Re-roofing is expensive and you'll live with a mistake for years

Angie's List: Take time to make the right choice

TAMPA - Updating your roof is one of the most significant investments you can make, as it can last 20 to 30 years. Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, asked highly rated roofers about the different shingles available to homeowners today. "There are many different types of shingles that a consumer can chose for their home, but still the most common are asphalt shingles," said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks. "They are usually inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. A lot of roofing manufacturers have a computer program that can show you exactly what it's going to look like when it's on your house. The last thing you want to do is pick a roof that doesn't compliment your home or the neighborhood because you don't want to be an eyesore."

Before making a choice, you should consider climate, durability and maintenance requirements. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of four common types of shingles.

  1. Asphalt: The most popular choice among homeowners. Pros: Durable and relatively inexpensive. Wide variety of colors and styles, ease of installation and suitability for a wide range of temperatures. Asphalt shingles also provide reliable waterproofing. Cons: Shorter life than many heavier tiles, especially if they are walked on. Dark asphalt shingles are prone to fading and tend to exhibit inconsistencies in color. Asphalt shingles come in two main types: fiberglass and organic. Fiberglass shingles consist of a fiberglass matt that is covered with asphalt to keep water out. The asphalt is topped with ceramic granules that work to reflect UV rays. Organic shingles are typically made from recycled felt paper. Like fiberglass shingles, they also have a layer of asphalt to make them waterproof. Organic shingles are more durable than fiberglass, but are more expensive to purchase.
  2. Wood: Unique, attractive appearance and ability to blend in with the surrounding natural environment. Pros: Wood shingles provide a high degree of insulation. Cons: High cost, difficulty of installation and the high degree of combustibility. Though many wood tiles feature spray-on fire retardant, this protection disappears after a few years. Wood shingles are vulnerable to insects, mold and mildew.
  3. Slate: Slate may be the answer if you are looking for a sophisticated roofing material for an upscale home. Pros: Natural appearance, fire-resistance, invulnerability to rot, ease of maintenance and an expected life of 100 years. Slate is available in a good selection of colors and styles. Cons: Their weight and cost and the high degree of expertise needed for installation. Slate tiles are easily broken underfoot, complicating gutter cleaning and rooftop maintenance.
  4. Ceramic: Ceramic roofing tiles give a house character and are generally durable. Pros: Resistant to fading. Ceramic tiles are fireproof, and quality tiles should last 50 to 70 years. Cons:  Unsuitability for climates with fluctuating weather. Ceramic tiles are prone to erosion under these conditions. While the tiles are durable, they are also fragile. High winds will damage them, as will walking on the tiles.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a roofing contractor

  • Are you legit? Ask to see proof of insurance and check the roofer's license with your local building department or licensing agent. If the company only lists a post office box, it's a red flag. Ask for a list of previous customers and visit the work sites to make sure the references are legit.
  • Get written estimates: Gather at least three bids before making a decision. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples
  • Read the contract before signing: The contract should include such items as payment terms, type of materials used, provisions for change orders and a termination clause.
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