Up on the housetop: Replacing your roof? Here’s what you should know

In our area, slate roofs are popular due to our proximity to Buckingham Slate, a major domestic producer. Photo: Courtesy W.A. Lynch Roofing In our area, slate roofs are popular due to our proximity to Buckingham Slate, a major domestic producer. Photo: Courtesy W.A. Lynch Roofing

Hate to break it to you, but that tin roof on your love shack is rusted. Time for a replacement.

What are your options? Bruce Martin, an estimator and project coordinator for Charlottesville’s Blue Ridge Roofing, said metal roofs, created by paneling together solid sheets at junctions called “standing seams,” are actually quite popular in this area. Just stay away from the tin.

“It’s a fairly labor intensive process, and it can be done with many different types of roofing metal,” Martin said. “On the lower end you have galvanized steel. At various points in the past, people used copper. It looks great, but it’s very expensive. Zinc is really common in Europe, and it’s just beginning to be common here.”

On top of looking more attractive, Martin said the higher end metal roofs offer several advantages. They’re, for the most part, more element-tight than shingles, as they don’t allow water to back up during high winds or when an obstruction is present, and with the right coating they can make your house more energy efficient.

But here in Virginia—and just about everywhere else, for that matter—asphalt shingles still reign supreme. That might not sound glamorous, but roofers these days are doing some pretty cool stuff to amp up the asphalt. On top of the asphalt coating, which itself is laid on a fiberglass mat, are granules of stone that lend a shingle its color and make your house look more attractive than a blacktop roadway. Some of those granules can be reflective, making a shingled roof almost as energy efficient as a metal one. Plus, shingles can be cut into various shapes and laid in different ways to give the impression of higher end roofing materials like slate.

“The most expensive asphalt shingles would be comparable to a decent quality standing seam roof,” Martin said. “There’s a huge range from the entry to the upper end designer architectural roof.”

Martin said sleek-looking and super expensive slate is also somewhat popular in and around Charlottesville owing to its proximity to Buckingham Slate, a major domestic producer. Wood shingles have the advantage of good insulation and recyclability, but they have to be replaced every five years or so.

Still not sure what type of roof you want? Just ask yourself, “WWTJD?”

“Thomas Jefferson was one of the first in the States to begin experimenting with metal roofing materials,” Martin said. Glad that’s settled.

Rooftop philosophy

Don’t know the difference between a shingle and the shingles? We got you covered.

Blow-offs: Shingles that are jettisoned from a roof by high winds when their asphalt layer has worn down.

Dormer: A portion of roof that is raised out of the plane of the surrounding roof.

Eave: The roof edge. Typically thought of as the first 3′ across a roof.

Flashing: Materials, usually metal, placed around chimneys, dormers and other projections for water protection.

Gable: A roof design characterized by two sides that meet at their peak to form a ridge.

Granules: Crushed rock, typically coated with ceramic, that is affixed to the surface of asphalt shingles.

Mansard: A roof design characterized by four sides that are steep near the base but less sloped at the top.

Sheathing: The bottom layer of a roof on which underlayments and then shingles, or other roofing materials, are placed.

Standing seam: The raised portions of metal roofs where two pieces of material come together.

Underlayments: Rolled materials laid over sheathing and under shingles or other roofing material for added water protection.—S.G.

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