A building’s roof serves as the first line of defense against whatever the skies throw at its inhabitants—wind, rain and blazing sun, even snow and ice in some climates—so it’s crucial for that roof to be sound and well maintained. All it takes is one small crack or hole for the rainwater to get in and, poof! There goes thousands of dollars in repair and potential insurance claims (not to mention the damage it can cause to residents' possessions and property). Knowing how to maintain and repair what's on top of your buildings can ultimately protect its bottom line.
What's Up There?
According to James R. Kirby, AIA, the director of technical services for the national Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) in Washington, D.C., the most common types of roofs in dense urban areas are 'low-slope' or flat roofs. “The roof types include asphalt-based roof systems, called built-up and modified bitumen, and single-ply roof systems,” he says.
“The building designer most commonly determines if a rooftop is steep-slope (pitched) or low-slope (flat),” says Kirby. “Most tall buildings have low-slope roofs because the roof is not a visible architectural element. Low-slope roof systems include a roof deck (which in this context is the base layer upon which the other roofing materials sit—not a recreational common area), a vapor barrier if needed, at least two layers of insulation, a cover board, a membrane, and some type of surfacing.”
The majority of residential roofs in New Jersey are either “flat” roofs or pitched roofs. “You're talking asphalt shingle in the 80 percent range, if not more. A lot of contractors are using asphalt now, because they're so reliable,” says Barry Scymanski, general manager of Alpine Roofing in Sparta.
Historic areas can cause restrictions on what roof contractors have to build, for the sake of a block or neighborhood's architectural continuity. “Sometimes you get a condo being built, sometimes they're being built in a historical district, you're not going to see the asphalt shingle as much. You're going to go to a historical product like slate, or metal,” says Scymanski.