Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The new roof

As much as it pains me to say it, my five year old house is in desperate need of a new roof.

The guy who built my house did a really bad job, but he covered his ass by moving and changing his company name. He's no longer legally responsible. Insurance won't cover it because it was "preexisting", and the new home warranty won't cover it because roofs aren't technically structural. So, what all that means is that I have to foot the bill for a new roof.

It sucks in all sorts of ways.

I'm trying to make the best of it by using this as an opportunity to upgrade to a high end, long term and ecologically responsible roof that will last as long as the house. I have found a contractor who I like and trust, and he specializes in long term roofs. Concrete, rubber, slate, metal, cedar... we discussed all of the above and now I need to make up my mind.

I don't think I like metal. I like the corrugated metal roofs on some houses, but don't think I'd like it on mine. The pressed metal that looks like slate or shakes looks like pressed metal. I wanted to like it, but I don't.

Cedar is nice, but out of my price range. As is slate. I don't like asphalt. It's a petroleum product that's bad for the environment, and it's not going to last. I live in hail central, and asphalt gets damaged too easily by hail. I don't want to have to repair or replace the roof again.

That leaves rubber or concrete.

I had my mind made up to get concrete... those wavy tiles that they have in Europe and down south, except not in a terracotta colour.

Then, both my contractor and a real estate guy I know commented that they thought it might stand out too much. The real estate agent said it was too personal of a choice and a lot of people might not like it (ie - bad resale... not that I plan to sell). The contractor said he thought it'd look good, but that it'd be very, very different from the other houses. He wondered if standing out that much could be a good thing.

So, now I'm rethinking my decision. I'm about to spend more on a roof than I did on my car. I have to make up my mind this week or the contractor has to move on to other jobs; but I can't decide.

I like the concrete. Here's a link
  • It has been used for hundreds of years, and is tried and true.
  • It's good for the environment in that it's made of recycled products and is recyclable. It has no petroleum products in it, and doesn't contain any chemicals that will leach into the water.
  • It's not an imitation of anything, so it won't look fake.
  • It's installation is proven to improve the R value and keep houses cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter. (There's a space between the actual roof and the tiles.)
  • On average, concrete roofs last 80-100 years. It comes with a 50 year warranty.
  • Other than asphalt, it's the least expensive choice.
  • If any tiles do break or repairs are needed (unlikely) it'll cost $25 per tile, including labour.
  • Concrete doesn't burn in a fire.
  • It's manufactured in Calgary, so it'd be supporting a local company and avoiding long distance shipping.
  • I worry about the wavy tiles making my house stand out too much from the others in the area.

There is a rubber roofing product out there that looks like slate. Here's a link
  • It's nice, but it looks like slate. It isn't slate, and it'll be an obvious imitation (possibly one that can be improved upon in a few years... after I've already paid for my 50 year roof and it's too late).
  • It's made from used tires and is actually a part of the solution to all the used tires clogging up the landfills.
  • Something about rubber doesn't sit right with me. Even though it's recycled, I feel like rubber is another product that's bad for the environment, and I don't want to support it's production... even post production.
  • I worry about chemicals leaching into the rain water, off gassing, and about the rubber breaking down in the sunshine over the years.
  • Not tested for R value, but they claim it helps keep the house cooler in the summer and quieter all year round. That seems logical.
  • It's manufactured in Calgary, so it'd be supporting a local company and avoiding long distance shipping.
  • It costs slightly more than the concrete, but just barely.
  • If any repairs are needed (unlikely) a portion of the roof would need to be redone, so labour and materials would cost more than the concrete.
  • Rubber might burn in a fire
  • It's experimental (has been in use only about 10 years) but it comes with a 50 year old warranty.
  • It'll fit in with the neighbours' houses more than the concrete.
It seems to me that I like everything about the concrete tiles except what other people might think about the look. On the flip side, I feel like I've got reservations about just about everything about the rubber, except what my neighbours will think about its look.

I wonder when being different became so important, and if it's really all that bad.


  1. So you have it narrowed down to concrete or rubber? My vote is concrete. CH votes concrete. I am so sorry Janice you were not able to make that jerk pay in some way for what he did. I had forgotten you had to deal with this lovely issue.

  2. My vote is for tiles... but I am biased as I am from Europe. I think it should add value to your home and not vice versa! The rubber one seems to ecologically challenging and I would worry about it leaching into rain water.

  3. I can't decide. My first thought was what's on your roof now and will the trusses hold the weight of the concrete, even thought it's lightweight some trusses are not rated for the weight. If you have something flat on your roof now I would go with something similar in profile.

  4. Hey, Linlah. This is a "light weight" concrete tile, and doesn't require any additonal support or trusses.

    The concrete will have a slightly higher profile than what I've got now (it's asphalt) but I think I'm going to take a chance. The contractor gave me before and after pictures of a bungalow like mine that he put the concrete roof on, and I think it looks really sharp.

  5. We lived in our last home (okay it was 2400 sq ft and 2 story but we raised kids and grandkids there, it was a "comfy home". Anyway, my point is that we lived in the house 20 years; it was 8 years old when we bought it. We changed one tile in all those years. I vote "concrete". Good luck!