Q: How to choose the suitable roof for my house? Will living area and climate change affect the type of roof I pick?
A: We all know that climate change is a huge issue that affects many areas of our lives. However, one area that many people don't think about is the roof. The climate in your area can be your roof's worst enemy. All roofs will go through natural weathering, but the environment can play a significant role in your roof's performance. Keep reading to find out how Mother Nature's havoc can affect your roof choice.
Table of Contents
How Does Climate Affect Roofing?
The climate and weather in your area can affect the performance and lifespan of your roof. Common culprits that can damage your roof include intense and prolonged periods of heat or cold, snow, hail, significant and frequent rainfall, and wind.
Another factor is the orientation of your home when it comes to climate. The direction your roof faces can affect how fast the material ages. Roofs that face south will break down faster from UV exposure and thermal cycles than in other directions. Choosing roofing with UV protection is crucial for climates where there's significant sun exposure to ensure the roof lasts the expected lifespan.
Roof slope is another factor that can be affected by the climate. The climate of your area can cause significant problems with flat roofs, including damage from UV rays, snow, and water. If you live in a location where there's significant rain, snow, or major sun exposure, your roof can suffer damage that requires expensive repairs or even a full roof replacement. Climates with significant weather conditions would do better with a sloped roof.
As you can see, Mother Nature likes to test roofs frequently. So let's break down the offenders to look at each one's threat levels for weather damage.
Sun (UV Rays)
UV rays are a significant threat to your roof. Long periods of high heat and prolonged exposure to the sun can cause an asphalt roof to crack, dry out, fade in color, and have weakened structural integrity. Besides, long periods of intense heat can also increase your energy bills, as your air conditioner works harder to keep the inside cool.
Choosing a roofing material with UV protection helps ensure the life and durability of your roof. Picking a reflective roof will help boost your energy savings. Light-colored roofs will reflect more sun than darker colored roofs and are better for hot, humid climates. However, if you live in a location where you want to reduce heating bills, a darker colored roof would work better, as they absorb solar heat from the sun, warming the inside of your home.
Homes built in climates with brutally hot, dry long summers typically have to replace their roof sooner than homeowners in climates with mild temperatures. For houses in temperate climates with little concern for heat, rain, or snow will get the most prolonged use out of their roof.
Pro Tip: To extend the lifespan of your roof in hot climates, consider metal, rubber, slate, or clay roofing materials. Asphalt shingles cannot withstand triple-digit temperatures without breaking down.
The wind is also a major threat to roofs, often ripping off pieces and scattering them across the neighborhood like a sign of triumph.
Even if the wind doesn't pull the pieces off the roof, it can blow underneath, creating bubbles and wrinkles where the material no longer sits flat on the roof deck. These empty spaces are a prime place for moisture to collect, which in warm weather can lead to mildew, mold, or rotting.
Damage usually starts around the edges of the roofline. You can prevent further damage by checking along the roof edge after every storm for signs of wear. The earlier you repair a damaged area, the less costly the repair.
Roofing materials have different wind ratings, which can help you choose a material that will withstand your climate. If you live in an environment with significant wind speeds, consider metal roofing over asphalt shingles. Metal panels have less risk of ripping off than individual shingles - 3-tabs have the least wind resistance.
Pro Tip: Discuss nail techniques with your roofing contractor. Many asphalt shingle lines can have higher wind resistance by using a 6-nail application versus a standard 4-nail.
Some people love the rain; others hate it. Your roof won't mind, as long as your roof has proper drainage. Too much water left on the roof can lead to major issues, like leaks and strain on the structure.
If your roof has a slope, there will be less risk of pooling water than with flat roofs, which need additional drainage methods. Heavy periods of rain can also cause rusting for metal roofs and exposed accessories. And frequent periods of moisture without the chance to dry out can often lead to unwanted plant growth on the roof from algae, lichen, and moss.
Many roofing manufacturers use the algae protectant on their products to prevent algae staining. If you live in an area with a lot of rain or high humidity, Algae Protectant is a beneficial feature to consider. However, even AP won't protect your roof after a set period.
Metal roofs are fantastic solutions for locations that receive a lot of rain or high humidity. This type of roofing is waterproof and resists the growth of algae and plants.
Climates with freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall face their challenges. Heavy piles of snow built up on a roof can cause dangers from avalanches, roof strain due to the excess weight, and leaks.
Snow Guards are beneficial for helping prevent the buildup and random dropping of heavy piles of snow. In climates that experience significant weather changes from cold to extreme hot can experience roofs that crack, tear, or damage due to expanding during changing temperatures.
Roofs can also experience ice dams - ice that forms around the roof's edge, blocking melting snow from shedding off the roof. Ice dams can frequently lead to roof leaks as the melting snow finds access in cracks, unsealed areas, and other areas.
Even in temperate climates that experience cold temperatures but no snow, your roof can get damaged. Cold temperatures increase the wear and tear of your roof, making metal roofs a superior choice due to their imperviousness to any weather elements.
Hail is an occurrence that occasionally accompanies major storm systems with heavy rain, high winds, and oftentimes, tornadoes. These frozen chunks of ice can cause major damage to roofs, leading to cracks, holes, or broken pieces where water can seep in.
Many roofing manufacturers make Class 4 impact-resistant roofing materials that can withstand hail storms without experiencing critical damage. All metal roofs are Class 4 IR - the highest possible impact rating.
If you want a Class 4 IR roof using asphalt shingles, you'd need to choose architectural or designer shingles, which are thicker and heavier, allowing for better durability. Traditional 3-tab shingles will not come as Class 4 but may have a Class 2 to Class 3 rating.
Fire isn't a major concern for all locations. But if you live in an area prone to wildfires, it's crucial to choose a fire-resistant roofing material. There may even be regulations about the type of roof you can install. Always check with your local or state building code enforcement before picking a roofing material.
Class A fire-rated materials can withstand burning embers without damage or going up in flames. To receive this rating, the material goes through laboratory testing done by an independent safety organization.
Roofs with unrated materials are at a higher risk of experiencing fire damage that spreads over a significant part of your space. Roofing materials with the highest fire rating include metal, clay, concrete, and some fiberglass asphalt composition shingles. Untreated wood shakes are usually unrated and therefore not safe for areas with fire risks.
What Type of Roof is Right for My Climate?
With so many types of roofing available, it can be overwhelming trying to pick the proper choice. Many factors can affect how long your roof lasts and its performance. The chart below lists the lifespan of a few popular types of roofing based on testing by the manufacturer and independent companies.
Wood Shakes and Shingles
The longer a material lasts, the more you'll spend on installation. Asphalt shingles, which come in three types, are the most affordable product. However, the reduced lifespan means you'll need to replace the roof more frequently.
While metal is more expensive than asphalt shingles, it's an investment that will pay for itself over time in longevity, durability, and energy savings. If you plan to sell your home, metal roofing will give you the best ROI (return on investment).
Metal roofs can withstand any weather conditions, making them a suitable choice for all climates. However, not everyone likes the look of metal, even though it comes in a wide range of colors.
Homes in hot, dry climates such as the desert would do best with heat-resistant materials. If you don't want metal, consider terracotta or concrete tiles. When using concrete tiles, you may face extra costs to make your roof support the excessive weight.
Where you live should play a major role in the type of roof you choose for your home. Metal is the best roof to use for all locations and climate conditions. But it does come at a higher cost. Asphalt shingles are suitable for many areas, although many climate conditions are an enemy of this material.