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Roof coverings: how to choose the perfect one?

In addition to aesthetics, the choice of a roof covering must take into consideration your geographical location, roof slope, and budget. With a huge variety and number of products available on the market, it can be tricky to choose the one which best meets your needs. Learn about the features of each roof covering to make an informed choice.

Sloping roof coverings

There is a range of roof coverings for sloping roofs. Most people are used to seeing roofs covered with asphalt shingles. There are, however, other possibilities.

Flat roof coverings

There are three different types of roof coverings for flat roofs:
  • the traditional asphalt covering;
  • the Elastomeric Membrane EPDM;
  • the Thermoplastic Olefin Membrane (TPO).
Over the past number of years, elastomeric membranes and TPO membranes have become very popular, since installation costs have gone down and compared to asphalt, they have a superior life span. Their popularity is due in part to the fact that some municipalities now call for light-coloured roof coverings to reduce urban heat islands.

Green and solar roof coverings

Other more specialized roof coverings are also available: the green roof and solar roof. You may need to reinforce the structure of an existing house before installing a green roof. You may also need to call on green roof specialists for help and advice when you install the waterproof membrane and when you develop the landscape design of the roof.

Solar roofs come in many variations (photovoltaic shingles or solar panels) and also require specialists' help to install. More than simply a roof covering, it is an energy generating system.

Enviro-note

Some roof coverings are more environmentally-friendly than others. For example, steel often contains a good percentage of recycled material and is 100% recyclable. The same holds for EPDM elastomeric membranes and TPO reinforced roofing membranes.

The opposite is true for asphalt shingles and flat-roof asphalt covering, which are non-recyclable petroleum-based products.

Quantity estimation & installation

Roofing quantities vary according to the product. Generally-speaking, you need to measure the total surface area of the roof and note how much surface each package of roofing product will cover. This information is given on the packaging. By dividing the total surface by the surface covered by one product package, you will know how many packages you will need to cover the entire roof surface area.
Calculator - Roofing
The installation of roof coverings varies according to the product. Tile-based products (shingles, concrete tiles, plastic tiles, etc.) are laid in straight rows, starting at the bottom of the roof and often nailed to the sheathing. Other products such as copper or steel sheet are laid in large panels on the roof and secured with nails or the appropriate fasteners. Certain sloping-roof coverings can be installed by the home owner (such as wood shingles, asphalt shingles, plastic tiles), whereas others should be entrusted to professionals (such as slate, clay tiles, copper, concrete tiles).

All types of flat-roof coverings must be installed by roofing specialists.

Maintenance

  • Sloping roof:
  • Inspect your roof every two or three years, though not more often since every time you walk on the roof you cause some damage.
  • Inspect the roof timbers, and check that the insulating wool is dry, as well as the wood. Humidity may be due to inadequate attic ventilation.
  • Check that the plastic cement under the flashings is intact.
  • If you see cracks or a joint without caulk, use a caulking gun with a tube of plastic glue to do the necessary waterproofing.
  • Flat roof:
  • Clean the roof drain regularly, removing any debris that could clog the drain and impede the flow of water.
  • Verify the condition of the membrane and make sure there are no cracks. Make repairs where needed with the appropriate product.
  • For asphalt and gravel roofing, make sure there is a uniform gravel cover. Add gravel where and if necessary to ensure coverage. The gravel protects the membrane against the effects of UV rays, which can dry out the membrane and cause cracks to appear.
  • Check the joints. Apply caulk (or tar, depending on the roofing) where and if there are any cracks.
For additional information maintenance and installation, please read our article on Expert tips for exterior siding and roofing.

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