Your roof has an enormous impact on the appearance of your house, and a poor choice can easily damage its resale value.
But let’s begin at the beginning: Before you even worry about re-roofing, make sure your house actually requires it. The majority of roof leaks can be easily and cheaply repaired with a few tubes of calk. So even if your roofing contractor recommends a new roof, get a second opinion from a home inspection service or an independent roofing consultant before proceeding.
|"Dimensional" composition shingles do their best to look|
like wood, and also have the advantage of being more
fire resistant and less expensive than the real thing.
If your roof really does need replacement, take time to choose an appropriate material. Don’t let anxiety leave you at the mercy of roofing contractors who try to talk you into something “better” which they prefer to sell in lieu of other materials. Most have their eye on the bottom line, not on your roof line.
Since your home’s original roof material was deliberately chosen to complement its style, it’s often the best choice for the new roof as well. Moreover, many roofs don’t easily lend themselves to the installation of non-original roofing materials. For example, switching from wood shake to composition shingle generally requires re-sheathing the entire roof with plywood—adding needless cost, weight, and complexity, while yielding an inferior appearance.
| Built-up roofs were a favorite of mid-century architects,|
though their propensity to leak has made them less
popular these days.
Here are some of the more popular roofing choices, roughly in ascending order of cost:
• Composition shingles, which are basically tarpaper with a layer of colored ceramic granules embedded on top, are among the least expensive roof materials. If your previous roof was “comp”, replacing it with the same thing will generally be the most economical. If you don’t like the papery look of standard comp, high-end brands feature random-thickness, thick-butted designs—known as "dimensional"— that try to emulate the look of wood shake. I use the word emulate advisedly, however. These roofs have a bit more texture, but their look is easily distinguishable from actual wood shingle or shake.
|There's no mistaking a heavy shake roof for|
anything else. On the downside, though, this roof
wood go up in a hurry in the event of fire.
• Built-up (often called "tar and gravel") roofs consist of alternating layers of bitumen and roofing felt. Their appearance depends mainly on the quantity and color of ballast (gravel) applied to the final layer of roofing, and again, matching the original roof is the simplest choice. Since built-up roofs are generally flat or nearly so, however, they’re much less visible than pitched roofs, and and aesthetics is of less concern.
|A copper roof: If you have one, why are you even|
• Wood shingles (which are machine-made) and wood shakes (which are hand-split from cedar blocks) feature an inimitable rustic look that’s integral to ranch-style homes, as well as many traditional styles. Therefore, if your home currently has a wood shingle or shake roof, don’t replace it with comp shingles—they’ll look papery and two-dimensional, and will detract from your home’s resale value. If fire resistance is a concern, consider using medium-weight cement-based shingles, which carry a Class-A fire rating and will generally last for the life of the building. While they’re not a dead ringer for shingle or shake, they come about as close as you can get. Before deciding, however, make sure your roof structure can support the extra weight.
• Concrete tile, clay tile, slate, and sheet copper are premium roofing materials that will generally last for the life of the building. If your roof is one of these—what are you even reading this for?