Category: Roofing & Siding

Metal Roofs 101

With styles that now imitate the look of wood, stone, and clay, metal roofing is finding renewed popularity in homes of all types.

Metal Roofs


The metal roofing industry has taken a page from vinyl flooring manufacturers. They’ve started with a ‘plain Jane’ material—in this case steel or aluminum—and made it look like wood, stone, and clay. The introduction of metal roofing in shingle, shake, slate and tile styles has reinvigorated the metal roofing industry.

For decades, metal roofs meant corrugated panels, which looked like they belonged on sheds or barns, or standing-seam applications, which often had a commercial appearance. Today, metal roofing products are available to fit every architectural style, whether a Spanish Colonial in Southern California or a Victorian in New England.

Residential metal roofing is generally made of steel, aluminum, or copper. Rolls of 24- or 26-gauge steel sheets are given a metallic coating to prevent rust, followed by a baked-on paint finish. Aluminum sheets don’t require the metallic coating but do get painted. Copper, often called a natural metal product, is neither coated nor painted, because it weathers without corroding. It is sometimes used for special features, such as the roof of a prominent bay window.

Steel roofing products are coated with either zinc (galvanized) or a mixture of aluminum and zinc (galvalume or zincalume). Of the two, galvalume offers the longer service. The coatings are offered in several thicknesses—the thicker the coating the longer the service, and the higher the cost.

The Metal Roofing Association (MRA) recommends a galvanizing thickness level of at least G-90 for residential applications and an AZ-50 or AZ-55 designation for galvalume coatings. In areas by the sea, opt for an aluminum-based panel. Paint finishes vary in quality, as well. An inferior coating may fade or chalk. Some manufacturers participate in a certification process developed by the MRA. Standard certified products may be used in most areas. In areas with high exposure to UV light, opt for a premium certified paint coating.

Metal Roofs


Metal roofing products can be stamped into many shapes and are typically installed as interlocking panels with hidden fasteners. Viewed from a distance, they offer fairly convincing renditions of shingles and tiles. Some ‘stone-coated’ products receive an acrylic coating, in which stone granules are embedded. These offer a less metallic look.

Slideshow: Debunking 5 Metal Roofing Myths

Standing-seam metal roofs look exactly like what they are–long sheets of painted steel with vertical seams. From a design perspective, they are a purer product but not suitable for every home. Standing-seam roofs are perhaps best matched to the simple lines of cabins and contemporary home designs.

The primary benefit of metal roofing is longevity. Manufacturers routinely offer 50-year warranties and even lifetime, non-prorated warranties. They claim their products will last two to four times longer than roofs with asphalt shingles. By avoiding one or two re-roofing jobs during the life of the metal roof, you will more than offset the higher initial cost. Near term, a new metal roof recoups a bit more of its installation cost upon home resale (6% according to Remodeling Magazine) than does a new asphalt roof.

There are other advantages, as well. Metal roofs are lightweight, sometimes allowing them to be installed directly over old roofs. And when metal roofing is painted with specially formulated “cool pigments”, solar energy is reflected and emitted (rather than radiated as heat into the attic).

Additionally, metal roofs are effective in preventing the spread of fire when hot embers fall on them (i.e., from brush and forest fires). In fact, some insurance companies will give you a discount if you have a metal roof. In addition, metal roofing is made with a large percentage of recycled metal—often 95 percent—and when its useful life is done, it can be recycled again. No worries about it filling up dwindling space in landfills.

Myths and legends get started about all sorts of people, places, and building materials…. Metal roofing has more than its share, perhaps because it has undergone so many transformations over the years. Here are the most common myths about metal roofing:

* It will increase the likelihood of a lightening strike. Metal conducts electricity, but electricity is not drawn to it.

* Metal roofs are noisy in the rain. Not so. They may even be quieter than other roof types.

* Metal roofs are susceptible to damage by hail. While extremely large hailstones can dent a metal roof, normal hailstorms will not. With textured roofs, minor denting is not readily visible.

* You cannot walk on a metal roof. You can, but you have to know how to do it without causing damage. Check with the manufacturer of the product you choose.

* A metal roof will make your house colder in winter. Actually, a metal roof has no effect on the temperature of the typical vented attic in winter. It’s the insulation under (or on top of) the floor of your attic that keeps you warm.

Gutters 101

Avoid water intrusion in your home with the right storm drainage system.

Gutters 101


When shopping for a gutter system, a homeowner will have to choose among a variety of materials, including aluminum, galvanized steel, vinyl, copper, and wood. Installers price gutter systems per linear foot, but this price should include all the necessary components for a gutter system, including the gutters, downspouts (the vertical section), corner joints, end caps, and hanging brackets.

