Roof replacement. We all hate having to do it, but it’s one of those unavoidable things we all have to do eventually if we own a building. Your roof is important – more so than you could ever imagine. Let’s actually take a moment to think about that.
What does your roof do? Yes, it completes the seal of your structure, but there’s more to it than that, right? Yes, absolutely. Your roof is the first and last line of defense against the ravages of nature. Your roof is in fact bombarded all day, every day, with intense solar radiation and UV energy. The sun is a giant, intense nuclear reaction billions of times more powerful than any atomic bomb you can name. The earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field to reduce its potency a good bit, but that doesn’t mean that intense energy isn’t testing the potency of your roof. In fact, even on a cloudy day, that UV radiation is testing your materials and making your AC work extra hard.
On top of this, pests are always, always looking for a way in. Animals and insects aren’t intelligent, but if they can find a way in, they will. And, you don’t want insects or mammals in your house – they’re dangerous, they’re annoying, and they’re gross. Nature actually kind of sucks, when you really think about it. Sure, nature’s pretty, but it’s also a nuisance; we built houses to get out of nature for a reason!
Of course, there’s the bigger task of preventing the onslaught of water damage. Oh, water damage is insidious. It causes your interior to basically rot away, and it gets nasty long before it becomes uninhabitable. Your plaster and drywall will crumble and collapse. Your carpet will decay and wear down. But worst of all, molds will begin to grow quite quickly. Molds are noxious and gross, they smell foul, look awful, and many of them are in fact unsafe. Black mold is especially unsafe, being lethal if you’re overexposed to it. It’s exceptionally deadly to the elderly, small children, the infirm and pets.
If your roof is in bad enough shape, your home can even be condemned. At this point, you’ll suffer a runaway decay effect that results in perilous costs to fix things, if they can even be fixed at all, which they often cannot. And, your home’s resale value and curb appeal, fail to mention the insurance concerns, are very, very directly impacted by the condition and age of your roof. If you weren’t concerned before, we bet you are now – good!
Today, we’re going to talk about not the technical concerns of roof material (for the most part), but rather the many brilliant aesthetic choices available, as well as the cost-effectiveness of given materials. We live in an age where you have a lot of choices, and without having to be a millionaire to achieve them.
What the heck is a 3-tab shingle? Well, that’s just “a shingle” by generalization. This is your bog standard roofing shingle, that doesn’t qualify for the architectural title. These are all over the place, and there’s a very good chance it’s what your home currently has, regardless of the era it was built, provided said era was post-1899.
These shingles are a reliable choice if nothing else, their formulation and installation being a refined art and science by this point. But they also sometimes get a bad rap, people assuming they look ugly and “poor”. Bad shingles and old shingles sure can look that way, but good, new shingles absolutely shouldn’t.
With the variety of colors, installation approaches, and material formulations available, these can produce a wide variety of color combinations, dimensionalities, and overall aesthetic impressions. On the technical side, they’re also “easy” to install for any competent contractor, and a nice middle of the road choice as far as budget.
Getting about twenty-five years, or up to forty with some varieties, you can expect these to be durable, efficient, and easy to repair. 3-tab shingles are a go-to for a reason, and if you can’t decide what to use, just use these.
You won’t regret it.
Architectural shingles are the yacht to 3-tab shingles’ boat. They’re thicker, using many layers of composite and asphalt, they have a better layer of crushed stone, and they’re implemented in something of a doubled-down approach.
They’re costlier, due to the difficulty of installation, the expense of materials, and the quantity of materials themselves. These are usually in very overlapping and staggered layers, providing a kind of fish scale sort of seal. However, while there are styles of them that look like fish scales, they usually don’t. If you’ve ever seen a roof with more varied shingle sizes, but a coherent and more textured implementation, you’ve seen architectural shingles.
They look kind of professional as a result, given they’re almost always used on commercial structures with pitched roofs. These shingles have additional durability, and additional lifespans, being up to fifty years or more in some cases.
They can be as diverse as 3-tab, albeit in different ways. The problem they have, because nothing is perfect, is that they’re heavy, and again, they can be costly. However, being a development of the 1970s, they’re pretty refined and can be safely installed on most code-compliant buildings.
Possibly the bigger selling point, visually, is the myriad of styles architectural can do those others really can’t. The shaping, staggering, coloring and texturing of these can vary wildly, creating some really impactful styles.
Ceramic or cement tile is one of those looks that everyone recognizes, even if they’re not sure what to call it. This rounded, undulating, earth-toned visage is associated with exotic cultures and locales, and is commonly used in places like California, the southwest, and Florida in the US, but is widely used in much of Mediterranean Europe, Southeast Asia and much of Africa.
