Gimme shelter

Posted on 17 Apr 2008 at 4:42pm
By Howard Lewis Russell


Spanish tile roofs, like the one pictured opposite, cost more than traditional shingles, but add value and beauty.

What you put over your head can make as much as of a statement as what you put in your house, but you’ll want to prevent prices from going through the roof

The dictum that as long as you have a roof over your head, you shouldn’t complain too much has taken on new dimensions over the years. Like choosing a vice presidential running mate, deciding on which roofing material to use won’t salvage a bad house, but a bad roof will certainly damage the value of a good one.

Conventional wisdom says that even the most solid roof only lasts about 25 years, so just because you don’t detect any leaks doesn’t mean your roof is fine, especially in drought pervasive Texas.

Cost: what to expect
Kirk Scott, owner of Scott Roofing-Siding-Windows, works frequently in the Oak Cliff and Oak Lawn areas and says the average cost of re-roofing an existing house runs from $4,000 to $5,000.

"Prices vary depending on how many layers of shingles must be removed first; if just one layer, it’s a straightforward process, usually requiring no more than two to three days, and a crew of 8 to 10 men," he says.

Usually the more dramatic looking a roof is, the more you can expect to pay.

"Price can increase dramatically if the roof is steep, or if we have logistical issues, which can easily double the job time," Scott says. And some older houses may have three or four layers of old shingling to remove. "With new plywood decking, well, you can take a $4,000 roof to $8,000 really fast."

The basics
Composition roofing (also known as asphalt roofing) still ranks no. 1 in residential preference in the United States, doubtless for two reasons: It costs the least and is the easiest to install. But a stroll down the roofing aisle of any national hardware superstore can still be an overwhelming experience. Picking a color is only the start of the decision-making process — and your expense.

You might expect all colors of the same product to cost the same, but that’s not necessarily so. Red composition roofing, for example, is more expensive than black or gray, probably because it looks more beautiful against red brick stone. That said, the average cost of even the least pricy composition shingles runs at least $35 per bundle (three bundles will cover about 100 square feet).

One new roofing option Scott says to consider is "radiant barrier," a layer added to the back of the plywood decking that saves considerably on cooling and heating costs; additionally, the homeowner may qualify for a tax credit up to $500. Adding class-4 hail-resistant composition shingles "will allow for up to a 27 percent discount" on their insurance premiums, he ads. (Homeowners should check with their insurance agents to see if they qualify.)

"Impact-resistant shingles will cost an average of 40 percent more," admits Scott, "but if your insurance discount is enough, they’re well worth it. The buyer has to weigh the cost/benefit against his budget."

For those who can afford a 100-year roof, ceramic tile (also known as Spanish tile) is the way to go. Interlocking ceramic tiles require a very beefy support structure, though — even "lightweight" versions weigh 6 pounds per square foot; the denser types can weigh up to 18 pounds per square foot.

Slate, arguably the classiest of all roofing materials, is another heavyweight option (7 to 8 pounds per square foot). Slate’s primary appeal is its dazzling texture and fire-retardant qualities — neither of which come cheap.

For those desiring the lightest roof possible that appears to be tiles, metal-mimic tile is ideal. Metal-mimic looks like ceramic and weighs only a pound per square foot, is quick and easy to install and sheds rain.

Wooden shingles are another lightweight option. Ruggedly beautiful, they’re definitely the right aesthetic choice for shingle-style houses. Their drawback, however, is that the wooden shingles of today are not made from lumber even remotely as durable as that which once came from slow-growing, old-growth trees a century ago (or even 50 years ago). Today’s wooden shingles are basically fine for exterior walls, not roofs.

Not your daddy’s rooftop
On top of it all, there’s the uniquely 21st century dilemma of whether one should "go green." Green may be au courant, but renewably green-energy roofing is cost-prohibitive at the moment. Currently, solar roof panels run three to five times the price of standard, oil-based composition roofing.

Nonetheless, the technological breakthroughs in solar shingling seem to be developing at almost warp speed. According to a recent New York Times article, "The cost of solar energy is expected to fall steeply as cheaper new technologies reach economies of scale. There are also huge challenges ahead, not the least of which is the continued dominance of fossil fuels."

Meanwhile, clean, green, solar roof panels, known as "photovoltaic modules" (or PV for short) represents less than one-tenth of one percent of the $3 trillion global energy market.

The extras
Your overall roofing expense has only started when you decided on the materials, especially in Dallas, where summer heat expansion is always a major concern.

All-weather roof cement (also known as roof and foundation caulking or liquid asphalt) costs about $30 per five-gallon container. Siliconized elastomeric coating (ideal for standing-seam metal or tile roofing) is twice that much still, even though metal roofing, which comes in 5-rib packs, can run as little as $3 per rib. To its credit, elastomeric coating can substantially lower cooling costs, and depending upon the brand purchased, will flex anywhere from 250 to 350 percent, substantially reducing cracking.

Other accessory roofing costs to keep in mind are chimney caps (to arrest sparks to help reduce fires), ridge caps and ridge vents (to release hot, moist air from attics); and, to further increase weather protection and add curb appeal, drip edges, flashing and custom gutters.

Ultimately, as with everything necessary in life, a good roof comes down to affordability. And if you can afford the best, run with it — high quality shelter is worth the price.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice – Great Spaces print edition April 18, 2008.

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