Monday, May 7, 2018


When this house was designed, the architect agonized over
which kind of roofing to use (like the wonderful heavy
textured shake on this example). Why second guess him
(or her) all these years later?
Most people wouldn’t dream of walking around in striped pants and a plaid jacket. 
Yet when it comes to choosing a new roof, that’s just how many folks dress up their houses. If there’s one error most commonly made in home improvement, it’s choosing the wrong roof. I’d guess that perhaps half of all reroofing jobs use materials that are contrary to the style of the house.

The are two major reasons for this: First, many people allow their roofer to suggest the best material.  That’s like asking the wolf to guard the henhouse. Most roofers will tend to recommend materials—such as composition shingle—that are quick and easy to install, and hence more profitable.  Aesthetics are hardly their first concern. 

Composition roofing is inexpensive, but its ultra-flat texture
doesn't have enough visual "oomph" for many home styles—
such as this one. If you home doesn't have composition
shingle now, think twice before switching to it without
good reason. . .
Which brings us to the second reason: Uninformed consumers. You can’t really blame roofers for looking after their own interests. It’s up to you, the homeowner, to inform yourself as to what roofing material is most appropriate for the style of your house. The rationale is simple, and that’s why it pains me to see all those stripes-and-plaid houses out there. Here are a few rules of thumb:

•  First and foremost: If you’re replacing your home’s original roof, use the same material.  Somewhere out there is an architect who agonized over the type and color of roof to put on your house. Honest. That choice was based on the material’s style, cost, and durability, and represented the best compromise of the three. Unless your own requirements have changed—due to your budget or to local ordinances—there’s very little reason to switch to another material. It’s especially risky to downgrade from a quality product, such as shake, to a low-end one, such as composition roofing.  The stylitic unity of your house will be compromised, and so will your resale value.
. . .or without at least considering an unpgraded
composition shingle with texture, such as this one.

•  If your roof has already been remuddled a few times and you have no idea what the original roofing material was, make an educated guess and try to return to that material if it’s at all possible. 
For example, suppose you own a California Rancher with a composition shingle roof. A good style guide will tell you that Ranchers almost invariably featured a heavy shake roof. Since the roof’s rustic texture is integral to the style, consider going back to shake. Or, if there’s a high fire danger in your area, switch to fire-treated shakes, or as a last resort, to a textured composition shake look-alike; some come reasonably close to the shaggy appearance of real shake—at any rate, much closer than ordinary composition shingle ever will.

And most of all, don't re-roof if you don't need to.
If your house doesn't leak, it doesn't need a new roof.
Even if it does leak, it might just need a tube of roofing
mastic. And no, I don't own stock in Henry Company.
•  On the other hand, don’t assume that a more costly roofing material will automatically yield an aesthetic improvement. It ain’t necessarily so. For example, upgrading a California Bungalow from the original composition shingle to a more expensive concrete tile will simply look weird, because bungalows designs seldom employed that material. The roof will call much more attention to itself than the architect intended, and again, the design’s unity will be compromised.

•  Finally, make VERY SURE your house actually needs a new roof in the first place. Many DON'T.  If your roof doesn’t leak, you don’t need a new roof—it’s that simple. And even if your roof does leak, it may only need a few simple spot repairs. If so, your only dilemma will be where to spend all the money you’ve saved.

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