Your roof is one of the most important components of your building, and it can be one of the most expensive to repair. Whether you’re doing a full replacement of your roof, or just wondering how you can keep it in good shape to delay your next call to the roofer, here’s what you need to know:
Parts of a Roof
Your roof consists of much more than just the tile or shingles that comprise the visible part of your roof. That’s just the roof covering, but there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface about which you should know.
Roof Covering: this is the part most people think of when they think of a roof – it’s the shingles, tiles, slate, or metal that lay on top of the rest of your roof. In fact, the roof covering is only there to protect the rest of your roof from the elements.
Sheathing: boards or sheet metal fastened to roof rafters
Roof structure: This is the rafters and trusses that hold up the sheathing and roof covering
Flashing: Since the various joints and valleys of a roof are the most susceptible to water damage and leaking, pieces of sheet metal or other materials are installed into those joints and valleys to prevent such damage.
Drainage: What is your roof’s ability to drain water? Is it heavily sloped to allow water to run off? Anything about the roof that allows water to slide off it is known as the drainage part of the roof.
Types of Roof Coverings
Whether you’re choosing a covering for a new roof, or you want to know more about your existing roof covering, here’s what you need to know about some of the most common materials used for roof coverings in the U.S.
Asphalt shingles are the most common form of roof covering in the U.S. and tend to be classified as A, B, or C, depending on their fire resistance, with Class A being the most resistant to fire, and Class C the least resistant.
Asphalt shingles used to be reinforced with felt, but these days are more likely to be reinforced with fiberglass
Wood shingles are also common in parts of the U.S., but some local building codes won’t allow them, due to their decreased level of fire resistance.
Tile is usually made of clay or concrete and is one of the more durable forms of roof coverings, but it is also very heavy, so if you’re considering adding tile to a roof that previously had a different type of covering, make sure the roofing support is strong enough.
Slate is another very long-lasting roof covering, and considered practically indestructible, but it is also very expensive and requires special skill and experience to install, so think carefully about whether the cost is justified, and make sure you have a roofer who’s qualified to work with slate before you pay up.
A variety of synthetic roofing products are available, most of which look like slate or wood, but don’t necessarily have the same properties, so be sure to do your research before deciding on one of these options.
Ventilate and Insulate
Without proper ventilation, heat and moisture can build up in the attic area and cause parts of your roof to rot, which can end up disfiguring the roof and reducing the effectiveness of your insulation. To avoid this, make sure your roof has louvres, ridge vents or soffit vents, even in winter.
Insulation is also key, especially in the attic floor to protect the rest of the house from excessive heat or cold.
Know What Can Damage Your Roof
Your roof is designed to withstand the elements … up to a point. Know which elements are hardest on your roof so you can take measures to protect it as long as possible.
Sun: Heat and UV rays can cause your roof to deteriorate over time, so keep an eye on the parts of your roof that get the most exposure to sun so you can check for damage.
Rain: When moisture gets underneath your roof covering, it can cause mold and rot, which can cause all kinds of problems in other parts of the house. Be sure to check your roof regularly for any signs that water might be leaking into your roof.
Wind: Extremely high winds can lift the edges of your shingles, and when combined with rain or other forms of moisture, this can increase the likelihood of moisture getting into your roof and causing damage, so if you’ve had recent thunderstorms with high winds, be sure to check your roof.
Snow and Ice: Snow can melt on a roof and then refreeze, usually on the overhang of the roof’s edge, which can cause blockages in the roof’s gutter. If the ice gets too heavy, it can even cause the gutter to fall off the roof, so when the temperatures are fluctuating above and below freezing, it’s a good time to check your roof and gutter for ice damage.
Condensation: If your attic is not properly ventilated and the air is humid, moisture can build up and cause all kinds of problems, including rot and mold, so if you’ve had to deal with high rates of humidity lately, check to make sure your roof is properly ventilated so you don’t have a big bill to deal with later on down the road.
Moss and algae tend to grow on wood, especially in damp environments, so if you have wood shingles and your humidity has been high lately, check to make sure you don’t have moss and/or algae collecting on your roof. They hold even more moisture and can quickly cause rot and mold to develop in your roof.
Trees and Leaves: While the shade from a nearby tree might be nice, if some of the branches of that tree touch your roof, it can scratch at the roof covering when being blown about by the wind, and a fallen branch can cause major damage to your roof, even punching through the roof covering. Leaves are also sources of moisture and rot, so if you spot fallen leaves starting to collect on your roof, find a way to get rid of them ASAP.
Whether you’re building a new roof or making repairs to an existing one, we have the parts you need to make sure your roof lasts as long as you need it to last. You can start by checking out our collection of flashings for both residential and commercial roofs.