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The differences between roofing materials



A roof is the primary defense a home has against the elements. It provides protection against wind, rain and snow, as well as shields the interior from the blazing heat. A compromised roof cannot do its job properly. There are many different roofing materials available these days — each of which carries with it a certain length of usefulness.

Most roofs can last anywhere from 25 to 40 years, depending on the material composition. Homeowners may know it’s time to replace a roof without even venturing out on the roof. Ceiling leaks or discoloration can indicate it’s time to replace a roof. Check for sagging ceiling material on the top floors of the home if there is no attic. Wet or darkened wood or rusty nails in the attic could be signs. Rafters may channel leaks away from their original source, so it’s best to do a thorough check anytime wetness or discoloration is evident anywhere in the home.

Once the decision to install a new roof is made, homeowners must decide between the different roofing materials. Research is necessary to find a roof that will be the right price and meet the homeowner’s needs. Here are common roofing materials.

* Asphalt shingles: This is the type of roof most homeowners first think of when envisioning a roofing project. The three-tab asphalt shingle is the most commonly used roofing material. The economic value it offers is why this roof is one of the most popular. However, even though shingles are available in many different colors, homeowners seeking something unique may want to select a different roofing option.

* Architectural shingle: Similar to an asphalt shingle, the architectural shingle is made to be thicker and the layers are staggered to give the roof a more architectural look. These shingles are only slightly more expensive than asphalt shingles, which still makes them a good value.

* Wood shakes and shingles:  Instead of asphalt, wood makes an ideal roofing material that’s also pleasing to the eye. Over time wood will weather to different shades, which can help the home blend in with the environment. Wood shakes can be expensive to install, and will require periodic cleaning to remove mildew or moss, and may need reoiling for preservation. There are also “fake” wood shingles that are made of composite materials that may offer the look of wood without the maintenance.

* Slate: This hard, stone material is very strong and sheds snow and ice very well, which is why it was often used on homes in the Northeast. However, the weight of slate, which requires a more substantial roof structure, and the cost make it less popular among today’s homeowners.

* Metal: This material is an ideal choice for industrial applications or on agricultural or country homes where snow is frequent. A metal roof can range from relatively inexpensive galvanized steel to lofty copper that is pricey. A properly installed metal roof could last 50 years, which makes it a good value.

* Ceramic: Ceramic tile roofs may be among the most expensive due to the craftsmanship and the installation required for these heavy tiles, but their life expectancy is 60 to 80 years. Chances are you’ll only have to do this type of installation once in a lifetime. Many people are drawn to ceramic roofs because of their beauty. They are commonly found on Mediterranean-style homes in warm climates. Most tiles are waterproofed and hard-fired so they won’t absorb moisture, also making them safe to use in northern climates.

In general, a roofing job is not a do-it-yourself undertaking. It will require an experienced and licensed contractor. A trusted roofing contractor can be found by exploring listings on the National Roofing Contractor Association Web site at Verify contractors prior to hire through organizations like the Better Business Bureau or on Angie’s List.

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