Using Roof Pitch to Choose Roofing Materials

Roof pitch is an essential metric when it comes to choosing the right materials and accessories for your new roof. Of course, you will most often go with what’s aesthetically pleasing for you, and fits the budget. However, it is very important to consider the pitch of your roof, before making the decision on materials.

Many roofing materials are designed for a certain roof slope and will not work properly, if at all, if the correct pitch is not met. The most common example is with asphalt shingles and most types of metal roofing, which are designed for a minimum of 3 in 12 pitch roofs.

Everything below the 3 pitch, is considered a low slope, and requires a special low-slope or flat roofing material, to work properly. Therefore, while asphalt shingles will not work on low-slope roofs, they often still get installed, in violation with manufacturer’s minimum pitch requirement, and thus voiding the warranty.

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Metal Roofing Materials Guide

Just 10 years ago, metal roofs were considered something of a rarity, or a farm-type roof, or “only for frigid north”, etc. Now, they can be found everywhere, ranging from unique design modern buildings, to typical residential homes. Today, they represent about 10% of all residential roofs installed. Because of the lifetime nature of metal, you can only expect this number to grow, as these roofs steadily continue to take market-share away from asphalt shingles.

Metal is one of the longest lasting roofing materials. At the same time, it offers unsurpassed beauty and weatherproofing in climates, ranging from tropical south to frigid north. A properly installed, quality metal roof should last a minimum of 50 years, while providing superior weather protection for your home or building.

A metal roof will make your home stand out from the boring identity crisis of houses in a typical residential neighborhood. You can choose from a wide variety of different styles and metals, to get exactly the look you are looking for.

Your choices range from very popular standing seam panels, to metal shingles that resemble natural slate, concrete flat tile and cedar shingles, to stone coated steel roofs that look like Spanish tile, or architectural asphalt shingles, to metal shake that resembles heavy hand-split cedar shake, and everything in between.

image of Residential standing seam metal roof

As far as metal choices, you can have a typical steel roof installed, or if you live along the coast, you can get aluminum. If you feel fancy, get a copper or a zinc roof, and observe the natural weathering of these unique metals. Continue reading

Ice Dam Prevention – How To Stop Roof Leaks

This comprehensive Ice Dams Guide covers the causes and effects of ice dams as well as prevention methods.

The winter is in full swing and most roofs in the northern states, as well as all of Canada are covered in snow. While most of these roofs don’t leak when it rains, they will leak in the winter, when the snow and ice are on the roof. Many homeowners are experiencing an ice build-up along the drip edge of their roofs, and this build-up is called Ice Dams. Ice dams can look very innocent, but they can pose big problems for your home, as well as your well being. From a simple icicle falling on you, to a complicated and expensive removal of mold growth in your attic, which can cause asthma and other respiratory issues.

If you have ice dams on the roof of your house, you may get rid of them yourself (below we will explain the most efficient way to remove them) or hire a contractor to do it for you – you can find local roofing contractors. Trying to remove ice dams yourself can be dangerous, so we do recommend hiring a professional for the job.

What causes ice dams?

Ice dams are caused by a combination of poor roof ventilation, and inadequate attic insulation. The basic process goes as follows:

  1. Due to poor insulation the warm air from inside your home escapes into attic space.
  2. Because the roof is not ventilated, or has poor ventilation, the warm air cannot escape from the attic, so it starts warming up the roof.
  3. When snow falls on the roof, it begins to melt, as roof temperature is above the freezing point.
  4. The melted snow turns into water, which runs down the roof, and when it reaches the overhangs, which are not heated at all or not as much as the rest of the roof, water freezes along the edge, forming ice build-up.
  5. As ice build-up along the edge grows, in turns into a barrier, which prevents the melted water from going over – hence the term Ice Dam.
  6. As more melted water hits the ice dam, it begins to “pool” and has nowhere to go, but under the shingles above it – see the diagram below.

Image of Ice dam build-up diagram

Effects of Ice Dams

Ice dams are costly to have and costly to eliminate, but the sooner this issue, the more economical it will be. Here is a summary of the ways you are losing money due to ice dams:

  • Your roof leaks, so you have interior damages, which need to be fixed.
  • Your roof has to be fixed.
  • Your roof deck and framing will rot and will need to be fixed.
  • You are losing heat, which means you are paying money to heat unused attic space and to melt the snow on the roof – a very expensive and unproductive way to spend your money.
  • Ice dam leaks dampen (wet) your wall insulation, reducing its insulating  properties, which means you have to spend even more money on heat.
  • If unchecked, the damages caused by ice dams can cost you thousands of dollars to repair, as well as hundreds in lost heating costs.

