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By James Dulley, Published October 02 2009

Climate plays a factor in roof material choice

Dear Jim: I have always had regular asphalt shingles on my houses, but they never last more than about 20 years. This time, I want to install a longer-lasting roof. Other than metal, what roof materials are best? – Janet H.

Dear Janet: Even inexpensive asphalt shingles, which typically have a 20-year warranty minimum, should actually last longer than 20 years. Before you install a new roof of any type, have an experienced roofer inspect your existing leaking roof to determine the cause of the leaks.

One common cause of premature shingle failure is the roofing gets too hot. If you live in a warm climate and do not have adequate attic ventilation, the shingles can get extremely hot in the afternoon sun. This is particularly true if your new shingles were installed over an old layer.

As you indicated, metal is one of the best roofs, and it can last a lifetime. Similarly to several other long-life roofing materials, metal roofs are considerably more expensive to install than even architectural shingle roofs. With the current energy tax credits in effect, you may qualify for a tax credit by installing an efficient metal roof.

There are quite a few roofing materials for you to discuss with your roofing contractor. Some of the longest-lasting ones, such as tile and slate, are very heavy. If your house was initially designed for a shingle roof, you will likely have to substantially reinforce the roof structure to support the weight of these materials. There may also be additional snow loading depending upon your climate.

If you like the appearance of slate or tile, consider installing plastic roofing. It is made from mostly recycled plastic and has a very long life. The weight of this plastic roofing is similar to that of a shingle roof, so no addition structural support will be needed. It can be sawed and nailed as easily as wood and is available in random widths for an authentic look.

Another attractive, lightweight option is durable fiber-cement roofing. It is made from cement and fibers that are molded into the shapes of other common roofing styles. It lasts very long, and since the pigments are completely through the material, it maintains its nice appearance. The simulated tile style has a glossy coating to look similar to real tiles.

People often think of wood shakes as an attractive but short-life roof material. Actually, some of the best-quality shakes have up to

50-year warranties. Pine shakes, with pressure-treatment and fire-resistant chemicals, are a lower cost, yet durable, option. Check your local fire codes before installing wood roofing.

Another unique roof is made with bent cedar shingles. Steam is used to bend the red cedar shingle to give the house a somewhat mysterious appearance.

The following companies offer alternative roofing materials: Anglo-American Cedar, (800) 826-7185, www.angloamerican.com; Huber & Associates, (800) 327-8115, www.huberand

associates.com; EcoStar, (800) 211-7170, www.ecostar.

carlisle.com; Ludowici, (800) 945-8453, www.ludowici.com; Monierlife Tile, (800) 669-8453, www.monierlifetile.com; and Re-New Wood, (800) 420-7576, www.ecoshake.com.

Dear Jim: I have an old water heater and refrigerator in my garage/workshop. I have wrapped the water heater with insulation. Will it help to also wrap the refrigerator with more insulation? – Sam S.

Dear Sam: Extra insulation blocks heat flow in both directions. When around the water heater, it blocks heat from flowing outward. When around the cold refrigerator, it blocks heat from flowing into it through the walls.

When insulating the refrigerator, you must be careful not to block the air flow through the condenser coils. If the air flow is reduced, efficiency drops. The coils are usually on the back or underneath the refrigerator.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com