To see which roofing products can provide the best and longest protection for your home, we tested more than 25 models of asphalt shingles, by far the most popular roofing material. We also tested four fake-slate shingles that convincingly imitate the real thing, and one metal roofing product. We pulled and pounded them for months to simulate the high winds, temperature extremes, hail, and falling branches that Mother Nature can dish out. And we exposed them to ultraviolet light to simulate the fading effects of sunlight. As we learned, performance can vary widely. Check your roof for damage on a sunny day using binoculars. Don't neglect the rubber boots around vents and the flashing around chimneys, skylights, and roof valleys. If your roof is near the end of its life, our Ratings (available to subscribers) can provide enough top picks to give you plenty of options.
Some installers may push certain brands. Given the wide differences in overall quality that we found, we suggest you insist on the roofing that you want, even if you have to pay extra for a special order or hire a different installer.
Suppliers sell roofing by the square, or 100-square-foot area. To estimate how much roofing you'll need, multiply the overall length and width of each roof section in feet to measure its area and add 10 percent to allow for waste. Then divide by 100 to determine how many squares you'll need. Figure on about 30 squares for a typical 2,300-square-foot house, plus $3,500 to $10,000 labor. Keep an extra bundle of shingles for minor repairs.
Think twice about layering
Where two layers of roofing are already in place, building codes typically require stripping the roofing down to the sheathing. Most roofs are strong enough to hold two layers. But installing some of the heavier laminated shingles over even a single layer may overstress some rafters and other structural parts. Another reason we recommend complete removal is so you don't miss any rot, water damage, or insect infestation underneath. Figure on an extra $100 or more per 100 square feet to strip off and dispose of the old shingles.
If the roof is new or the old shingles are being removed, you'll need new underlay (roofing felt) to create a moisture barrier between the roofing and the wood sheathing and rafters underneath. The sheathing may also have to be replaced if it's damaged.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.