Combined with stucco or white plaster, it creates a “festive” and in the eyes of many, “tropical” vibe. They do work in cold or rainy climates too, though snow can be a challenge for them. However, if you like the look of stucco and tile roofs, you can enjoy this aesthetic pretty much anywhere, in all reality.
They last upward of a century, which is also worthy of note, and they don’t really decay or give in to withering or fading. However, they can crack, and hail storms, bad ice buildups or other such straining things could damage them.
Of course, the other thing is that they’re not cheap, being between five to ten dollars per square foot depending. But, unless you live in the arctic circle, you can rely on these, and they are quite striking.
You wouldn’t expect these to be a readily-available choice in the 21st century, given it’s one of the oldest types of shingles in existence. Wood isn’t considered a terribly durable nor long-lived material, being destroyable by water, UV damage, dry rot, and wild temperature fluctuations.
That’s natural, untreated wood, though. There’s a big difference when it comes to treated wood products, such as those used to make shingles. These materials can actually last up to forty years, they’re recyclable for wood particle manufacturing, their production is sustainable, and they’re pretty efficient.
Wood has a distinct look, very rustic. If that’s not your thing, you won’t like these. They’re also kind of pricy given the difficulty, material expense, and weight of the things.
Shake is just another type of wood, so there’s less additional stuff to really say about them. They have a distinct, striated texture, they’re marginally cheaper than plain wood, and they’re usually made of cedar.
Shake has an even more rustic feel to it, which means it too isn’t for you if you’re not into that rustic, old-world vibe. If you like the look, other materials on this list can duplicate it without having the expense and fragility of wood.
Slate is a unique stone. It’s got decent tensile strength, but it flakes easily, making the creation of stone shingle very practical. Slate has a distinct dark gray look and is a very old-world material. However, slate shingle can resemble tile or asphalt shingle layouts to an extent, meaning that if you’re not into the chiseled or rounded look of old fashioned slate, you have options.
Slate of other colors can be achieved through various processes. A downside aside from expense with shale is that it can be harder to spot damage due to its somewhat rougher look.
Shale is very strong against wind, rain, and ice. However, it doesn’t handle hail or fallen branches well, shattering like tile when that happens sometimes. It’s also heavy because, well, it’s rock.
Are these a thing? Yes, they are. They look a lot like a glossy metal shingle, though more glass-like. It’s not ugly, but the selling points of solar, versus their added problems, make this one more of an honorable mention, and something probably saved for another half-century of development, really.
Solar shingles are exactly what you’d think – roof materials that themselves are photovoltaic cells. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea, does it? Well, it’s not inherently one. It’s better aesthetically than solar panels. The problem with solar is, no solar panel exceeds about 30% efficiency, and science says that in all of the future, nothing more than about 92% will ever exist if that. So, with that inefficiency and the unreliability of the sun in most of the world, you can’t rely solely on this for power unless you’re in the desert.
To supplement your power would be fantastic, and they can do that with gusto. But is the saving you get in power sufficiently greater than the expense, fragility and maintenance headache of these? This isn’t a shingle – it’s a solar cell. It’s a several dollar (bar minimum) components. Imagine how much it costs to install a new roof made of these, and to repair any damage. When it snows, all of your solar power is gone, meaning you just have an expensive and fragile roof.
This will go somewhere someday, but unless you’re wealthy and live in a sunny place, this technology’s not there yet.
Finally, we come to metal. When you think about metal roofs, you likely imagine those ugly tin or aluminum roofs on barns or sheds or the like. That’s a different kind of roof (corrugated sheet roofing), modern roofs of that type are well-made for their purpose, and they’re used for reasons.
However, that’s not the type of metal roofing we mean. Metal roofing uses strong, durable metals that can take many forms, and is very durable. Given the process, it can take on many colors, and it can have a lot of different and distinct looks to it.
If laid down in panels, it has a siding-like look, often used in commercial sloped roofs. It can also look like a shingle, block work, or tile. It can even look like a shake.
Metal is probably the “smartest” choice, but it isn’t cheap, which is what keeps it from being as popular as it otherwise would be.
Of special note are some additional materials that are available, but people are often unaware of them.
- Concrete Tile – Concrete has been used this way for a long time, but only in select places around the world. It can take on many colors but has a concrete texture, and a clay tile-like shape to it. It won’t shatter as easily, but it’s also porous, expensive and very, very heavy.
- Composite – Composite can take on many shapes and colors, resembling shingle or very polished tile. It’s a durable, long-lasting material, but it often has an odd “plastic” glint to it,
- Rubber – Yes that’s right, rubber shingles are a thing. These look a lot like high-end asphalt shingles, without the grain. They’re supposed to be very impact-resistant and long-lasting, but they’re not commonplace.
At RGB Construction, we’ve got decades of experience working with roofs. To learn more about materials and types, fill out our contact form today.