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The importance of choosing the right roof

By Geoff Kirbyson

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Putting a roof over your head is much more than just an expression.

Sure, you need a place to live but having the proper roof that can withstand Winnipeg’s extreme temperatures and maintaining it to prevent damage can go a long way to keeping your entire house – not to mention your bank account – in good shape.

Fibreglass shingles, clay tiles or metal? A lot of it comes down to personal preference, experts say.

Doreen Lecuyer, controller at Oakwood Roofing & Sheet Metal, says with advancements in materials, it’s hard to make the wrong choice, even if Winnipeg experiences another once-in-a-century winter this year.

“Budget is one of the primary issues. What do you want to end up paying?” she says. “But there’s also personal style.”

If you do it right, you may never have to shingle your house ever again, she says. For example, there are 20- and 30-year shingles, but if you are willing to spend another 20 per cent, you could get a product that lasts for 40 years. “You can shingle once and as long as you like the look of it, you don’t have to do much more,” she says.

Getting an estimate is as easy as making a phone call, says Tony Pukalo, project manager and vice-president of Norwin Roofing Ltd. Be prepared for more costs if your roof has a steep pitch because the material will be carried up on as-needed basis. If your roof is flat, a crane truck can put the bundles on the roof so workers spend less time going up and down ladders.

Pukalo says most of his company’s work involves installing asphalt or fiberglass shingles.

Fibreglass are definitely the growth area, however, as they don’t dry out as quickly and are less susceptible to the elements. It also helps that they’re inorganic so they don’t break down nearly as quickly.

“Fibreglass is cost-effective and durable. It comes in a wide range of colours, too. They may be designed or shaped differently, too,” he says.

Generally, you’re looking at about $2 per square foot to redo your roof, not including any underlay, vents or ice and water shields that you may require along the eavestroughs. So, for a 1,500-square-foot bungalow, you’re looking at $4,500 to $5,000 if you get all the bells and whistles, he says.

But like anything house-related, you can’t simply forget about it or you may end up having to replace it.

If you live in a heavily-treed neighbourhood and have lots of debris landing on your roof, do yourself a favour and have it cleaned off once a year. Keep your eavestroughs clean, too, so there’s no buildup of leaves, twigs and branches that can lead to various types of growth.

shutterstock_212157436-w1200-h1200“Moss will deteriorate a (roof) product fairly quickly,” Lecuyer says.

It’s rare that a homeowner gets a small bill for a roofing job and that’s largely because like some other elements of your house – such as your eavestroughs or your foundation – out of sight means out of mind and that means no preventative maintenance.

Eric Lepage, office manager at MJ Roofing & Supply Ltd., says having an annual roof inspection can save you both grief and money. An inspector can spot cracks in the roof membrane, frayed stripping or missing flashing and make temporary repairs.

“We’ll make recommendations for preventative maintenance and long-term recommendations that you’ll have to replace a certain area of the roof in five or 10 years so you can start budgeting for it now,” he says.

“You don’t notice it until there’s a problem. We try to say, ‘get up there and be proactive, keep an eye on it.’ If (the roof) fails, it’s not just your roof, it’s everything inside your building. It could represent a tremendous amount of capital expense if something goes wrong. You could have damage to your drywall or mould could develop,” he says.

There are 20- and 30-year shingles, but if you are willing to spend another 20 per cent, you could get a product that lasts for 40 years.

Your roof’s performance isn’t just impacted by the outside. Keeping hot air from escaping in the winter is key, too. When the heat leaks into the attic and hits the cold air, it causes condensation and white core frost in your attic.

You wouldn’t leave your front door open all day long in January but if you don’t have a proper vapour barrier to keep heat from escaping through the roof, you’re essentially leaving your ceiling open.

The more heat is able to push out through the roof, the more likely you are to have ice damming and that can cause damage to the roof and leaking into your home.

“When people talk about pouring water into homes in the winter, it’s condensation,” Lecuyer said. “It’s highly unlikely it’s a roof problem. It’s more likely a ventilation problem and the attic isn’t properly sealed. The insulation keeps the heat down in your living space and keeps the cold out,” Lecuyer said.

Many Manitobans actually have two roofs, one in the city and another in cottage country. Many people will install metal roofs at their cabins because it’s far less of a fire hazard than other options. For example, dry leaves or twigs won’t get stuck in a shingle on a metal roof.

Lecuyer cautions that you’ve got to figure out where snow is most likely to slide off the roof when the spring melt comes.

“It’s been known to take out decks. It could even kill somebody,” she says.