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Kansas City Roof Types And Inspection

The Subject Of Roofs Can Be A Slippery Slope

There are 5 major areas in every home.  And no matter how big or how old the home, they’re always the same:

1. Foundation
2. Plumbing
3. Roof
4. Electrical

These 5 areas also make up our Major-Items Inspection and form the basis of our discussion at the end of every inspection because they not only mean the most to me, but to all potential homeowners.

Especially the roof since it protects you, increases property value, and helps your home stay energy efficient.

Damage to old roofs and the cost to replace them are some of the biggest deal-breakers homebuyers face.

And depending on the style, age, price range, and location of the home, Kansas City roofs can vary from flat, 3-tab asphalt, wood, and architectural asphalt, to metal, concrete, clay, and slate.

Let’s talk about the roof types you’ll find.

Flat roof

A flat roof isn’t actually flat. It has a slight angle toward the drain.

But since it holds snow and water alot longer than a pitched roof types, it takes a different material to keep it watertight.

The three most common you’ll find are rubber, tar, and asphalt.

Lifespan: 5-10 actual years

flat roof
3-tab builders grade

3-tab asphalt (aka builder’s grade or contractor’s grade)

This is the lowest price, lowest quality asphalt shingle you can find and something most contractors wouldn’t put on their own home. 

It’s thin and doesn’t do a great job deflecting hail or other damage so it wears, tears, and damages easily.

But, it does give you decent protection from wind shear and wind-driven rain.

This shingle is ready to b replaced when it’s old enough to drive.

Lifespan:  12-15 actual years

Wood shingle or shake

Wood shingles are rustic, handsome (when they’re shiny and new), lightweight, insulate better than 3-tab, and strong (only 1/3 of each shingle is exposed).

However, we’re talking about wood here. That means it’s also a high maintenance fire hazard (a risky and expensive pairing for most neighborhoods and insurance companies).

Lack of attention means:

  • Squirrel damage
  • Woodpecker damage
  • Rot
  • Clogging
  • Splitting
  • Moss
  • Fungus (especially on the North face and areas shaded by trees)

Another common problem is when a layer of asphalt shingles get installed on top.

This is a big no-no for insurance companies because it mixes roofing materials which makes the shingles wavy and reduces the life of the roof. This happens more often than it should.

Lifespan: 15-25 actual years

good wood shingles
worn and neglected wood shingles
architectural shingles


This is a big upgrade over 3-tab, but only costs about 20% more.

It was originally designed to be used in larger, higher-end homes and is lighter, higher quality, and thicker so it deflects hail and other impacts better than 3-tab.

They also managed to keep it low maintenance and created a ton of shapes and colors, including cedar shingle and slate.

Lifespan: 25-35 actual years


Metal roofs are interesting since they can become lightweight and durable versions of weaker materials.

They’re also made from 25%-95% recycled content, energy efficient, stylish, durable, lightweight, fire resistant, great for snow, and last a long time, which makes them a popular choice during re-roofing in cold climates.

However, metal roofs are also expensive and can be noisy. It can also sometimes bend or dent under a person’s weight.

Lifespan: 50-70 actual years

metal roof
concrete roof


Concrete roofs are durable and can mimic other materials like wood, slate, and clay. It’s also fire resistant (clearly), eco-friendly, rot-resistant, while also being resistant to extreme temperatures and high winds.

But this material is also very heavy, high maintenance, and expensive ($400-$1k per sq.ft.).

Lifespan: 35-50 actual years

Clay tile

This roof type is beautiful and strong. It’s also easy to maintain, never loses color, environmentally friendly, withstands high winds, energy efficient, low maintenance, and will outlive your home.

Used in temperate climates like the Southwest because it can become brittle in extreme temperatures, it’s also heavy, tends to break when impacted, and is very expensive ($650-$1400 per sq.ft.)

Lifespan: 75-100 actual years

clay roof
slate roof


This is one of the most attractive, highest-quality, longest-lasting roofing materials that can last hundreds – even thousands – of years. It’s also fire resistant and environmentally friendly.

But the installation is also easy to fudge, it’s heavy, brittle, and super expensive ($6k-$8k per square – this means a 2,500 sq.ft. roof costs $150k-$200k)

Lifespan: 100+ years

The Checking Of The Roof (The Roof Inspection)

I’m sure you’re asking yourself…

”Does this yahoo actually walk on the roof?” 

I’ll give you the same answer I give the ball pit guy when he asks his question…Yes, every chance I get.

There are some things like rain, snow, ice, height, steepness, and fragile material that get in the way (we don’t walk on wood, clay, concrete, and metal), but aside from that, the best way to check a roof  types is to just get up there and walk around.

This lets us feel the wood beneath the shingles and get a close-up look at the important areas (some things you just can’t see any other way).

But the roof types inspection actually begins on the ground with the downspouts, gutters, fascias, soffits, and rake boards.

Next, we get on the roof (if possible) and check the gutters again.

Then we walk the roof in one of two ways:  Either a back-and-forth pattern or an ‘M’ pattern.

This is the best way to find soft, crunchy, wavy, uneven, and bouncy areas that show us where to pay close attention once when we’re inside the home.

This also lets us check for:

  • Poor craftsmanship
  • Loose shingles
  • Cracks
  • Tears
  • Breaks
  • Cupping
  • Curling
  • Moss
  • Patches
  • Fungus
  • Clogging
  • Blistering
  • Alligator cracking (yes, it’s a thing)
  • Missing granules
  • And the big daddy – hail damage

We also check:

  • Flashings
  • Base of walls
  • Areas that change direction
  • Anything that goes through the roof
  • Anything that attaches to the roof
  • Anything that comes within 6 feet of the roof
  • Valleys
  • Chimneys
  • Drip edges
  • Ventilation
  • Water heater vents
  • Furnace vents
  • Plumbing vents

Side notes:

  1. The most important sides of the roof are the South and West sides because they make the most contact with sun, wind, rain, and hail.
  2. The North side stays wet longer than the others, which is why you see moss and fungus grow on this side of the home (on the roof and siding).  Fungus might be ugly, but it can be cleaned, which makes it mostly a cosmetic issue.

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