Select proper material for your roof. Learn the pros and cons of each.

SHINGLES. Stay away from the standard twenty-year shingle. Use a heavier duty, self-sealing, twenty-five-year, three-tab shingle. Most manufacturers’ thirty-year and thirty-five-year shingles are dimensional shingles with the rough surface that simulates a wood shake roof. I don’t have scientific data to prove it, but it’s logical that the rough surface gives extremely high winds a place to begin tearing off the roof. I suspect that the wind resistance caused by the rough surface more than offsets the strength of the extra thickness of the thirty- and thirty-five-year shingles.

MASTIC FOR STRENGTH

Mastic the lower edge of your plywood or the bottom plank of the sheathing(just above the gutter) and roll the felt out over top of the mastic. If you do this, you should consider buying a 5-gallon bucket of mastic and a small trowel.

Another method is to mastic the bottom edge of your starter course to the felt just above the gutter. Leave regular gaps in the mastic between the felt and the back of the starter shingles. Remember, the felt acts as a backup roof, and someday moisture may have to drain off over the felt but underneath your starter course. Regularly spaced gaps in the mastic will let the moisture run down to the gutter.

Some roofers tie the bottom tabs down another way. They cut all of the tabs off the shingles in their starter course and lay the starter course right side up. The top of the shingles in a starter course with the 5-inch tabs cut off follows a course line 51h inches above the face of the fascia board. The cut edge of the shingle and the  self sealing strip then hang out over the fascia IV2 inches. The first course is then laid using a course line IOV2 inches above the face of the fascia. The first course seals down to the self sealing strip on the cut shingles of the starter course.

I think it is much easier and much neater to just do it the way I showed you originally and then follow the next step (below) mastic the tabs of your first course of shingles down to the starter course. Just put a dab of mastic under each tab. You don’t want the mastic squishing out around the keys. Using mastic on the felt, starter course, and tabs of your first course cements each component at the bottom edge of the roof to the sheathing.

FELT

You can use N 0.30 felt for the “field” in place of the No. 15 felt. Or you can double your felt as I showed you in the low slope configuration. If the roof has a pitch of 4-12 or more, I don’t recommend that you go to the 4-inch courses if you are using a standard three-tab shingle. When you go to the 4-inch course, you raise the self-sealing strip 1 inch higher beneath the bottom edge of the next course of shingles. Then instead of having V2 inch to 3At inch of tab lapping down below the self-sealing strip, you would have a lV2-inch to l3/4-inch overlap not sealed down.

These longer unsealed bottoms of the tabs give the wind a place to start lifting and this defeats what you are trying to do. However, some dimensional shingles have the self sealing strip under the bottom edge of the tabs. The bottom edge of these tabs is going to seal down to whatever is underneath no matter what measurement you use for your courses. If you have decided to use this type of shingle despite its greater wind resistance, the bottom edge of the tabs will seal down the same as it would if you used 5-inch courses. (Remember to increase your shingle order by 20%).

NAILING

Six-nail the shingles instead of four-nailing them. In other words, you will nail at each end of the shingle then drive nails on both sides of the two center keys. This increases the resistance to wind uplift by 50%. Incidentally, when you nail the next course, the nails coming through from the shingles above will give you twelve nails holding each shingle instead of the normal eight nails.

You can also use 1 V2-inch roofing nails, double-nail the rakes, and four-nail the cap pieces and use locking caps.

FLASHING

Instead of the 5 x 7 step flashing, use the larger 9 x 12 step flashing, which has a 3-inch vertical leg and a 6-inch horizontal leg on a 12-inch long piece of step. If 9 x 12 steps are not available, use some other similar large dimensioned step.

ACCESSORIES

For a stronger, more wind-resistant roof, don’t add pot vents, ridge vents, power ventilators, skylights or other penetrations through your roof. Severe hurricane winds can tear these items away.

Drip edge and roof edge can add strength if they are properly installed. If you don’t use roof edge, reinforce the rake edge with twenty-five-year three tab shingles running up the rakes as shown in this book.

Use rolled roofing or modified bitumen around brick or masonry chimneys and as underlayment for valleys as I have shown.

Stay with heavier gauge metal for skirt flashing, valleys, and any other items you fabricate. Install metal or double weave valleys. Thicken the mastic bead under the trimmed ends of the shingles to the metal valley. Stay away from the California cut.

Bed all vent flashings, and, if you must have them, pot vents and power ventilators, in mastic. Mastic the shingles down to the base plates and then caulks the finished edges of the shingles with silicone.

A standard roof that is properly done will withstand a real beating from the wind. This article contains several new steps that will make your roof super strong. As you can imagine, these additional steps will make the work much more tedious and time consuming.

Remember that nothing manmade lasts forever. I can only assure you of one thing. If you follow these extra strength recommendations, yours will be the last shingle roof in your area to blow off when a “category five” hurricane hits.

