Just like your foundation, your roof is part of your critical cabin infrastructure, aka its “bones.” The integrity of your cabin’s roof is essential to protecting the entire structure. If you wait until your ceiling turns yellow from water stains, you could already have serious structural damage.
Here are some early signs that your asphalt shingles are nearing the end of their useful life and might need replacing:
Curls or tears Asphalt shingles are meant to lay flat on the roof and form a continuous, watertight layer. Not only is each shingle nailed to the roof, but each one also has a tar strip on the back that seals it to the underlying shingle. Over time, however, those tar strips begin to break down, and the asphalt in the main body of the shingle can dry and curl. This is a double-edged sword, as the curling also means a loss in elasticity, which can lead to tears in the now-brittle shingle.
Pebbles in gutters If you need proof that ultraviolet rays are bad for your skin, just take a look at a 30-year-old roof. Over time, the UV rays break down the hydrocarbons in the shingle, and the protective pebbles placed over the asphalt work free. This accelerates the aging process – think fair skin without suntan lotion. Take a close look in your gutter this spring; if you have a lot of pebbles, your SPF (Shingle Protection Factor) is too low.
A “green” roof Moss or lichen growth on a roof are not always an indication of failing shingles, but they do always mean there is excess moisture on the roof. This could be caused by lack of sunlight, climate, or disfigured shingles that are restricting water movement. If the shingles are compromised, moss and other green growth can exacerbate any leakage into the cabin, as they prevent moisture from freely running down the roof’s surface.
REPLACING YOUR ROOF THE EASY WAY
The writing was on the wall … er, the roof. Our family cabin was covered in curling, cracked shingles, and had recently suffered damage when a large poplar tree grazed the eave line. Instead of tearing off the old three-tab shingles and replacing with new architectural asphalt shingles, we opted for a corrugated metal roof over the top of the existing shingles.
There are several reasons to consider metal, but the main benefits for my family were logistics and increased durability. We were able to place the metal panels directly over the old shingles, reducing the large amount of waste we would have had to haul off-site from our remote location. They were also much lighter than asphalt, at about 1⁄8 the total weight. The roof surface area on our cabin was fairly small, about 1,000 square feet (“10 square” in roofing parlance), and we were able to re-roof with metal in less than a day.
The material costs are slightly more than asphalt shingles, but expect to pay up to double the cost of asphalt if you purchase high-quality, fade-resistant metal panels.
Another big benefit of a metal roof is fire safety. Metal roofs are inherently safer when you have a wood-burning fireplace, and can even lower your insurance premium. However, metal roofs can also be treacherous. Small amounts of moisture, debris or even chalk from your chalk line can make the roof impossible to traverse. For steep roofs, consider hiring a pro for installation. Metal roofs can be downright impassable when covered with snow, making routine roof access chores like chimney cleaning almost impossible.
It’s also a good idea to install snow brakes (small L-shaped brackets affixed to the surface of a metal roof) to prevent sudden avalanches of snow that can injure passersby.