Roofing Southwest Blog > The Nature of Roofing

The Nature of Roofing

March 26, 2018

Since the beginning of time, humans have been looking for way to keep the rain off our heads. We’ve used a multitude of materials, with relative success. Until about 5,000 years ago, primitive man used sod, grass, sticks, wood and animal skins — whatever was handy from the environment — to keep the rain off. Then the ancient Egyptians and other bronze age societies discovered how to roof with plaster and even stone. Today, with our advanced abilities is chemical preparation and petroleum derivatives, we have asphalt shingles, modified bitumen, single-ply, foam… well you name it.

And yet, no matter how advanced we become, Mother Nature always has surprises for us. Global warming seems to be throwing our storms into high gear. For example, during the first quarter of 2018, the East Coast had not one, but three 500-year Nor’easters. Seems like the nasty storms are coming more frequently. In short, the weather brings all kinds of challenges, all designed to remove the roofs from our heads.

  • A quarter inch hailstone can crash into a roof at 20+ mph. That’s not lethal, but it does a darned good job of banging the heck out of roofing materials.
  • One molecule of water is so small it can slip into almost any space. When it freezes, it expands, making the space around it larger. The process of freezing and thawing act like a wedge, making larger and larger spaces where more water can invade. The process is extremely hard on roofing materials.
  • The combination of heat and water also promotes all kinds of microbial growth. The tiny rootlets of these microbes and plants dig into the roofing material, slowly degrading it over time.
  • When water turns to snow in colder climates, it adds a whole new set of challenges for roofers — they have to build roofs to withstand snow load, as well as to prevent ice dams.
  • Sunlight has two byproducts, heat and UV radiation. UV radiation chemically breaks down all the nifty petroleum and polymers we’ve created. Heat causes trapped moisture to evaporate and turn to gas. If that gas happens to be between layers of your roofing material, it is likely to blow holes through the material to escape.
  • Last but not least is the wind factor. Wind flowing across the surface of the roof increases internal air pressure, which in turn increases the uplift on the roof. When wind speed doubles, pressure quadruples. In short, the wind is just dying to tear your roof to shreds.

The roofing industry is trying to combat all these factors with new technology.

  • Fibers are being mixed into the polymers and petroleum products to help resist impact damage.
  • New coatings are being developed to help bounce debris off the roof without damaging the materials.
  • Other coatings are being used to reflect heat, UV radiation, resist fire and more.
  • Additives are being mixed into the polymers to improve tear strength, UV resistance, flexibility, fire resistance and dimensional stability.
  • Improvements to the bonding agents and waterproofing materials are helping to keep the moisture out of the roofing layers.
  • Improvements in flashing, fasteners, water drainage systems and more are all coming together to make roofs less susceptible to water penetration.

So many new things are happening that you may have a hard time keeping up with all the improvements. We’d be happy to consult with you to help you select the proper materials to help your roof last as long as possible.

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