I was in Pasadena, Calif., a few years back, waiting for my wife's business trip to end so she, the boys and I could head to the Grand Canyon for a camping trip.
To kill some time, I walked around town looking at the houses. Pasadena is a veritable museum of Arts and Crafts style houses dating from the early 1900s.
It also is perpetually under construction, as is most of Southern California, so I got to see a lot of houses being built.
What held the most fascination for me was the tile roof. We have a few Spanish-style houses back East that date from the 1920s, and many of them have tile roofs.
Unlike the mild Southwest, however, houses in the East have to handle the weight of snow. Tiles tend to get brittle as they age and need replacing, just as all roofing material, and they often develop cracks -- as water gets into the cracks, the liquid freezes and then expands, causing the tile to break.
A tile roof is also rather heavy. That's not saying you can't use tile roofing in the East, it just means that you have to take the weather into consideration.
I bring this up only because autumn is one of two times each year that people even bother to think about their roofs, unless they are leaking, of course.
The other is the spring, especially if the roof hasn't performed that well during the winter snows of the East and the rains of the West.
It has been a rough summer for roofs, especially in Florida, which has been hit four times by hurricanes and tropical storms.
The latest building codes adopted in states that are prone to hurricanes, if they are enforced, of course, will likely reduce the amount of damage that wind and heavy rains will do to houses, especially roofs.
This is small comfort to homeowners who have lost everything to these recent storms, but it may mean -- and there are no guarantees when weather is involved -- that deciding to rebuild will not simply invite more trouble.
The next question is, of course, what is the best roofing material for your climate?
For that, I looked at some guidelines provided by the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), a national organization supported by insurance and reinsurance companies, works to reduce social and economic losses caused by natural disasters, as well as my own experience repairing roofs.
There are four materials other than tile in general use. One such material is asphalt shingles reinforced with fiberglass. They are relatively low cost, easy to install and are highly resistant to fire. They should be used in regions where hailstorms occur.
Asphalt shingles have wind warranties of up to 130 miles per hour available, if shingle installation meets the manufacturer's requirements.
How long do asphalt shingles last? Manufacturers used to say that the shingles, properly installed, would survive 15 to 25 years. These days, many manufacturers are producing high-end asphalt shingles that come with 50-year warranties.
Metal roofing has been around for a long time, but what was used in the old days was inferior to the modern version, which often comes with a 30-year guarantee. The old metal roofing, often called terne, needed to be painted with a substance called Tin-O-Lin every seven to eight years to keep it from corroding.
The material is popular for low and steep-sloped roofs.
The IBHS points out that while metal roofs often receive cosmetic damage in hailstorms, there are metal products rated for higher impact.
They also are highly fire resistant. For example, in places such as Reno, Nev., metal roofs are required on buildings constructed along the tree line.
Metal is typically two to three times the cost of asphalt shingles.
Then there is slate, which comes from the Northeast and Virginia and lasts 75 years or more, which means that it outlasts just about every kind of roofing material. It is strong, so strong that hail would have to be the size of cannonballs to put a dent in it.
It remains the costliest of roofing materials and requires skilled roofers to install it. For many years, homeowners with slate roofs, especially in the Northeast, had a difficult time finding roofers who would repair slate roofs. Instead, the roofers would use roofing tar to repair the shingle, which was a Band-Aid at best.
Thanks to TV shows such as This Old House, slate has come into its own again. It is a very heavy material, which means the roof structure needs to be able to hold a lot of weight.
Finally, there's wood -- good in dry climates, although it can suffer a lot of damage in hailstorms and, unless it is treated with a retardant at the factory, it is not fire-resistant.