Low Slope Roofing Choices for Mid-Century Homes

I have a confession to make.  In the last 3 years, I've become borderline obsessed with roofs.  I notice them when I drive, I stop and look at them, and I note where all the interesting ones are so I can go back and show my husband.  (He plays along although there may be an eyeroll or two....or some slow blinking.) 

Yes, I've become a roof stalker.  The only thing I haven't done is stop and knock on doors.  I haven't had the guts to do that.  Not yet anyway.  There's still time, though.  (Or maybe I can get my husband to do that...)

In my last post, I shared our roofing woes with you all.  To recap, our 8 year old roof is failing.  We did not have it installed, it was already here when we purchased our home in 2010.

The existing roof was installed incorrectly, on a slope that is too low for shingles (a little less than 2:12), and we need to do something.  There are 3 basic problems that we can figure out:

1.  Ice and water shield was not used over the entire roof, only at the edges of the roof.
2.  The shingles were "cheated" in the installation; i.e. they were not overlapped properly so some of the nails are not completely covered by the higher shingle.  During heavy rain storms, water can actually wick uphill and get under the shingles through the nailholes. 
3.  Flashing is failing--probably poor installation here as well if it was replaced at all.

I have met with 5 different roofers and received 9 quotes of varying materials, opinions and price levels.  In addition, I had an architect come out and do a roof consultation.  This was money well spent--I highly recommend it if you are in a similar situation.  I felt like I had an honest broker's opinion to compare to the roofing companies.  And the first words out of his mouth when he came here for our consult were, "Is this a Don Hershey home?"  Bingo...I found the right guy.

I selected roofers to come and look at the roof based on several criteria.  Most of the roofers I selected did both residential and commercial roofs.  I tried to get a commercial-only roofer to come out but they declined saying they only do commercial roofs and won't look at residential.  So I didn't try that again.  I only looked at roofers that had decent reviews in Angie's List.  This is the first time I've used Angie's List and I found it quite helpful.

Our roof is 50 squares...that is really, really big.  Quotes ranged significantly--surprisingly, actually.  And the range didn't correlate with my perceptions of the quality of the work.  I should note that one roofer came out, measured the roof, and then never submitted a quote.

Here are the choices that we investigated  and the collective opinions.  (There may be others...but in here's what people have to choose from based on my experience in upstate New York):

1.  Shingles:  Two of the roofers said that we could do shingles on this roof if we used an ice and water shield over the entire roof.  I should also note that two roofers said they wouldn''t put shingles on this roof at all and wouldn't do it if we wanted to.  The architect said that the only way this would work is if you used a higher grade ice and water shield over the entire roof--he recommended a product called WIP 300 made by Carlisle.  The other roofers recommended a product made by Grace.  The idea is that conventional ice and water shield expands and contracts in our weather. Eventually (as in 10 years down the line), the material would not expand and contract the same way and it would leave small gaps around the nailholes.  At this point, we could get leaks.  The higher end ice and water shield (like the Carlisle WIP 300 product), has material properties that prevent the expansion and contraction problems that the lower grade one has due to a higher melting point. 

2.  Standing Seam Metal:  This is the most expensive option but it will basically last 100 years or more.  Essentially, long sheets of metal are mechanically welded on site to provide a seamless roof.  There are products made just for low slope roofs all the way down to a 1/4 pitch.  The architect recommended using a full ice and water shield underneath as well.  This is the option that the architect recommended.  It was also the most aesthetically desirable.


http://st.houzz.com/simgs/c461979c00802745_4-5943/-exterior.jpg
Standing Seam Metal Roof on low slope


3.  Rolled asphalt roofing:  I would simply describe this as rolled shingles.  It is less expensive than metal, but the look isn't as great.  It is only warrantied for 12-15 years as well.  Usually used on porches, not on an entire house, although I have seen it on an entire house.

 http://stpaulroofing.com/Product_Logos/Roofing_Materials/Flat-Roofing-Gaf/Liberty-Flat-Roof-Brown.jpg

4.  EPDM. Black rubber.  It's not as expensive as other options, and its water proof, but you basically have an inner tube covering your roof.  It has a good warranty--20+ years.  It's glued down so you don't have any nails.  But it's not a great look if your roof is visible, like ours.

 http://www.guymarcompany.com/resources/EPDM-flat-roof-fulham-laying-sheet.jpg

5.  TPO.  This is another synthetic roof membrane.  Comes in a few colors.  Heat welded onsite.  Warranty of 30-40 years. Used a lot in commercial applications.  I've never seen this in a residential application although I did find this picture on the internet.

 http://www.tporoofing.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/tpo-roofing.jpg

6.  Torch-down.  Not recommended--insurance won't cover your house if it burns down.  I think my neighbor has this, however, and it's coated with a silver paint.

In my next post, I'll tell you what we picked.  We are deciding this week!  We are also addressing some insulation issues and lack of bathroom fan issues as well.  So stay tuned!


Comments

  1. Shameless plug here - one of my clients is a roofing manufacturing. They sell a "re-ply" system that essentially spray coats your roof with a built-up elastic membrane - it's basically leak proof because it is applied onsite making your roof a single unit with no seams.. They historically work with commercial (given that's where the biggest market is), but do all sorts of applications such as residential, etc. They are called Astec, website is http://www.icc-astec.com/ (we did their website, too. ;))

    Not sure if it would be the best option in your case, but it's a 20 year product with a renewable ongoing warranty. In a low-slope roof it might be an interesting option to investigate.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Doug--thanks for the tip! I've never seen a spray-on synthetic system although one of the roofers told us about a system that they could roll on over our existing shingles. It would lay a few mils of synthetic material that would last a few years. I found a foam system they use out west as well but didn't see anyone around here use it. Interesting--I'll check it out.

