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Questions to Ask When Buying a Home With a Wood Roof

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Wood is one of the most attractive and time-tested roofing options for homeowners. As such, houses with wood roofs tend to draw interest on the real estate market. When people are in the market for new homes, the properties that feature wood roofs are often the most visited and inquired about by prospective buyers.

If you are on the lookout for a new home, a house with wood roofing could easily be your best possible choice. However, it is crucial to discern the good from the bad when it comes to the prospects of wood roofs in general. Questions to ask about a wood roof should include inquiries about the quality of the shingles and the date of the roof's installation. Other things to know about houses with wood roofs include the type of lumber and the fireproofing chemicals used in the manufacturing of the shingles.

What Type of Wood Is My Roof?

Wood, in general, is one of the most durable roofing options. As a natural product derived from trees, which themselves stand tall in nature for decades and even centuries through wind, rain and the elements, wood is a natural fit when it comes to home and roof construction. Homeowners in general love wood roofing because shingles made from lumber are strong, durable and insulating.

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Granted, not all wood shingles are equal. In fact, the quality of a wood roof will largely depend on the type of lumber from which the shingles were cut by the manufacturer. The three best types of wood for shingles are cedar, wallaba and teak.

Cedar

Cedar is a lumber derived from cedar trees, which are native to the Pacific Northwest. For centuries, cedar was used by Native Americans as a housing material. As settlers made their way into western territories, the potential of cedar was quickly realized by expansionists. By the late 19th century, cedar had become a fixture on homes throughout the United States.

Though the lumber declined in popularity during the 1920s, cedar roofs from the early 1900s remained intact on older American homes well into the 1970s — outlasting more modern forms of roofing in the process. As such, cedar roofing stood the test of time. The longevity of cedar, in combination with its timeless aesthetic appeal, has fueled its resurgence as a popular roofing option in the 21st century.

In general, cedar shingles will last as long as 30 to 50 years and sometimes even longer if a roof is properly maintained. In regions with favorable climates and where the homeowner performs or hires periodic roof sweeps, cedar shingles will last through several generations of ownership on a property.

Wallaba

Wallaba is a wood that's native to the Guianas and cultivated in the Amazon region. The lumber ranges from light to darkish red or purple. When it comes to woodworking and construction, wallaba is a durable wood that has been used in South America for centuries. Due to its strength and visual charm, wallaba has gained in popularity across the Northern Hemisphere.

A wallaba roof will usually last a minimum of 35 years and sometimes as long as 60 years. With periodic sweeps, wallaba shingles will last throughout the average span of a residential occupancy. As with cedar, the longevity of a wallaba roof at the time of move-in will somewhat depend on how recent or how far back the roof installation took place.

Teak

Teak is a tropical hardwood native to India and Indochina. Since its discovery by westerners as a strong wood with reliable qualities as a housing and roofing material, teak has been cultivated in other tropical regions such as West Africa and the Caribbean.

Due to its strength of composition, teak has grown in popularity throughout North America as a roofing option. Shakes and shingles made of teak will generally last a minimum of 50 years and as long as 80 years. Of course, the ultimate lifespan of a teak roof can depend on external factors such as the responsibility of the homeowners and the conditions of the local environment. Teak roofs that last the longest are generally well-kept with favorable weather conditions at play.

How Old Is the Roof?

With any home that becomes a serious purchase prospect, you should ask about the origins of the key features of the property. If the roof consists of wood shakes or shingles, one of the most pertinent pieces of information concerns the roofing installation date. Simply put, was the roof installed within the last five to 10 years or does it date back 25 years or more?

If the roof was installed within the last decade, you can most likely count on the roof lasting through your occupancy of the property — that is, if you are like most homeowners who only occupy a given address for eight to 15 years. If, on the other hand, the roof was installed more than 20 years ago, the shingles might require a full or partial replacement during the time that you own the property.

Then again, the longevity of the roof will partially depend on the quality of the wood and the effort you make as a homeowner to maintain the roof. As long as your neighborhood is not hit by some cataclysmic event, you could make a 20-year-old roof last an additional 15 to 25 years or perhaps longer.

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What Is the Warranty on This Roof?

Another thing to consider in relation to the age of the roof is whether it is still under warranty and, if so, whether that warranty is transferable. Remember that some warranties are transferable and others are not. If the roof was installed within the last few years, you shouldn't need to invest large sums of your own money into its replacement — especially not for circumstances beyond your control.

If the roof is older and out of warranty, consider the wood shingles as an attraction that might require some investment during the time that you own the property. On the upside, a roof that looks attractive with older, silvery shingles is bound to look incredible with fresh, new cedar, teak or wallaba. Furthermore, a house with older shingles might list for less, allowing you to save money that can later be invested in a new roof.

Who Manufactured the Shingles?

When it comes to a wood roof, the quality of the shingles will partially depend on the manufacturer. Even though the age of the shingles and the type of wood in question will both be determining factors in the quality of said roofing, the level of care that went into the production of the shingles is also important.

