Photo by E & H Baxendale Ltd

Update: The roof acts as the silent protector of the home; we rarely think about it when it’s doing its job, but when there’s a problem we certainly know about it. Leaking roofs, broken shingles and rotting framework are just a few of the problems that can cause problems for your home. When it comes to fixing the roof or biting the bullet and replacing the roof completely, there are many different options to consider such as different materials, varying costs and longevity of the new roof.

Purchasing a home is the single largest investment that most of us will make. The roof of our house plays an important role in preserving our house and maintaining its value in the resale market. The life of the roof depends on the roofing materials used, the local weather conditions, care taken during the installation process and the level of maintenance applied to it. Asphalt and wood shingle roofs can last for 30 to 40 years, respectively. Clay tile rofs have a lifespan of 20 years whereas metal roofs can last for more than 40 years.

The sun has a detrimental effect upon the roofing material, regardless of what type of roof it is. The rays cause the material to expand, contract, warp, curl, and lose strength and shape. Elements such as rain water, high winds, snow, hail, etc cause further damage to the already weakened roof resulting in leaks, damage, mildew and fungus growth.

If an inspection of a roof reveal that there is a leakage problem at several points and that the shingles are worn out, replacing the roof is a better idea than making repairs. A new roof offers the benefits of providing sturdy protection for your house preventing damage to the structural systems inside the home from leaks as well as a new roof can provide improved insulation and a change in the appearance of your home.

Types of roofing materials

There are many different types of materials that are used for the purpose of roofing.

Wood Shingles
Wood shingles are usually made from western red cedar and are popular because they are easy to manufacture, light weight and have a very distinctive appearance.

Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt is one of the most commonly used roofing materials around today. It has a lifespan of 15-25 years. Asphalt shingles have a fiberglass body that is coated with asphalt and mineral granules for added protection. When the edges of the asphalt begin to crack and warp, it indicates that age has caught up with the material, which is beginning to dry and may no longer be a good weather proofing material. Asphalt shingles are easy to install and can be used with a variety of flashing and edging products without any special accessories for roof edges, wall cuttings, and chimneys.
Tiles
Tiles can be either ceramic, clay, or concrete. Ceramic tiles are favored in warmer climates. Tiles lend style to the roof but are difficult to install because of their weight. The roofs need to be reinforced before tiles can be laid out.
Corrugated Metal
Corrugated metal is very durable and will last upwards of 50 years with periodic maintenance, they need to be painted and protected from moisture. Metal roofs are available in sheets at home improvement stores in a wide range of colors and can be crafted to give the appearance of traditional tiles. They are sturdy and durable.
Slate
Slate is another durable roofing material that is almost non-absorbent. Slate has been used for centuries. It is a naturally occurring product that is resistant to wind, sun, rain, and other forces of nature. Its gentle colors and unique textures coupled with its durability offer a great mix of utility and beauty. However, slate roofs are difficult to install and the material is expensive.

Cost comparison between roofing materials

Factors affecting the cost of the roof include the area to be covered; the material used, layers of shingles placed; effort involved in removing the existing roofing; and any work required on the gutters and siding. The cost of roofing materials is usually quoted in terms of squares. One square is equal to an area of 10 feet x 10 feet.

Costs of common roofing materials are given below. These costs are exclusive of the installation charges.

Fiberglass coated with asphalt:
It comes with a warranty of 25-35 years and costs between $30 – $35 per square foot. The weight per square can range from 200 to 300 pounds.
Wood shingles:
These carry a warranty of 20–30 years and cost between $100 – $200 per square foot. The weight per square can vary from 300 to 350 pounds.
Clay/Concrete tiles:
The warranty for tiles can range from 25 to 75 years. Tiles can cost between $150 – $500 per square foot. The weight per square can vary from 500 – 1200 pounds.
Steel and Aluminum:
These come with a warranty of up to 50 years and can cost between $150 – $250 per square foot. The weight per square is in the range of 50 – 100 pounds.
Natural Slate:
It carries a warranty of over 100 years and costs between $300 – $600 per square foot. It weighs between 600 – 2000 pounds per square.

How long does a new roof take to install?

Roofing is a seasonal business, so if you intend to get it done by a roofing contractor, it is possible that your turn RemodelOrMove.com: Contractor Selection Workbookmay come after a week or two of your agreeing to get the work done. Other important factors include the weather conditions, area of the roof and the roofing material. An asphalt roof can be finished in 2 – 3 days. A wood shingle roof can be laid in 3 – 4 days. Metal roofing can be completed in 2 – 4 days.

Can a homeowner do the roofing by themselves?

Some types of roofs lend themselves more easily as a do it yourself project than others. Roofing is a very physical job that requires a fair amount of brawn and some brains too. The work involves moving a lot of material and nailing it in place, installing the flashing requires skill. If you wish to get it first-time right, it is advisable to take the help of someone who has done it before. A roofing project requires the efforts of more than one person. An important consideration is the weather, if you get a spell of clear weather, try and finish the work, if the weather changes you must be equipped to protect the unfinished roof against the elements. Also, you need to be careful about your own safety while handling various tools, a slip from roof height is potentially fatal.