The ins and outs of choosing a new roof

Posted April 11, 2014, at 8:25 a.m.
Snow removed from a metal roof lies piled beside a house in Hampden on New Year's Day 2014. Although pricey, metal roofing offers some advantages to traditional asphalt-shingle roofing; a metal roof tends to shed snow sooner, especially when temperatures warm toward 30 degrees, and last longer than a shingle roof.
Brian Swartz
Snow removed from a metal roof lies piled beside a house in Hampden on New Year's Day 2014. Although pricey, metal roofing offers some advantages to traditional asphalt-shingle roofing; a metal roof tends to shed snow sooner, especially when temperatures warm toward 30 degrees, and last longer than a shingle roof. Buy Photo

It’s time to reroof the house. Do you go with asphalt shingles, metal roofing, or something else?

Asphalt Shingles

For a balance of effectiveness, durability, and aesthetic appeal, asphalt shingles are an excellent choice. Gone are the days when they come only in black or gray; now, you can put shades of green, red, yellow, and blue on your roof to match your house’s exterior or landscaping.

But asphalt shingles wear out. Eventually, they begin to shrink, curl, crack, and split; at that point, it’s time to reshingle.

Asphalt shingles are described in the years they’re supposed to last. Standard three-tab asphalt shingles are good for 20 to 30 years, while architectural shingles, which are thicker and more durable, are typically rated for 40 years. Opponents often claim they need replacing more often than that, although this appears to depend on the climate. In Maine, the year ratings seem to be fairly accurate.

They can also wear more quickly due to more intense weathering. On my house, the shingles on south side of the house, which faced down the Penobscot from atop a hill with no windbreak, got all the wind and sun and looked terrible by the time we replaced them. But the shingles on the back side of the house, which were just as old but got a lot less wind and sun, were in much better shape.

Metal

Despite metal being used on roofs for thousands of years, its use here quietly sneaked up on us. Now it’s common everywhere. Metal roofs come in everything from copper to steel, and can last a long time without wearing out due to the elements. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

The disadvantage might be aesthetics. The most common and least expensive type of metal roofs are the sheet “rib roofs” typical on commercial structures and an affordable option on homes. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can get metal roofing that has been formed to resemble shingles as tiles, diamonds, or any number of shapes.

A metal roof won’t likely wear out in your lifetime. Experts say they’ll last at least four times as long as asphalt shingles. The longevity makes metal worth the extra investment.

Something Else

While asphalt and metal are the two most popular choices, there are others that, while more costly, not only protect your roof and look great but can also add significant value to your home.

Wooden shingles or shakes (there are minor differences) are often used as house siding, and can also be used as roof shingles. Unless treated, they aren’t as durable on the roof, where they’re exposed to more abuse of the elements. Different types of wood can also yield better results.

Rubber shingles are up and coming. Made from recycled tires (and sometimes other rubbers and plastics), these are durable, but they’re very expensive.

Slate roofs are, essentially, shingles made of rock. Slate is thin, and so it can be laid in layers just like asphalt shingles. It’s hard to imagine rock shingles ever wearing out, although over time the fasteners securing them to the roof may wear out and need to be replaced. Be prepared to spend a lot of money putting such a roof on, however.

Asphalt vs. Metal

If you’re like most Mainers, you’re most likely choosing between asphalt and metal. According to Brian Eckert on CostOwl.com, here are the following rule-of-thumb costs between asphalt shingles and metal roofs, assuming a 1,500-square-foot roof.

3-tab asphalt: $2.50 to $4 per square foot; 20- to 30-year warranty; costs $3,750 to $6,750.

Architectural shingles: $5 to $10 per square foot; 40-year warranty; costs $7,500 to $15,000.

Metal roof: $5 to $15 per square foot; 50-year warranty; costs $7,500 to $22,500.

Removal of old asphalt shingles: $1 to $4 per square foot; costs $1,500 to $6,000 more. Sometimes, metal roofs can be installed over old shingles.

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