Gutter Materials and Pricing
Aluminum is the most popular gutter on the market, as it is relatively inexpensive, durable, and easy to work with. Unlike steel, aluminum will not rust over time, and is available in a wide range of colors. Gutter installers will often quote a price (which includes installation) at a “per linear foot” price; although costs for an aluminum system will vary, homeowners may expect somewhere around $3-6 per linear foot.

Steel gutter systems are usually galvanized, although stainless steel options exist as well. Galvanized steel gutters will eventually rust after 20-25 years, but steel is strong and durable, making it a popular option for regions that experience extreme weather, heavy rains, and snow. Steel is slightly more expensive than aluminum; with prices averaging around $8-10 per linear foot. Stainless steel, which doesn’t rust, sells for upwards of $20 per linear foot.

Copper is also one of the more durable gutter options. Copper brings a certain aesthetic to a home’s facade, appealing to property owners looking to customize their home. “Copper is one of the strongest metals,” says Mike Milliman, a partner with the RainTrade Corporation. “It is suitable for any region.” Copper sits at the high-end of the gutter market, selling for anywhere from $12-25 per linear foot. Homeowners who are interested in a copper gutter system should consider the “patina” aspect of copper, which gradually ages and changes color with exposure to the elements. “A copper gutter system will only stay shiny for the first month or two,” Milliman says. “It will turn brown, dark brown, purple, and eventually a greenish color. Homeowners need to expect these changes.”

Vinyl is one of the least-expensive gutter options on the market, and is also very easy to cut and work with, making these gutters suitable for DIY installations. Vinyl gutter systems are prominent in home stores because of the easy of assembly and availability of component parts. At around $3-5 per linear foot, vinyl is most affordable option for gutter installations. Vinyl tends to become brittle and break in colder climates. It is also not as sturdy or durable as metal counterparts.

Shape, Size, Seamless
Homeowners will have two main gutter shapes to choose from: half-round and K-style. A smaller K-style gutter will drain the same amount of water as a larger half-round gutter. Half-round (also called U-shape) gutters are typically considered a traditional shape, as this was the original gutter shape dating back to the early 1900′s. K-style gutters didn’t emerge as an option until around the 1950s. Downspouts generally come in round or rectangular shapes.

When it comes to size, a homeowner will have to choose from gutter size (the measurement of the top opening), downspout size (length and width or diameter), and thickness. The most common gutter sizes are 5 inches and 6 inches, although 4 inches is available as well. Downspouts are commonly 2 x 3 inches and 3 x 4 inches in size or 3 or 4 inches in diameter.

When determining the size of a home’s gutter system, a homeowner should consider the area’s rainfall density. Such facts can usually be found on gutter supply websites. A home that sees a lot of rain or has a steep roof pitch should have a larger gutter system. Similarly, a home surrounded by tall trees will need a larger system to accommodate falling leaves without clogging.

Thickness is rated differently, depending on the material used. A thicker gutter system will be sturdier, more durable, and more expensive. Aluminum systems range from .019 to .032 inches in thickness. Copper is usually rated in weight, with a heavier weight indicating greater thickness. It is common to see 16-ounce and 20-ounce options for copper systems. Steel may be rated in inch-thickness or gauge.

Finally, a homeowner will have to decide between a sectional or seamless system. Traditionally, gutters came in sections that had to be pieced together, leaving seams. Today’s aluminum sectional systems require gutter sealant at the seams to prevent leakage. This sealant usually has to be re-applied as regular maintenance. Sectional copper or steel systems are actually soldered together at the seams, eliminating the need for a sealant. Proper installation of a sectional copper or steel system should include soldering, although some installers will use a metal sealant. Seamless systems are growing in popularity, and require professional installers. In a seamless system, an installer will use a special machine on-site to form long stretches of gutter (usually copper or aluminum) that will run the length of the roofline without a seam.

Proper Pitch
Gutter installation should follow a couple basic rules. Gutters must be pitched so water will flow to the downspouts. The rule of thumb for this slope is a vertical 1/2 inch for every 10 feet of horizontal run. If the run is more than 35 feet long, some specialists recommend installing the high point of the system in the middle and sloping the gutter downward in both directions to downspouts on both ends of the run. Water exiting the downspout must always be directed away from the foundation.

Gutter Add-Ons
The gutter industry has seen an explosion in the accessory side of the business. Screens, barriers, and other devices used to keep foreign objects out of the gutter are literally everywhere. When considering such accessories, homeowners will want to evaluate the types of debris that may land on or in their gutter. “Homeowners will want to consider everything from the number of trees to the types of leaves,” says Milliman. “Will there be whirlybirds, or pine needles?”

