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January 10, 2012

My new roof — Any recommendations?


I've been putting off having a new roof put on my house for way too many years.

The house (above, in a photo taken 20 minutes ago) was built in 1967 with an ordinary asphalt shingle roof.

The builder-owner had a second layer of plain asphalt shingles laid over the original in 1982, the year before I came to Virginia and bought the house instantly after one look, having seen over 50 others previously.

Since 1982 it hasn't caved in and it has kept me dry, but plenty bad has occurred, namely:

• 30 years have passed without replacing it. Asphalt shingle roofs have a fully functional lifespan of 10-15 years, so I'm not even on borrowed time — I'm on the equivalent of roof life support.

• From time to time areas of brown discoloration will appear on the ceiling upstairs, especially next to where the chimneys intersect. They look wet but I've never touched them, out of fear that they are as thin as tissue paper and will give way, resulting in a hole that I'll have to fix. Instead, I wait until they dry and then give 'em a couple blasts of UpShot Kilz (below),


which masks the discoloration beautifully. Oops, hope no one who might buy my house should I ever decide to sell it is reading this.... Jim D., you never saw this post.

• After every heavy rainstorm for the past several years, I find shingles on the ground.

• Whenever I clean the lower gutter, there are mounds of shingle granules present.

• When I look at the roof, there are clearly missing shingles — so far only from the top one of the two layers of shingles — and I can see some unevenness in the surface.

• There were so many shingles missing in an area above the front door (lighter-colored area) that when some guys came around the 'hood after a giant windstorm last year that knocked down all manner of trees, in addition to my hiring them to cut my fallen hardwoods into firewood-sized pieces, I took up a Mexican fellow's offer to fix the exposed area — hey, he said he was a professional roofer back home — for $200, all-inclusive, parts and labor. Darned if he didn't return the next day with fairly closely-matched-in-color shingles and put them up. And they've stayed up.

• When the good men from Meriweather Mowing were here last month to clean out my gutters, they remarked that areas of the roof I can't see — the north-facing portion, much flatter than the visible side pictured up top — were very unstable and that in one area they felt like they were "walking on glass." That can't be good.

So it's clearly 10-15 years past the time any reasonable homeowner would've replaced the roof.

And yet I haven't.

But I will.

To that end, I've contacted a local roofer to give me an estimate but I must say I'm not thrilled with the company's lack of responsiveness — the thought of an exposed, partially-installed roof and being unable to contact the roofer to cover it instantly in the event of rain, ice or snow or heavy wind makes me very uneasy.

So this post is not only an account of my roof history but a request for a good roofer, one that you've used and been completely satisfied with.

Wait a minute ... what's that music I'm hearing?

And how much is that kitty in the window?



January 10, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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A beautiful brick house needs a good roof. Show us the final results, please! Make sure your choice matches the overall style and quality of your house: not too extravagant, not too cheap.

Best way to vet a roofer is to get references for previous work and contact those customers. Be sure that they are customers who have had the the completed roofs for several years.

Usually asphalt roofing work needs warmer weather, but it isn't too early to start getting quotes, checking references, and scheduling.

Posted by: Diana | Jan 15, 2012 12:13:09 PM

Here in the south, after hurricane Ike, I saw some metal roofs peeled up from one corner like a sardine can. Also, our church has a metal roof which leaked when it was new and is still leaking to this day. I prefer asphalt shingles.

Posted by: bubbub | Jan 15, 2012 9:11:54 AM

You should know that some insurance companies are now doing drive-by inspections, and may decline to renew your insurance unless you get the roof replaced and provide proof that you have done so. The more polite companies give plenty of advance warning.

There are some shingles that qualify for an energy credit on your federal income tax return. See paragraph 3C at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f5695.pdf . An example of a shingle that meets the requirements is the GAF Timberline Prestique Lifetime white shingles, which have the Energy Star rating.

Posted by: Charles E Flynn | Jan 13, 2012 11:52:25 PM

Yep, you need to address getting a paint job on those windows too Joe, let em' go much longer the elements will destroy em beyond repair. Happy new year to you also.

Posted by: friskypainter | Jan 11, 2012 11:17:32 PM

it was just procrastination there at the start ..... whats this music im hearing

Posted by: sherlock | Jan 11, 2012 2:54:02 PM

"Bitchathane" is the rubberized material that I had installed on my Midwestern home. Great stuff and lighter and more effective than the traditional tar paper.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 11, 2012 2:21:07 AM

add shutters to enhance eye appeal. go with asphalt shingles that mimic cedar shake. some landscaping too

Posted by: rob | Jan 11, 2012 1:24:57 AM

My ex used Nathan's roofing repair in Richmond and they did a wonderful job... but a former customer posted this on google and it made sense and is a reminder that even quality repair folks make mistakes and like patients with doctors, patients need to be well informed on their options.
from google -- Good Service and Price, but Make Sure They Follow Code Nathan's re-roofed our house on time, at a good price, and cleaned up the site well. However, they did not follow Virginia building code or the shingle manufacturer's recommendations about the amount of ice barrier to install (should be from roof edge to 24" inside exterior wall line). Nathan at first disputed this, saying the code only applied to new construction (incorrect, see R907.1), and that his use of an aluminum drip edge was more important (which the shingle manufacturer disputed). To resolve the situation, he agreed to extend his standard 5 year labor warranty to 25 years, and it seemed to be an honest misunderstanding on his part. And given the infrequent snow storms in VA, it's probably not a big deal. But I would insist that they follow codes, and verify that they are.

Posted by: Ed C | Jan 10, 2012 8:31:45 PM

I have metal roofs on 2 buildings and really like them. When your next 2 roofs are carted away as hazardous waste, the metal roof will still be sitting there. When the metal roof DOES give up, it can be sold for scrap.

