With summer just around the corner and the weather finally warming up, most people are enjoying this time of year, but hot and humid days in the Kansas City, Missouri area are just around the corner. Did you know that the relentless summer sun and extreme heat can cause stress on your home's roof? Here are some items to consider regarding summer weather, roofs and materials from a local Lees Summit roofing contractor to help you out.
All asphalt shingles will eventually become bleached lighter by sunlight, especially in hotter sunnier climates like Texas and Florida, but even here in Missouri, shingles will be affected by the sun. One simple decision that can make a big difference is the color shingle you select. Automatically a lighter shingle color, such as beige, tan or light gray will looked less bleached or dyed with age than a black or other dark roof shingle. Preventing color loss may also keep your house cooler in the summer.
Extreme Heat and Roof Ventilation
A small way you can prevent the impact of extreme heat and heat buildup on your roof is from the inside out. A properly ventilated attic will keep the underside of your roof cooler and help the shingles and roof deck to last longer. Getting a yearly inspection from a roofing professional to assess whether your attic is vented appropriately can really help.
Proper Attic Insulation
As noted above a properly ventilated attic will help keep your roof cool. In the same fashion, an attic that has the proper amount of insulation will help keep an extremely hot roof from transferring that heat into your attic, and then on into your indoor living spaces. So inspect your home's attic for insulation and ventilation in spring or at least before the hottest days of summer arrive, and before your attic is overly warm for inspection.
There are more ways to cool your roof and extend its life, a couple options are shade and protective cooling materials, but these can be expensive options for an existing roof. These few simple tips we've provided can be a very beneficial first step in lessening the impacts of summer heat and sun.
With all the ice we've had across Missouri lately, as a local roofing contractor I'm concerned about the safety of homeowners across the area and want to share some great information in a series I published a few years ago regarding ice buildup on a homeowners roof and what to do about it. Stay tuned this week for the full series on ice, and if there's any necessity for you to contact an experienced roofing professional to get your questions answered.
Ice Dams Series, Part 1
When it comes time to preparing bids, I really like a homeowner that wants to make the best decision, not just the cheapest roof they need for their house. A homeowner that is planning on living in that house for the foreseeable future, and not just dressing it up to sell, flip, or other short-term gain. These are homeowners that understand that short term cost decisions have long-term ramifications; and that saving money today may well not be saving money in the long run.
And the most common question, should I upgrade my shingles to 50-year shingles (depending on manufacturer, these might be called 50-year, plus, premium, lifetime, or perhaps other marketing terms)? When they are looking at a baseline of Architectural shingles, we tend to think in terms of 30-year life. They understand that a good roof is expensive, so why not pay a little more now for upgraded materials if it means longer life, no hassle in the future (do you plan to be alive in 50 years?), and understanding that the cost of the roof is more than just the cost of the materials as it includes labor, equipment, trucks for my crew, insurance for my workers, etc.
While I am typically criticized for my answer, most people are surprised when I recommend not upgrading from a 30-year architectural shingle. As a reputable Lees Summit roofing contractor, I want to make sure I'm doing the best I can for my customers. Sure, those upgraded shingles do look nicer, and if you were to see two houses, side-by-side, you could probably pick out the homeowner that spent a bit and cared enough to upgrade.
I base my recommendation on a couple of factors, and I will prepare subsequent blogs to provide more information. Here in tornado, hail, ice and snow, and high summer UV country in the Midwest, we will never get 30 years out of a 30-year shingle. Longer life shingles haven’t really been tested in the real world. A new roof qualifies for a significant insurance discount (check with your agent). And if you are going to invest in your house (a new roof is a significant investment, your house is likely your largest single investment) you want to be assured of payback on that investment.
Optional Upgrades and Costs
When it comes time to replace your roof, you are likely to notice a difference in bid prices. In previous blogs, I have identified two (2) mandatory factors that could impact the bids you receive from different roofing contractors; insurance and Homeowners’ Association (HOA) restrictions.
Once we get beyond these minimums, and I would strongly encourage discounting of roofing contractors that don’t insure their employees, we can start to compare apples-to-apples. And we can start to look at reasonable upgrades in materials, and what might make sense and what is simply money spent on nothing.
When a new roof is being installed, you are presented a unique opportunity to upgrade some materials or installation practices that should be considered. You cannot retrofit these later; as your roof might last 20-years or longer, a small additional investment may well provide significant savings and should be considered. I am happy to discuss each of these individually with my clients and customers.
I use a 30-lbs felt underlayment as a minimum installation. In a previous blog, I explained different underlayment materials you can choose from; 30-lbs isn’t the cheapest or thinnest underlayment available.