Hybrid products that combine solid hoods with screens exist, as do the more recent gutter foam products like Gutter Stuff and GutterFill. These foam products actually fill the length of the gutter, allowing water to run through and drain while keeping solid objects out. Additionally, homeowners may look into splash blocks on the ground that guide water away from the foundation or “rain chains” that replace traditional downspouts with Japanese-themed decorative links or chains. Rain chains are aesthetically pleasing, and come in a number of design options.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber Cement Siding - Installation

Photo: Flickr

Fiber-cement siding is an alternative to real wood, engineered wood, and vinyl siding options. Although fiber cement has endured some largely unwarranted criticism concerning moisture issues following faulty installation, it remains one of the more durable siding products in the industry.

Strength and Durability
Fiber-cement siding composition may vary from company to company, but the basic recipe is Portland cement, sand, and cellulose (wood) fibers. Wood fiber helps prevent cracking, as does a special curing process that leaves fiber cement with a low moisture content.

Fiber-cement siding has the durability of cement, a class 1A fire rating, is impervious to wood-boring insects, does not rot, and is resistant to deterioration from salt and ultraviolet rays. “The added cost of fiber-cement is made up by the fact that once it’s up, you don’t have to worry about it,” says Lisa Santerian, marketing director for CertainTeed WeatherBoards fiber-cement siding.

Fiber-cement siding is low-maintenance, impact-resistant, and available in finished or painted options. Most companies warranty their product for 50-years, which is proof of its durability.

Designs and Profiles
The fiber-cement siding industry has spent years perfecting the look and finish of its product. Surface designs are created during manufacturing, when the surface is embossed with a wood grain or left smooth. “We can do any sort of architectural shapes and styling, and the consumer can pick any color they want,” says Santerian. In addition to stained, prefinished, painted, or unfinished faces, fiber cement is available in every siding type and profile, including vertical and horizontal laps, shingles, trim planks, and soffit panels. “You can even get half-rounds and octagon shapes if you want,” adds Santerian.

Both James Hardie’s ColorPlus line and CertainTeed’s ColorMax line of pre-finished fiber-cement siding products come with a 15-year warranty on the finish. This warranty covers the product against cracking, chipping, and peeling. The ColorMax line also includes a 100 percent SureStart protection, which covers the cost of materials and labor in the event of a manufacturer’s defect. “Again, consumers save money by not having to re-paint the product—the paint is covered for 15 years,” Santerian says.

Fiber Cement Installation
Fiber cement may be heavier than vinyl siding or engineered wood, but it is still lighter than real wood or stone, which means it is not terribly difficult to install. Installation guidelines should be closely followed, particularly when it comes to cutting the product and keeping it dry. Cutting fiber cement is harder than cutting real wood; it requires pneumatic or handheld shears, a dust-reducing circular saw, or a diamond-tip miter saw. Cutting fiber cement will release silica dust into the air, so you should wear a mask when cutting.

DIY-ers and contractors alike should follow handling and storage recommendations closely. Saturated or moist fiber cement siding can shrink at the butt ends if installed prior to drying. “All our packaging states very clearly: ‘Do Not Install Wet Product,’ ” Santerian says. “Unfortunately, we still hear tales of installers spraying the product down prior to installation.” Proper storage of the product before installation is essential if the siding is to stay dry. A sheltered storage space is best.

Creating a Green Product
Fiber cement may enjoy even greater popularity now that consumers are looking to use green building products. As a wood alternative, fiber cement has forest-saving properties and environmentally friendly qualities. CertainTeed takes the wood fiber needed for its fiber-cement siding from a sustainably managed forest. They also use fly ash (a byproduct of coal-burning) to replace the sand and silica, thereby adding post-industrial recycling to its list of attributes. Fly ash also makes the fiber cement lighter than its sand and silica counterparts, so it can be easier to handle and install.

Everything You Need to Know About Engineered Wood Siding

An eco-friendly alternative to wood that does not sacrifice looks for affordability.

Whether it’s called SmartSide, Catawba, or TruWood, engineered wood siding products all claim to have a technological edge over their real-wood counterparts. These products are engineered to eliminate flaws, resist deterioration, and be cost effective to install and maintain.

LP Building Products’ SmartSide line of siding and trim is made up of wood strands that are coated with a resin binder and compressed to create a board of superior strength. Each SmartSide piece is also treated using LP’s SmartGuard zinc-borate treatment system to protect against termites and rot.

The boards are coated with a moisture-resistant overlay that is embossed with a cedar-grain pattern for an authentic appearance. “The process of treating each wood wafer with zinc borate, using a heavy-duty exterior glue, and pressing the product under heat and pressure, results in one solid piece of wood,” says Ben Skoog, Business Marketing Manager for LP’s SmartSide. Both LP’s SmartSide and Collins Products’ TruWood siding are sold in longer 16-foot boards for fewer seams and less waste.

Engineered wood siding is easier and less costly to install than real wood siding. It is lighter in weight than wood and features advances that make installation easier, like LP’s SmartLock self-aligning edge design. Engineered wood siding can be purchased pre-primed, ready to paint, or pre-finished in any number of finish options, which reduces the field and labor time once installed.

