One of the most important parts of a building or home is the roof system, which can vary significantly depending on the purpose and location of that structure. For example, a roof in a the north-east will experience heavy snow, which requires having a steep slope to shed the extra weight of the snow, whereas a roof in a hurricane zone will require lower slopes so the consistent high-velocity hurricane winds can glide off the roof. A quality roof system installed by an experienced professional is one of the most important decisions to make and will ensure the maximum protection of your property and its contents, saving you thousands throughout the life of your roof.
Roofing in Florida 101: Crash Course
The roofing industry is made up of manufacturers, distributors, and contractors. Manufacturers create the products, submit them for testing, issue warranties, and sell their products in bulk to distributors. Distributors act as the middle man between contractors and manufacturers whenever there is an issue with products or delivery, they may deliver the products directly to the job site, and they usually stock the manufacturers products in bulk in a warehouse. Contractors often refer to the businesses that deal directly with the homeowners and property managers. They are responsible for building the roof system per specifications. They rarely are in contact with manufacturer, but usually have a close relationship with their distributors. Florida Statute 489.113 requires contractors to “establish his or her competency and qualifications” by obtaining a state license in their trade or by having a licensed qualifier on site. This is to protect the consumer from fraudulent contractors. If you are a homeowner or a property manager, it is important for you to know who is involved in the project. If your contractor is organized and professional, you may never need to speak with the manufacturer or the distributor. Read more on Florida Statutes 489 here.
In Florida there are primarily five types of roofing systems – Concrete Tile, Clay Tile, Asphalt Shingle, Built Up Flat Roofs, and Metal. Technically there are many more, but these are the most popular and are categorized by what you can see at the completion of your roof. This little known fact is what makes roofing so complicated because you usually cannot see what is underneath the surface. Each type of roof system can be assembled in a dozen different ways with different product combinations we refer to as roof assemblies. Typically the manufacturer will recommend specific products in the roof assemblies specifications to meet the requirements for their independent manufacturer warranty and to meet building codes. All the products used in a roof system should have a Florida Product approval or Miami-Dade Notice of Acceptance (NOA). These certificates ensure that the products used on your roof have passed rigorous testing by independent testing facilities. Basically, the State of Florida is protecting consumers to ensure that they are spending their money on products that work. Search for Florida Product Approvals HERE. Search for Miami Dade Notice of Acceptance HERE.
A roof assembly starts with the roof deck, but the roof deck is not considered to be a part of the roof system. That is because the roof deck is considered part of the buildings structure. The roof assembly simply protects the building structure. It is important to know the difference because a roofing contractor needs to know the roof deck type before any work can be proposed. For example, you cannot use nails designed for wood decks on a concrete deck. The roof deck determines the type of roof assembly by eliminating roof assemblies that do not start with applicable roof deck. Most roof decks will be wood based (plywood or tongue and groove board). Roof decks such as gypsum, lightweight concrete, or cementitious wood fiber (TECTUM) are often found in commercial roofing and are rarely found in residential roofing.
A roof assembly will often consist of an underlayment and a roof covering. The underlayment is a vague term that usually refers to any and all layers beneath the roof covering. These layers are often a combination of synthetic felt, asphalt impregnated felt, self-adhered secondary water barriers, fiberglass sheets and many more. The roof covering refers to the top layer of the roof system and is usually the only thing that can be seen from the outside. For this reason, it has become easier to refer to a roof with tile as a tile roof system without really going into detail on what else your system contains. This is why we say not all roofs are the same! The best way to explain a roof system is to start from the roof deck, upward. Click here to see a the process of removing and replacing a Tile Roof system in just 10 days!
Below you will see what a roof deck looks like without a roof system to cover it, and and on the right you will see what the first layer of underlayment looks like for pretty much every roof system in South Florida with slopes greater than 3:12. In this case the first underlayment is a #30 felt nailed to a wood deck. Many non-HVHZ (high-velocity-hurricane-zones) allow the use of self-adhered underlayments applications direct to deck.
Below is a picture of another similar project which required one ply 90 pound tile underlayment over a #30 felt. In this assembly the #30 felt protects the roof deck from the type 4 hot asphalt, which could otherwise cause a fire. The 90 pound tile underlayment then adheres with the hot asphalt onto the #30 felt. The 90 pound tile underlayment is now considered a secondary water barrier which can help attain special insurance credits. Many homeowners choose to switch the 90 pound tile underlayment for a self-adhered tile underlayment to save money. At this point this tile roof system is near completion and on the right you will see concrete tile ready to be installed.
The tile is what you and your neighbors will see for the next 20 or more years, but how it is installed can significantly determine the life of your roof. We choose to install our tiles with foam adhesives from ICP-Adhesives. It is a powerful foam that secures the tile and does not compromise the underlayment. Many new construction developments choose a cheaper form of compliance by using mechanical fasteners, which puncture your brand new roof on day one. It is definitely not a good idea but it save the contractor thousands! In projects with roof slopes greater than 6:12 it is necessary to use mechanical fasteners to meet the building code.
We could talk about roofing for ever and will be posting much more informative content regarding other roof systems. Keep reading for some tips when considering your re-roof project:
- Determine why you need a new roof. Is it long overdue or are you being proactive? Will you be living at the property? Will you be selling the property five years into the future? These are all questions you should have an answer to prior to considering any renovation project, and if you’re thinking about renovating your bathroom before your roof you may need to rethink your priorities.
- Know what type of roof you have now! Roof systems can vary in composition, even when built in the same area. Many cities will share their documents with you regarding your building records. With this information you can determine the exact roof system previously installed and if it should be considered as an option for your next roof. Most re-roof projects end up replacing their roof systems with a similar roof system because its easier with the city and the homeowners associations (HOA’s).
- Order a roof report for $60-$80! Most roofing companies will offer a free estimate but it may be difficult to find someone who works on your schedule, or maybe you just don’t want anyone going on your roof. Nowadays, many companies exist on the internet that can offer you a roof report within 24 hours! You can share these reports with your potential contractors and get bids right away. It is smart, it keeps big trucks off the road, and saves peoples time! An in-person roof inspection should be done prior to signing any contract to make sure there are no surprises.
- Compare roof assemblies, then compare the prices. Most contractors sell roof assemblies they are familiar with and pitch that assembly as the best option for you. It is your house! If you know what kind of roof you want, ask for that system. Once you understand the bids, you may be surprised to find out how the upgrades and downgrades can move the price around to meet your needs.
- Be prepared for additional costs in the bid. Neglected roof systems will cost more. Common practice is to include some wood in the project and charge extra for additional materials and services. An experienced contractor should be able to give you an estimated cost on additional costs based on work done in the past in that area. Factors that can drive up the project cost will include neglected leaks, roof age, and termite damage.
- Distinguish Manufacturer Warranties from Contractor Warranties. Salesmen are trained to sell you on extravagant manufacturer warranties. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Know the details regarding your warranty. Maybe ask for some scenarios.
- PLAN AHEAD AND TAKE YOUR TIME. Know how old your roof is and its expected roof life. Plan for the expense ahead of time and take your time picking what is best for you. It should be a long time before you need to re-roof again, and you will be sorry if it’s sooner than later. You will be stuck with the same color roof for some time so make sure you like it! Go to a showroom and ask to see the roof product in person.