Wood shingles must be manufactured with quality control and care. To ensure quality control, only the best lumber should be used. While certain types of wood are valued for their overall reliability, it does not mean that any tree of a favored wood type is a good candidate for the lumber. A responsible manufacturer of wood shingles will understand this difference and only use lumber from properly cultivated trees.

When you eye a property with wood roofing, ask for the name of the manufacturer responsible for the shingles. Research the name of the manufacturer online to see whether the company in question is reputed for quality control. Does the company have good customer reviews for the quality, durability and longevity of its shingles? If not, you might be looking at a roof that will need to be replaced in the not-so-distant future.

Are the Shingles Stained or CCA-Treated?

When buying a house with a wood roof, one of your foremost concerns should be fire safety. Even though wood is flammable, wood shingles can be treated with flame-depressant chemicals to prevent the spread of fires. In the shingle-manufacturing industry, there are two safety seals that verify the fire-resistance of wood shingles: CCA and Certi-GUARD.

CCA is an acronym for chromated copper arsenate. In other words, shingles that are CCA-treated have been covered with copper, arsenic and chromium — chemicals that have been used to fire-proof timber for almost a century.

Certi-GUARD is the classification identifier for a line of wood shingles. Shingles and shakes can be labeled as Class A, B or C. Class B shingles can be identified with a red Certi-GUARD label while class C shingles bear a blue label. Class A wood roofs consist of class B shingles with an additional fire-suppressant under-layer.

The fire-resistant quality of a wood roof is crucial, both for the occupants of a given home as well as for neighboring properties. Thanks to CCA treating and Certi-GUARD labeling, the majority of city councils are now confident that wood shingles can be just as fire-resistant as other roofing materials.

Who Installed the Shingles?

Before singles can be installed on the roof of a given house, the shingles must be carefully crafted and tested for their resilience and fire safety. A responsible roofing company will test each line of shingles beforehand to ensure the wood can withstand inclement weather and the elements. Moreover, the shingles will be coated with fire-retardant for maximum safety in the event of flames.

Once the quality of the shingles has been vetted, the shingles must then be installed on a rooftop with utmost care. To that end, the shingles must be applied in an even, proportionate layout. This is crucial because if the shingles are inconsistently distributed along any portion of the roof, it could weaken the rooftop in that area and leave the home vulnerable to leaks.

If the house you are eyeing has a wood roof, ask your agent about the company responsible for the roofing installation. If the manufacturer and installer are one and the same, customer reviews about the former will answer this question as well. If not, Google the name of the company responsible for the installation and see what customers have said about their roofing results.

Do They Specialize in Wood Roofing?

Roofing is always best when done by licensed professionals with years of experience. Moreover, installers excel at the craft when it is their primary specialty. Therefore, if the company brands itself first and foremost as a wood roofing company, the chances are much greater that the roofing job was done with the best of hands.

Companies to be wary of are those that offer roofing as one of many different services. If the company has a very general name and merely lists "roofing installations" at or near the bottom of a list of home construction or home improvement services, chances are good the roofing service in question is not the best that money can buy. Even if they offer some of the lowest rates advertised, any savings you reap up front could cost you in the not-too-distant future.

As with any type of service, you should only have roofing done by specialists. If you have your sights on a property that was recently re-roofed, check to see whether the installer is a reputable wood roofing specialty company. If not, you might need to have the roof replaced by a more qualified installer during the time you own the property.

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Does the Roofing Company Provide Maintenance as Needed?

Throughout the time that a roof is under warranty, the installer should be available for touchups and cleaning work on an as-needed basis. For example, if a roof is hit by a blizzard while the warranty is still in effect, the roofing company should be available to patch up any parts of the roof that get damaged as a result of the snow, wind, hail or falling objects.

When you do need maintenance performed on a wood roof, it is usually best to have that work done by the same company that did the original installation. The reasons for this are twofold. On one hand, there's the consistency factor. A company will be more consistent with its own roofing, whereas the work of a different installer might throw the overall roofing pattern slightly ajar.

The other reason why it is usually best to have installation and maintenance work done by the same company is for the sake of pattern familiarity. If an installer has a custom method for the application of shingles, only that installer will have the familiarity necessary to patch up any ruptures that the roof in question might incur from a storm or natural disaster.

Of course, if the original installation was performed by less-than-competent hands, you would probably be better off having maintenance performed by a different roofing services provider.

Is a House With a Wood Roof a Good Investment? Should I Buy a House With a Wood Roof?

When the time comes to have new roofing installed on your house, you should turn to a company with years of experience as a custom shingle manufacturer and installer. At Custom Shingles, we have been manufacturing shingles from the best quality woods since 1982. Our shingles are carefully crafted, CCA-treated and Certi-GUARD labeled.

With more than 35 years of experience, the team here at Custom Shingles has installed Cedar shingles, Fancy-CuttTM Shingles, Teak shingles, Wallaba shingles and more. View our portfolio and contact us for more information.