Collins and LP products both offer 30-year transferable warranties on their engineered siding systems. LP’s SmartSide also adds a seven-year, 100 percent labor and replacement warranty.

Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber cement has been around for nearly a century and, like engineered wood siding, has certain advantages over natural wood. While it was once made with added asbestos, fiber cement siding today is made from a mixture of Portland cement, cellulose or wood fiber material, sand, and other components. It can be formed into a variety of siding patterns, have a smooth or embossed face, or be textured for a cedar look. A special curing process leaves the final product with a low-moisture content, making it resistant to warping and conducive to paint application.

The product’s main selling point is its durability: It is resistant to harsh weather, insects, and rot. CertainTeed and Cemplank back their products with warranties comparable to those offered by engineered-wood siding companies—CertainTeed’s WeatherBoards fiber cement siding comes with a 50-year limited transferable warranty. Fiber cement is also marketed as fire-resistant, making it an ideal siding choice for homes in wildfire regions. Installed much like real wood siding, fiber cement siding comes in the same lengths and widths as wood siding and is installed the same way. It is more difficult to cut than real or engineered wood, and manufacturers insist that installers wear masks and goggles to protect against the harmful dust produced by cutting.

Affordable building products are defined by purchase price, installation costs, and maintenance. Engineered wood siding costs about half the price of real wood, is available in 16-foot lengths, and can be ordered pre-primed. This all adds up to huge savings in time and money on the building site. Fiber cement siding also costs about half as much as real wood, is virtually maintenance-free, will hold paint three times as long as real wood, and is easy to clean. With strong warranties for durability, homeowners can be assured that little additional money will go into maintaining the siding.

Not Yet Perfect
Engineered siding does have its flaws. Moisture remains a common enemy, and the engineered wood siding industry has suffered a number of class-action lawsuits due to moisture-related problems stemming from product imperfections and installation errors. “Our earlier attempt at engineered wood siding, called Inner-Seal, was not made or treated the way SmartSide is and the result was product failure,” explains Skoog, Since the revamping of their siding line, SmartSide products have been installed on more than 1.5 million homes.

Fiber cement siding is also vulnerable to moisture invasion, particularly if installed incorrectly. Failure to properly install fiber cement siding can lead to mold and rot in the sheathing or structural supports. Installation is also a concern with fiber cement siding—it weighs about 1.5 times as much as wood, and requires special tools for cutting.

Green Products
These engineered products are considered environmentally friendly since they help to prevent widespread clearing of trees for building purposes. Both fiber cement and engineered wood use wood wisely and have little negative impact on our forests. In fact, Collins Products TruWood engineered wood siding is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent organization that recognizes wood products taken from forests in a managed and socially responsible manner.

Wood Siding Options

Style, location, and budget should drive your selection of wood siding.

Wood Siding Options, Cedar Siding

Wood is a perennial favorite choice for siding options throughout the United States and Canada. Whether it is vertical siding like board and batten, or horizontal siding like clapboards, shakes, and shingles, there are a few species and grades commonly used for all applications.

A local builder or installer knows what species are readily available in the regional market. If you set your sights on wood that comes from a distance, is not frequently harvested, or is not suited to your region, you could hold up a project and raise the budget considerably. Before settling on a siding material, ask questions about rot resistance, splitting, checking, or cupping. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best grade of siding you can afford. Look for clear grains whenever possible, and make certain that the wood acclimates on site, is properly sealed, and is thoroughly protected upon installation.

Pine has long been a standard for exterior siding. Pine and its related softwoods—spruce and fir—can be less expensive than other species. Knot-free pine can be difficult to get in longer lengths, though, which can make a project more labor-intensive and costly. Pine holds a finish well, and is preferable when painting or staining horizontal siding. It is typically used for clapboards, but some contractors are wary of fast-growth pine for siding because it can be prone to cupping, splitting, and checking. Pine is not a rot-resistant wood, so it is important to keep it sealed and well maintained.

A member of the pine family, this softwood is readily available in East Coast markets as a substitute for pine. It comes in longer lengths than pine, and has many of the same characteristics. It is typically used for board siding, especially clapboards. Again, since it is not a naturally rot-resistant wood, it is important to regularly maintain and seal the wood.

Like pine and spruce, fir is used as an economical siding option. It comes in long lengths, is easy to cut and install, takes a finish well, and is readily available regionally in the West. Like the other softwoods, fir is easily milled to a pattern, be it shiplap, tongue-and-groove, or board-and-batten.

Cedar siding is known for its grain and its rot resistance. It is straight and resists splitting. Cedar takes a stain well and reveals a rich character. It is commonly used in shakes and shingles because it is dimensionally stable, resists swelling, and has less cupping and splitting. Cedar clapboards are popular, too, but clear grade A cedar can be costly. Still, for its grain and texture, cedar is preferred for stain applications. Cedar siding is naturally more moisture and insect-resistant than pine, but must be treated and maintained to retain these qualities. All woods must be sealed and stained or painted to resist moisture, damage, and decay.

