Roofing Tips: How to Choose a New Roof

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There are tons of options when it comes to installing a new roof, as well as a wide range of prices (anywhere from $.50 to $10 per square foot).  It can be exceptionally confusing when you're trying to get an estimate and someone is throwing tons of roofing terms at you.

Here are some explanations of important roofing terms and materials you should become familiar with in order to pick the roof that's right for you, courtesy of BobVila.com:

Squares

Roofers often use squares instead of "square feet" when talking about measurements.  " A square is their basic unit of measurement—one square is 100 square feet in area, the equivalent of a 10-foot by 10-foot square," according to BobVila.com.

For example:

The roof of a typical two-story, 2,000-square-foot house with a gable roof will consist of less than 1,500 square feet of roofing area, or about fifteen squares.

Cost

Many aspects of a roof, from the materials to the condition of the existing roof can affect the price tag.  The shape of the roof is also important when figuring out the price.

For example:

A gable roof with few or no breaks in its planes (like chimneys, vent pipes, or dormers) makes for a simple roofing job. A house with multiple chimneys, intersecting rooflines (the points of intersection are called valleys), turrets,skylights, or other elements will cost significantly more to roof.

Materials

Different types of roofs may require different roofing materials.  Here are some options you may want to look over and discuss with your roofing contractor:

  • Asphalt Shingle. This is the most commonly used of all roof materials, probably because it’s the least expensive and requires a minimum of skill to install. It’s made of a fiberglass medium that’s been impregnated with asphalt and then given a surface of sand-like granules. Two basic configurations are sold: the standard single-thickness variety and thicker, laminated products. The standard type costs roughly half as much, but laminated shingles have an appealing textured appearance and last roughly half as long (typically 25 years or more, versus 15 years plus). Prices begin at about $50 a square, but depending upon the type of shingle chosen and the installation, can cost many times that.

  • Wood.  Wood was the main choice for centuries, and it’s still a good option, though in some areas fire codes forbid its use. Usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine, shingles are sawn or split. They have a life expectancy in the 25-year range (like asphalt shingles) but cost an average of twice as much.

  • Metal.  Aluminum, steel, copper, copper-and-asphalt, and lead are all durable—and expensive—roofing surfaces. Lead and the copper/asphalt varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal that are joined with solder. These roofs start at about $250 per square but often cost two or three times that.

  • Tile and Cement.  The half cylinders of tile roofing are common on Spanish Colonial and Mission styles; cement and some metal roofs imitate tile’s wavy effect. All are expensive, very durable, and tend to be very heavy.

  • Slate.  Slate is among the most durable of all roofing materials. Not all slate is the same—some comes from quarries in Vermont, some from Pennsylvania and other states—but the best of it will outlast the fasteners that hold it in place. Hundred-year-old slate, in fact, is often recycled for reinstallation, with the expectation it will last another century. But slate is expensive—typically prices start at about $800 a square—and very heavy.

Installation Notes

Here are some important installation notes, courtesy of BobVila.com.

Whatever your choice of roofing surface, you will probably need flashing. Flashing is a crucial part of all exterior work, both on the roof and siding. Flashing is metal (aluminum or copper, occasionally lead) or plastic film. It is applied in strips to areas where dissimilar materials adjoin, such as the intersection of the masonry chimney and the roofing shingles, where the siding abuts the window frames, and so on. Good flashing work is essential to keeping a structure watertight, as the most likely place for leakage to occur is where different materials meet.

Whatever the choice of roof materials, the coursing should be regular to the eye and parallel to roof edges. From one course to the next, the joints should be staggered to prevent leakage. Beware of a contractor who relies on tar for joints. Except with certain roofs where a membrane is used, tar is a lazy expedient that should not be used for a new roofing surface.

For most roofing, a material like building felt (a.k.a. tar paper) is rolled on before the shingles are nailed in place. With cedar shakes, however, lengths of furring strips (sometimes called “cedar breathers”) will be laid across the roof in order to allow the roof to breathe. In snowy areas, a membrane called a snow and ice shield may also be laid.

Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your roofing installation and roofing repair needs.  Call us today at (215) 453-9180 for your FREE estimate!

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