Re-Roofing? Information you need before beginning


One of the most common home maintenance expenses is replacing the roof. In Canada, the most common house roofing material is laminate shingles, and the most common executive home roofing material is wooden shakes. As both of these materials can only be expected to last from 15 to 20 years, a date with a re-roofing contractor has become a mandatory part of home ownership. In most of Europe and much of the United States, this experience is not nearly as common, as the roofing material of choice – clay or concrete roof tiles – can be expected to last more than 80 years. However, if you are not one of the fortunate few that have a lifetime roof over their heads, here are a few pointers.

The first thing to look for on deteriorating laminate roofs is curling or missing shingles and granule loss. Once the corners of the shingles have started to curl, the roof will have a bumpy look, even when viewed from the ground. This will occur on the south side and to a lesser extent the west side of the roof. Even though the north side still looks perfectly fine, it is time to begin collecting re-roofing prices. The sad fact is that it only takes one leak to cause thousands of dollars in interior damage to your home. In addition, one leak will create the perfect environment for mould growth and potential health problems – well before it becomes visible.

The last 20 years have seen the installation of thousands of poor grade cedar roofs. The #1 medium grade of cedar that has been used is not nearly up to the standards of a good premium 100% edge grain cedar shake that used to be the standard. Unfortunately even though this low-grade (20% flat grain) cedar was not allowed on new BC roofs, it was shipped out to the rest of Canada and represented as a fine cedar product. Homeowners are now facing the reality that the cedar roof they thought was going to last 30 years or more is in serious trouble at 15 years of age. Signs to look for are cracked shakes resulting in missing pieces and cracks lining up with the cracks in the row below.

There is a bewildering array of potential re-roofing products now available on the market. Dozens of laminate varieties, fiberglass, organic, 3-tab, architectural, interlocking, SBS, … Metal roofs that come in exposed fastener, hidden fastener, rolled, stone coated, aluminum shingle, … and then novel new products made from barley, recycled car tires, fiberglass,… and of course there are always the time proven, centuries old options of clay, slate or concrete roof tiles.

How do you choose? First of all be aware that even though there are dozens of promising new products on the market, they have not stood the test of time and so no one can really predict how long they will last. Many laminate manufacturers now offer 40 and even 50-year warranties – giving the illusion that these products will have a life cycle of 50 years. The reality is that none of these products are more than 10 years old, and the jury is out on whether they will even last longer than the typical 15 to 20 year laminate shingle life span. A read of the warranties reveals that they will be of very little value in their later half due to the wonder of “pro-rating” and that very few will even be in effect after the house is sold due to non-transferability clauses. Be even more cautions on being the guinea pig for novel new products that haven’t even been in existence for more than 5 years and yet boldly offer claims of 50 year life spans. Alberta recently found out just how quickly a 25-year life cycle claim can turn into a 10 year re-roof project as thousands of pine shake roofs failed.

If you want an executive roof look and want to purchase the least expensive roof covering at the same time, follow the lead of 80% of California purchasers and consider concrete roof tile. For the same price or less than a premium cedar shake roof you can re-roof with concrete roof tiles. One Canadian manufacturer, Unicrete Roof Tile (1978) in Calgary, manufacturers a lightweight concrete re-roofing tile that requires no structural changes to your roof system, and has been featured on the cover of the Canadian Homebuilders magazine (July 2002). Concrete roof tiles have demonstrated that they will last for 80 years or more in real life experience. While they cost more than laminate shingles initially, their long life span makes them much less expensive than laminate on a cost per year basis. In addition the extra initial cost is quickly recovered by the increase in re-sale value when you sell your home. They dramatically improve the appearance of your home as well. They have a little known added advantage of saving energy costs by keeping your house much cooler in the summer time. Of course their best -known benefit is their completely non-combustible Class-A fire rating, which protects your home from flying burning embers – the most common cause of multiple building fire spread.

If you want to finally get free of the dreaded re-roof cycle, and make the most sensible re-roofing choice, check out a concrete roof tile manufacturer such as Unicrete Roof Tile in Calgary, Alberta. Their web site is: or they may be reached at 1-800-570-4733.