Perhaps the hallmark of rich texture and tone, redwood is a good choice for siding in all climates. Redwood resists shrinking, so it holds its profile and keeps its joints with little warping or cupping. Redwood has little pitch or resin, so it absorbs and retains its finish very well and requires less maintenance than some other species. Redwood is also naturally insect resistant, not just on the face but throughout the wood. Grown in the West, redwood can be difficult to obtain in other regions.

Price and Options
Wood pricing varies depending on the market. It may be difficult to get some native western woods on the East Coast, for example, because consumers buy it up in the local markets. And because some woods cannot be harvested as quickly as others, the supply is naturally lower. Check with your builder or local lumberyard before making a final decision.

Some companies offer pre-primed planks, shakes, and shingles. These boards come primed on one or both faces, and are sealed and protected from the minute they arrive on site. These boards and shingles may be dipped or factory coated. Before installing, make sure that edges and ends are properly sealed. Freshly cut ends must always be primed and sealed before nailing.

A good wood siding should last for many, many years, but it must be properly maintained. Proper maintenance includes power washing, staining and sealing whenever the heat of the sun fades the finish, or moisture starts to turn to mold or mildew. Always allow wood to dry well before applying a new stain or finish.

Strengthen Roof Sheathing

Roof Sheathing


Most houses contain a weak link in the connection of the roof sheathing to the rafters or roof trusses, making them vulnerable to loss of roof sheathing in severe winds, but solutions to this problem are available to the homeowner.

The problem exists because nail sizes and spacing used to attach the sheathing to the roof’s structural members (rafters or trusses) do not provide enough strength to keep the sheathing on during an intense windstorm. Before Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in 1992, roof sheathing was generally attached using 6d nails spaced at 6 inches along the edges of the sheathing and at 12 inches along interior structural members.

Tests at Clemson University’s Wind Load Test Facility show that the sheathing can be pulled off the rafters or trusses with a 40 pound per square foot uplift pressure when it is attached using these older nailing patterns. Use of 8d nails has become more common in recent years but this only increases the typical failure pressure to about 70 pounds per square foot. In contrast, a strong hurricane, like Hugo, could exert uplift pressures as high as 100 pounds per square foot in critical areas of the roof if your house is in an exposed location.

Stricter requirements were adopted by most building codes in hurricane-prone regions after Hurricane Andrew. However, most existing houses have been built using the older standards and even the new requirements do not provide a very good margin of safety (extra strength beyond the bare minimum).

The attachment of roof sheathing can be improved in one of two ways. The cheapest and easiest is to re-nail or, better yet, screw down the sheathing when you replace your roof covering. The other approach is applying an AFG-01 rated adhesive to enable the roof sheathing to withstand pressure to 250 pounds per square foot or greater.

Before beginning such a project make a survey of your attic to get a sense of working conditions and the feasibility of the project.

  • Is there a floor in the attic?
  • Is there adequate lighting and ventilation?
  • Do you have enough access to get adhesive out to the edges of the roof?
  • Does attic insulation obscure the roof sheathing connection near the eaves or is there insulation between the rafters or trusses?

Next you’ll need to assemble the tools and materials that you will need to complete the job.

  • Boards for the floor
  • Caulking Gun for 30-ounce tubes of adhesive
  • AFG-01 rated adhesive in 30-ounce tubes
  • Cleaning supplies, such as rags and paint thinner
  • Fan and/or light
  • Utility knife and long screwdriver to open tubes
  • Safety items, including glasses or goggles, and a bicycle helmet or hardhat for protection from roofing nails
  • Caulk gun extension if you have a shallow pitch roof or problems with access to the eaves

Pick a cool day and preferably start in the morning when the attic will be cooler. Prepare the work area with boards, lights, and ventilation.

Install adhesive with strips of wood imbedded in the glue along the last rafter or truss at any gable end. Joints made using quarter round strips were about 50% stronger than those formed using only a bead of adhesive.

Apply adhesive along the connection between the roof sheathing and rafters in a continuous bead, much like caulk around a bathtub or apply adhesive to two adjacent sides of 1 by 2 blocks 6 inches long and space them with a 6-inch gap between the blocks. Apply beads or blocks to both sides of the rafters or trusses.

Metal Roofs on the Rise

A durable and energy-efficient alternative to shingles, metal roofs are now more attractive than ever.

Metal Roofs

Photo: Metal Roof Alliance

There is no material more capable of protecting a structure from wind, rain, hail, fire, or rot than a durable and energy-efficient metal roof. The initial cost to install may seem high, but a standing-seam metal roof is the least costly roof option over the life of the roof because it is virtually maintenance-free and can last 50 years or more.

