How to Select Roof Shingles

How to Select Roof Shingles

Know what to look for when choosing roofing materials for your home

By Sylvia Cochran

Variety of Shingles in Different Colors on Roof
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Whether you are planning to do a complete roof replacement or an initial roof installation on a new home, learning how to select roof shingles is a necessary undertaking that has far-reaching consequences. Shingles provide aesthetic value to a property while at the same time offering protection against the elements. A secondary function of roof shingles is to defend against fire damage in wildfire-prone locales. Budgetary constraints add another consideration to the selection process.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Request copies of local building and fire codes from the building department; ask for a copy of the homeowner association rules from the association's management office.
Determine Which Roofing Materials Work Best For Your Home

Step 1:

Familiarize yourself with current pricing structures. Installing a new roof is costly, and the shingle selection can greatly impact the amount of labor and material costs the process entails. For example, an average single story residential roof installation -- performed by a professional with asphalt shingles -- may cost between $1,700 and $8,400. The same installation performed by a do-it-yourselfer costs between $680 and $3,700, but it is a dangerous and lengthy process.

Step 2:

Read about homeowner association rules and building codes in your locale, or discuss them with a roofer. Homeowners' associations may define the materials and colors of roof shingles in the neighborhood. State and local governments revise model building codes every three years. These changes frequently result in amendments governing new roof shingle installations that may require compliance with more environmentally friendly building practices. This is the case in Chicago, where a building code update now mandates the use of cool roofing materials if the roof slope is sufficiently low, and the surface does not contain photovoltaic cells.

Step 3:

Evaluate local weather patterns. The primary function of roofing shingles is to protect the structure of the home against weather-induced water damage. Asphalt shingles in particular are highly effective at shedding water from the roof area; their average useful life spans about 15 to 20 years. This quality makes them a favorite shingle for use on roofs with a slope of at least 25 percent. Metal shingles, which feature a 15- to 40-year useful lifespan, are highly weather resistant and particularly withstand the growth of moss and algae. These organisms favor frequently moist wood and also asphalt shingles on shaded roofs.

Step 4:

Research fire codes that affect your neighborhood. A home built in and around national forest land may experience seasonal wildfire danger. State agencies in charge of fire codes define allowable building materials and also roofing shingles to maximize structural protection against flying embers. For example, the state of California classifies homes in wildfire-prone locales by fire hazard severity zones. Roofers must comply with stringent attic ventilation and roof shingle material requirements for these zones. This may limit homeowner shingle choices to those meeting a class "A" fire rating, as is the case with fiberglass asphalt shingles.

Step 5:

Choose among available options. Asphalt shingles comes in a variety of colors and are a versatile option. Manufacturers use cedar or other lumbers to make wood shingles; they offer a rustic appearance that makes them favorites for cabins and in mountainous areas. Clay shingles frequently feature the distinctive rounded top that makes them a sought after roofing tile for Southwest homes built in the Spanish style. They are also common in California. Metal shingles are sometimes manufactured to mimic other shingle styles, such as shakes.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • If you are confused by all the choices, ask a professional roofer for addresses of some of his latest jobs. Drive by the homes, and take a look at the appearance of the roof shingles. This can give you a good idea of how the materials and colors will look on your home.
  • Consider that a roof can say a lot about your home's personality. If you intentionally want to be different, then choose a roofing style that is inconsistent with your neighborhood. But if you do, be sure to verify that you are not in violation of any local laws or homeowners' association codes.

About the Author

Sylvia Cochran is a regular contributor to DexKnows, specializing in home and garden.

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