Aug 23

Leaky Roof? Cedar shingles or Asphalt

Ceramic and Cement roofing tile are historically typical to the Western and South Western regions of the country. In this article we will discuss Asphalt and traditional wooden shingles (both are utilized all across the country) their strengths and weaknesses.

For the shear soft beauty of aged cedar, nothing quite beats the look of aged; well weathered cedar shingles for a roof.  Cedar shingles are available in various lengths, widths, and thicknesses.  Also, the quality of the cedar varies according to its intended purpose and as always, the better the grade, the higher the cost.

Cedar shingles are ‘lap’ set one upon the other, designed for pitched roof structures.  Originally, roofs were built to accommodate cedar shingles by setting 1”x 2” wooden slats spaced evenly apart from each other (about 2” to 4” inches) across the roof joist (rafters) directly.  No planking or plywood sheathing was used under the shingles.  The reason for this is that although cedar shingles can rapidly shed water, they also hold water, and need to be able to dry out.

As a rain falls down upon a cedar roof, the shingles absorb the water, swelling, sealing the roof from any leaks.  Rain water rapidly flows off the roof.  A well built cedar roof will remain virtually ‘leak-proof’ for twenty years or more.  However, wet shingles need air circulating above and below the shingle in order to dry out without warping causing the shingle to loose shape.

Often wooden shingles are utilized more for their appearance, than function.  It isn’t uncommon to find cedar shingles laid-up over 15lb or 30lb roofing paper, on top of plywood sheathing.  Without the space and air flow ventilating the shingles it becomes necessary to water-proof the shingles so they do not absorb water.  This way the shingle will not warp, crack, and fall apart from exposure to the elements.  The roof maintains its function solely by the 15lb, or 30 lb roofing paper barrier, and the plywood sheathing, which itself will swell when wet, making water entry into the home difficult, if at all.  Roofs that are shingled in this manner may look nice, but are dysfunctional by design, and wont last long without repair.  There are products available that set over the plywood sheathing, and underneath the shingles which create an air space, allowing the shingles to breath.  However, nothing will perform as well as the traditional slat construction discussed earlier.

Asphalt tab shingles are available in hundreds of color choices, in multiple dimensions and grades.  Beautiful, affordable, and easy to install over a plywood sheathed roof asphalt roofing shingles have always been the economic builders choice.

Asphalt shingles are ‘lap’ set in rows, one upon another, creating rows of symmetric patterns that can often be mistaken for real wooden shingles.  Properly installed, asphalt shingles create a solid leak free roof which will last anywhere from 15-40 years, subject to the grade of shingle used.

Similar to ceramic and cement roofing tiles, wind driven ice and snow build-up under a shingle tab  will eventually lift the shingle, exposing the attachment points, allowing water to enter the roof system, and into your home.  With a proper pitch on the roof there is little to be concerned about.  But roofs that have less than a 15* pitch should be maintained by a seasonal sweep of the shingle surface removing any leaves or debris.


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