Thanks to a severe hailstorm this spring, almost every house in my neighborhood was re-roofed this summer. For a roof fanatic like me, it was a great summer — I got to watch a new roofing project almost every day. To me, a construction site is like a sports arena: both help you learn how success requires a solid combination of skill and teamwork. I’ve always enjoyed watching the members of a good shingle crew; their movements look almost effortless as shingles get installed faster and better than I could ever imagine or accomplish. But the best part for me this summer was watching an industry that has stepped up a notch, both in terms of quality and professionalism.

When I compare what I observed on more than 40 roofing projects this summer against the last time I had my house re-roofed 20 years ago, it is clear to me that many changes for the good are happening in roofing. Here are just a few of my observations.

  • More recycling. Very frankly, I’ve read about shingle recycling in press releases and heard people talk about it at roofing seminars, but I was truly impressed to see how many of the tear-offs in my neighborhood ended up at a recycling facility. The only downside was that very few of the homeowners knew that their old shingles weren’t just being tossed into the dump.
  • Improved detailing. Twenty years ago, I remember arguing with my contractor about the need for rake and eave trim to support the new shingles. Now, as far as I can tell, every project in my neighborhood included these small but very important trim pieces. I also saw a lot of chimney flashings re-worked, an indication that the contractor paid serious attention to one of the most prevalent sources of roof leaks.
  • Better underlayments. I have read and heard a lot about new synthetic underlayments, but this was my first opportunity to see how widespread their use has become. And the level of installation knowledge was excellent. The underlayments were always fastened with plates to prevent tearing, and overlaps were adequate and uniform. The amount of ice and water shield installed was also impressive. From listening to my neighbors, it was clear this could be attributed to knowledgeable salespeople who did a great job of educating their customers on the risks of ice damage at eaves and valleys.
  • More ventilation. It was particularly gratifying for me as a building scientist to see how seriously the contractors addressed the need for adequate roof ventilation. Because my neighborhood started out as a tract development of starter homes, roof ventilation was at best only up to minimum code and frequently way below safe minimums. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how many roofs featured more and better roof venting. And in many cases, the contractors increased eave venting as well to ensure ample overall air flow.

 But the best part of my “summer of roofing” was watching all of these technologies used on my own house. And to watch them installed by a professional and courteous crew was the icing on the cake. Seeing is believing, and thanks again to an industry that continues to grow and improve.