Have you noticed water leaking inside when it rains? Maybe you’ve seen some chunks of asphalt on the ground around your home or shingles curled up around the edges? It could be time to replace your roof.
Of all major home repairs, installing new roofing is high on the list of importance. A failing roof leads to water damage inside the home, from the attic insulation, down through your remodeled kitchen and all the way to the basement family room with a big-screen TV.
When you realize it’s time to hire a roofing contractor, there are some things to take into consideration first.
When choosing a contractor, the first thing to do is make sure that contractor has insurance, said TJ Ferguson of Fergusing Roofing Company in Westmoreland, a family-owned and operated business founded in 1969 by his father, Ted. The company offers free work estimates to its customers.
“If someone falls or has an accident on the job, the homeowner will be liable and it will cost more than the roof if the contractor has no insurance,” he said, adding that hiring a licensed reputable company that stands behind their work is also key.
Some roofs, he pointed out, can be repaired. Wood shake shingles, for instance, tend to grow moss and rot. This kind of damage can be “soft washed,” a process that removes the algae with some chemicals sprayed from a hose. The sun is the culprit for a lot of roof damage.
Just because you have a few damaged shingles or a bit of a leak, don’t automatically assume that you need a whole new roof. If your roof has been properly installed and is younger than 15 or 20 years old, it may get by with repairs rather than a full replacement. When in doubt, contact a professional roofing contractor to get an experienced opinion.
If you think you might need a new roof, the first place to check is your attic. If you look under the eaves and you see beams of light coming through the top of the house, or stains and streaks, those are signals of a leaky roof.
Keep an eye on your rooftop, especially after heavy storms. Shingles should lie flat against the roof. If you find patches that are cracked, damaged or buckling, they should be repaired. Also check your gutters and downspouts for shingle granules — a roof that is losing a lot of granules may need replacement.
The flashing around vents, skylights, and chimneys seals the seams of the roof from rain and weather. These should be examined for cracks and breaks that can lead to leaks. Older homes have flashing made of cement or tar — it should be upgraded to a more durable metal flashing system.
A droopy, sagging roof is one that needs replacing before further damage occurs to your home. Check the surface for signs of trapped moisture, rotting boards or sagging spots, especially at the lowest points in the roof.
When considering roofing material for your home, there are choices to make beyond aesthetics. Slate lasts the longest — Ferguson has repaired slate roofing on historic buildings that are more than a century old — but it is the most expensive roofing material and it is very heavy, which means your home needs to be able to support that weight.
“If you’re selling your house in another year, you’d probably put on an (asphalt) shingled roof,” said Ferguson. Asphalt shingles are the most cost-effective and popular option. Ferguson Roofing installs them the “old-school” way, meaning by hammering every nail by hand to ensure a quality finish rather than using a nail gun.
Another pricier choice is standing seam metal roofing, which lasts about 50 years. Metal roofs, which are fire-resistant, can also be repainted, which Ferguson said costs a fraction of what it would to replace it.
Something else to keep in mind is that both metal and slate also shed snow during the winter, which means landscaping below would suffer. Snow rails to keep the snow on this type of roof can be installed but Ferguson said it is an extra expense for the homeowner.
Wood shake shingles are chosen mostly because they look attractive. While not as expensive as slate, they require more labor and materials than asphalt shingles and last longer. Roof pitch matters here — wood shake shingles can be used for steeper-pitched roofs but are not suitable for flatter, low-pitched ones.
A moderately sized, professionally installed roofing job might take only three or four days. Replacing a roof is a multi-step process. First, existing damaged shingles need to be removed along with flashing and drip edging.
A layer of plywood sheathing is then laid down as well as an ice guard membrane, a synthetic waterproof barrier material designed to prevent melting ice from backing up under the shingles and penetrating the sheathing, where moisture can cause severe damage.
Asphalt roofing paper is then laid over the roof sheathing. The layer of roofing paper creates an inner barrier against water penetrating into the house. Rows of roofing paper are overlapped as they progress upward toward the peak and are normally tacked or stapled in place.
Metal drip edging is then installed around the edge of the roof, both the eave sides and gable sides. The metal drip edge is nailed in place over the roofing paper or ice guard and then shingles are applied along with flashing.
As far as maintenance homeowners can do themselves, Ferguson said the only thing would be to keep your roof free of leaves, tree limbs and other debris.
Roofing materials are always improving.
“There are new and interesting products coming out all the time,” said Ferguson, who learned recently at a roofing seminar about a cutting-edge roof ridge cap with copper flakes that repel water and deter algae growth.
“We want to stay current,” he said. “We always want to be able to put on the best roof possible.”