Warranties

Most reputable contractors include a standard one year to five-year warranty covering their workmanship. The statement of this warranty should be included in the contract. Any problems on a self sealing shingle roof are generally going to show up the first year. All the tabs will seal down tight long before a year has passed. A year takes the roof through a complete cycle of seasons. If you are talking to an outstanding contractor who offers a one year warranty on his workmanship, please realize that it is a reasonable warranty.

Nail: It doesn’t matter what the warranty says if previous customers tell you they can’t get this contractor to come back and take care of a problem.

Nail: It also doesn’t matter what the warranty says if you discover that this contractor is in the habit of changing his phone number every month, and you are never able to reach him again. I received “call backs” occasionally. Once the leak was in the customer’s new aluminum siding, which had been installed after I completed his roof. I had to refer him to his siding company. Another time a two-year build-up of pine needles and pine cones was forcing water out of an aluminum valley I had reused on an overlay. I cleaned the valleys and gutters. A third customer’s front roof had a tab that delaminated. I replaced the customer’s tab, and there have been no more problems on this six year old roof. When I got the calls, I dropped what I was doing and went immediately to correct the problem.

All three calls came in after the customer’s warranty had already expired. A reputable roofer will fight to keep his reputation.

When you give the roofer the final payment for the roof, he should give you the original of the manufacturer’s warranty. This form should give your name and address and the address of the home that was reroofed, if the project wasn’t on your residence. The form should show the name and address of the roofing contractor. It should give the style of shingle used and its color number. There usually isn’t a space for the blend number, but I always included it with the color number. The contractor should send a copy of the form to the manufacturer so the manufacturer can keep the information on file.

The manufacturer’s warranty is going to make exceptions for hurricanes, hail, falling trees, lightning, vandalism, etc. These exceptions are reasonable. Keep the contract, contractor’s warranty form, and manufacturer’s warranty in a secure file.

Nail: Many, many contractors in our area don’t give the homeowner the warranty form. If they do give the homeowner the warranty form, they don’t send a copy to the manufacturer. Even the better contractors don’t follow up on this important item. Don’t make the final payment (remember the “pay on completion, poc” part of the contract) until you receive the warranty form already filled out and signed. Companies cut the comer on filling out the warranty as a way to trim their overhead.

You should go ahead and send a copy of the form to the manufacturer yourself. Your roofer should have already done this for you, but let’s not ass/u/me anything here at the end of the game.

If you have done the roof yourself, you will have to send a copy of the warranty form to the manufacturer. It is a good idea to insist on receipt of a blank warranty form from the supplier when you purchase the shingles. So many roofers are lax about these forms that suppliers aren’t careful about keeping the forms available.

Do the manufacturers’ warranties amount to anything? In 1984, ’85, and ’86 there was a rash of premature roof failures in our area. All the homes (and their roofs) were built in late 1973 and 1974.1couldn‘t understand it at first, but then I remembered the trouble I had with asphalt in 1973 and 1974 when I was a highway engineer. The oil companies made all kinds of alterations to their product when the 1973 Arab oil embargo cut availability and made prices skyrocket. Some of the stuff we were sent to use on the highways was a mess. By the mid-80’s it was obvious that, back in 1973 and ’74, the asphalt used to make fiberglass/asphalt roofing shingles was also changed by some of the oil companies or roofing manufacturers or both. To make a long story short, the subdivision developers who had protected their customers by sending in the roofing warranties made it possible for the owners of the affected homes to receive a refund of part of the cost of the replacement roof.

Other Roofing Materials

There are many types of roofing materials available in today’s market. I have dealt with the fiberglass/asphalt shingle because it is durable, virtually maintenance free, and reasonably economical. If you reroof your own home, you can expect to save approximately half the cost of having it done by contract. You may decide to do what I did and use the money you saved on labor to pay for top quality thirty-year dimensional shingles and copper valleys and trim. Going to significantly higher quality levels with your materials definitely enhances the appearance and future marketability of your home.

However, as with anything else, there are limits at which you reach the point of diminishing return.

SHAKE OR WOOD ROOFS

Let’s say you are crazy about the appearance of a cedar shake (wood) roof. I’m with you: a cedar shake roof really looks good. Shakes look so good that, in our area, the contractors building large two story homes routinely charge an additional $ 10,000 for a cedar shake roof. Shake roofs can last thirty or forty years if you buy premium (read that as “extra expensive”), heavy-duty materials. However, the average shake roof will last about twenty years, and you will be doing some expensive patching toward the end of that time.

Shakes need to be laid on an open-gap plank roof. They need to be backed with rosin paper, which will let the underside of the shakes breathe and dry easily. If the shake is laid on plywood with roofing felt, the underside of the shakes tends to stay moist while the top side dries completely in the blazing sun. This uneven drying means it won’t be too many years until the sides of a lot of the shakes have curled upward from the middle.

