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Choose a Roof to Complement Your Home’s Design
Wed, 04/20/2016 - 13:30
A home’s roof is like a hat. Just as you would don a cap for warmth, shade or to make a statement as an accessory—a roof serves those purposes for your home. If you’re looking to replace your existing roof, don’t miss the opportunity to make that roof work hard for you, but show off some style too.
Before you make any big decisions, cross the street and examine your roof from a distance: Is it one large expanse that could benefit from features like dormers or copper gutters to break it up? Does your roof’s color and texture contrast nicely with the paint or materials on the outside of your house? Face it, a boring beige roof on a boring beige house isn’t going to win any style contests. But take a boring beige house and top it with a dramatic “hat” of dark-brown textured shingles and you’ll have the neighbors doing a double-take.
We’ve got some expert advice to help you consider your choices in roof materials and design.
Come Hail or High Water
From a functional viewpoint, a roof serves a crucial purpose. And, in our climate, it must be up to the task. From the minute the roof is installed, it starts to deteriorate—much like the proverbial new car driving off the showroom lot. Georgia weather can be tough on a roof, no matter what the material. In the summer, the hot Southern sun can bake a roof in temperatures above 200oF; in the winter, it can be subjected to frost and snow, not to mention heavy winds, hailstorms and blowing debris that impacts a roof’s integrity all year long. Grab a pair of binoculars and get a close look at what you’re up against—if you see cracked or peeling shingles, you’ve got a problem that needs immediate attention. Putting off roof repairs can cost you big if you give rain a chance to seep beneath the shingles. “The best thing you can do for your roof is to keep debris off of it and routinely inspect it for any broken or cracked sealants, torn shingles or exposed nails,” says Natalie Lagace of Hicks Roofing. Repairs that could run you a few hundred dollars now might save you tens of thousands of dollars down the road.
To get a quick idea of how much a new shingled roof will cost, start with the area (length multiplied by width) of each part of the roof to be covered by shingles. It’s wise to add 10 percent to that number to allow for wasted material. Roofing manufacturers sell shingles in bundles that will cover 100 square feet (called “squares”), so divide your roof’s area by 100 to decide how many squares of roofing material you’ll need. According to the Consumer Reports 2015 Roof Buying Guide, “Figure on about 30 squares for a typical 2,300-square-foot house, plus roughly $3,500 to $10,000 for labor. Figure on an extra $100 or more per 100 square feet to strip off and dispose of the old shingles. … Keep an extra bundle of shingles for minor repairs, particularly after a heavy storm.”
Shingles can be heavy. Materials such as wood, slate or some laminates can weigh enough to require extra support to be built into a roof’s infrastructure. Placing a new roofing material over an old one can stress trusses and joists that support the roof—potentially causing them to buckle or crack. That’s one reason most local building codes require you to remove all the existing layers of roofing materials before putting on a new one.
Another reason to completely remove existing roof layers is so you can check for rot and water or insect damage that would otherwise go unnoticed.
No doubt about it, real wood and slate panels or shingles have a beautiful look, but they can be cost prohibitive. Even if you opt for costly cedar shingles (known to last longer than most wood types), you’re signing up for a roof that will need to be kept clean of debris and mold on a regular basis so it will last as long as possible. Less-expensive roofing options, like traditional asphalt or some laminated (“architectural”) shingles and more expensive metal shingles, will not only give you the textured look of the real thing, but will weigh less and be easier to install and maintain. Metal shingles (steel, aluminum, alloy or copper) weigh even less than asphalt shingles and, importantly, won’t burn. They can be dented by flying debris or hail but, according to Consumer Reports, “Although the steel strips we tested dented easily, their textured surface hid minor damage quite well.” The CR buying guide recommends purchasing materials with the highest fire rating—Class A.
“Metal roofing shingles are a great light-weight, low-maintenance option, but something to think about is how they sound when it rains,” Randy Glazer, owner of Glazer Design and Construction, points out. “Some people love how they can really hear the rain with metal shingles, but others aren’t that thrilled about it.” Another big advantage of metal shingles is that they reflect light, which helps keep a roof cool during the hot months of the year.