Related: Debunking 5 Metal Roof Myths

Standing Seams
A standing-seam metal roof consists of metal panels running vertically on the roof deck. Each panel has two seams that stand up vertically and are crimped together to seal the joint and keep the elements from penetrating. A standing seam also keeps water from collecting on the surface, causing leakage.

A metal roof is durable, like an iron sentry standing guard over the top of the house. William Hippard, president of the Metal Roofing Alliance, in Seattle, WA, says the building trades have taken a shine to metal roofing because of its attributes. “Without a doubt, metal roofs are cheaper in the long run,” Hippard says. “Many metal roofs will easily outlast any warranties that the company provides.” Warranties up to 50 years are common, but it’s not unusual to find metal roofing that has been in use successfully for 100 years. Copper, galvanized steel, and aluminum (Galvalume is the galvanized version of aluminum) are the three metals most commonly used to build standing-seam or other types of metal roofs. All offer virtually the same durability, aesthetics, and finishes.

Beauty and Durability
Metal roofs once got a bad rap for their bright shiny colors and metallic look, but finishes are now much more compatible with home exteriors. Metal roofs have lost their “barnyard” image and now sport a host of colors, matte finishes, and profiles. Virtually any color is available, the metal can be finished to remove that “high gloss” metallic look, and the end product can be formed to resemble any roof product from tile to asphalt shingles or cedar shakes. Distressed-look metal roofs have an irregular pattern so that heavy hail storms won’t affect the surface appearance of the roof.

Dave Uppgren, a principal in Uppgren and Associates, the architectural firm that covered the headquarters of Domino’s Pizza in the largest standing-seam copper roof in the U.S., likes copper roofs because they are beautiful, durable, and almost maintenance-free. “About 90 percent of the decision to use copper for the roof was based on aesthetics,” Uppgren says of the stunning installation. “There really are no maintenance problems. As with any metal roof, snow sliding off can become a big issue and we’ve probably spent more time preventing snow from falling onto the public areas than to repair leaks.”

Energy Efficiency and Value
From an appraisal standpoint, Hippard says metal roofs are so durable and desirable that they add approximately $1.45 per square foot to a home’s overall value. Insurance companies give discounts of up to 35 percent to homes with metal roofs because when properly installed they are virtually impervious to wind, hail, and fire.

Metal roofs are also energy efficient. A metal roof can reflect the sun’s energy and block heat transmission from the roof to building members and living space. “ Paint manufacturers have also come up with good reflective properties for the coatings so you can reduce your cooling bills in the summer by 25 percent,” Hippard says. There are also currently tax credits available for putting metal roofs on your principal residence. Properly ventilating the roof is vitally important to its efficiency and lifespan.

How To: Choose a New Roof for Your House

If you're choosing a new roof for your new or existing home, aesthetics are important, but so too are the material's cost, weight, and installation requirements.

How to Choose a New Roof - Asphalt Shingles

Photo: CertainTeed

Whether you are building from scratch or choosing a new roof for your existing home, a wide range of materials are readily available and worthy of consideration. These include asphalt, wood, and composite shingles, as well as slate, concrete, and clay tiles. Style is an important factor, but it’s not the only one. Product cost, material weight, and installation requirements should also influence your selection. Here’s what you need to know:

The Square
Before we talk materials, let’s talk terminology. Roofers don’t usually use the measure “square feet.” Instead, they talk in squares. A square is their basic unit of measurement—one square is 100 square feet in area, the equivalent of a 10-foot by 10-foot square. The roof of a typical two-story, 2,000-square-foot house with a gable roof will consist of less than 1,500 square feet of roofing area, or about fifteen squares.

A number of considerations will affect the cost of a new roof. The price of the material is the starting point, but other factors also must be considered. One is the condition of the existing roof if you are remodeling a house—if old materials must be stripped off, and if the supporting structure needs repair, that will all cost money. The shape of the roof is another contributing factor. A gable roof with few or no breaks in its planes (like chimneys, vent pipes, or dormers) makes for a simple roofing job. A house with multiple chimneys, intersecting rooflines (the points of intersection are called valleys), turrets, skylights, or other elements will cost significantly more to roof.

Not every roofing material can be used on every roof. A flat roof or one with a low slope may demand a surface different from one with a steeper pitch. Materials like slate and tile are very heavy, so the structure of many homes is inadequate to carry the load. Consider the following options, then talk with your designer and get estimates for the job.

Asphalt Shingle. This is the most commonly used of all roof materials, probably because it’s the least expensive and requires a minimum of skill to install. It’s made of a fiberglass medium that’s been impregnated with asphalt and then given a surface of sand-like granules. Two basic configurations are sold: the standard single-thickness variety and thicker, laminated products. The standard type costs roughly half as much, but laminated shingles have an appealing textured appearance and last roughly half as long (typically 25 years or more, versus 15 years plus). Prices begin at about $50 a square, but depending upon the type of shingle chosen and the installation, can cost many times that.

