Does the Sun Damage Your Roof?
Most of the time, we worry about storm damage to our roofs, but hot and persistent sun on a roof can also be a big issue, especially in areas with year-round sunshine and warm weather. Besides climate, the type of roof materials and how well it is constructed and maintained also play a big role in how well your roof holds up to the heat of the sun. Knowing how your roof is holding up on sunny days will also help ensure that your roof keeps protecting your home during the winter months when roof damage can result in leaks and mold that can damage your home.
Signs of Roof Damage from the Sun
Ultraviolet radiation makes up about 10% of the rays we get from the sun. You can’t see UV radiation, but these rays can damage your roof. In the case of asphalt shingles, the most popular roofing material, UV radiation causes the protective coating on the shingles to break down. Asphalt shingles are a petroleum product that degrades with long-term sun exposure. The shingles dry out, fade, and warp. If not dealt with, the damage leads to the possibility of water getting into and under the roof, and then into the attic and home.
How do you know if your roof has been damaged by the sun? The best way is to have a roofer inspect your roof annually as part of routine maintenance. A roofer will recognize damage you may miss, and they’ll be able to check areas that are hard for a homeowner to access.
Here are things to look out for:
Asphalt shingles are coated with granules that protect the shingles from the weather, including UV radiation, and also provide fire resistance. Over time, with exposure to UV radiation, heat, and other weather conditions, the coating breaks away, leaving the smooth surface of the shingle exposed and without protection from the weather.
Exposure to the sun causes some roof shingles or tiles to fade or bleach. The appearance of the roof degrades as the most exposed areas become lighter in color than shaded areas.
Shingles that have been dried out by the sun’s rays may warp and crack. The edges of the tiles begin to curl. When tiles can no longer lay flat on the roof, everything under them is exposed to the elements. Rain can flow into the openings. Wind may lift warped tiles and move or even blow them away, causing further damage. Warping can also create gaps around flashing, chimneys, or skylight enclosures, providing further opportunities for roof leaks.
If moisture seeps into gaps created by warping and cracking, the moisture will be heated as the sun beats down, further warping the roof and resulting in the growth of mold under the roof’s surface. The roof rafters and other areas of the home may also be damaged.
Your roof is not only bombarded by UV radiation, but it also receives UV light rays that heat up the roof. As they warm, shingles expand. Then, when night comes, the roof cools, and the tiles contract. This cycle of expansion and contraction can cause thermal shock that causes the roof materials to begin to break down. The result will be cracked and broken shingles. This effect is also seen on plastic and metal components, such as brackets and flashing. Years of exposure to these cycles without repairs will lead to leaks, mold, and potential frame damage.
If your roof is not properly installed, leaving loose shingles, gaps, or poor protection under the roof tiles, damage may be quicker and more severe. A poor roofer may fail to nail materials down correctly, causing them to warp and buckle. If flashing is not secured, damage occurs around that area, making roof failure in extreme temperatures more likely.
There are a lot of unlicensed contractors who may offer to build or repair a roof for less, but they don’t have the training and experience to do the work correctly. It’s important to use a licensed and insured roofer for any roof work. Professional roofers are trained in proper techniques, have the right tools, follow manufacturer guidelines and safety protocols, help you choose materials that best fit your locale and climate, and warranty their work and are insured.
Best Roofing Materials to Reduce Sun Damage
For homeowners in sunny climates, there are good choices for roofs that are well-suited to handle the heat and UV radiation. Asphalt tiles are the most popular choice in America, but they are generally less well-suited to sunny areas. As asphalt roofs age, the tiles are subject to the damage we discussed above. With recent advances in roof tile materials, many higher-end shingles have good coatings that resist UV radiation longer and will hold up better. Be sure to check with your roofer for the best choice for your area.
There are other choices for roofing materials in hot climates that handle the sun well and also offer beauty and durability. Most of these have been used in some form for centuries, and many of them last for decades or longer, even in the toughest climates. Here are a few roof materials that work well in hot climates, like here in Las Vegas:
Cement tiles are extremely resilient to heat. While they are a heavy roofing material, they are also tough and durable, making them resistant to most weather conditions, including sun and heat. In addition, cement tiles absorb the heat of the sun, which helps keep it from going through into the home, so the interior stays cooler. Available in many colors and styles, these tiles will not generally show damage from the sun, so they will look good for a long time. Correctly installed, they can last for many decades.
Clay tiles, also known as terracotta tiles, are made from natural materials and have been used for centuries to protect homes in warm climates. They may be glazed or unglazed. Similar to concrete tiles, they are very dense and resistant to moisture and heat. They help regulate temperature inside the home year-round. They generally come in traditional colors. They are not quite as durable as cement tiles but create a beautiful, traditional look for the home.
Metal roofing is one of the best materials to reflect back UV rays and the heat of the sun. This makes a metal roof one of the most energy-efficient roofing choices. Properly installed, metal roofs, including zinc, copper, and steel, hold up well to the sun and provide many decades of service. They are also beautiful and add value to the home.
Cool roofing includes a number of roof types that emphasize energy efficiency and hold up well in the sun. Choices include solar roofing and green roofing. Cool roofing also includes painting roofs white or lighter colors. This allows the roof to reflect back the UV rays and heat of the sun. The roof absorbs fewer damaging rays, and the home stays cooler inside. Cool roofing technology is becoming more popular and widespread for its energy efficiency qualities.
Annual Roof Inspection
Whatever kind of roof you have, being proactive in caring for it will help your roof last longer and reduce the risk of costly repairs. Having your roofer do an annual inspection of your roof will catch small issues early and keep your roof in its best condition to handle all types of weather.
If you’ve noticed any roof damage or have an aging roof, be sure your roof will be ready for summer in Las Vegas. Give Prestige Roofing a call at 702-646-7536 for a free roof inspection.
Tom Romney has been working in the roofing industry for over 25 years. He is the co-founder of Prestige Roofing in North Las Vegas, providing luxury custom roofing services for homes and businesses in Southern Nevada, Utah and Arizona.