Choosing the Right Roof Covering Material

With at least half a dozen categories of roofing materials and then many more subsets in each category, selecting the right roof covering gets confusing. #1 Cedar is actually the third grade – coming below Premium and Select. Laminate shingles come in fiberglass or organic mats, and then are further broken into 3-tab, interlocking, architectural laminate, designer series, 3,4,5 or 6 bundle squares,…

How to evaluate the best choice? Start with the basic calculation, how much do they cost divided by how long they will last. This gives a yearly comparable cost. Then factor in a value for X, the subjective, variable, aesthetic component. Does the roof covering enhance the overall look of the house? Do you like it, and will others find it attractive, thereby increasing re-sale value? Will ongoing maintenance be required to get the most out of the life cycle? Although there are always exceptions, some generalities can be made here:

  1. Laminate shingles are generally considered entry level materials –even the new ones with highly pro-rated non-transferable 50 year or “lifetime” warranties as they have not yet been around for even 25% of the claimed warranty period. For the first 10 years they usually neither add to nor decrease a homes re-sale value. However, they can cheapen and downgrade the appearance of a house after 10 to 15 years and they will lower a high end homes value from day one.
  2. Pine shakes — even the green treated ones — will make many potential buyers run for cover. Expect heavy maintenance costs.
  3. Cedar products are considered more attractive, but unless you get the very top quality – 100% Edge Grain Premium or Select Cedar -expect to do considerable maintenance from year 15.
  4. Clay, slate, and concrete tiles are considered to be very high end, to enhance a home’s look and re-sale value, and are fire proof and low maintenance. Clay and slate have a high initial purchase price. (Concrete costs about the same as cedar)
  5. Metal can look great or simply confuse the cows as to where home is, depending on initial purchase price. It too is considered to be fairly low maintenance if it is a hidden fastener system.

Type of roof covering definitely affects a home’s resale value. When a professional appraiser evaluates a house, the reference bible used throughout North America is the “Residential Cost Handbook” produced by the leading authority, Marshall & Swift. A good quality 2,000 sq. ft. bungalow is factored in at a base price of $105 per sq. ft. X 2000 = $210,000. Good quality here refers to a roof material of wood shingles. The sq. ft. roof upgrade factors listed in the manual are then added to the base price, producing increases in appraised house value ranging from $1.00 per sq.ft. for pre-formed metal to $4.00 per sq. ft. for concrete. If an laminate/fiberglass shingle is used it decreases the base value of the home by $2.00 per sq. ft. The following chart found on page 19 of the “Residential Cost Handbook” (valid until May 2008) indicates the increase/decrease in house value for a 2000 sq. ft. bungalow. This chart gives the value increase/decrease to the home – not the cost to install the roofing product. For example, both cedar shakes and concrete roof tiles will cost about the same amount to install, but concrete roof tiles will increase the house value $8,000 whereas cedar shakes will add less than $1000 to the home value.

How Your Roof Material Affects the Value of Your Home

  • Metal, preformed: $.96 sq. ft. x 2000 sq. ft. = $1,920
  • Wood shake: $.36 sq. ft. x 2000 sq. ft. = $720
  • Concrete tile: $4.06 sq. ft. x 2000 sq. ft. = $8,120
  • Comp.laminate shingle: (-$1.93) sq. ft.x2000 sq. ft. = (- $3860)

These values assume a roof in excellent shape. If its materials have reached the later stage of their life cycle (more than 10 or 15 years for laminate, built-up, or wood, or over 30 years for hidden fastener metal roofs, or 70 years for concrete, clay or slate roof tile) expect a deduction rather than an increase in re-sale value.

Many people in Canada are surprised to learn how cost effective concrete roof tiles are. While most people are familiar with the more commonly used laminate and cedar shingles, they have often not considered using concrete roof tiles as a roofing product. In Europe where concrete roof tiles have been the standard for over a century, they are recognized to be the best value as well as the safest and most durable choice, Even south of the border in the United States concrete roof tiles are very popular and are used in over 80% of new homes constructed in California for example. However, in Canada they are just beginning to become popular and there are only two manufacturers in all of Canada; Unicrete Roof Tile in Calgary Alberta, and Columbia Roof Tile in Surrey British Columbia . Both of these manufacturers have been producing high quality roof tile for new homes and for re-roofing for over 25 years.

One other factor needs to be studied before final selection of a roof covering: the gray and murky area of warranties. In any field these often seem a kind of marketing ploy, designed more to protect the issuing company than the home-buyer. They often have so many limitations as to be in effect non-transferable to successive owners. One large laminate manufacturer states in their warranty: “NO LIMITED WARRANTY ASSURES THAT THE COVERED PRODUCTS WILL LAST THE ENTIRE LIFE OF THE APPLICABLE WARRANTY PERIOD.” They are also pro-rated, and so worth very little in the second half of the roof life, when likely to be needed the most. Every roofing material warranty should be examined closely and the value determined at the half way point. Concrete roof tiles have a very unique 50 year non-prorated fully transferable warranty which is actually quite conservative considering their 70 to 100 year life expectancy.

So this is very much “buyer beware” territory. Insurers and warranty writers have always understood the ultimate financial reality of life cycle costing and base their estimates on historically demonstrated “service life” rather than inflated warranty marketing information supplied by the manufacturers. It is time for Canadian home-owners to learn to look after their own financial best interests. They need to quit asking “How much?” and start asking “How much per year?”