Home Renewal: Roof Rules

In a city like New Orleans, the weather can be brutal. It often rains — and as anyone who has spent a summer here knows — it often rains hard. A house’s first line of defense in protecting its residents from the elements is its roof. But it’s not easy for homeowners to know what kind of roof they have and how much work needs to be done on it.

“Even for informed homeowners, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a good roof and a bad one,” said Margot Brandenburg, CEO of MyStrongHome.

Unfortunately, many roofs can look the same from the outside. What are some of the things you should look for and ask for when speaking to a contractor?

Brandenburg said there should ideally be a secondary water barrier inside the roof. If there is an adhesive material over the roof decking, homeowners can have another line of defense if a shingle is blown off during a storm. If roofing damage occurs, even a small leak can create mold and mildew problems, which can cause allergy and breathing difficulties for residents.

New Orleanian Dana Eness has a shotgun home with a camelback portion she added to it. When she bought her house, she installed a passive roof vent system that isn’t as likely to become airborne in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane as the whirlybird vents the home originally had.

Brandenburg also recommended that people follow The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Fortified Standards when shopping for a new roof. These are third party standards, not ones made up by an individual roofing company. She said a fortified roof typically costs 10 percent more than a non-fortified roof, but the fortified designation can result in cheaper insurance for homeowners.

The home services website Angie’s List recommends asking your roofer if they use a consistent dealer for shingles. If not, they might apply mismatched shingles to your roof. It is also good to ask about proper attic ventilation. If you don’t have that, the shingles might wear out early, resulting in ruined insulation and skyrocketing energy costs. Lastly, ask your contractor for documentation of their insurance policy in case one of their workers damages your property during installation or sustains an injury during installation.

Some roofing considerations have more to do with reducing aggravation than structural safety. Eness said she replaced the metal roofing on the camelback portion of her home with tiles because they’re not as noisy when it’s raining.

Part of roof care means keeping up with maintenance. If you insist on doing a roofing inspection yourself, the Home Inspections, LLC website (dontbuyituntilIInspectit.com) says to clean gutters or add gutter shields, seal leaking gutter seams, check the slope on the gutters, check for loose gutters and gutter nails, remove tree debris from roof, check for nail uplift, and check for broken or cracked shingles.

For general cost considerations while installing a roof, Brandenburg said homeowners can expect to pay about $6.50 per square foot. She added that an average roof in the Gulf South should last about 15 years.

Of course, some will last a little longer and others not quite that long.


The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Fortified Standards

1. All shingle roofs must meet ASTM D 3161 Class F and ASTM D 7158 Class H shingle standards
2. All roof decks are retailed using 8d ring shank nails at specified intervals
3. All roofs must have a sealed roof deck (peel and stick over the entire roof cover)
4. Gable end wall vents must be sealed off or have removable covers to prevent water intrusion
5. Drip edge must be nailed a minimum of 4 inches on the center nailing with 3-inch overlaps
6. There must be an evaluation and photo documentation of all materials and installation phases
7. Hurricane straps or clips are not required, but are recommended


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