We all pride ourselves in living in a unique house. In the Old Country, rows and rows of houses were built to be mostly identical. Only time made them look a little different, but here in the Pacific Northwest, we want our little ‘castle’ to look unique. We paint it the colors we want, put whatever roof we like on it, and even when it was first built, it looked different for all the other houses on the block. The American Dream, they tell me. So, when it comes to replacing that roof, what options do we have? Roofs are, after all, mostly functional, and some might say it doesn’t matter much what it looks like, as long as it’s not ugly. Well, I am here to tell you, a roof can make a big difference to the appearance of a house, and getting it right doesn’t mean having to spend a lot of money.
Thousands of options for roofing materials
A generation or two ago, a roof on the average home in the Pacific Northwest left you with two or three options: composite, wood shake, or perhaps metal in some situations. It was a simpler time, and a time where a homeowner could reasonably expect to be able to fix just about anything around the home. Cars, too, were user-serviceable. Today, however, you might not even bother lifting the hood of your brand new hybrid car because when something goes wrong, it is highly unlikely you will be able to fix it, let alone diagnose the problem. Today, such cars are brought to the shop where they are plugged into a computer. That computer connects with the computer in your car and between them, they work out what the problem is, and you can follow the instructions from there. Roofs aren’t quite so complicated, of course, but they’re getting there. For example, today you can buy roof tiles which are photo-electric cells. They all plug into one another, and generate electricity from the sun. Pretty clever, you might say, and easy enough to install, but now extend the function of the roof on your house into something quite extraordinary. What’s more, the cost of such tiles – and they system they support in your home – are approaching the cost of regular tiles. Still, it’s not for everyone, and with complexity comes risk, potentially, and more things to take care of.
You can easily go beyond the basic cedar wood roof tile option, however, with no added complexity, but with a number of clear advantages. Synthetic roof tiles are new to the market, but are still around long enough now to be a reliable and functional option. They are made of computer designed and factory finished materials, designed to withstand far great adverse environmental conditions that the basic cedar wood roof tile. Anything, if given enough heat and oxygen, will burn. And even these synthetic roof tiles will burn eventually, but they are more resistant to flying embers from another homeowner’s house than regular wood tile. This can make all the difference, but giving the fire department time to come help you, and preventing the spread of one house fire to yours. What’s more, you too have extra time to perhaps hose down your own roof until you know the risk of a fire spreading to it is gone. Regular wood tiles, especially if they have been lying in the baking summer heat for months before this fire started, are particularly susceptible to the spread of a fire from one home to a neighbor’s.
Synthetic tiles have a few more advantages, too. They look like the real thing, and it’s only when you hold on in your hand that they appear to be man-made, but on the roof of your home, they can look like … well … anything you want them to look like. There are so many options available now, it can be hard to pick the ideal one for your home.
Synthetic tiles are designed also to be easy to install, to be almost identical one to the next (except for a built-in variance giving only about six unique exterior tile designs), to be more effective, robust, and long-lasting. During installation, they can be fit together perfectly, and secured in place – and to one another – in a way cedar wood roof tiles cannot possibly be expected to do. The whole roof installation is a more predictable process, and you don’t risk the odd tile being a bit faulty and presenting problems later. This is why synthetic roof tiles are very popular, and also look great!
Some neighborhoods have covenants which must be adhered to. Make sure you don’t put a huge investment into your home only to discover that you have breached local rules or laws and have to undo your work at great cost. Some cities, too, have fire prevention laws that affect what you can and cannot do to your roof and your house in general. A roofing company might be able to tell you, but I would not depend entirely on that knowledge, and they can’t be familiar will all the related rules for every city they operate in. You want to know what your community rules are, and what your city insists upon.
Synthetic tiles can also be moss and algae resistant, and don’t need the same waterproofing treatment that regular wood products need every few years. You might, however, set aside a doze spare tiles in a box for possible future repairs. You can’t always know that the exact tile will be available for sale ten years from now, and having a few set aside will allow you to easily replace a few should the need arise, and without making your roof look odd because you improvised with a new tile that might stand out or not even fit perfectly.
My final thought on roofing is, if you’re not an actual roofing expert and with experience, I highly recommend this is one job you hire experts to do. Roofing is, I am told, not rocket science, but when a mistake is made it can cause a disproportionate amount of damage to your precious home. It’s great to have insurance and all, but there’s little worse than gush water suddenly coming through from a failing roof to your kitchen table in the middle of January.
More next week!