Renovation & Design

Peak value for your home

New roof well worth the effort

Canwest News Service/Before putting a roof on your home, comparison-shop and consider the look, life expectancy, maintenance and cost of different roofing materials.

Re-roofing a house can be a major investment for any homeowner, but the government's Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to 15 per cent for every $10,000 spent on home repair can soften the blow.

Installing a new roof on an average home costs about $8,000. The tax credit can mean a savings of $1,050 come tax time next year (15 per cent credit on the remaining balance after deducting the first $1,000 of the bill)

Roofing contractors hope the incentive will spur some penny-pinching homeowners to open their wallets.

"We recently did a job where the homeowner was in the attic with bedpans every time it rained," says roofing contractor Gordon Carter. "Others have so many old layers of material on the roof that there is a danger of water leaks or even roof collapse if there is any significant accumulation of snow."

He says leaks can lead to house fires. Moisture in ceiling electrical boxes can lead to short-circuits.

Most new roofs now have up to a 35-year warranty, but Carter recommends homeowners have their roofs inspected five years after installation and every two years after that. He says the $50 cost for the check is money well spent as it will catch problems before they cause damage.

While every roofing product on the market will keep the rain off, many new materials are available that mimic more costly choices. But not everybody thinks that is necessary.

"It's about function," said Jenny Ferns, who had the roof of her house recovered by Carter when she moved in. "The black shingles may complement our white house nicely, but at the end of the day its primary purpose is to keep me dry at a reasonable cost."

She thinks it is more important to find a trustworthy roofing contractor who does quality work than choosing a fancy roof.

There are strengths and weaknesses in every product. Here is a snapshot of materials available on the market:

Fibreglass shingles

These are the bread and butter of the industry. Locally, up to 85 per cent of new and re-roofs are covered with this light, yet strong, roofing material. They have replaced the once-popular asphalt shingles, which are made from a felt base that consists of wood and other cellulose fibres. Both types of shingles are covered with asphalt and coloured granules.

Life expectancy: 25 to 35 years

Cedar shakes and shingles

Most homeowners would love to have them, but the cost -- usually two to three times the cost of fibreglass shingles -- is beyond the budget of most middle-class homeowners. Shingles are sawed, shakes are generally split. Shingles are usually smaller than shakes. These are not the best choice for homes in fire-prone areas. Cedar roofing requires a seal coat every five years or so.

Life expectancy: 15 to 30 years

Metal roofs

These are often used on high-end houses because of its cost compared with traditional cedar shakes. A metal roof will likely last the lifetime of a house. It is especially popular in the country for its fire resistance and snow-shedding ability. The downside is that a metal roof can be noisy when rain or hail is beating down. Installation can be more complex but there is less waste.

Life expectancy: 20 to 50 years

Plastic, polymer and rubber tiles

These materials can be injection-moulded with colours and patterns to mimic cedar and other materials, usually made from consumer recycled materials. Composite shakes are made from plastics such as old juice and milk containers. Rubber shakes come from recycled vehicle tires. They are the quietest roofing material, but rubber tiles have been known to give off a smell on hot days.

Life expectancy: 50 years plus

Roofing companies calculate the cost of re-roofing in squares. A square in roofing terms signifies 100 square feet of roofing materials applied. A typical roof is 1,500 square feet and takes 15 squares -- 13 squares for area materials and two squares of starter and ridge caps.

Re-roofing this house with fibreglass shingles costs between $6,000 to $8,000. That includes tearing off two layers of old roofing and applying a new board base for the shingles.

The slope of a roof also affects roofing costs. It's more difficult and complicated to re-roof a house with a steep roof. An average slope is 5:12, which means there is a vertical rise of five inches for very 12 inches of horizontal run. A steep pitch -- anything over 7:12 -- is difficult to walk about on safely, which means a lot of safety equipment is required.

Roofline interest -- a lot of peaks and valleys -- also add to the complexity and cost of re-roofing.

Curb appeal extends to the roof -- some call it "roof-scaping." It is important to keep in mind the architecture and appearance of the street and neighbourhood. Picking the cheapest alternative, such as lower-cost asphalt shingles to replace cedar shakes, makes the house less compatible with the theme of neighbourhood.

"A roof is just like paint," said real-estate agent Sandy Berry. "If it is in sad shape, it negatively affects the value of the house." She noted some materials, such as cedar shakes, suggests to buyers that they are looking at a higher-end home.

A house that obviously needs a roof repair or replacement would usually appeal only to buyers who don't mind taking on a renovation project. Sellers who are reluctant to repair their roofs risk low offers.

"Buyers seeing a roof in need of attention would usually assume that the rest of the house is also in need of repair," says Berry.

-- Canwest News Service



Browse Homes

Browse by Building Type