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posted: 3/30/2013 6:00 AM

Roofing practices evolve for better protection

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  • Betsy Kosowski, who along with husband Marvin owns Kosowski Roofing, brings the couple's dogs, Phoebe and Okii, when she estimates jobs.

    Betsy Kosowski, who along with husband Marvin owns Kosowski Roofing, brings the couple's dogs, Phoebe and Okii, when she estimates jobs.
    courtesy of Kosowski Roofing

  • The Kosowskis chose to top their home with a unique red color shingle.

    The Kosowskis chose to top their home with a unique red color shingle.
    courtesy of Kosowski Roofing

By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

The importance of keeping a roof over one's head has been well documented in literature for centuries. Everyone needs a place to take shelter during adverse weather conditions, so it makes sense.

But those benefits are much decreased if the roof in question is leaky or lets the cold winds blow in. You can't stay cozy and warm in your home during the winter or cool as a cucumber in the summer if your roof is faulty. So, it is important to make the correct decision when you are installing a new roof, according to Betsy Kosowski, vice president and co-owner of Marvin F. Kosowski and Company, Inc., a roofing company based in Barrington.

Marvin Kosowski sold his first roof in 1974. At the time he primarily worked on the North Shore and was based in Des Plaines. A decade later, he met Betsy, an employee at a Des Plaines-based engineering firm, and the two became business partners. Shortly thereafter, they married and in 1997 they moved the business to Barrington.

"Most of our work today is in the Northwest suburbs like Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Niles, Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates, Wauconda and Lake Zurich. But we still do work from referrals on the North Shore in places like Highland Park, Wilmette and Winnetka," Betsy explained.

"We are in very good standing with all of the local municipalities and the Better Business Bureau and we are included on Angie's List and the Chicago Consumer Checkbook," she continued.

"We take care of our customers and faithfully honor our 10-year workmanship guarantee," Betsy said. "But most importantly, our employees work exclusively for us and do a great, reliable job, so I'm not afraid to answer the office phone when it is raining."

If you haven't put a new roof on a house in many years, you will be surprised by the changes. For instance, almost no one puts a new roof over an existing roof anymore. Tearing off the existing roof is always preferable so that the wood underneath can be checked and replaced, if necessary, and so that the new shingles can be applied correctly, according to Betsy. A few towns even require tear-offs.

In addition, the old three-tab shingles have been almost completely replaced by architectural shingles which give a home more character and architectural interest.

These new shingles also offer increased longevity, wind resistance and some increase in hail resistance, thanks to their extra mass and the way they are layered on a roof.  Typically, architectural shingles are tested to withstand a minimum of 70 mph winds, with many being tested to hold up to 80 and 90 mph winds. The standard three-tab shingle is tested to only 60 mph winds.

"Architectural shingles have much more curb appeal than traditional shingles," Betsy explained. "Traditional shingles were installed to look like bricks with vertical slots. Architectural shingles have no vertical slots so they look much more interesting."

Modern shingles have also been treated with a chemical that resists staining and algae, which have become common problems in the area. Big streaks on aging roofs, interestingly, are generally caused by algae growth on the limestone in the shingles, she stated.

Municipal codes also now require that ice and water shields be installed either three or six feet up from the gutters, all around the roof. These shields are used to protect sloped roofs from water penetration due to wind-driven rain and water backup resulting from ice dams. They also offer leak protection in trouble-prone spots like valleys, skylights, protrusions and other flashing areas.

When it comes to color choices, it is still a personal preference, Betsy said. Most people choose something in an earth tone or weathered wood color likes tans, browns and grays. Black roofs are still popular on colonial-style homes, but that color attracts more heat in the summer, so some shy away from it for energy conservation reasons.

Green and red are also occasionally chosen, but they have to fit the style of the particular home.

Kosowski does not install wood shake roofs, but they do tear them off occasionally, Betsy said.

"People don't realize that, besides being very expensive, wood shake roofs become breeding grounds for hornets and termites. We tore one off last year and it was loaded with hornets," she recalled. "They also have to be resealed every two to three years at a very high cost. If you don't reseal them, they will rot and won't hold up to our extremes of hot and cold in Chicago."

"If it is installed correctly, the average shingle roof in Chicago should last 21 to 25 years. People may say, 'I have a shingle with a 30-year warranty,' but what they don't realize is all of the variables that affect a roof, like ventilation, weather and even tree branches rubbing on the roof," Betsy explained.

"If you have a problem with storm damage," she continued, "beware of the roofers who come to your door and claim that they see hail damage from the street. No one can do that. These guys are usually storm chasers who come in from out of state and leave when the work decreases, leaving those homeowners high and dry when problems develop in a year or two. If you think you might have a problem, call a local roofer and keep the money here because local roofers will be here to honor their warranties."

"We don't ring doorbells and solicit business. Even if we drive by and see that someone needs a new roof, we don't leave our card or anything. Your roof is none of our business until you call and ask us for an estimate," Betsy said.

Kosowski also installs gutters, roof vents, sheet metal chimneys, flashing, cupolas and weather vanes.

For more information about Kosowski Roofing, call (847) 304-1850.

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