What’s on Top of Your House?

Now that the snow is off your roof, you can rest easy because you inspected the flashings, vents, caulking and shingles and it looks as good as new, right? Unless you didn’t inspect it? Or you did, and it’s looking rough.

Your roof is like the brakes on your car: If you wait until they fail, it’s too late. We all like to get the longest life out of our belongings, but some things should be replaced before we “have to” do it. A small leak can easily add a thousand dollars in ceiling, insulation and paint repairs to the bill.

Problems…

So what do you look for? The “easy to see signs” are missing shingles, caused by wind and age. Curling or clawing of shingles are caused by age, lack of attic ventilation, and are accelerated by low-slope roofs and south-side sun exposure. Old shingles that have lost much of the granular surface leaving the felt backing exposed, have done their job and are due to be replaced. These problems leave the shingles much more vulnerable to wind, rain and snow.

The problems you can’t see from the ground need to be inspected up on the roof. Flashings are the metal strips used to form a watertight seal around vertical parts on a roof like a chimney or a second story wall. They need to be inspected closely and require regular maintenance on older houses. A well designed and constructed roof should not need tar or caulking on the flashings, but often that is not the case. The caulking and tar will dry out and shrink over time.

Many homes suffer from ice damming in the winter. This is caused by improper insulation and ventilation in the attic but can damage the shingles. The problems associated with ice dams can be minimized with ice and water barriers installed under the shingles, but the only fix is to deal with the problems in the attic.

Options…

If you decide it’s time to have your asphalt shingles replaced, then you have some options to think about. The first is the quality of materials available today. Like anything else, you get what you pay for and shingles are no different. Shingles are largely graded by the length of warranty they carry and range from 20 years to a lifetime. If an average shingle has a 30 year warranty then a manufacturer could make thinner cheaper one that will last 20 years or a thicker, better one that can last much longer.

The most common shingle types are the 3-tab and the laminate. The 3-tab has been around for decades and is tried and true. It is available in many colors and is usually lasts 20 to 30 years. The laminate shingle is actually two shingles stuck together to make a thicker, better looking shingle. These usually are rated for 30 years to a lifetime. The funny thing is the cost difference between a low end and a high end shingle is not that much. The cost savings in life expectancy alone make up for the difference in price. When you add the savings in labour by reroofing half as often, and the better appearance and increased potential resale, most people choose the laminate shingles.

Roofing is a back-breaking, labour intensive and technical job. There are very few people whose bodies can stand the stress of hard work in the sun on a sloped roof for more than a day. Of those few people, the ones with an eye for perfect lines and attention to detail are rare indeed. The right equipment helps get the job done quickly and efficiently.

When choosing a roofing contractor, make sure they have WCB coverage in case one of the guys falls off the roof and liability insurance in case a rain storm hits in the middle of the job. Forget about trying to schedule around the weather. If we waited for perfect sunny days, roofers would only work 10 days per month. Ask for references and addresses of the last few roofs they did in your area, and then you can drive by to see their work yourself.

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