A whole and healthy roof is a roof that will last a long time and provide important structural integrity to a house or a building. In this guide we will look at roof repairs and how to find a solid roof repair company; roof material options when a roof needs to be replaced; and how to maintain a roof to keep it in great condition.
First: Some Basics About Roofs
Most people understand that a roof provides shelter and protection from the elements—blazing sun, downpours, wind storms, hurricanes, and the like. What many forget is that a roof also provides the installation surface for important housing systems:
- gutters for collecting rainfall and directing it away from the structure;
- solar panels for collecting sunshine to heat water;
- skylights for letting light into a house;
- vent pipes that allow a plumbing system to work;
- satellite dishes for entertainment networks;
- and antennas/lightning rods.
Without a strong, intact roof, everything that sits on top of it is vulnerable.
Therefore, a roof must be maintained to keep it healthy. Over time, roofs deteriorate—especially those made of materials that are subject to weathering and decay. Even a roof made of the strongest materials, like clay tile or metal, will deteriorate if there is a leak and if water penetrates the wood decking underneath.
Common Roofing Materials
Later in this article, we’ll cover the variety of materials available for commercial roofs.
Residential roofs are mostly made of clay tile, asphalt shingles, metal panels, slate tiles, or cedar shakes.
Clay, metal, and slate are the most durable roofing materials and will last for decades. They are not impervious to damage, though. Clay and slate tiles may be broken by a person walking incorrectly on them or dropping a heavy item onto them. Metal roofs can be bent, twisted, or ripped off if winds are strong enough. If any of these materials cracks or breaks, moisture will get into the layer underneath. Roofing materials below clay and slate tiles are generally weather resistant, but if that layer also gets compromised, rot and weakness will develop. Heat can also get through punctured places, driving up heating and cooling bills.
It is cheaper to clad a roof with asphalt shingles than to cover it with clay or slate tiles, so asphalt shingles are a common roofing choice. These shingles have a bitumen/asphalt base layer with a limestone filler and a pebbly aggregate layer on top. Over time, the aggregate gets worn off by wind and rain. Shingles that have no aggregate do little to protect a house and must be replaced.
When You Need Roof Repair
In this section, we will cover types of damage that require repair and how to find a good company to do repair work.
Types of Roof Damage
Extreme weather events can lead to roof damage. Tornadoes and hurricanes can pull off sections of roofs or entire roofs. Trees uprooted in storms may fall and crush roofs. Strong winds may blow off asphalt shingles. Hail can pulverize the aggregate on a shingle roof.
Large falling tree limbs or ill-aimed golf balls may crack tiles.
Leaks that develop because a roof has been improperly installed require repair. Or a roof with a vulnerable area that develops a leak will also need repair.
How to Find a Good Roof Repair Business
A homeowner or property manager faced with a compromised roof must find a good roof repair company. Follow the suggestions below for identifying a solid company near you.
- Who do you know who has hired a roofing company recently? Pick their brains. Ask neighbors and friends if they can recommend a company based on their knowledge and experiences.
- Check local online directories like Yelp and Angie’s List.
- Search online for roofing companies. Look at their ratings and read their Google reviews. Google reviews are fairly trustworthy (i.e. the company cannot manipulate them). Visit each company’s website and social media pages.
- Call several roof repair contractors. Ask them your key questions (including if they are licensed and insured), and if satisfied with their answers, move forward by requesting an on-site estimate.
- When the contractor comes out to give a roof repair estimate, take notes—not just on pricing, but on the details that indicate the quality of the company. Note if the representative arrived in a marked truck, wore a uniform, and showed you his or her identification. Note how much he or she listened to you and the extent to which the rep examined your roof and the problem area.
- After the estimate, make notes about follow-up communication. Did you get a written estimate, and how long did that take? Was it accompanied by a letter outlining the process for doing your project?
- When you have estimates and information from three roof repair companies, select the one that best matches your needs.
When You Need a Roof Replacement
To most homeowners, the news that their roof needs replacing is even worse than the news that they need a root canal. Everyone knows that roofs are not cheap to replace.
The cost of replacing a roof depends on the materials chosen, if the deck and supports need replacing as well, the size and pitch of the roof, and how accessible the structure is.
Residential roofing choices typically include tile, slate, metal, shake, and asphalt shingle.
