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EXTERIORS : When It's Time for New Roof, the Sky's the Limit


It's a safe bet that if your house is more than 15 years old--as tens of thousands of Orange County houses are--you've got a re-roofing in your future.

And when you start looking, you'll find that picking out roofing material is harder than selecting the right flavor at a Baskin-Robbins ice-cream parlor.

In fact, if there were only 31 flavors of roofing, life would be easy, indeed.

For many, the only easy choice is to omit wood roofing from the list of possibilities. Beyond that, there are a multitude of composite--or asphalt--shingle products, as well as glazed and unglazed clay tile and concrete tiles and shingles; lightweight fiber-cement and fiberglass copies of tiles, shingles, shakes and slates; painted and stone-coated metal shingles and tiles; copper tiles; real slate, and a high-tech plastic copy of wood shakes that has just come onto the market.

The roofing industry is as susceptible to changes in taste as any other and Southern California's seemingly endless vista of mass-produced tract homes provides a history of the modern roof, beginning with the asphalt shingles and crushed-rock roofs in the first of the post-World War II building booms.

Roofs made of alternating layers of hot tar and felt paper and topped with colored crushed rock pretty much disappeared by 1960 and asphalt shingles began giving way to the cedar shakes and shingles that soon became just about every builder's choice.

While wood remained king throughout the 1970s, builders in the planned communities of Mission Viejo and Irvine introduced the clay tile roof to mass-produced housing by crowning the most expensive homes in their portfolios with sinuous S tiles in the Spanish and Italian tradition.

By the early 1980s, the onslaught of the Mediterranean architectural style created a market for less-expensive concrete copies of kiln-fired clay--a market that still is going strong today.

But that's just what the builders use for new homes.

In the re-roofing market, the typical homeowner starts off shopping with one eye on appearance, the other on price. But the plethora of new products requires careful consideration of several other factors, including fire ratings, weight and the quality of materials in the roofing subsystem--the parts you don't see.

Even when the only concerns are cost and appearance, plowing through brochures for the products available can make your eyes swim.

"There were thousands and thousands of homes built with shakes and shingles in Southern California during the 1960s and '70s, and replacing them with look-alikes that don't burn has created a whole industry " says Michael Porzio, sales manager for Pacific Supply Co. in Orange. The regional wholesaler and retailer of roofing material sells scores of products by dozens of manufacturers.

Composite shingles alone make up a huge part of the market, with dozens of styles, colors and quality levels ranging from thin, flat, recession-pinched budget brands to fancy, rough-textured styles that have deep shadow lines to emulate the look of wood shakes as closely as possible. Most composite shingles today are made of fiberglass-reinforced asphalt, some use a heavy paper reinforcing material.

Prices for re-roofing jobs vary based on the individual requirements of each home, but composite shingles generally are the least expensive, typically running $150 to $300 per 100 square feet, installed.

The universal unit for weighing, pricing and measuring roofing is the square--the amount of material needed to cover a 10-by-10-foot area, or 100 square feet.

The installed price of a wood-shake roof can run $20 to $300 per square; clay, concrete and cement-fiber tile roofs range from $275 to $350 per square; stone-coated or painted steel roofs range from $300 to $350 a square; the plastic material ranges from $400 to $500 a square and copper and slate roofs start at about $500 per square and rise rapidly.

For those considering a do-it-yourself re-roofing, labor generally is 60% to 70% of the cost, Porzio said.

While finding the material in a style and color that fits the household budget is what is on most minds when thoughts turn to roofing, other considerations have to be faced, too.

A roof is a system of components, and while the shingles or tiles that most of us end up with are the visible part of the system, they often aren't the most expensive or even the most important, Porzio said.

And as with most things, the quality of a roof system is indicated by price; you get what you pay for.


In most systems, the visible roofing material sits atop plywood sheathing that covers the entire roof and itself is covered with waterproof roofing paper--or felt--that comes in various weights.

While things can be done to excess, the thicker the plywood and the heavier the felt--or the more layers of felt applied--the better the weight-carrying abilities of the subsystem and the water- and fireproofing capabilities of the entire roof.

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