Ask the Builder: Make Your Asphalt Shingles Last 50 Years

A week ago, I made the decision to increase my ability to save readers as much money as possible during these very difficult financial times. Inflation is raging. In my opinion, it will get worse. Use the URL I provide at the end of this column to tell me what problem you are having. I will cover as much as possible in the next columns.

Every day I get more emails on my website, like the one I got from Beryl about the rooftops of her giant condo complex. She said she lives in a community of 17 freestanding, two-story duplexes. The development was built in 1985 and the roofs were replaced in 2005 after 20 years of use. Current shingles on condos have a 30 year warranty. They are now 17 years old.

Beryl said condo owners at the complex are experiencing leaks and failures unrelated to ice and snow. Worst of all, she said the condo board is budgeting a whopping $1,000,000 to replace the roofs in eight years. Doing the math, it’s over $58,000 per building.

I only knew the town where Beryl lived, and she sent me a low-res photo of the buildings taken from her deck or patio. Using Google Maps in satellite mode, I was able to locate his development in less than a minute. I then used parked cars for scale and determined that each of the buildings roofs averaged about 85 squares or 8,500 square feet of roof area.

Factoring in inflation and what it could be eight years from now, it turns out that the council’s estimate could be very accurate. It’s a mind-boggling number. Imagine what kind of special appraisal every condo owner will have to pay to pay for the new roofs!

How does this affect you? Chances are you have an asphalt shingle roof on your home. The vast majority of homes and small businesses in the United States use this disposable roofing material. You might be wondering if it’s possible to have an asphalt shingle roof that lasts 50 or even 60 years like the one on my friend’s house in Los Angeles. It’s possible.

Beryl and her condo co-owners may not have to spend all that money in eight years if their current roof is in good shape. They can add copper strips to the top of all roof ridges and skylights which will stop the aging process of the shingles. While writing my exhibition book, “Roofing Ripoff,” five years ago, I discovered that copper ions bind to asphalt molecules. When this happens, it prevents the asphalt molecules from cross-linking with the help of oxygen.

Cross-linking makes the asphalt more brittle. When the asphalt becomes brittle, the shingles begin to curl and lose the granules. The colored granules are incorporated into the shingles to prevent them from rupturing in a few years. Think of them as sunscreen as you use it on your skin to prevent sunburn.

I cover all of this in detail in my short, easy-to-read book. In addition, I have photographic proof that copper works as well as feedback from three chemical physicists who subscribe to my newsletter.

If you have a new asphalt shingle roof or an older one but in fantastic condition, you can extend its life by decades if you simply install thin copper rolls at the top of the roof ridges. Copper can be nailed blind so it won’t be destroyed by windstorms. Each time it rains, the copper ions wash off the strips and bond to the asphalt which you can see between the colored ceramic granules.

The best part is that shiny new copper turns a deep nut brown in about 18 months. On low-pitched roofs, you can barely see the copper from the ground. It is easy to install copper as part of a new roof installation. It’s a bit more work to install on existing roofs in good condition where the shingles are still flexible when heated by the sun.

You might be wondering if zinc strips will do the same. I can’t tell you, because I haven’t tested zinc and it takes about 20 or 30 years to test. To get the most out of copper, you need at least 6 inches to 10 inches of it exposed for every 25 feet of shingles that are under the copper. I had 10 inches of exposed copper on each side of my daughter’s roof.

Keep in mind that copper must be in direct sunlight during the day for this to work. The sun is constantly shooting photons at your roof, and when they hit copper at 300,000 km/h, they dislodge copper ions. These are then washed onto the roof the next time it rains. Your roof is very important, so it’s essential that you do everything possible to extend its life.

What can I help you with? What issues around your home worry you? What do you want me to talk about in my next columns? Go here and tell me. Be sure to enter the word GO in the URL:

About Dora Kohler

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