Depending on the pitch of your roof, we may want to upgrade to ice-and-water shield for a portion of this as insurance against ice dams (another previous blog topic). If you have an ice dam problem with your roof, the ice dam problem needs to be solved. However if you have a relatively flat roof, ice-and-water shield is a great defense mechanism against ice dams causing roof leaks, and a roof leak in the middle of winter isn’t a pleasant proposition to address.
If your HOA requires 50-year Architectural Grade Shingles, we may want to consider an upgrade to a premium underlayment instead of the 30-lbs. felt. It depends on who manufactures your roofing materials, but every manufacturer has an upgraded underlayment then have specially formulated to work in their respective systems. I have used them, I like them, they have a lot of benefits, but they aren’t for necessary for every new roof either.
Here in tornado country, another item you may have read about is “high wind” pattern on shingles. Every roofing shingle is typically installed with four (4) nails/shingle; the high-wind pattern installs six (6) nails/shingle. While this sounds like a 50% increase in holding power, it really doesn’t equate to that. If you have a steeper pitched roof, this is something we may want to consider. I would point out that manufacturers’ rate their roof resistance to wind speed, and a high wind nailing pattern only marginally changes this resistance for lower sloped roofs. Again, this might be nice for you to consider as a homeowner, but it isn’t necessary for everyone.
These are just a couple of optional factors that increase material and/or labor cost. Depending on your individual roof, I may include them as “base” cost or I may include them as optional upgrades. When I bid a job, As a conscientious roofing contractor, I want this to be a job I am proud of, and my experience dictates that sometimes these are requirements based on your specific roof, and sometimes these are optional upgrades. I am happy to discuss this so that you, as the homeowner, can make an educated decision.
DIY-capable homeowners do their research. They select the best products, they shop for the best prices. Certainly warranty of the underlying material is part of what drove you to selecting your roofing materials. A new roof is a significant investment with a long life (30-50 years on asphalt shingles). A good warranty could save you a bundle, in the event there are problems in the future.
However, the manufacturer’s warranty only covers manufacturing defects in the roofing material itself. Architectural shingles may well include a Lifetime limited warranty from manufacturing defects to the original homeowner. This may even be transferrable to the next subsequent homeowner (if you sell your house). However note that this is shingles only, many other materials (read the under the shingles series) do not have the same warranty.
More importantly, this warranty doesn’t cover two (2) items:
Asphalt roofing companies operate high-technology manufacturing plants; the risk of manufacturing defects is very low; hence why they can offer generous warranties. At the same time, manufacturers are very aggressive in inspecting the roof prior to providing warranty coverage and have identified that most causes of “warranty” claims are due to the installer’s workmanship, and not the material itself. I have seen situations of delaminating shingles where the manufacturer simply dropped a handful of new bundles on the driveway and left. So while you may think you have limited-Lifetime coverage, you may have nothing.
What can you do to protect yourself? As a professional roofing contractor in business for over 20 years, and with intent to stay in business and service my customers longer, I provide warranty coverage against any errors in workmanship. In addition, I am “Installer Certified” for several lines of asphalt shingles that I install; the manufacturer’s warranty includes a reasonable labor or installation cost to repair or replaced manufacturing defects in these situations.
One of the biggest motivations of DIY is saving money. Make sure you understand the limitations of the manufacturer’s warranty. More importantly though, make sure you don’t try to spend dollars to chase dimes. By that I mean, don’t try to save money on your roof by DIY if you think you will have warranty coverage later. And with your house as your most significant investment, do you really want to risk your first line of defense against the weather to trying to save a few dollars? You likely have other home improvements you would like to focus on; leaving roofing to the roofing professionals will enable you to undertake these other projects, and know that you have warranty coverage for installation and workmanship errors as well as labor in the situation of manufacturer’s defect.
One of the biggest luxuries DIY-motivated homeowners have is time. You have a day job, your DIY home improvements are your hobby. This is something you enjoy after work, on weekends, during your free time. Your home improvements are something you take great pride in doing, doing well, and showing off to others.
But let’s think about this for a minute. How many of these projects have a critical time component associated with them? You have a great bar in your basement, what are the consequences if you got sick in the middle of the job and didn’t finish it on time? What about your fantastic man cave – you know who you are? Or remodeling that guest bedroom? If these took a couple of weeks extra, was it really that big of a deal in the scheme of things?
Your roof – you don’t have that luxury. Once you start your roofing project, you need to get it finished. Even if you fall into the thought process that roofing underlayment provides you weather protection until you get shingles installed, let me assure you that this weather protection has a maintenance price. Every rain you will be inspecting your underlayment. Moderate winds will render it useless and any wind-driven rain will result in roof leaks. Roof leaks result in more sheetrock repairs, which as a DIY-capable homeowner you have already proven that sheetrock is a project that you have no fear of.