Copper as a roofing material is very expensive; yet, over time, the characteristic patina developed adds a high-end design detail to the house. Copper can be used to accentuate a roof line as edging or flashing and to cover exposed pipes if the budget allows.
Dormers Add Space Inside,Interest Outside
Dormers are a roof’s opportunity to showcase some style. Top-floor rooms benefit from the addition of dormers with windows as they provide extra headroom and sunlight. But where dormers really make an impact is on the outside of the house. These protrusions in the slope of a roofline can be simple, with clean lines, or elaborate, with fancy detailing and paint treatments. Sometimes dormers without windows (a blind or false dormer) can be used to break up the slope of a large roof or to emphasize traditional house designs, as with Cape Cod or Craftsman styles. If dormers aren’t original to your house, you can purchase kits or prefab dormer units and install them yourself or have them put in professionally.
Isolate the Space
It’s a good idea to consider what happens to all that hot air in your attic when temps soar. A well-designed attic ventilation system prevents seeping of air to and from your living space. Ideally, the attic space should be completely isolated from the rest of your house—the floor of the attic should be sealed well (especially around pipes or other openings) and plenty of insulation should be used to create a thick boundary between your ceiling and the roof. This ensures that cooler, air-conditioned air stays in the house and doesn’t rise through the roof, wasting energy and encouraging condensation. Likewise, in winter you don’t want warmed air to rise into the attic—a warm rooftop will melt snow and frost and also cause moisture and condensation problems inside your attic.
Venting Your Hot Air
A hard-working component of a successful roof ecosystem is the vent. As a roof is heated by the sun, air inside the attic warms and escapes through either a gable vent in the attic wall, a rooftop vent pipe or a ridge vent that runs along the peak of the roof line. Gable vents, which can be seen from the outside of the house, not only provide an opening for airflow, but can also be a decorative architectural element. Soffit vents, hidden where exterior walls meet the roof, act as an inlet for outside air to enter the attic and then flow up and out. A “whole-house” fan installed in your attic can help pull cool air up to the attic so that hot air is forced out through vents to the outside. Remember that poor attic ventilation can create an increased risk of combustion back-drafting, especially for a fireplace with an exterior chimney.
Let the Sun Shine In
Plastic bubble skylights have come a long way since their first appearance on rooftops in the 1960s. For those interested in energy efficiency, solar-powered skylighting products don’t just harness the sun’s energy to light the home’s interior like a good, old-fashioned window. Now, skylight options are plentiful—light tubes, solar tubes or tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) collect light on the roof, then refract and reflect it into the space below. These lights look like recessed can lights, but require no electricity to light a room. Skylights can be installed on flat or peaked roofs and many offer opening windows and retractable shades that allow total control of the light and air flowing into a room from above. High-end options include skylight windows that convert sunlight into the power source for opening and closing the skylight. Some have rain sensors that automatically shut the window in inclement weather. And even skylights aren’t safe from smartphones—many brands can be programmed with a companion app.
Another bit of good news on the energy-saving front is that you can receive up to a 30 percent federal tax credit on your energy-efficient “solar electric property” expenditures now through December 31, 2016. Save your receipts and consult the IRS website for more information.
The Final Word
Protect yourself by reading any warranties presented by roof manufacturers or installers. Roofing warranties usually offer full reimbursement for labor and materials, but for a limited time. Check to see if the warranty covers storms where winds exceed 85 mph, as that’s a common exclusion. Manufacturers won’t warranty faulty installation work, so be a smart shopper and get a warranty from the installer.
Pros and Cons of Roofing Materials
Laminated (Asphalt Shingles)
Light weight | Less expensive
Looks like slate or wood
Vulnerable to high winds
Mold and rot resistant
Available in variety of colors/shapes
Natural, rustic look
Comes from renewable resource
Stands up to weather
Can be pricey
May be less resistant to fire
Reflects sun’s rays, so is energy efficient
Eco-friendly addition for natural light
Leakage if not sealed properly
Glazer Design & Construction
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