House & Home

Roofs provide style as well as shelter

An Overland Park home features a suede-color concrete tile roof.
An Overland Park home features a suede-color concrete tile roof. Jason Hanna

A roof over your head. It sounds so basic, yet with today’s roofing options, you have multiple considerations, from material, price and longevity to color and style. And just as the hair on your head has a lot to do with your personal style, your roof contributes to your home’s overall appearance.

So how do you choose the right roof for your home? Ask yourself: Do you want it to pop, like bangs from the 1980s, in blue standing seam metal? Or be like everyone else — think the Rachel of the 1990s — with brown asphalt shingles?

Jennifer Horstmann, office manager for Christian Brothers Roofing, says Kansas City homes tend to abide by a standard look: a three-tab or architectural composition shingle, especially in midtown to the Northland, while Johnson County has more metal and clay roofs.

“Generally, everyone in the neighborhood wants to blend in,” she says. “The biggest decision maker is generally your homeowners association.”

So before you go rogue in red, check your community’s rulebook. Also read the fine print on your insurance policy in case your carrier is skittish about the fire hazard connected with wood shingles.

If you have the freedom to crimp and curl as you please, roofing stylists are awaiting you: wood, asphalt, metal, clay and slate. But unlike your bad hair days, you can’t put a hat on a bad roof, so choose wisely.

Let’s take a look at the materials.

Wood

This classic choice helps your house blend into its natural surroundings and silvers nicely with age. Individual shingles are rough and most appropriate on a rustic or cottage-style house.

“People choose it pretty much only for the way it looks,” Horstmann says. “It’s usually because they’ve been in their house for years, and they are just replacing what they had.”

For centuries, wood roofs have protected homes and inhabitants, but they tend to have pest problems, notably squirrels (remember, it looks like a tree) and silverfish, and can sustain damage from mold and fire.

“We still do wood shingles at customer request, but insurance companies are not fans of them,” Horstmann says.

Asphalt

This common choice mimics the look of wood shingles but is more uniform and comes in a wider range of colors. Like hair color, neutral browns and grays are most common — sorry, no blondes in roofing — but you can go out on a limb in hunter green or, incredibly, white.

This material can flex its style muscle and is increasingly improving in color and pattern. In recent years, architectural cuts have added dimensionality. GAF’s Timberline HD and Owens Corning Duration are two brands with this feature that emboldens roof lines with shadow and contrast.

If you feel like breaking out of the boxy, three-tab rectangular mold, consider a new shape. “There’s a bunch of little, weird ones that come out every year that aren’t your norm,” Horstmann says.

GAF offers a designer series that includes diamond shapes (Sienna) or Tetris-like tiles (Grand Sequoia). “You’d use the Sienna on a house that looks like a dollhouse because it completes the look you’re going for,” Horstmann says.

Standing seam metal

Standing seam metal roofs stand up to winter weather, which is why you usually see them in the Northeast. The historical reference to coastal regions makes metal roofs a natural choice for Prairie Village’s Cape Cods and shingle-style homes. Metal roofs also fit the Midwest’s farmhouse vernacular and are perfect for Brookside bungalows and hideaway cabins.

Metal roofs have become the go-to material for modern and contemporary styles because of their sleek appearance, superior strength and lifetime warranty.

Architect and contractor Dan Webster likes metal for its durability and brighter palette. “It lets us pick cool colors instead of gray and brown,” he says. He plays with green, charcoal, red and blue.

Because of metal’s higher cost — up to eight times that of composition — Webster occasionally uses metal as an accent on a portion of the roof, saving money and adding personality to that home.

Clay and slate

Drive through southern Johnson County, and you’ll get a sense of a different place and time. The well-traveled set return home from Europe and South America wanting to incorporate the feel of those places at home, with roofing materials.

Nothing speaks of a Mediterranean ambiance more than barrel clay roof tiles. On stucco homes made to look like Tuscan villas or Mexican haciendas with their arches, clay is a natural choice.

Slate, similarly, evokes the Old World. Ward Parkway’s corridor of Tudors are ideal complements, as are brick Colonials.

If you could live with one roof for the rest of your life — and your offspring’s life, for that matter — you should consider slate’s elegant, subdued shades of gray, black, green, red, even purple to grace your manse.

As Horstmann’s No. 1 pick for roofing, slate is called a lifetime roof because it lasts 50 to 100 years or more. It’s strong because it’s heavy, so you must have a structural engineer inspect your home to see if it can carry the weight.

Additionally, Horstmann notes, you need to choose an underlayment that won’t deteriorate before the slate tiles do, because the whole roof would have to come off to fix it. “Those are the only real downsides because they are gorgeous roofs,” she says.

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