This is one of the greatest factors if you consider a roof a DIY job. When professional roofing contractors start your job, it is going to be finished quickly. And it isn’t just nailing those asphalt shingles up to finish the job; those shingles have a glue strip that needs to set before your roof is truly weather tight. Once you start a roofing project, you want to make sure it gets done and the shingles properly glued => before the next rain.
Alright, if the story in the last blog post in this series didn’t deter your from DIY, at least you have learned to avoid a pitfall. You aren’t going to fall into that trap and focusing solely on lowest delivered price. You are certainly not going to shop at DIY-friendly big box stores, but you know you need to research where the professional roofing contractors shop and ordering your materials appropriately. You might pay a little bit more, you might pay a little bit less, but delivery to your roof => when you aren’t carrying it up the ladder this is priceless.
Next up, roofing looks pretty simple. And if you got the Taunton Press Books I recommended, you have a Standard Operating Procedure of sorts. And these are widely considered some of the best source materials for DIY, so it isn’t me trying to mislead you.
However let me ask you a couple of questions about your profession. I will first assume you are an expert in your field. If I ask you, and five (5) other experts in your field the same question, am I likely to get the same answer? I have a friend who is a Civil Engineer, and he tells me that if you ask five (5) Civil Engineers the same question you are likely to get ten (10) different answers. He will also tell you engineers are pretty dysfunctional like that though.
My point is, you read that Taunton Press Book that was the compilation from Fine Homebuilding Magazine. The authors are all experts in their field, these articles are edited for quality, accuracy, and value to the readers of Fine Homebuilding. And yet in that book, there are at least four (4) ways delineated as “best method” to flash a valley. All published at different times, and all published from different geographic areas. So what is different? Different experiences, perhaps due to different timing of learning or due to geographic considerations? If you are a DIY-capable homeowner, you wouldn’t be expected to be an expert in the field. You are researching to save money, get better quality, pride in your work, or maybe a bit of all three (3). What you don’t have are lessons from experience.
For the record, in my service area (southern Jackson County Missouri) you will find that most roofing professional contractors use an open-valley technique with factory paint finished aluminum flashing. Thicker is better (up to a point), but aluminum is soft, easy to form, and holds its shape so is a DIY-friendly material. Make sure you lap it correctly, and use high quality caulk where necessary. There are exceptions though, and these exceptions are based on specific roofs.
And if we can’t agree on even basic roof valleys, just imagine how our disagreements escalate when talking about more complex roofing details.
A roof is your first line of defense for your most valuable asset. What are the ramifications of not understanding the different potential solutions to a common roof detail such as a valley? Roof leaks? This isn’t the same as mixing your joint compound too thick and having to spend extra time sanding your new sheetrock wall in your man cave, or having to use an extra coat of paint to get good paint coverage. The consequences here are much greater than time or labor.
As a Lees Summit roofing contractor, I field a lot of questions about DIY considerations from homeowners looking to save money. Most of these homeowners are quite capable at home repairs but have proven that while they may lack experience, they have several other home maintenance or home improvement items that have worked out well for them. They have a nicer place to live, and they saved some money on the projects by performing their own labor. I appreciate the appeal of saving some money and have certainly finished projects at my house rather than call a professional. This isn’t to discourage DIY-savvy homeowners, but it just might provide some additional considerations.
Just about any DIY project, my recommendation as the first place to start is your local library. The problem is that books only get you so far, and this is AFTER you figure out which books are relevant and which books are fluff. And while I will grant you that Internet research if both faster and easier, there are simply too many perils for this to be your starting point as you have limited ways to validate the credibility of the source. With a published book, you can validate the credibility of the source. I would recommend books from “Taunton Press”; there are a couple on Flashing and Waterproofing in the Taunton Press “For Pros By Pros” series, as well as a book asphalt shingles (get beyond asphalt, and DIY is simply too perilous), and a book on roofing that is a collection of articles in “Fine Homebuilding” magazine.
This blog topic isn’t a replacement for library and Internet research (I said Internet research wasn’t best, but we all know this is your first stop). This topic will supplement some considerations you won’t readily find in the books. Most books are aimed at educating the consumer so they can hire a good contractor, or aimed at professionals to speed up production, and some considerations don’t fit easily into either audience. A couple that I am going to discuss are:
1) Don’t underestimate the amount of heavy lifting and labor that goes into a roof.
2) Don’t underestimate how much experience goes into doing this correctly and consequences it not done correctly.
3) Professionals bring tools you may not have.
4) How much time do you have to invest?
5) Warranty work, what happens if something fails?
We are an experienced Lees Summit roofing company with over 15 years experience in repair, service and installation.