Commercial Roof Replacement Choices
Commercial roofs may be clad in the same materials available for residential roofs: tile, slate, metal, shake, and asphalt. Additional options are also available for commercial roofs in many areas.
Metal Roof Coating: This is a product applied to metal roofs that reduces the amount of absorbed heat. It contains reflective properties.
Polyurethane Foam: A weather-resistant, waterproof material, it is long-lasting and lightweight. Typically, it does not need replacing for five years or more.
EPDM: Stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer. It is a product that is similar to rubber and is adhered or mechanically installed to decking.
TPO: Stands for thermoplastic polyolefin. This material is well-suited for locations with year-round sun. It is an energy-efficient membrane with reflective properties.
BUR: Stands for built-up roofing. This material comprises felt, bitumen, and asphalt. Bitumen-soaked felt is bound with asphalt, creating a highly durable, long-lasting roofing product. Infrared and ultraviolet rays leach oils out of BUR over time, so it eventually must be replaced.
Liquid Rubber: This product is semi-fluid when applied such that it flows across a roof and around all projections (vent pipes, ac units, skylights, etc.), resulting in superior waterproofing performance. It is affordable, does not dry out, and lasts a long time.
Gaco: A silicone coating, Gaco Roofing resists weathering, ultraviolet rays, mold, dirt, and oxidation. It can be applied to many different roofing materials to extend their lives and improve their performance.
Torch-down: This product is applied with high, directed heat (from a torch) to either commercial or residential roofs.
Find a Commercial Roofing Company
The process for finding a commercial roofing company is similar to the process of finding a residential roof repair company. See “How to find a Good Roof Repair Business” earlier in this article. There will be differences in the types and scope of work, but the process of identifying a service provider is similar.
How to Maintain a Roof
Maintaining a roof involves three actions:
1) an inspection after a significant weather event such as a hurricane, or every two years after a roof turns 15 years old;
2) proactively fixing roof leaks or damage when they occur
3) cleaning roofs when mold appears.
Is Mold Bad for a Roof?
Mold on roofs impacts a structure’s appearance, making it look dirty and neglected. A clean roof improves curb appeal and increases the asking price if a home or building is for sale.
Mold releases spores which drift through the air and down onto surrounding areas. People and animals below are susceptible to mold spores.
Tiny mold roots enter cracks and fissures in tiles, shakes, and shingles. The mold itself absorbs heat from the sun and makes the roof hotter, which heats the attic space underneath, contributing to higher cooling bills. Mold on asphalt shingle roofs feeds on the limestone filler, breaking it down and decreasing the longevity of the shingles.
Cleaning by Pressure-washing
Pressure-washing a tile roof is effective although difficult and not long-lasting. Pressure washing may be done with a wand or a surface-cleaner. In areas that are prone to mold, a pressure-washed tile roof will need to be cleaned again in one to two years.
Pressure-washing a roof is best left for professionals who are experienced in walking on rooftops and who have commercial-grade equipment.
An asphalt shingle roof should never be pressure washed, as the aggregate will be removed from the shingle. Power-washing a shingle roof will void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Safe Chemical Cleaning
Chemically cleaning a roof is an alternative to power-washing a roof. The main ingredient in the cleaning solution is bleach, so care must be taken with plants and grass that are under the roof’s drip line.
Typically, the cleaning solution is sprayed on with just enough pressure to deliver the product. As it soaks into the mold, it kills it. Some cleaning companies let rain rinse a roof off; other companies rinse the roof with water. As the roof is rinsed, the dead mold comes off, leaving the roof in its pre-mold condition.
Chemical cleaning lasts longer than pressure washing because the solutions applied to kill the mold, including the micro-roots that have worked their way into cracks. While a chemical clean will cost at least twice the amount of a pressure clean, it will last two or three times as long. Additionally, it’s the only safe form of cleaning an asphalt shingle roof.
Summing It All Up
After the foundation, the roof is a building’s most important structural element. A roof can last a long time if it is maintained. Sometimes, even with the best maintenance protocols in place, a roof needs to be repaired or replaced. Identify a quality roofing company to repair or replace your residential or commercial roof. Many roofing materials are on the market today that suit a building’s particular needs and a client’s preferences and budget.
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