Roofing 101: What You Need to Know

by Kathy Ziprik, Staff Writer

If you're getting ready to build a new home there are lots of decisions to be made. What type of flooring do you like? Which appliances for the kitchen? How many shelves in the pantry? While the choices can seem endless and tiring, they're all critical to your long-term enjoyment of your dream home.

Because your builder will also talk to you about your roof, you need to be ready to make an informed decision about the most vital part of your home—the one that helps protect your family from bad weather, storms and even fire spread. That's where we come in.

This Roofing 101 tutorial gives you details and tips for finding the right roof to cap off the home of your dreams. Let's get started by looking at your options.

DaVinci Roofscapes Bellaforte Slate

This gorgeous roof features a range of natural slate colors and deep texture between the tiles that makes it look like the real thing, but it is actually a synthetic Bellaforté Slate roof from DaVinci Roofscapes.

Choosing a Roof - The Pros and Cons

  • Asphalt Shingles - Lightweight, fast to install and reasonably priced, asphalt shingles are one of the most commonly used roofing materials in America. However, they have a limited life span, can shed granules and can be damaged easily by hail and high winds. From an aesthetic standpoint, thin shadow lines between courses aren't particularly attractive.
  • Concrete - Fireproof and not particularly affected by the sun, concrete roofing tiles come in a large variety of shapes, including barrel. Heavy and vulnerable to freezing weather, concrete tiles have a limited life span and can crack.
  • Slate - Long-lasting and known for their natural beauty, slate tiles don't burn and look good on traditional style homes. Very heavy and brittle, slate tiles are expensive and need skilled workers for installation over a well-structured roof support system.
  • Shake - Natural and lightweight, shake tiles "turn" over time as they weather in the sun. With a short life span, natural shakes are prone to fire, mold and algae growth, plus insect infestations.
  • Clay - Durable and fireproof, long-lasting clay tiles come in a variety of styles. Oftentimes heavy and brittle, these beefy tiles must be installed by skilled workers over strong roof rafters.
  • Synthetic Tiles - Fire-, impact-, high wind- and insect-resistant, synthetic shake and slate roofing authentically replicates the look of real cedar shakes and natural slate. Thick, yet lightweight tiles are easy to install and come with a long warranty. They are available in a wide array of colors. For example, DaVinci Roofscapes offers 50 standard colors, dozens of color blends and the ability to custom create your own personal color.

Roof Structure

The structure of a roof is much more complicated than the average consumer knows. Here you can see how the different components are layered to provide the protection your home requires.

Building Your Roof

To understand your roof system, you must first understand that it is just that—a system. Choosing the best roofing tiles for your home is only part of the process. The other part is making sure your builder creates a reliable substructure to which the tile is applied. Here are the steps.

Step 1 - Start with a clean 1/2-inch plywood or oriented strand board deck fastened properly to the rafters.

Step 2 - At the eaves and rakes, 3-foot-wide strips of self-adhering bitumen membrane should be added to protect against ice dams and wind-blown rain.

Step 3 - A layer of 30-pound builder's felt (or the equivalent) is next added to cover the entire roof. It's held in place with nailing caps and has 6-inch overlaps at the seams.

Step 4 - On the rakes and eaves, keep water off the sheathing edges and the sun's rays off the underlayment. In the valleys, 20-inch-wide flashing made of a durable metal (such as copper) should sit atop a layer of bitumen membrane.

Step 5 - Install the roofing tiles in overlapping courses with rustproof stainless steel nails.

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