My better metal roof looks like "standing seam", but was far easier to install. The garage roof is more common stuff.

(I have my solar panels mounted separately on frames instead of on the roof.)

Posted by: Dave | Jan 10, 2012 7:02:03 PM

I share your pain. I'm in the same predicament. I figure, though, I'll go with Timberline, get over myself about solar panels, and get new gutters with gutter helmets. I really don't want quadriplegia defining my so-called Golden Years. If I give in to the Green, it will be to have some rain barrels stuck on the end of the downspouts.

Posted by: Becs | Jan 10, 2012 4:53:44 PM

I have had 2 familiy members use Roof Top Services in the past few years with no troubles to completly re-roof their homes. The company was happy to discuss options & there was minimal disruption as they bring a large enough crew with them.


Posted by: C-lyn | Jan 10, 2012 2:36:05 PM

A friend who has a circa 1900 house in Alabama decided to go with a Metal Terne roof (metal sheets crimped in place), he figures it will last the house until 2100 at least. Plus the pitter patter of rain on off roof is to him and his wife a feature of this type of roof not a detriment.

Posted by: jonathand | Jan 10, 2012 2:35:53 PM

I agree that this will likely be the last roofing decision you make for this home, so be willing to spend a little extra money.

Spend your money where it matters: mainly in structural repair/replacement and waterproofing. Look up a product called Bitchathane (I'm dead serious, that's the name). It's essentially a self-adhesive rubber barrier that goes down between your roof and shingles. From what I hear, it's a good investment.

When it comes to shingles, forget about architectural shingles or something that's more flash that substance. Get a good, basic, 50-year shingle and you'll never worry again.

Posted by: Joeyjoejoe | Jan 10, 2012 2:22:59 PM

It would probably be worth subscribing to Angie's List in your area to get leads on local roofers. I got a membership when I was shopping for a sprinkler system--one of those jobs where the wrong contractor can leave you with years of headaches. It was worth the money, and they guy we hired did a terrific job.

Posted by: Alex | Jan 10, 2012 1:49:04 PM

My guess is that most (perhaps all) of your ceiling spots are not leaks. Leaks turn into holes, and it doesn't sound like you have those.

Instead, what you've got is dust being electromagnetically attracted to areas of your ceiling. The finer the dust, the harder it is to get off, because the electromagnetic force will be large in proportion to the dust particle.

Typically this occurs in spots where you have minute but persistent differences in temperature and/or humidity. Typically, small differences in the water content of the ceiling beams can make the drywall or plaster underneath a little more attractive than a spot a few inches over. Paint doesn't stop this in the long-run, but it masks the spot of attraction for years.

This is not something that is widely known: my experience is that home inspectors are the only ones that will tell you this is pretty harmless.

And ... having lived in Alabama and Louisiana ... it is VERY common in the humid south.

Posted by: Dave Tufte | Jan 10, 2012 1:19:03 PM

Depends on when you will be going to a home or downsizing in your life ;-)

Posted by: JoePeach | Jan 10, 2012 1:00:34 PM

From what I have heard, metal roofs are dangerous if you have a house fire. Firefighters can't walk on them nor can they cut a hole to release heat and smoke. I agree with Jesse, Joe, good quality asphalt shingles (not the old wooden ones) are the way to go. I am living with a concrete roof myself, past it's lifespan, and not the best choice in earthquake country. When I replace, I will go with good asphalt shingles. Finding a good roofer is another story. Ya'all don't YELP much where you are yet (priceless out here) but check it out for a few roofers you can call:

Posted by: tamra | Jan 10, 2012 12:57:04 PM

Say Joe, you are not just looking at a full re-roofing and, possible replacement of some framing, too.

This will be the last roofing decision made for that home in your life, so I suggest that you do it very well.

Timberline (TM) composite shingles are closest to the look that you have now and have an excellent warranty and performance record. The roofers that I last used in the Midwest put up the OSB cladding - without having time to put on the waterproof underlayment - before a nasty thunderstorm with sustained 35 mph winds, gusting to 50 mph + hail and 3" of rain hit. They did such a fine job that not a drop made it through to the attic insulation! We did have to give it a couple of 90+ degree days for the OSB to dry before the job could be completed.

My advice is to stick with composite (if you have a HOA you will find a codicil mandating conformity in roofing, absent a waiver granted by the HOA) and ask around at the various hardware stores there in Podunk about reputable roofers (a few calls to local commercial lumber yards would be really helpful if they will share info about their commercial customers - they will know the folks who buy quality materials and are in steady demand). Insofar as it is January you are going to have a good 90 days to research this project.

One more thing: Do not plan on being inside the house during the tear down and re-roofing. The vibration and noise will drive you and GC batty. Also, put your breakables someplace that they won't break. I lost an entire rack of wine glasses because I didn't think that the were in any danger.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 10, 2012 12:51:00 PM

From what I've read lately, metal roofs are worth considering. They've evolved far beyond the oh-so-obvious ridged sheets to something that can mimic slate, terra cotta, or even cedar shakes. Supposedly, they absorb much less heat and do a better job of insulating against the elements. So while the materials are more costly, it can save you on heating/cooling efficiency down the road.


Posted by: Rob O. | Jan 10, 2012 12:19:06 PM

Get quality shingles! There comes a 50 year lifetime warranty on modern shingles from many reputable places. I'd shop around locally, maybe Humphrey can get you a deal :)

Posted by: Jesse | Jan 10, 2012 11:57:53 AM

I heard metal roofs are pretty good. And maybe think about solar panels while workers are up there...

Posted by: CB | Jan 10, 2012 11:19:09 AM

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