How to Choose a New Roof - Wood Shake


Wood.  Wood was the main choice for centuries, and it’s still a good option, though in some areas fire codes forbid its use. Usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine, shingles are sawn or split. They have a life expectancy in the 25-year range (like asphalt shingles) but cost an average of twice as much.

Metal.  Aluminum, steel, copper, copper-and-asphalt, and lead are all durable—and expensive—roofing surfaces. Lead and the copper/asphalt varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal that are joined with solder. These roofs start at about $250 per square but often cost two or three times that.

Tile and Cement.  The half cylinders of tile roofing are common on Spanish Colonial and Mission styles; cement and some metal roofs imitate tile’s wavy effect. All are expensive, very durable, and tend to be very heavy.

Slate.  Slate is among the most durable of all roofing materials. Not all slate is the same—some comes from quarries in Vermont, some from Pennsylvania and other states—but the best of it will outlast the fasteners that hold it in place. Hundred-year-old slate, in fact, is often recycled for reinstallation, with the expectation it will last another century. But slate is expensive—typically prices start at about $800 a square—and very heavy.

Making the Choice
More often than not, if you are remodeling, the existing roof of your house will determine your choice of roofing material. Should you be considering other options, you’ll want to consider not only the cost but the color, texture, weight, and durability of your alternatives, as well as what traditionally has been used on houses like yours.

Installation Notes
Whatever your choice of roofing surface, you will probably need flashing. Flashing is a crucial part of all exterior work, both on the roof and siding. Flashing is metal (aluminum or copper, occasionally lead) or plastic film. It is applied in strips to areas where dissimilar materials adjoin, such as the intersection of the masonry chimney and the roofing shingles, where the siding abuts the window frames, and so on. Good flashing work is essential to keeping a structure watertight, as the most likely place for leakage to occur is where different materials meet.

Whatever the choice of roof materials, the coursing should be regular to the eye and parallel to roof edges. From one course to the next, the joints should be staggered to prevent leakage. Beware of a contractor who relies on tar for joints. Except with certain roofs where a membrane is used, tar is a lazy expedient that should not be used for a new roofing surface.

For most roofing, a material like building felt (a.k.a. tar paper) is rolled on before the shingles are nailed in place. With cedar shakes, however, lengths of furring strips (sometimes called “cedar breathers”) will be laid across the roof in order to allow the roof to breathe. In snowy areas, a membrane called a snow and ice shield may also be laid.

Stucco 101

Though it's not the least expensive siding option, long-lasting stucco may be the most aesthetically versatile, enabling homeowners to create custom looks.

Stucco 101


Animal hooves and horns. Wheat paste. Urine. Beeswax. Rye whiskey. No, these aren’t the makings of a potent witches’ brew. Rather, at one time or another in history, each was used in stucco.

Nowadays, stucco consists of less exotic stuff. Usually, it’s a mixture of Portland cement, sand, and either lime or gypsum. Combined, these ingredients form a plaster that protects and beautifies home exteriors.

With any kind of masonry, whether it’s fieldstone or concrete block, stucco can be applied directly to the structure. With wood structures, the story is somewhat different, in that lathe must be added, so the stucco has something it can adhere to.

Stucco application typically requires three coats. The initial “scratch coat” provides adhesion to the building. The “brown coat”, which comes second, is responsible for creating an even surface. Finally, the “finish coat” determines the stucco’s outward appearance.

Throughout this three-stage process, the surface to which the stucco is being added must be kept wet. In a very hot climate, since stucco gets stronger the longer it’s allowed to dry, it’s best if the work can be done late in the day; even better is if the house can be shaded.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the only look you can achieve is that of the typical hacienda-style house. Although stucco is most often whitewashed, a varied range of textures and colors is within reach. Options include but are not limited to stucco that resembles wood timbers, bricks, metal, granite or aged limestone. Indeed, the Technical Services Information Bureau lists 30 different finishes on its website.

Stucco 101 - Application


Pros and Cons
Compared to other siding types—vinyl, for instance—stucco involves, if not pricey materials, then high labor costs. Balance the expense against the fact that, because stucco can be finished in so many ways, it’s one of the most aesthetically versatile materials available, enabling homeowners to create unique looks.

One attribute that is simultaneously both positive and negative is stucco’s permeability. In rainy parts of the country, wood framing under stucco may be susceptible to rot. But by the same token, in regions with normal levels of precipitation, the breathability of stucco allows moisture to evaporate quickly, leaving the home safe and dry.

Because stucco is less flexible than other siding choices, it’s likely to crack in situations where the ground shifts on account of tremors or settlement.

