Monday, November 30, 2015

Roofing: Pros, Cons, and Useful Information About Different Roof Coverings

The type of roof covering that you put on your home determines not only how your home will look, but how much maintenance and expense you have in your future. Different types of coverings function differently based on your actual site conditions. My goal is to provide you with enough information to be able to make an educated decision on what type of covering is best for you.


The most popular type of roof covering in Florida is the asphalt or fiberglass shingle. It's cost effective, looks good on a variety of home styles, and comes in just about every color imaginable. Most shingles have a rated lifespan of about 20 years (standard 3-tab shingles) to 35 years (architectural 3-D shingles). The thing that most people don't take into consideration is that these calculations were not done with Florida's climate in mind. Our constant sunshine, high winds, heat, and proximity to salt water reduce the life expectancy of shingles about 20% on average. The wear is even greater when tree limbs and debris are allowed to contact the roof. For this reason, most insurance underwriters do not want tree limbs overhanging the roof. The lifespan of shingles is also greatly reduced when applied to a manufactured home or other un-ventilated roof system. The trapped heat causes the shingles to "bake" at a higher than normal temperature. You should also be aware that the Florida Building Code requires a double layer of felt underlayment when shingle is applied to roof pitches less than 4 in 12 (rising 4" for every 12" of roof). Shingle cannot be applied to roof pitches less than 2 in 12. The lower the roof pitch, the more water that could potentially stay on the roof during a heavy rain. Shingle roofs require the most maintenance since shingles can rip off during storms or curl from exposure (also called "baconing").

A cousin of the asphalt or fiberglass shingle is the roll shingle. Also known as peel-n-stick, roll roofing, and a variety of other names, this product is essentially a giant shingle rolled up and applied in overlapping strips. This type of roofing is most commonly used on flat or very low sloped roofs that standard shingles are not suited for. It is very inexpensive, but not very pleasing to the eye. It is also subjected to the same degrading conditions that affect standard shingles, making the realistic overall life expectancy only 5 to 15 years. 

Another popular roofing choice is metal roofing. There are an endless variety of colors, styles, finishes, and prices for metal roofing. Prices for metal roofing range from slightly more expensive than shingle for basic metal roofing, to 3 or 4 times the cost of shingle for ceramic-coated and enamel-baked varieties. It can be installed on most roof pitches, and does well on low-pitched roofs and manufactured homes. Homes in close proximity to salt water should opt for ceramic-coated or enamel-baked metal roofing to keep corrosion at bay. Even galvanized metal will eventually rust in coastal areas. Metal roofs can last 50 years or more if they are kept clear and are not in close proximity to salt water.

Tile roofs are the other popular choice for roofs in Florida. Most people choose tile roofs to complement Spanish and Mediterranean architectural styles, but are unaware at how exceptional tile performs in our climate. There are a variety of style and color options available, from flat tiles to S-shaped tiles and everything in-between. They are usually the most expensive roofing option, and the roof system must be specially designed to handle the additional weight. Tile roofing can only be installed on 5/8" plywood or greater, while the standard roofing plywood/o.s.b. is only 15/32" thick (1/2" nominal thickness). Most roof coverings weigh about 55 lbs per square foot when installed, tile averages about 85 lbs per square foot installed. That extra 30 lbs per square foot adds up quickly over an entire roof surface, and can cause structural damage if the roof trusses were not designed for the load. The major positive aspect of tile roofs is that they can last indefinitely if they are properly maintained and repaired if damaged. Tile roofs should be painted every 5 to 10 years to preserve the tile, or covered with a membrane roofing every 10 to 30 years. If left alone, the tile will become brittle, crack, and break. This is also known to happen when people attempt to walk on a tile roof. Unlike other roof coverings, tile is dependent on every individual tile to make the rest of the system work effectively. If one tile is broken and not repaired/replaced, it can eventually lead to a chain reaction of damage to the entire roof. Modern tile roofs are usually installed with a layer of roll shingle underneath to prevent water intrusion if a tile is damaged. Tile roofs are typically installed on roof pitches between 2 in 12 and 6 in 12. Steeper roofs can make installation difficult due to the weight of the tile and the effects of gravity.

The last type of roofing commonly seen in Florida is membrane roofing. It is not typically used on new homes unless the roof has a very low pitch because it lacks visual appeal, but it can be cost effective depending on the product you choose. It is usually used over another existing roof covering to seal and extend its life. It can be applied over most other roof coverings, and can last 10 to 30 years, depending on the product. A very common use for this covering is to apply it over the original existing roof on manufactured homes since applying most other roof coverings to older manufactured homes will require a roof-over that involves putting new roof trusses and plywood over the original roof. This can be very expensive compared to applying the membrane, but modernizes the look of the home greatly and allows for roof ventilation. Membrane roofing can be installed on nearly any roof pitch, but does best on roof pitches less than 6 in 12 so that it doesn't "drip" during installation.

Choosing the right type of roof covering for your home is a much more important decision than many people think. The wrong type of roof covering can lead to increased cost and decreased life expectancy, or even cause structural problems. If you have questions about what type of roof covering would be best for your home, give us a call at (941) 462-0110 or email us for more information.

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