A shake roof should be tom off before it is replaced with a new shake roof. For the do-it-yourselfer, a shake roof is unbelievably tedious. Instead of dealing with a bundle of 3’x 1′ shingles, you are dealing with variable widths of wood that have to be laid so that each piece overlaps the piece in the course below it by a certain horizontal distance. That means fishing through the bundle of wood until you find the right piece. When you finally do find the right piece, you’ve got at least, at least, a one-in-ten chance that it will split when you nail it.

A shake roof should be fairly steep. The surface of a 5/12 or 6/12 shake roof is a whole lot slicker than fiberglass asphalt shingles at the same pitch. Plus, every now and then, one of the shakes you nailed simply splits and let’s goes when you step on it.

If you put a shake roof on your home, your insurance company will give you the same rating they would a pile of kindling wood. You can buy shakes that are treated with fire retardant, and they do have a higher fire rating — initially. Unfortunately, every rain and every snow washes away a little of the chemical. In several years, there won’t be any significant difference in the treated or untreated shake. Fiberglass asphalt shingles carry a Class A fire rating. They will burn, but they don’t burst into flame at the first spark. Go to shakes, and your homeowner’s insurance premiums will transfix you with their breathtaking climb.

When you sell your home twelve years from now, with its twelve-year-old shake roof, a knowledgeable prospective buyer is going to count the shake roof as a definite liability.

Check out dimensional shingles available from your supplier or contractor. Keep up your search until you find a fiberglass asphalt shingle that gives you the look you like.

SLATE AND CLAY TILE

Many Victorian homes in the 1800s and early 1900s were built with slate roofs. Slate is an excellent material, and these roofs can last for eighty years and more with minimal or no maintenance. When you do need to maintain a slate roof, you will find that there are very few roofers around who deal with slate. If you get on a slate roof yourself, I predict that you will crack four pieces for every piece you patch.

The roofer you finally find to help you will charge prices not very far behind those charged by a brain surgeon. If you are thinking about tearing off your existing fiberglass asphalt shingle or tin roof and putting a slate roof on your home, it might be all right It’s OK, provided your home was originally designed and built to hold up the tremendous weight of a slate roof.

This means that your home must be strong enough from the foundation, through the basement walls, through the exterior walls, through the interior bearing walls, and through the truss system and sheathing of the roof to hold up the large number of tons of slate. Do you know if any of the interior bearing walls has been altered or removed since the house was built? Has the truss system been altered by skylights, or have the trusses been changed to open up space for a room in the attic? If you think your home may have had a slate roof at one time and you want to restore it to slate, let an experienced building engineer check your house before you start laying the slate over your head. Clay tile or orange Spanish tile roofs present the same weight problem that slate does.

STANDING SEAM METAL ROOFS

Tin roofs or, more correctly, standing seam metal roofs, are fading rapidly in our area. We still see standing seam roofs done in copper over bay windows in storefronts or in front of upscale homes. It is extremely rare to see an entire roofing system done in standing seam.

Tin

A standing seam tin roof will last a long time, given proper maintenance. The problem is the maintenance; it needs to be painted every three to four years. You can let it go longer, but exposed tin corrodes. The cost of hiring painters every few years would have paid for the fiberglass asphalt shingles.

Copper

A standing seam copper roof will last for years. You buy copper by the pound now. It is rapidly approaching the price per pound of a medium cut of steak. Copper also has the nasty trait of staining any trim that it drips on. On my roof, I used copper on my valleys and trim, but that was enough for me.

My aluminum gutters will catch any stains from the copper valleys.

Stainless Steel

Let me wander with you again. In 1976,1 was the field engineer overseeing the restoration of a covered wooden bridge, which had been almost totally destroyed by a Halloween arsonist. Wooden bridges were always protected by slab-sided walls on both sides and a roof completely over the top. This 1894 bridge was 210 feet long and nearly 15 feet wide. Its original roof was cedar shake. The “powers that be” decided to put back a standing seam stainless steel roof. It would last virtually forever. The cost of the stainless steel roof itself (in 1976) was $28,000. The opening ceremony was wonderful. What had been lost was restored.

The next week some fool shot. The roof full of holes with a thirty aught six. We patched the bullet holes with stainless steel nuts, bolts and washers, and rubber donut washers inside and out. It’s still that way today as far as I know, so much for lasting forever.

CHOICES

We all have choices to make. Your home has a roof on it now, and when you have finished all your hard work or have paid your contractor, it will have a roof on it again. It might make you mad when it happens, but no matter what you put on top, or how beautiful your work is, some people aren’t going to notice anything different. Because I know this to be so, I have tried to steer you toward what I consider to be the most attractive and most serviceable roof for your money. If you really want people’s attention, take the $ 10,000 you saved by not having a contractor put on a shake roof and use it as the down payment on a new red Corvette. That everyone will notice and talk about.