Your roof protects you and everything in your home, so when it's time to repair or replace your roof, how do you choose the best materials and process? After all, you have everything from thatch to wood to copper and even clay to use as materials, and installers with varying degrees of experience.

Different materials are warranted for different lengths of time, and some materials have varying warranties depending on the quality of material. For instance, a wooden shingle roof may have a 15-year warranty for something like cedar, or a 40-year warranty for look-alike shingles made from a synthetic compound such as rubber.

The first thing to consider is the pitch of your roof: in other words, the angle from peak to base. Flat roofs are found on many businesses, but also on some homes, garages and outbuildings. Because of the plentiful moisture in most of the UK, a three-layer application of material and tar, heated with a torch, ensures a waterproof surface.

The material can be applied in either cool or warm conditions, since the torch heats the application materials.

Residential roofs typically have a pitch to them. Batten and shingles are common, where roofing shingles are attached to thin wooden strips known as battens. The battens are laid horizontally on the roof, and the shingles are nailed to them. The shingles can be made of a natural material like wood or clay, or an engineered material such as asphalt or fibreglass.

Consider the look you want for your home or business. Clay shingles come in several colours, as do asphalt or composite shingles. Wood or shake shingles are, of course, the colour of the wood from which they are made. However, they must be treated with fire-retardant material, so they will not be exactly the same colour. And wooden shakes typically fade to a weathered appearance over time, a look which you may or may not prefer.

Newer techniques include copper tiles, which not only have a beautiful appearance when installed, but acquire a lovely patina over time. They are lightweight, durable, and suitable for almost any installation, including curved surfaces. They are expensive, though, and require the services of a qualified installer. Installing copper tiles is not a do-it-yourself job!

Most roofing also requires the installation of some sort of insulation material beneath the roof itself. This serves several purposes: it insulates the building so you lose less heat (or cool, in the summer); it serves as a sound damper, and can also serve as a fire retardant. When installing roofing, you'll want to check that your insulation is up to date, and repair or replace any areas of concern.

If you have a flat roof, your roofing may consist of several layers of felt, with mastic asphalt applied over it all. The asphalt, of course, is the waterproofing. A regular check of your roof for pooling water is a good idea, and the best news is that repairing this type of roof is not that involved, so long as it's caught early. Once the water has penetrated into the building, however, repairs quickly become more involved.

Talk to a roofing contractor about your roof, and you'll quickly discover that you have more options available today than ever before.
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