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There are many different types of roofing. From traditional shakes, and tile to modern asphalt, steel, and fiber-cement the choices appear to almost unlimited. Each materials has it's own advantages and disadvantages. Your budget, home style, and climate considerations will help to narrow the choice.

Click on thumbnail below to view a cross-section of the roof

Roofing begins once the framing is complete. The roofing can begin prior to the HVAC, electrical and plumbing or after on asphalt composition roofs. On tile, wood shake and steel it is easier to install roofing after the penetrations are through the roof.
Drying in
After the roof is framed, and before applying shingles, it is a common practice to cover the roof with felt paper (Drying in). This keeps the moisture out of the house while construction continues. The roofing felt can remain uncovered on the roof for a month or two before it starts to weather and needs to be replaced. The shingles are then placed over the felt paper.

Ice Dams
In areas where snow and ice are prevalent Ice and water shield should be used in the valleys and over the eaves. A common brand is Bituthane™ It is a thick asphalt based material with adhesive on one side that helps to seal the valleys and eaves against Ice dams. Ice dams occur when snow melts on the warm part of the roof (and runs down to the eaves where the roofing is cooler. When the water reaches the cooler part of the roof it freezes causing ice to force it's way underneath the shingles. The ice and water shield protect the sheathing from exposure to the weather.
Ice dams are generally caused by a combination of excessive heat and lack of ventilation in the attic space. The build up of heat causes the snow on the roof to melt prematurely and run down to the eaves where it freezes again. Generally low slope roofs are at greater risk for ice dams because they don't shed the runoff as quickly.

Shingle Type
Initial cost
Long-term cost
Longevity typical (years)
Selection of styles and colors
3-tab Asphalt
Architectural asphalt
Wood Shake/shingle
Very high
Steel roof
Cement/clay tile

3-Tab single-ply composition
The initial cost of 3-tab is low but the long term is high because they don't last all that long. On south facing exposures a 20 year 3-tab shingle may last only 14-15 years. They are not too expensive to re-shingle, and code allows you to shingle over the top of old worn out shingles. 3-tab are typically used on starter homes. Because of their popularity there is a large selection of colors available.

Architectural composition laminate
Architectural composition shingles are made from the same materials that single ply 3-tab shingles. The main difference is the color variance and the layers gives the shingle a thicker less uniform look. This creates a 3-dimensional look that is similar to wood shakes. This adds greatly to the aesthetics of the roof. Architectural shingles are very popular right now, and are available in many colors and styles. They cost about 20-40% more than 3-tab shingles and are typically used on the "Move-up" homes.

Cedar shingles/shakes
Cedar shakes and shingles have a timeless look that is unique to the material. The look is not cheap however. The price of the shingle fluctuates with lumber prices. Wood shakes and shingles are fairly durable. Expect them to last between 25-40 years. Besides being expensive, wood shingles are not recommended in hot dry areas where fires are common.

Steel roofing
It used to be that steel roofing amounted to the corrugated type sheets that were more common on barns than anything else. However, now steel roofing is available in sheet and shingles that imitate shakes, tiles and shale to name a few. The number of styles of steel shingle and roofing products is growing each year. The reason that steel is so popular is that it is durable and will last forever, it is light and installed quickly. It is not cheap but on the long-term it is a good value.

Clay and cement tile shingles are durable and a good long-term value. They are an excellent choice in areas where wildfires are a concern. Although the initial cost of installation is high, the long-term cost is low. Tile roof can last 50+ years. One thing to know when considering a tile roof is the weight of the tile itself. Roof trusses must be engineered to handle the extra weight of tile. When remodeling, tile roofs often need to be built up to hold the extra weight. Tile is available in many colors and styles.

Notes to owner builders
Roofing decisions are affected by budget, house style, the amount of time you expect to occupy the home, and the covenants and restrictions. It is also a good idea to look around your neighborhood to see what the predominant roofing material is. We recommend that 20 year 3-tab shingles be avoided. There is really no compelling reason to use a shingle that is much less attractive and doesn't last all that long. 3-tab shingle don't positively affect resale value.


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