Stucco can be cleaned with mild detergent and a rinse from the garden hose. Using a power washer is not recommended, as the force of the spray can result in damage to the plaster.

While it’s cheaper than re-stuccoing, painting stucco can lead to a host of moisture problems down the line, since the majority of exterior paints are designed to form a non-breathable membrane through which water is unable to escape.

Stucco typically lasts between 50 and 80 years. When it’s time to refresh yours, sandblast away the old layer and start from scratch.

Patch small cracks with commercially available stucco fillers. (Never use caulk; it flexes differently than stucco and can wind up causing damage, not alleviating it.) For larger repairs, chip away any loose portions of the material and re-plaster.

Do It Yourself or Hire Out?
Plastering is an art form not easily mastered by the novice or intermediate DIYer. With the exception of small projects, the wise course is hiring a professional to handle your stucco job.

Vinyl Siding 101

Long saddled with a bad reputation, today's vinyl siding is weather- and insect-proof, fade-resistant, and virtually indestructible under normal circumstances. And it looks good, too.

Vinyl Siding


Sometimes you’ve got to hand it to prehistoric man. Not because he discovered fire, and not because he invented the wheel. But rather because, so early in history, he struck upon one important key to enjoying this life: the low-maintenance home exterior.

Caves, after all, require neither painting nor patching nor power-washing… and they weather beautifully. It was thousands of years later, in the 1960s, when modern man finally developed vinyl siding, a material whose modest upkeep finally rivals that of cave dwelling.

Vinyl siding should actually be called PVC siding, if you want to be a stickler, since PVC is largely what comprises this building product, so popular from Fargo to Fort Lauderdale. Yup, PVC. The same stuff that moves water through your home’s interior also repels water on its exterior.

Vinyl Siding - Italianate House

Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

At first, vinyl siding was prone to cracking and warping, but advances in the 1970s reengineered the product to make it much as it is today—weatherproof, insect-proof, fade-resistant and under normal conditions, virtually indestructible. Some manufacturers, such as Mastic, offer vinyl siding that can resist wind speeds up 240 miles per hour.

Of all types of home siding, vinyl has the cheapest installed cost, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). In fact, its durability and low price point have helped make vinyl siding the most popular exterior cladding choice in America.

New offerings in size and texture have further boosted its popularity. Today, vinyl siding comes in a range of colors and designs, some of which closely resemble wood grain. These are suitable not only for new construction, but also for replicating the look of vintage siding in renovations of older homes.

So long as it’s straight and watertight, vinyl siding can be installed over nearly any surface, even brick or stucco.

Vinyl Siding - Installation


The product is not so much attached as it is hung. Rails are nailed into the house, but they’re done so in a “loose” fashion. That is, the nails are left just a hair proud, so the rails can slide back and forth on the wide-slotted nail holes. The vinyl siding panels are hung from these rails, free to expand and contract over the course of the year with temperature fluctuations.

Because of its loose installation and relatively thin composition, vinyl siding can sometimes look and feel flimsy. And it’s been to known to buckle in very hot temperatures. For these reasons, manufacturers have pursued alternate means of fabrication, in some cases opting instead to use polypropylene, which is thicker and hardier than regular vinyl siding.

Slideshow: 10 Superb Reasons to Consider Vinyl Siding

Another recent development is cellular PVC siding, available from companies like NuCedar Mills and Royal Building Products. Here, a PVC mixture is turned into a foam, then forced through a mold that gives the cladding a shape and strength similar to wood. A vinyl product nonetheless, it won’t rot and will rarely, if ever, need to be painted. So if you want the architectural feel of wood with the durability of vinyl, this is an interesting choice of siding.

Still other vinyl siding options (namely, CedarBoards from CertainTeed or Prodigy from Alside) feature insulating qualities that are attractive to homeowners in pursuit of maximum energy efficiency.

Although it’s often touted as maintenance-free, vinyl siding does require some occasional work. Depending on how your house is situated, mold or grime might accumulate. For cleaning, VSI recommends using a solution of 30 percent vinegar and 70 percent water.

Alternatively, use the following mixture: 1/3 cup  powdered laundry detergent; 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner (such as Spic and Span, Soilax, or equivalent); 1 quart liquid laundry bleach; and 1 gallon of water. Apply with a long-handled scrub brush.

You can also use a power washer, but be careful not to shoot upwards behind the panels. Though vinyl siding has drain holes for water and allows air to circulate behind it, it’s never a good idea to get the wood of your home’s exterior wet.

Vinyl siding will eventually fade, but usually only slightly. If you’re not happy with the less-than-vibrant color, consider adding a coat of a latex exterior paint, which flexes in keeping with the expansion and contraction of the siding.

Over 300 colors have been certified by the Vinyl Siding Institute for colorfastness. You can see the full list, as well as a database of approved products and vendors, right here.