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Installing a new roof system on your home should be a onetime event during the entire time you will live in the home. The new roof will need to keep you dry, protect your home from the elements (which may be extreme at times) and, of course, must have curb appeal.

When the time comes to install either a new roof or a replacement roof you will have many options to choose from. If the roof is a replacement, then there is an old roof that may have to be torn off. Whoever is doing the work should be paying close attention to the substrate under the shingle. They need to be observant for any area(s) showing signs water penetration, rot, or any other reason that would require replacing the existing sub roof structure before the installation of your new roof.

If a problem is found, you should make every effort to determine the underlying cause of the problem. Is it a design that might lend itself to holding water under certain conditions? Was the exisisting roof getting the necessary ventilation if the area below is unconditioned? These are just some of the areas that should be reviewed before your new roof is installed. A professional and reputable roofer will make these and other structural checks before quoting your project. Finally, we are often asked, “Can my old asphalt shingles be recycled”? The answer is yes. The asphalt shingles from your old roof can be an ingredient used in the asphalt mix for road construction once recycled. Your professional roofer should have details on where to recycle your old roofing materials in your local area.

For new roofs, always select a material that will give you long term service. When we are installing a new asphalt shingle roof, we always recommend using an “architectural style” shingle with a minimum 30 year warranty. Many manufacturers offer 20 year, 30 year, and “Lifetime” warranty shingles. The only 20 year shingles that we are familiar with are the old style “3 tab” shingles that start curling and becoming crisp in 10 years. For this reason, we do not recommend their use. If you are not going to use a “green” roofing product (such as asphalt), we can still use a “one time” installation by choosing a durable shingle and installing it properly. No matter which roofing shingle you choose, another essential “best practice” is the proper installation of a water membrane under the shingles at the eaves, valleys, around chimneys, and vents. A popular product that we recommend for this application is called “Water and Ice”. It is essentially a composite membrane that comes in a roll that should be used to cover the above mentioned areas before applying the shingles. This product can assist in preventing leaks in the event of heavy rains, or ice dam buildup during the winter months (caused by freezing and thawing cycles).

Alternatives in High Performance Green Roofing

Concrete Tiles

Concrete roofing tiles have been in use in Europe since the 18th century but are becoming increasingly popular since the 1960s here in the United States due to their affordability (somewhat less than clay tile), ruggedness and timeless beauty. Concrete tiles are manufactured from actual concrete (not fiber cement) and can be made in a variety of colors. Tiles can be either color impregnated or slurry coated. Generally, higher contrast colors are found in slurry coated tiles. Some manufactures advertise life expectancies up to 100 years and will offer a limited lifetime fully transferable warranty on their product. Keep in mind that the warranty is limited and does not include labor, which is a major cost if your roof requires repair. While a concrete tile roof could conceivably last longer than the expected lifetime of your home, but we place the “useful life expectancy” of concrete tiles at 50 years. A roof lasting that long qualifies as high performance and most original owners probably will never need to replace the roof. Please note that our estimate assumes the roof was correctly installed following the manufacturer’s instructions, and that regular maintenance will be performed by a knowledgeable professional.

Clay Tiles

A clay tile roof will usually be more expensive than concrete but, in theory, could last 100 years. Clay tiles are fairly similar to concrete as far as installation goes in that they are fastened to batten strips over a heavy underlayment. Clay tiles, in contrast to concrete, are somewhat more green in that they don’t require any mining to produce (other than the actual extraction of natural clay from the ground). They are purely natural making them 100% recyclable. Once a clay tile is fired in a kiln it is an extremely weather resistant, durable, and beautiful roofing material.

Because of clay’s more reflective capabilities it reduces what is known as a home’s “Heat Island Effect”. This will help to keep your home cooler during the summer months, and will also reduce your overall impact on the areas microclimate and wildlife habitats. Clay tiles offer improved energy performance reducing, environmental and economic impact that is associated with excessive energy use. Tile can be produced from recycled mining content qualifying you for additional LEED points. Additional LEED points can be gained if you have a local manufacturer in your area.

Cedar Shingles

Cedar shingles have diminished in popularity in recent years because of cost and, in some cases, performance related issues. Cedar roofs with performance issues were installed in the 1980s when, for a brief time, it became popular to install them directly over plywood. This installation procedure proved disastrous, since the shingles could not receive adequate ventilation. Most of these roofs needed to be completely replaced within eight years.

A cedar roof properly installed could offer a lifetime or at least in excess of 50 years durability. The major structural key during installation is that the cedar shakes or shingles must be allowed to breathe. They must also be spaced properly, allowing for expansion and contraction. Allowing good ventilation is achieved by installing the shingles over a sheathing system that is actually open to the attic. The space between the sheathing planks (typically 1 x 6) should be no greater than the exposure to the weather on the shingle. A layer of felt paper is then rolled out above the exposure on every row of shingles that acts as a baffle against blowing snow and rain, yet also allows the cedar to properly breathe. Cedar requires care and maintenance, and just like clay or concrete tiles, a great deal of caution when having to walk on the roof so as to not damage a shingle. You will spend more for a cedar roof than you will for an asphalt shingle roof. But, when properly installed, cedar will provide you with many trouble free years, and beauty as well.

Photovoltaic Shingles

One new shingle product available today actually offers the ability to harness electricity from the sun. These are known as photovoltaic roofing shingles/systems. This roof material offers the advantage of solar power while being somewhat less noticeable than a conventional solar PV arrays. PV shingles are generally dark and they can also be made to closely match the look of conventional roofing shingles. A wire carrying the generated DC power is pulled through a predrilled hole in the roof before nailing. The shingle is then nailed as any other roofing shingle. On the plus side, these shingles are harnessing energy from the sun without the obtrusiveness of solar panels (although some people, us included, find a properly installed solar panel array a chic addition to our homes). On the negative side, these shingles are not as efficient as a solar panel array, and do not go completely unnoticed, as they are “half solar panel, half roofing shingle”.

As mentioned in every one of our articles involving product installation, all of these roofing systems only work when they are properly designed and installed by a licensed professional using the manufactures guidelines. Pick your roofing contractor carefully!

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