When selecting roofing materials, consider your log home’s design, the climate where you’re building and your budget, as well as any special values (like using local or eco-friendly products).
1. Nurture Nature: "A roof’s design should blend in with the topography," says Ken Pieper, co-owner of Ken Pieper and Associates in Evergreen, Colorado, who has designed luxury mountain homes for more than 35 years. "If a roof is designed well, you should almost have to search to find your home within the landscape."
2. Smart Slopes: A key component of your roof’s design will be its pitch (or slope). Generally speaking, the steeper the slope, the more attractive (and expensive) the roof. Roof pitch is determined by vertical "rise" over horizontal "run," with the denominator always being 12. So if a roof rises at a rate of six inches per horizontal foot, it has a 6/12 slope — the most common for homes (although 8/12 and 12/12 are also popular).
3. Hot or Cold: Underneath the roofing material, homes have either a "cold" or "hot" design. For a cold roof (used in northern climates), the attic is ventilated with ridge and soffit vents — allowing heated air to escape, which keeps the roof deck cool. This equalized roof temperature helps prevent ice dams from forming. A hot roof design, used in warmer climates, has no ventilation and its insulation is on the underside of the roof deck. This prevents heat gain through the attic. And don’t forget to measure the depth of your attic insulation to make sure it conforms to local building codes.
4. SIP Tips: An alternative to a cold roof system is to opt for structural insulated panels (SIPs), which don’t require ventilation. These large, thick panels exhibit superior thermal performance, says Gary Trudell, national sales manager at Eagle Panel Systems in Mulberry Grove, Illinois. The SIP building system offers proven energy efficiency, which reduces your energy costs over more conventional fiberglass insulation.
It’s also a quicker way to enclose the roof of your home, typically in a day or two, which reduces the likelihood of weather-related damage to the interior of your home. To further speed construction, Eagle Panel offers pre-finished, tongue-and-groove paneling on the interior side of the panels.
5. Brain Freeze: If, despite your best efforts, winter causes ice dams or icicles to form on your roof, your home can be seriously damaged by water infiltration, rot, mold and mildew. Jerry Taylor, a roofer in Park City, UT, offers this fix: "You want to increase attic ventilation or insulation, preferably both." Solar-powered roof-ventilating fans will increase air circulation. Also make sure soffit vents aren’t blocked with insulation.
6. Eaves Dropping: "To protect your home’s exterior log walls from snow, wind, ice and sun, you should include larger eaves — I usually recommend about four feet — in your roof design," says Jerry Koski, co-owner with his wife Linda of Koski Log Homes in Ontonagon, Michigan. These overhangs can also provide cover over an entrance, balcony or porch.
7. Timber! : Many buyers want heavy timber roof systems with tongue-and-groove decking in their great rooms. But you’ll pay quite a bit for this luxury. If money is an object, request a conventional truss or rafter roof system, then add smaller, decorative timbers and tongue-and-groove decking that’s not structural. "You can drop the cost by more than a third while sacrificing very little in terms of the look," says Mike from Southland.
8. Gutter Instinct: Gutters and downspouts are an essential part of a roof system, channeling water down and away from your home. If you don’t like their utilitarian look, opt for more decorative (but still effective) rain chains. Gutters can range from inexpensive aluminum to decorative copper, with a generous jump in price between the two.
Regardless, clear them of debris at least twice a year to keep them from overflowing. To keep your basement dry, make sure your splash-blocks divert rainwater at least six to nine feet away from your home.
9. Insurance Savings: The right roof could provide more than shelter from the store. By specifying roofing materials that are both impact- and fire-resistant, you may be able to save a bit on the cost of your home insurance, suggests Dick Hogan of Dick Hogan State Farm Insurance in Bangor, Maine.
10. Have it All: Since roofs are such a large investment, comprehensive warranties are a growing trend. As a result, manufacturers will want you to buy their whole package, including weather barrier, underlayment and shingles or other roofing materials. If you use the whole package, you’ll get the total warranty.
11. Color Wheel: In addition to its aesthetic powers, the color of your roof can affect energy efficiency. Light colors reflect sunlight, which is good in hot climates. Dark colors work well in cold climates. Certain colors can also mitigate or enhance architectural features. Light colors often make a shallow-pitched roof seem taller, while dark ones make a steep roof seem less imposing.
12. Money Matters: When it comes to pricing labor and materials, roofing jobs are bid on a "per square" basis. A square is 100 square feet of roof space, regardless of whether proportions are 10 feet by 10 feet or five feet by 20 feet. Don’t despair if you can’t afford that long-lasting traditional material. It’s likely that an engineered "look-alike" alternative will serve you well — and save you money.
13. Code of Conduct: Local building codes may require your roofing material to be resistant to fire, hail or wind. They may also factor into the weight of your roofing material, which can range from about 250 pounds per square for asphalt shingles up to 2,000 pounds for some tile, slate and cement-based products. Building codes generally require a framing-system upgrade for anything more than 600 pounds per square, which can quickly lead to thousands of dollars in additional framing costs. Also, some residential developments have covenants governing what kind of roofing styles and materials are allowed.
14. Think Green: If using eco-friendly materials is a priority, there are a host of green options on the market. For example, if you want to harvest and store rain-water for gardening, consider a recycled metal roof. Green roofing options generally don’t cost any more than not-so-green options. But do consider your log home’s resale value, if that’s important to you.
While you may be enamored of shingles made from recycled tires, will the buyer of your home in 30 years be equally pleased with that choice? Maybe, maybe not. (Though, by that time, we hope high-performing recycled and renewable materials will enjoy wider awareness and appreciation.)
15. Living Roof: If you want to go super green, opt for a sod roof. "It makes a fine place to have a picnic," says longtime builder Michael Peyton, who has installed sod roofs on handcrafted log homes. He starts with a beefed-up framing system (including 18-inch purlins and 10-inch rafters) to accommodate up to 40 tons of weight. Then he installs multiple sheathing membranes on the roof deck, followed by eight to 12 inches of soil topside, with gravel at the edges to act as a buffer. The cost is comparable to a metal standing-seam roof (about $100 a square in his market, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan).
Labor is the big issue. "You have to get the dirt up there somehow, either using a crane or a conveyor belt. We’ve found success using reusable burlap bags," he says. Just don’t forget to weed occasionally — or hire a landscaper to do the honors.