If you let the ice dams problem go for a prolonged period of time, your attic space may experience mold growth, which can cost as much as $10,000 to remove, and a home insurance company may often deny coverage, because you did not take steps to resolve the problem (negligence).

Prevention – How To Stop Ice-Dam Roof Leaks

Quick DIY methods:

First and foremost – if you attempt to fix the ice dams yourself – do understand that it can be very dangerous. Use utmost care, and also spend an extra $20 for a ladder stabilizer – it will make your job much easier and safer. In any case, we assume no responsibility if you injure yourself or others – do it at your own risk.

Image of Ice dam prevention

One of the easiest and quickest ways to get rid of ice dams is to use socks filled with calcium chloride or rock-salt (sodium chloride), and to place them along the roof edge, as well as around chimneys and skylights to melt the snow. While this method works, it requires constant replacement of rock salt in the socks, and having to climb up the ladder multiple times. This is dangerous in the winter, especially that most homeowners do not have a ladder stabilizer, so the ladder can easily slide left or right.

Also, note – while calcium chloride should be safe to use on most roofs, we recommend you contact your manufacturer to make sure that it’s safe to use it on your particular roofing product.

Image of gutter heat cable Additionally, you can use special heating cables along the roof edge to melt the ice dams, before they form. This is a more common method, and is used more often, as it does not require you to constantly go up and down the roof all winter long. There are a few downsides to this method. First, these cables are expensive to install. Second, most roofers will install them by simply placing a screw (which holds down the heating cable) through the roof, and this can cause leaks. Another drawback is that you are actually fighting a heat and energy loss problem with more heat and energy waste, instead of solving the problem, which causes ice dams.

Gutter heat cable cost about $80 for a 160 feet long cable, use 120 volt AC current, and you can rather easily install them yourself. If you decide to install them yourself, you will first need to get rid of the ice on your roof. Then, when you actually go to attach the cables, try to mount the hangers under the shingle tabs, so that your roof would not leak through the fasteners. Continue reading

Roofing Square – How Contractors Measure And Price Roofs

Roofing square is the most common measurement unit used by roofers, as well as contractors from many other trades. It greatly simplifies communication between architects, contractors, roofing manufacturers, suppliers and even clients. It’s much easier to say 25 squares than 2507 square feet, and there is less information lost in translation.

What is a roofing square?

Essentially it is 100 square feet or a 10×10′ block. Because roofs, siding and other big projects are … well, big, using a square foot as a unit of measurement gets complicated. Also, roofing and siding are a commodity now days, so even if you are off by a few sq. feet, it is fine. It’s not marble flooring, where each tile costs $20 + installation, and when you are off by 30 sq. feet, you can be down $1000. In roofing, 30 square feet is a bundle of roofing shingles, and costs $27.95 at Home Depot.

Average US Roof Price: $5732

See Costs in Your Area!

A roofing square is universal unit of roof measurement in all English speaking countries – US, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. It makes it easy for contractors and other people in the roofing and construction industry to communicate with each other – for example on forum, etc. If someone said 193 square meters, every roofing contractor on that forum would be like “WHAATTT???”. But with a roofing square, everything is in harmony.

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Roof Types – Gable, Hip, Mansard & Others

image of roof construction diagramThere are actually two major types of roofs with multiple variations derived from them (except of course flat roofs). These are a Gable Roof and a Hip Roof. Depending on the type, you will need to order a different amount of roofing materials, when you are going to replace your roof. It is equally important for homeowners and contractors alike to know this, as it will affect the total cost of the job.

Depending on the type of roof you have, the replacement price will differ, as will the difficulty of installing the roof, and the amount of waste associated with each type of material. You can refer to our roofing materials calculator to see exactly how much and which materials you will need to order, depending on whether it is a gable or a hip type variation.

Gable Roof

Gable is the most common and the simplest type of roof- basically it is a two sloped roof, like an open book, turned upside down. The name “gable” comes from a roof detail, also called rake, the sloped edge of the roof, which you see when standing on the side of a house.

Gable roofs are the easiest to install, especially when they have a rather shallow roof pitch of 3-7, and will have the lowest amount of waste materials. It only gets complicated when you get additional structures on the gable roof, such as dormers / shed dormers, valleys, etc. Then the amount of flashing and other detail work increases. Continue reading