Learn about roofing materials made to withstand high winds. Find out the difference between wind-resistant roofing and traditional asphalt shingles. Also learn about installation and cost.
LESLIE: When a storm rolls through, it’s important to check your home for damage. Now, the most common type of storm damage  is probably going to be a torn roof or torn roofing shingles.
TOM: Well, that’s right. And if this has ever happened to you, you might be happy to learn that there is a solution. There are roofing materials available that are made to withstand extremely high winds. Here to tell us more is Tom Silva , the general contractor for TV’s This Old House .
TOM SILVA: Well, thanks, guys. Nice to be here, as always.
TOM: So, what is the difference between sort of a standard asphalt shingle and one that’s categorized as being more wind-resistant ?
TOM SILVA: Well, the adhesive underneath the tab of the shingle or the type of shingle and the weight of the shingle.
TOM SILVA: Also, the way that it is fastened. You usually have to use, oh, a couple more nails per shingle. And you usually nail them closer to the reveal or the part of the shingle that you see.
TOM: So it’s both a special shingle and a more conservative installation approach.
TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yeah, yeah.
TOM: And some of these shingles, I’ve seen ratings where it could stand up to 130 miles an hour, which seems insane. I don’t know if the rest of the house could take that but good news is your roof will be intact.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. Yeah, well, that’s always good to have a roof when – especially when it’s raining.
LESLIE: And I feel like if you’re going to all of these steps to have specialty shingles because of, you know, a wind situation, what about underlayments or flashing? Do you need to go that step, as well, and really upgrade those?
TOM SILVA: I believe that no matter what kind of a roof you’re going to put on there – whether or not you’re in a high-wind area or just a standard roof – the underlayment is key. You want to make sure that you use a good underlayment. You want to make sure that you use a recommended underlayment by the manufacturer. They also have underlayments that are self-sealing membranes that if the roof blows off, it won’t leak anyways because of that membrane that’s under there.
Now, they have a couple of different types of those membranes. There’s a kind that doesn’t have any protection on it at all. And those self-sealing membranes have to be protected by the shingle themselves.
TOM: And that’s because if they weren’t covered by the shingles, they would just be exposed and break down because of the sun, correct?
TOM SILVA: Right. The UV will break it down.
TOM SILVA: But they have a self-sealing membrane with a granule on it. That granule protects it from the sun and it’s also less slippery for the guy that’s installing it, when they’re walking on it. So if that roof should blow off, you’re protected; you don’t have to worry about jumping up and redoing the roof or protecting that, because it’s not going to break down.
TOM: And if you keep the water out, your home is that much more protected structurally, of course.
TOM SILVA: Oh, absolutely. You don’t have to worry about mold, you don’t have to worry about insulation getting ruined, you don’t have to worry about it wrecking your drywall. So, the water is the enemy, that’s for sure.
TOM: And when we’re talking about underlayment, most people would be thinking about tar paper. But tar paper gives you almost no protection, correct?
TOM SILVA: Tar paper is a separation between the underside of the roof shingle and the surface of the sheathing. It does some collection of condensation but originally, it was started years ago. They used felt paper to protect the roof from breaking down from the pine that was in the pine boards, because they didn’t have plywood then. But it was basically a release so the shingles would slip. It’s still good to use a felt underlayment, though, of some type.
LESLIE: So if you’re considering a new roof, why not consider wind-resistant shingles , regardless of where you are? And if this is your step, do you put it over your existing roofing shingle or do you just start from scratch?
TOM SILVA: Well, let me answer the last question first. I don’t roof over any roof with a wind-resistant shingle or a standard shingle. I think it’s crazy to do that. It’s a – you’re going to have to pay to get rid of the shingles eventually anyways. If you’re just shingling because you want to shingle a house because you’re going to move, well, I still wouldn’t do it. I would strip off the roof, put the new shingles on. That way, I can check the condition of the sheathing, see if anything has to be repaired. And you’re lightening the load of the existing structure anyways.
LESLIE: And considering these high-wind shingles are more heavy …
TOM SILVA: They’re much more heavy.
TOM: And this way, you can really evaluate the structure and then attach it properly, because so much of this is making sure the installation is done correct. And if you’re trying to nail those through into old shingles, you’re just not going to have that same bite with the fasteners.
TOM SILVA: Yeah. No, I wouldn’t do it. Simple as that.
TOM: Good advice. Now, what about other roofing materials that might be suitable for high-wind areas ? Metal roofs? Tile roofs? What do you think?
TOM SILVA: Well, a tile roof – for example, a composite roof shingle – they’re heavier, they’re stiffer. A wood roof, for example, is great because it doesn’t have very much flex in it at all. Again, the thickness of the shingle makes a big difference, too. We use a lot of wood roofs by the water, by the ocean, because of the wind; they don’t blow off. But you want to use a thicker shingle. You don’t want to use a sidewall wood shingle.
Metal roofs work good but again, they may require extra fasteners and you want to make sure that you use a heavy-gauge metal as opposed to the lighter-gauge metal. Because once the wind gets it, it’s going to roll back and fold.
TOM: Yeah, like a tin can, right?
LESLIE: Hmm. Peel it right back.
TOM: Peel it right back.
Good advice. Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, good tips on how to make sure that your roof stays put, regardless of where you live and how much wind you get. Thanks, Tommy.
TOM SILVA: Thank you. It was my pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.