What is the best material to use on a re-roofing project on a typical Buchan style home in Kirkland / Issaquah area?
“How long is a piece of string?” is how my father would have answered the question. There are so many roofing materials to choose from these days – and more coming onto the market every year – that you now have both form and function options you did not have a few short years ago.
Roof tiling for the future
In the Puget Sound area, some decades ago, life was simpler. You could look at wood shake, composite or metal – more or less – and take your pick. Today, for a variety of reasons, there are a lot to choose from. This year in particular gives us the choice of electricity generating tiles. It’s all dark magic how it works, but the advantage as far as I can see is, your roof tiles do more than just protect your home, but they generate power for you.
Some homes can be connected with the local grid, which allows them to ‘push’ power back into the system at certain times when more power is being generated than is being used, while at other times, power is drawn from that same system because, well, it’s three AM and the sun isn’t shining. And some systems take it a step further by adjusting the rate at which power enters or leaves the system. If you can supply power to the grid when power is at peak usage, you get credit for more than you would have done at off-peak times. The converse is also true.
You may not be ready for that level of complexity. When new technologies first come onto the market, they often take some time to ‘settle’, when all the initial bugs are ironed out. Still, if you can replace your roof, getting all the benefits you wanted from a new roof, but also generate some income (or reduce your bills) at no extra cost by using solar panel type tiles at the same cost, it has to be worth considering. The big questions are (1) what is the cost difference, (2) how much will they generate, and (3) how long will they last compared to their equivalent conventional tiles. I have to believe they will cost more, and even if each tile is the same price, any equipment or extra wiring that’s needed to make it all work needs to be paid for, installed, and maintained. With complexity comes risk, usually.
Synthetic roof tiles that look like the real thing and do more
Any roof installation in the Puget Sound is subject to certain regulations. There are city, state and other rules, and there are your local community covenants. Although the community covenants are probably the least enforceable of all, you have to live with your neighbors. If you decide to install pink and polka dot tiles on your roof because they are your alma mater colors, you will likely reduce the value of your house, and tick off all of your neighbors. They probably do have some recourse to address their eyesore (your house), but mostly, it makes complete sense to follow community guidelines and stay in good favor with the neighbors. It works for them and it works for you.
I remember in the 1990s, my house was subject to significant limits in terms of what I could put on the roof. Basically, all I could install was cedar wood shakes. At that time, I was unaware of any alternatives, so I went ahead and got the roof replaced with regular wood shakes. It was in the middle of the summer, so after a few bone dry days, we got it treated with some kind of preservative water repellent. It looked great, and I am happy I took that last step, too. The roof looked brand new for about five years. Nothing, not a sliver of moss, stuck to it. After that initial five years, though, we could see that the preservative was probably weakening at last, so I go the roof power washed again, let it dry out completely, and did the same treatment again. It lasted for another five years. Anyway, there are now several alternatives available on the market that offer more than just keeping the rain out.
A common way for fire to spread from one detached house to another is simply through embers flying through the air and landing on another house. Actually, burning embers can travel a lot farther than from one house to the next, and fire departments are aware that homes in a neighborhood, even if they are some distance away, can catch some misery when an ember lands on their roof. Just imagine how easily this can happen. An ember lands on your house, having traveled by wind through the air from a house 2 blocks away. They bone dry, old shakes on your roof are perfect kindling for another fire. The roof catches fire, grows, and by the time you notice it, half of your roof is a raging big fire. Today, though, there are synthetic roof tiles that can withstand, at least for some time, an ember landing on it. All it needs is a little time to contain that ember while the ember ‘runs out of itself’. Perhaps your house came within an inch of burning to the ground, but those synthetic tiles you installed last year blocked progress of a burning ember that wanted to raze your home to the ground.
Synthetic tiles, if you buy the right ones, may well last longer than you do. Today, these are made of all manner of material that didn’t exist even a decade ago. Manufacturing techniques, too, have gotten a lot better, and they can be made more accurately and cheaper than before. So, for example, if you installing them, you will notice how well they snap together. Everything must still be attached to the roof underneath, of course, but it’s more like snapping Lego pieces together today. Real wood shakes are nice, and they can give a nice cedar scent to the whole house for a while, but be sure to check out what’s available in terms of synthetic tiles before you make your choice. You might be very pleasantly surprised!