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  2. If you use the metal roof, use a 30 pound roof felt under the metal to allow expansion and contraction of the metal. On the TV show "This Old House" they did this to a cottage roof. They also used a mechanical rolling crimping tool that saved time. You can find the shows online.
    If you have rooms with attic space above go and add insulation. The key is keep the attic ventilated and cold to prevent ice damming. As a last resort you could install snow melting cables on the roof.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to love This Old House! I grew up watching that show with my father. I'll check out the online versions.

      We actually have two attic spaces (as well as cathedral ceilings). We insulated the attic spaces in the fall of 2011, but we still need to put more insulation in. I think this time we may pay someone. My husband's hip-bones were black and blue for weeks after crawling around up there. The insulation we put in helped a lot though. We also put vents into the soffits--there was hardly any venting in the soffits before, only ridge vents.

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  3. One more comment. The mortar joints at the brick/stone? chimney should be routed about an inch deep and the metal flashing inserted with a bend facing up. Then a lead or soft metal wedge is installed and then caulking. Typically today a surface applied flashing is installed and caulked along the top, that will not last. Your existing chimney flashing probably was done right and then later re-flashing was done the cheap way.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks John! That is good to know about the flashing around the chimney. It is a stone chimney. I believe the flashing is original and there's a lot of tar up there from previous repair jobs. The roofer that we spent the most time with said they would re-do all of the flashing, but we'll need to make sure it's done right. This has been a good education!

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    2. And I really appreciate your advice, John! The internet can be an awesome tool sometimes.

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  4. We're both roof stalkers, ModernT. I always admire how organized they are as they rest on the house's canopy. Hehe! Anyway, what roof material did you used? I hope you used metal. It's more durable and needs less maintenance. Keep me updated. :)

    #HomeCraftInc.com

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  5. It's not easy to decide for the roof that you'll use. However, it's nice to know that you're guided by your roofers in making the decision. Their expertise determined what type of roofing material fits your canopy and what can endure the varying weather condition. I'm looking forward to seeing the updates about the new roof in your next posts. :)

    Adolfo @ Presto Roofing

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  6. Excellent blog very nice and unique information related to low slope roofing systems

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  7. Great read! Your situation sounds exactly like my wife and I are going through in the home we just bought in September 2014. MCM styled low slope roof ranch with a $25K roof re-done just before we bought it (had some water damage where wooden ceiling tongue and groove boards had to be replaced). We are now just passing through the 2013-2014 winter from hell in Wisconsin where water is getting through the 4' rubber eves (yankee gutter system) from ice dams.

    I'll be putting in my insulation in our 2 attic spaces (1 over the 5 bedrooms, the other smaller attic over our kitchen and 1/2 bath) to prevent heat escaping, melting snow where water drips down and forms dams on overhangs. I'm also waiting for the ice to melt so I can install heat cables in some of the major problem points. Hopefully this prevents future water damaging the wood!

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    Replies
    1. Hi--I actually just saw your comment even though it's been almost 2 years! Anyway, I hope you got your roofing situation figured out. We love our metal roof but we still have one problem area on the north side of the house that we'll have to install a heat cable on.

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  8. A good roof is an essential part of any business or residential building. It not only needs to look good, but it also needs to keep the building safe, especially what is on the inside of the building.

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  11. It looks like picking the right option for your roof was a challenging ordeal! Thankfully, you had several opinions from the roof pros on that matter. At the very least, you were able to choose which one would surely fit your preferences. So, which of them did you ended up choosing?

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  19. Hi Modcheter - I see this is a few years old. What have you learned? Did you get a new roof? We are suffering from similar issues on our mid-century out west. We've had mixed quotes, some roofers do not want to touch our house. Others suggest a total rebuild = 25K (framing, insulation, plywood, ice shield and shingles). This week we are getting quotes for TPO and metal. Our house is only 1450 sf. I am shocked at this cost. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Aalex. We love our metal roof. It's been really great. My neighbor with the same pitch roof as ours (2/12) just put a new shingled roof on their house last summer and I've seen the roofer there about 4 times since then. It currently has a blue tarp on part of the roof. They cannot seem to keep the water out with ice and water shield and shingles. I'm not sure where you are but we get a lot of snow. One thing I've learned is that the snow releases from the roof in one big sheet and it is loud. It crashes down on any landscape underneath. It took off our gutters last year and we had to get new ones. It was time anyway and we upgraded to 6". We need to get snow guards on the roof and that will alleviate the problem. We had the same problem with finding roofers and I took the roofers who didn't want to touch my house as a sign that we shouldn't use shingles. Our ranch is 2700 square feet on the main floor plus an oversized 2 car garage. The metal roof cost us $34K. It was well-worth the investment to have peace of mind.

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    2. A quick note from Rebecca in St. Paul, MN. We just decided today to change our roof-line to a lower slope and remove the shingles and put on a metal roof...and add clerestory windows on the north. I started researching metal roofs and came upon your blog. Thank you!

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