"There are a lot of quality materials out there," says Kevin St. Clair, vice president of Ray St. Clair Roofing, "but even the best materials, if installed incorrectly, can leak immediately."

"The key is the workmanship. You need to have the right application and a knowledgeable person assessing leaks or problems. If that person is not an expert, homeowners may find themselves at the end of the job in the same boat with the problem not solved."

A big portion of their everyday business is due to someone else's poor workmanship and the rest is from aging of roofing materials, says St. Clair. "Most folks who we do repairs for call us back when other work needs to be done. We build a relationship and that evolves into other work." (The company also handles siding, window and door replacement, insulation, gutters, and chimneys).

The most common roofing material remains the asphalt shingle, according to St. Clair. Today, the original single-ply shingle, called the three-tab shingle, is losing popularity to the dimensional shingle, a two-ply or three-ply construction that gives the roof more dimension and definition. "Five years ago, it was a 50/50 split, says St. Clair, but now about 20 percent is single-ply or three-tab and 80 percent is dimensional. The choice is more related to appearance. You get a better curb appeal and the two-ply has a little better warranty for durability." 

And there's good news for tri-staters concerned about roof streaking which is actually algae that causes dark stains. It's pretty standard today for asphalt shingles to be embedded with copper ceramic-coated granules that combat algae growth. "Mostly it just looks bad though," says St. Clair, "but it can trigger a worry, to homebuyers especially."

Wind is another concern in this area. "Over the last five years it seems our area was prone to high winds or hail," says St. Clair. Since then some manufacturers have enhanced shingles to offer a higher wind rating because of sealing ability (an asphalt adhesion strip on each shingle is activated when exposed to heat sealing it to the shingle on top) and an enhanced nailing pattern. Homeowners worried about wind should look for an 80 to 110-wind rating.

Other roof materials

SLATE Because of the older housing stock in Greater Cincinnati and the many Tudor style homes, roofers including St Clair are still maintaining slate roofs, which can last 50 to 75 years or more. Because of the cost "” three to four times more expensive than asphalt shingles "” they are seldom the choice for a new roof. But for a homeowner looking for a replacement there are more new options due to metal roofing and asphalt shingles that replicate slate. "Now, there's a more economical approach to getting the same look they've had with their slate roof," says St. Clair.

METAL Metal roofing, shown above, is thought of as more of a commercial roofing product, but in the last 10 years, with the push to keep asphalt shingles out of landfills and the search for longer-lasting materials, metal roofing has become a more popular choice on homes, especially for homeowners who never want to replace a roof.

"It's still a small portion," says St. Clair. "But a homeowner building their last home or one in a super high wind zone . . . or someone trying to enhance the look of the home in a certain way might consider metal. Most metal panels are hail-resistant so you get a small break in homeowner's insurance."

The best part? "When you put a metal roof on, you're done," says St. Clair. "Most come with a fantastic finish so there's no maintenance." The heavier the gauge, the more expensive the galvanized panel and the longer it will last. Most panels are guaranteed for life with a 30 to 50 year finish warranty on paint.

The newest development in residential metal roofing has been the replication of tiles, slate, even shingles and wood shakes. But metal roofs are routinely double the cost of asphalt shingles.

"I don't ever see metal taking over the roofing industry just because of the expense," says St. Clair

COMPOSITES Many manufacturers have developed shingles with resins touting a 30 to 40 year lifetime and falling in the same price range as metals. The new kid on the block, composites, shown above, "offer the appearance of asphalt, slate, wood shakes, are very attractive and get a good wind rating," says St. Clair.

  •  Choose a company that has been in your community a long time.
  •  Check with the Better Business Bureau or Angie's List.
  •  Request and check references, particularly in your neighborhood.
  •  Ask if the company provides complete replacement and repair services.
  •  Ask about solutions for excessive energy consumption and how to prevent premature aging to your roof (cellulose insulation and proper placement of ventilation products).
  •  Ask about a company's inspection team that checks each job for quality, workmanship, site care and follow-up after job completion. And ask about both materials and labor warranties. The latter is where most problems develop.