those same reflective properties help prevent heat from leaking out.
While many roofers believe metal is the next trend in roofing, so does the Obama administration. As a result of the Stimulus Package signed in February, homeowners who make energy efficient updates to their home, which include the installation of an Energy Star-compliant metal roof, between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010 may be eligible for a tax credit worth 30 percent of the materials cost up to $1,500.
For pros focused on sustainable design, metal roofing's recycled content and ability to be recycled also can be attractive.
Because your home is your single most primary investment, it just doesn't pay to cut corners. "Do your homework," says Brent Fortuny, owner of Lockard & Fortuny Roofing. "There are a lot of products out there, and a lot of things to look for to make sure you're getting the best value, while being energy efficient."