Another great question we have been asked is: “How do I know if I’m getting a good roof?” Since most homeowners like yourself won’t ever step foot on their roofs, it seems the only way to know if you’re getting a good roof is by looks alone, but you don’t have to be a roofing contractor to know that looks alone won’t determine if your roof will hold up to the elements like wind, rain, snow, and hail. Fortunately, you can know if you are getting a quality roof. You don’t have to get on your roof (Whew!), but you will need to ask some questions and get informed.
Let’s look at some materials and practices that are essential to a quality roof:
- The type of shingle that is being installed.
- Ice and water shield and felt paper
- Replacing flashing
- 1/300th rule for ventilation
With some of these items, you are going to need to know:
- The brand name of the material and
- Where it is being installed.
Type of Shingle —Before we get started with the shingle, it’s important to know where the material is being ordered from—mainly to avoid something called “seconds” being ordered and installed on your roof. Seconds are when a distributor mixes batch numbers of shingles. This means that shingles from different age groups are mixed to create an order. This creates pattern issues; the shingles won’t match one another. Doing a little research on the company where your shingles are being ordered can prevent issues. Now, let’s take a look at shingles. We’re going to discuss the field shingle, starter shingle, and ridge cap. All three work together to make for a solid roof that you can count on. There are many brands and styles of shingles, so it’s important to look at the following features:
- Life span
- Wind warranty
- Hail rating
- Manufacturer warranty
Life Span —There are field shingles that are rated for 25 years; 40 years, lifetime; or 50 years. It’s extremely important to know exactly what is being installed. With knowing this, as well as knowing your options for shingle upgrades, you may decide it’s worth it to pay the extra money upfront. There’s a big difference between a 25-year shingle and a 40-year shingle as well as between a 40-year and 50-year.
Wind Warranty —Shingles can be rated for wind speeds ranging from 60 mph up to 150 mph. GAF, a shingle manufacturer, has introduced the first shingle that has no maximum wind warranty. Like many shingle manufacturers, GAF requires that you install this shingle with at least 4 of their other approved roofing products to obtain that warranty. Since different shingles can withstand different wind speeds—some low and some high—it’s important to know what you’re getting so that you’ll know what your roof can handle.
Hail Ratings —There are two ratings for hail, a class 3 or a class 4. A shingle must withstand a 2” solid steel ball from a 20’ drop. The ball is dropped onto the vulnerable part of the shingle. If it holds up, a class 4 rating is approved. A class 4 rating is superior to a class 3 rating. If you’re interested in upgrading to the class 4 shingle, what’s the cost? If you are leaning toward going with a standard shingle, you might want to consider that you might have to replace your roof much sooner than expected, planned, or desired if it gets damaged by hail. Weigh the costs and make an informed decision that bests fits your needs and budget.
Manufacturer Warranty —Manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty on their shingles, which can mean that they’re paying for a portion of the roof if there is any kind of defect. For example, a limited lifetime warranty may include only the shingles and installing them. Tear-off and removal of debris would not be included. You would have to pay for these items. Now, there are better warranties available. To qualify for a better warranty, manufacturers will require that all their products be used and that the installer is certified and trained to install their products.
Starter Shingle —Many moons ago when I first started working for a roofing company, it was common practice to simply use a 3-tab shingle as a starter course. The problem with using a 3-tab shingle for a starter is that it does not seal the edges of a roof. This creates a weak point on a roof, leaving the edges of your roof susceptible to wind. Now manufacturers are making a pre-cut starter strip with a sealant strip on one edge. This sealant strip seals down the edges of the shingle at the edge of the roof preventing blow-offs. Questions you need to be answered include:
- Where are the starter shingles getting installed? The best practice would be to install starter shingles around the entire perimeter of the roof.
- What is the quality of the starter shingles being installed? Use the same brand of starter and field shingles; avoid generic brands.
Ridge Cap —It’s rare that a conversation about ridge cap takes place. Most of the talk surrounds the field shingle. Getting a quality ridge cap that matches the quality of your roof is important. It’s extremely common here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to see a 40-year shingle installed on a roof with only a 25-year ridge cap. This mismatch does not have to be so. Two key questions involving ridge cap are:
- What are my options for a ridge cap?
- Is the ridge cap being installed the same brand as the field shingle?
On to the next section, ice and water, and felt paper…
Ice and Water Shield —Ice and water have a sticky backing to them. The warm temperature will warm the ice and water up and allow this product to stick to anything including the roof deck. Its purpose is to protect against water backup. Now, ice and water can be expensive, so—unfortunately—it is common as an industry to use a cheap, generic alternative. My advice is to find out which brand your contractor is using. Not all ice and water shield is created equally. At Green Country Roofing we like to use all of one manufacturer’s products on a roof. The next important issue to discuss regarding ice and water is where it is being installed on the roof. Here are the typical locations where ice and water can be installed.
- Next to walls
- Around penetrations through the roof
Valleys are where two roof planes meet on the roof. This is where water is most prone to back-up, so be certain ice and water are being installed here.
Eaves are the bottom edges of the roof, normally where gutters are screwed into the house. Your geographic region will determine if ice and water are required to be installed here. However, even if snow or ice is not that common to your region, but your area is known to have a good snowstorm every 5-10 years, it might still be a good idea to have ice and water installed on the eaves. For ice and water to be effective, they must go past the heated part of the house by 2’.
Synthetic Felt —Roofing always requires some type of barrier between the roof decking and the shingles. Tar paper was the number one choice for a long, long time. A superior product called synthetic felt has since come along . To know if you’re getting a good roof, know which product is being installed. Is it tar paper or synthetic felt? Always know the brand . Many generic brands are on the market. Felt paper is installed on the entire roof deck except where ice and water are present.
Let’s move on to flashing—step flashing and chimney flashing.
Flashing —When we’re referring to flashing, we’re talking about step flashing and counter flashing. Step flashing is used where walls meet a roof line. Counter flashing is used to protect the top of step flashing, say along a brick wall. Is your contractor replacing the flashing or re-using it? That’s the question that will need to be asked. Many homeowners like yourself have not known the answer, or maybe have not even known that it should be asked. The problem with reusing flashing is that your roof is left vulnerable to leaks down the road.
Chimney Flashing —You’re going to have one of these types of chimney styles.
- Vinyl siding or
The wood and vinyl siding chimneys will have step flashing along the sides. A brick chimney will require step flashing plus counter metal. You will need to know what flashing styles you currently have on your house. Then you can ask what you are getting on your new roof. If all the metals are re-used, it’s going to affect the quality of your new roof.
Ventilation —Is your contractor following the 1/300th rule? Does your contractor know what this rule is? This is a problem in our industry. We see many roofs that go on that don’t adequately address ventilation needs. Do you have soffit vents? Do you have enough roof vents? If your contractor is following the 1/300th rule, you are going to be in good shape. Also, per the manufacturer’s guidelines, using multiple types of vents is not allowed. This means you can’t combine a ridge vent with roof vents or a ridge vent with a gable vent. If different types of vents are used on the same roof, the vents will only vent between themselves. We have touched on a lot of different areas here.
If you follow each item we discuss, know the answers to the questions posed, and make adjustments accordingly, you should have a good roof. As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns. We’re here to help.