My house in Shoreline gets a lot of salt water spray on the roof. How can I prevent damage and avoid having to replace my roof?
Any kind of water, in excess, puts pressure on a typical roof of the Pacific Northwest. Salt water adds another dimension to it because the salt introduces elements other than just plain water. If you Google the contents of seawater, click ‘images’ and you will see that a drop of seawater has many living organisms in it. The organisms won’t actually eat your roof or anything, but they prove that there are nutrients in the water that can feed other types of creatures when they get a chance to build up on your roof over time. In short, a house being built right beside the ocean needs an extra set of considerations, and will benefit from treatments and maintenance that might not be necessary in – for example – the suburbs of Redmond or Bellevue.
Making sure your new roof is totally waterproof
The typical Seattle roof has several layers to it, and it’s a lot different from, say, a house being built in the high desert regions of new Mexico. In Seattle, we get a lot of rain, relatively speaking at least. No sooner is your roof almost dry from one rain storm, when a new rain storm blows in. It’s what keeps the salmon happy in the rivers, the countryside green, and it’s why Seattle is known as the Emerald City. A roofing company operating in the region must have waterproofing as a primary skill. It’s true anywhere, really, but the relative volumes of rain pouring down on the typical Seattle roof makes it a special challenge.
Even in the normal course of events, the ‘underlayers’ in the Seattle region roof must be able to channel the water out and away from the infrastructure that is holding your roof up in the air to begin with. On top of the rafters is often plywood. On top of that plywood are layers of waterproofing. Each layer, therefore, is protection – and a fall-back safeguard, of sorts – for the layer above it. So for example, if one of your synthetic roof tiles cracks and is letting in some water, then waterproofing sheeting under it can still keep the water away from your roof.
Seawater is salty, obviously, and salt water presents a whole new set of chemical reactions, particularly to wood. Plain rainwater is bad enough, but salty seawater can have an unpredictable Ph level (that is, the level of alkaline to acid spectrum) that the various layers must be able to withstand. Making sure the first two layers are properly installed and working together is essential, therefore.
Roof materials that can withstand seawater
A few decades ago, the typical shake roof was made up of exactly that: shakes. They were, essentially, ‘big splinters of wood’. Often, that wood was from cedar trees, and cedar is known for its sustained resistance to water, and that made it popular in the Pacific Northwest since the first settlers began to make houses for the first time here. Unfortunately, though, such shakes only lasted a certain amount of time before the weather finally broke down the wood. Over time, ingenious new sealant products emerged to lengthen the life of the tiles, but Mother Nature always had her say, and the roof would have to be replaced a couple of decades later.
Today, however, we have many new alternatives. There are artificial shakes that look and feel so much like the real thing, you would think you’re getting the real thing. Synthetic shakes, however offer many new advantages, all of which give them an advantage on a roof that’s battered by seawater:
Synthetic shakes perform very well under seawater conditions,
they a more uniform, offering a greater degree of ‘seal’ across your entire roof,
can be more easily installed because of their uniformity,
don’t offer critters an easy place to live,
look great and don't change their appearance as quickly as wood, and
offer a number of fire and other safety characteristics.
As well as all those characteristics, synthetic shakes are often – by law – required over natural wood shakes, so check with your area codes to see what your options are. Your preferred roofing company will likely know what the options are for your area.
Regular roof maintenance and inspection
A roof inspection is a lot cheaper than waiting until a roof must be repaired before it is replaced. Often, an inspection can be actually free. Many roofing companies will offer you a free inspection, presumably in the hopes of getting your business if they find something that needs repairing. That, by the way, makes it a good offer: at least you can be confident they will find a problem if it’s there!
If your house really is right beside the sea, opt for a free inspection if one is available, and do that once a year.
Even the best installed roof tiles can be compromised by a major wind storm. If, for example, a roof time was pushed up into the air momentarily in a ‘flapping’ manner, it might compromise how it is fastened to the roof, creating a small opportunity for water to seep in, but you might not see it. The roof might appear perfectly normal after that nasty coastal sea storm, but it is something that can be uncovered by an inspection. It’s a like a loose tooth, you could say. It might look fine, but will move to the touch.
A regular roof inspection – say one a year when the hour jumps forward – is a cheap or free investment that can save you a lot of money down the proverbial road. Make it a yearly ritual. Your roofing company might agree to contact you once a year to remind you. Take him up on the offer!
Ask your roofing company about available sealants that resist seawater
There are sealants for everything, it seems, these days. Ask your roofer if he knows of a sealant that will give you an added advantage in your year-long fight against the particular corrosive effects of seawater. Make sure it’s not just regular repellent; you need something that protects against actual seawater.
You’ve probably seen the effects of salt on cars. In states where they put salt on the roads to help melt snow, cars often suffer early in their life from rust. Today, cars are more resilient for many reasons, and you want the same kind of advantage in your roof. A little care and attention now, and you’ll save buckets of cash on roof maintenance in the long run!