A few short decades ago, the available options for roofing materials were limited to about a dozen. Today, and indeed every year, new products are coming along that we could have only dreamed of back then. Today, you can install roof tiles that look like real wood cedar shakes. It’s only when you pick them up that you realized they are made of synthetic materials. But wait, there’s more! With the rapid advancement of solar panels, now you can also get realistic looking roof tiles that are also electricity generating solar panels. So, instead of the sun simply baking the old roof tiles to death over many years, your tiles can also be put to work, reducing your utility bills! But let’s look at the most popular of what materials are available:
Traditional cedar wood shake tiles
There’s nothing like the real thing, of course, and real wood tiles are still available on the market. Not everyone wants the “newest and best” available, and a natural look and experience can be very pleasing, even if it is not as uniform and “perfect” like synthetic roof materials might seem to be. If you’ve ever experienced the scent of freshly cut cedar, you might remember how special it is. That fresh, cedar scent works to a degree as a bug repellent, and it is often recommended to leave a piece of it in your closet, or in your automobile. There are even cedar spray products on the market that you can use to freshen up a cat’s litter box, a bathroom, or any storage area that might need a little help in the odor department. So, it’s no surprise that people often still opt for traditional wood shakes. They are about as natural as you can get. But, there are challenges, too. Firstly, every real wood shake is unique. Although they are selected and cut to be as uniform as possible, anyone who works with wood knows that every piece of wood behaves differently. Differences are often invisible, and a ‘weakness’ in one part of a real wood shake might not be noticeable in the storeroom, or when it is being installed, but may manifest itself three years later in the form of a way for water to pass through the shake and onto the next layer. Each shake has to be worked with during installation, the roofer adjusting to its ‘uniqueness’ in that natural way of all things made by Mother Nature. And that brings us to the next, ever popular alternative:
Synthetic roof tiles
The variety of roof tiles is almost difficult to fathom. There are manufacturers, each with a variety of products, sizes, colors, thicknesses, variations, textures, and means of installation bringing to the homeowner almost any conceivable look and feel.
The beauty of synthetic tiling is that it installs so reliably, offers extra fire protection, and looks great for a long, long time. Although the tiles are made to look a little different, there are usually only a handful of unique designs within a product option. There might be six different looking tile design which, when installed randomly on your roof, will fool the eye into thinking every tile is both unique and made of natural material. But more importantly, perhaps, is the fact that they are manufactured to install consistently every time. The roofer doesn’t have to examine the tile to see how it connects, or if it has any imperfections requiring it to be discarded. And the tile itself is designed to be connected to its correct place on the roof in a way that maximizes its effectiveness and reliability. And when the time comes to replace a few tiles, their design makes them ideal for that operation, too.
Any material can, ultimately, be burned. If a house catches fire, even a metal roof, if the fire is hot enough, will burn and be reduced to fragments. The thing is, though, most house fires are arrested by the fire department before they become a total disaster. A common danger for wood shake roofing tiles is that a spark from even a BBQ or a bonfire – of even fireworks fragments – can smolder on your roof, only later to turn into a raging fire, starting from the roof on down. Synthetic tiles are not perfect in that way, but they are designed to resist fire a little more. Even in the dead dry heat of summer, when a wood tile would be baked dry and more susceptible to fire, a synthetic tile may offer you superior fire protection. Ask your roofer about that exact feature when selecting tiles for your roof.
Composite – or composition – roof
Composite roofing materials may not look as fancy or ‘natural’ as alternatives, but they can be exceptionally effective. Because they are ‘sheet based’, they are relatively easy to install, cheaper (usually) to purchase, and it’s easier to see if there’s damage that might cause a leak. But, of course, they can look ‘cheap’, depending on the neighborhood.
There’s also a ‘tile’ style of composite. The roof is made up of roof tiles, but each time is like a ‘sample of asphalt’ as one roofer once described it to me. You get the nice tile effect on your roof, but it’s not as big a project as it would have been had you used synthetic shake tiles.
Composite is often used in rental properties, where the appearance of the roof is not the same issue as it is for people who own their own house. You simply want to keep the rain out, and renters are less likely to pay you a dime more for a fancy roof. It’s also a little easier to maintain, so that’s another financial reason to consider composite materials.
This is less common these days in residential buildings than in their commercial counterparts. Metal offers significant protection from the elements and is therefore often seen in places like skiing resorts where, by their very nature, expect plenty of snow.
Metal roofs also offer a little bit of extra security, both from the criminal variety but also from the animal variety. Animals might be able to gnaw their way through a traditional wood roof, even if it does take them a while, but a metal roof is another matter completely.
More next week!