SF Apartment : May 2017


Raise the Roof

by Barry Murrin

In my 25 years in the roofing industry, including 15 years as owner of Northern Pacific Roofing, I’ve never considered roofing to be trendy or a particularly sexy subject. We’ve been categorized as a business of necessity, not a business of glamour or extravagance. Even just speaking about roofing has been known to induce a forlorn glazing of the eyes as homeowners patiently wait for me to deliver an estimate.

Now though, with the advent of wildly popular HGTV shows highlighting an elevated aesthetic for almost every home design element—from man caves to she sheds—roofing, too, eh-hem, has arrived in the spotlight.

Despite this new popularity, roofing is still one of the least-considered components of a home, even though it is one of the most important parts of a home. A roof doesn’t typically register on a person’s radar when building their dream home—until it’s too late. Many clients have hindsight vision when water begins to leak, energy costs soar, or the shingles are snatched into the abyss by a violent windstorm. While the roof is the first line of defense against wind, rain, hail, extreme heat and, bite your tongue, fire, it is also the most vulnerable.

With the above in mind, the most important factors are still the same when replacing your roof: Stick to the basics and do your homework. Hire a reputable contractor known for quality workmanship and materials to secure your investment, while at the same time making sure they are in the know on the latest and greatest technologies and aesthetic trends.

What’s Trending

These roof styles, from the tried-and-true to the cutting edge, are at the top of our list.

Flat Roofs

This is not your grandmother’s tar and gravel flat roof. Design is cyclical: everything old becomes new again. Popular during the midcentury modern design era, this style is now coveted by minimalists and design-savvy homeowners seeking clean lines and simple solutions. The flat roof is making a comeback in all the hippest neighborhoods. Not only is this one of the hottest design styles, but also these low/no slope-roofing systems (installed by reputable firms) have proven to outperform just about every roofing product on the market.

Asphalt Shingles

Variety is the new black. Yes, believe it or not, asphalt shingles come in more than black. Choose from a wide palette of colors to complement your home’s exterior with a subtle look or to add a pop of color and improve your curb appeal. Another plus? Asphalt shingles are relatively affordable and installation is speedy. With a lifetime of approximately 30 to 50 years, depending on climate, asphalt shingles are budget friendly, making room for your pricy morning latte habit.

On a technical note, asphalt shingles overwhelmingly dominate a majority of the U.S. market—but not all shingles are created equally. Quality can vary widely, and the National Roofing Contractors Association recommends using shingles, both organic and fiberglass, that comply with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. These standards govern the composition and physical properties of asphalt shingles and are an important detail when choosing asphalt roofing. Believe it or not, not all asphalt shingles on the market comply with these standards. Make absolutely sure that your contractor complies with the highest recommended safety standards.

Clay and Concrete Roofing Tiles

Tiles last significantly longer than asphalt (50-plus years with proper maintenance). They’re attractive and usually found on architecturally specific homes: think Mediterranean, Mission style, or new construction. Tile roofs offer a uniform look and cap off a small condo project or subdivision with a touch of class. Tiles are significantly heavier than asphalt shingles, so make sure you verify the structure can handle the extra load. Price-wise, these fall into the mid-range price point.


Slate roofs are often compared to concrete roofs because they’re considered the most durable and longest lasting. Some have even claimed slate roofs are virtually indestructible. Often seen on the stateliest of homes, slate comes in a variety of colors and grades, depending on where it was quarried. Special skills are needed to install slate roofing and not every roofing contractor will take on such a project. Besides offering gold star durability, slate offers subtle sophistication with traditional and classic lines. Yes, slate may be more of a splurge in the short term, but it will probably end up saving you money in the long game. And, like the classic Audrey Hepburn, slate is ageless and always on trend. Expect to be at the top of your budget with this choice.

Eco-Friendly Roofs

Solar panels, living roofs and energy-efficient roofs are rapidly expanding throughout the Bay Area. Environmentally conscious consumers who are eager to lower energy bills, reduce their carbon footprints, and more consciously consume are demanding that manufacturers offer alternatives to traditional roofing options.

Manufacturers are responding positively, offering more Energy Star, recyclable, and eco-friendly materials. Leading in the green category is solar. Previously seen only on occasion, in recent years, solar panels have accelerated into the mainstream and are now the norm. Collaboration between roofing contractors and solar contractors has simplified the process, taking the guesswork out for building owners. A process that once held so many questions has become a transparent integration process.

For those who want to literally “go green,” a rooftop garden is a perfect choice to adorn a flat roof made with Energy Star, eco-friendly and/or recyclable materials. Planting rooftop greenery helps keep energy bills in check and reputable roofing contractors can consult about the best options (waterproof membranes and appropriate roofing materials) to achieve your field of greens. Nearly everything plantable is on the menu, but native and self-seeding plants are the easiest to maintain.

Roofing Costs

How much does a car cost? Varies, right? Are you looking for something economical, sensible and practical? Or do you want to go all out for the Tesla? Just as car shopping is not one-size-fits-all, neither is roof shopping. Prices vary widely depending on the materials, style, contractor, location of the building, as well as local labor rates. The best advice is to obtain three to four proposals from reputable contractors. Insist on detailed written proposals and examine for completeness and specifications including completion times.

Compare the proposals while keeping in mind that price is not the sole factor. If you see an unusually low bid, question the quality of the materials. If the bid is sky high, question what extras the contractor may be considering that are unique to your project.

Choosing a Contractor

While it’s fashionable to be on trend, style means nothing unless the integrity of the roof is sound. Remember that old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Well, this is a situation where it aptly applies. Before signing a contract, know the facts. Research your roofing contractor and make sure you base your decision on the merits and reputation of the company. Are they able to deliver the goods on time, on budget, and at the quality level you demand?

When choosing a roofing contractor, specifically require that they:

  • have verification that the company is licensed, bonded and insured;
  • have a proven track record of delivering on their promises and workmanship;
  • have solid, verifiable references;
  • are members of regional or national industry associations, giving merit to their commitment to professionalism;
  • are in good standing with the local Better Business Bureau;
  • review and explain roofing warranties and note provisions that may void them.

Throughout my years of owning and operating Northern Pacific Roofing, I have seen vast changes in style, quality of materials, and technological advances.

I’ve seen companies come and go and style trends ebb and flow. Make sure you chose a contractor with evidence of success, unwavering commitment, knowledge of innovative products, and a well-trained staff. This initial legwork will result in a win/win for everyone.

Barry Murrin is the owner of Northern Pacific Roofing located in San Rafael, California. His company has completed more than 4000 residential and commercial roofs throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Barry can be reached at Barry@Northernpacificroofing.com or 415-456-3482.