Chances are high that you need a new roof if you are catching a drop – or more – in a bucket – or buckets, but most of the time, the signs of an aging roof are not quite so obvious. Water travels in many directions, so any drip location may not be directly below the leak or even on the same side of the house. If not corrected, more than rain water might be coming in, like bugs, small creatures and creepy crawlies.
Other signs include sagging, moss growth and shingles in your yard following windy days or nights. Roofs can leak at flashing. Water spots on ceilings, mildew or mold and bubbling paint inside can point to a compromised roof. If you see a section where the roof appears to be depressed or indented, this could indicate a breakdown of structural materials, and any dent in roofing is a gathering spot for water, snow melt, wet leaves, critters and myriad things which might erode and penetrate roofing materials.
Even if you live in a newly constructed house, it’s wise to inspect your roof annually. When considering buying an older home, look carefully at the roof from the side. If you see multiple layers of tar paper and/or shingles, beware. This roof has most likely been patched over the years, and a “built-up” roof is neither safe nor secure. Factor the cost of a new roof into your offer.
With new home improvement materials coming on the market all the time, it’s wise that all homeowners have a working knowledge of roofing basics. “By far our most common roof type is asphalt shingles,” says Ed Tuchler, president of Shelter Alternatives. “This is partially due to cost, but also addresses the fact that asphalt shingles are easily installed by many different contractors, while metal roofing is more of a specialty. Asphalt shingles can be modified easily for skylights or other upgrades.”
While perhaps several types of contractors can install roofing, Wayne Simpson of New River Valley Roofing cautions property managers and homeowners to work with professional, experienced roofers with references. “There are all kinds of ways to cut corners and perform sloppy workmanship that most people would never recognize, until perhaps their roof has issues in just a few years.” Simpson is president of NRV Roofing, which is based in Radford and has been in business since 1995. Like most jobs, getting it right the first time is exponentially better than trying to fix, patch or mend something as expensive and expansive as a roof.
Metal roofing is gaining in popularity and reports indicate that a metal roof with an integral air space can reduce energy bills and heat accumulation in the attic. Additionally, some metal roofs are being crafted from thousands of recycled beverage cans and other materials. One favorable characteristic of metal roofs is longevity. They can carry a 40-year warranty, compared to 20-30 years for asphalt shingles, and some last even longer.
Metal roofs are much more expensive and noisier than shingles and may have expansion and contraction issues. Tim Henderson at Henderson Roofing points out that the metal can come loose as often the screws and fasteners do not last more than a decade, then the roof leaks where the fasteners fail. There can be more maintenance issues with metal, and Henderson has seen many metal roofs with unattractive, faded paint.
“I prefer not to install exposed fastener metal roofs on homes,” states Tuchler. “I feel like you are putting on an 80-year roof with 10-year washers on the fasteners. We have done several roofs with standing seam ‘snap lock’ metal roofing with concealed fasteners which are durable and attractive. The details of installation are more finicky, though, and it requires a specialty contractor for proper installation.”
A metal roof is a good choice if solar panels are to be installed. “Standing seam metal roofs are great for use with solar panels,” Tuchler continues. “Not only are they longer lived, so it is unlikely to have to remove panels to replace the roofing, but the panels can be supported by clamps that connect to the standing seams, reducing the number of penetrations through the roof. For example, the 40 solar panels on our office roof [701 Progress St. NE, Blacksburg] only have one penetration through the roof. We recently installed solar on a new home with traditional shingles that had 90 penetrations through the roof.”
There are cool roofs, solar tiles, green roofs with plants and integrated drainage systems, thatched, clay, slate, stone-coated steel and more. Tesla has launched four styles of solar tiles that look like traditional roofing. Tuchler addresses this: “We try to reach a balance between ‘cutting edge’ and ‘tried and true’, so we have not yet explored solar tile roofs. I believe there is a future there, but not yet in Southwest Virginia. For us, the decision to explore this will be when we have a client who is interested.”
Whether or not you pinpoint a potential roofing problem, get a pQrofessional to do an inspection and submit a quote, and you might want to be sitting down when you read it. But your house could be your largest investment over a lifetime, and it’s worth maintaining. A roofing system installed with good materials and excellent labor, albeit not a drop in the bucket for your bank account, is designed to last decades and give value to your home. The roof over your head is important, and it’s not a place from which you want to experience a drop in the bucket.


Text by Joanne M. Anderson