December 29, 2001




Board of Directors
McLean Province Homeowners Association
P.O. Box 8134
McLean, VA 22106
Dear Members of the Board:

We request permission to replace the cedar shake roofs on our homes in the McLean Province townhouse community with asphalt shingles. In accordance with your requirements, enclosed please find copies of your form "Request for Review by the Architecture Review Committee" that both of the signatories to this letter have individually completed.
Asphalt shingles are available in a wide range of colors and styles, as well as prices. The least expensive have regularly spaced tabs and uniform coloration, such as the roofing now required for use on McLean Province III townhouses. Others purport to suggest cedar shakes (or slate) by using color to suggest shadows and hence depth. Still others use both color and actual depth of layered, irregular tabs to imitate thicker roofing products. We have samples of various kinds of roofing material that we would be pleased to present for your inspection.
We request your permission to use grey asphalt shingles. We suggest that the Board institute a requirement that replacement asphalt shingles be grey, and allow individual homeowners to select the shade of grey that best suits their tastes and home color. We think that McLean Province, with its staggered roof lines, would look attractive capped with roofs in varying shades of grey and textures. If the Board were to instead require a particular roofing product and color, aesthetic problems could arise in the future if the color or style ceased to be manufactured or if a homeowner wanted to use a substitute product from a different manufacturer. Nevertheless, if you wished to specify a color other than grey or to mandate a particular type of asphalt shingle, we would acquiesce in your decision.
We are strenuously opposed, however, to the requirement that McLean Province I and II homeowners re-roof their homes using cedar shake roofing material.
Our objections to cedar shake roofing are based on its short life, high installation cost, time-consuming and costly maintenance requirements, dangerous combustibility, vulnerability to damage from roof walkers, conduciveness to pests, and harm to the environment.

Lifespan

The roof at 6808 McLean Province Circle needs replacement. The roof at this location was totally replaced in the summer of 1990. It was one of the first McLean Province roofs replaced due to the FRT plywood problem. A decade later, the roof again needs replacement.
The roof at 6806 McLean Province Circle was totally replaced, again due to the FRT plywood problem, a few years after the roof at 6808. Roofers advise that, if repairs estimated to cost between $600 and $900 are undertaken now, the roof can be made to last 1 additional year.
The writers believe that at least 3 other homes have already been totally re-roofed in the last year or two. These roofs are the leading edge of a looming community-wide need to replace deteriorating cedar roofs in McLean Province.
In contrast to the one-decade lifespan of the cedar shake roofing, the economy type of asphalt shingles are warranted to last 20 years. More expensive asphalt shingles variously carry 25, 30, 40, and "Lifetime of the Structure" warranties.

Installation Cost

The quotes we have received from roofers to re-roof our homes with cedar shake (which will last 10-15 years maximum) range from $4225 to $5575 for the lowest grade of cedar shake. The quotes we have received from roofers to re-roof our homes with asphalt shingles range from a low of $2025 for a product carrying a 25-year warranty, past $2892 for a product carrying a 40-year warranty, to a high of $3467 for a product carrying a lifetime warranty. Please note that, as discussed under the next heading, cedar shake roofs also entail additional ongoing maintenance costs; asphalt roofs do not.

Maintenance

The higher installation cost of cedar shake is not its only cost. When we expressed to various roofers our incredulity that our roofs needed replacing so soon, they explained that this was entirely normal. They explained that the maximum possible lifespan of a cedar roof is 15 years under optimal conditions Optimal conditions included annual inspection, cleaning, and shake replacement every year after year five of the roof's life. This ongoing maintenance is expensive: we were given quotes ranging from $656 to $965 for performing a service characterized as a "cedar shake tune-up. Arranging roofing repairs taxes a homeowner's time. It can also tax the homeowner's emotions, when missing shakes threaten a water leak and roofers simply are not available for speedy work.
The height of our homes and the narrowness of our streets make roof inspection difficult for a homeowner. When a shake falls on the ground, it is impossible to determine whether the shake has fallen from the homeowner's roof or from a neighbor's roof. A roofer must be hired to make the determination.
In addition to replacing broken or missing shakes, homeowners intent upon preserving their cedar roofs (and their homes) can also engage roofers to periodically re-apply chemical preservative and fire retardant treatments. The preservative helps to retard the rot which occurs when cedar shakes cannot fully dry out between soakings. (The Fairfax County building code requires roofing paper which, when in direct contact with the cedar shakes, impairs the ability of the shakes to dry out.
The moisture problem caused by the roofing paper can be avoided by installing the shakes on strips that create an air pocket between the paper and the shakes. This installation method is expensive and its cost is not reflected in the price quotes presented earlier. This type of installation also leaves the roof especially vulnerable to damage by servicemen walking on the roof.) With respect to fire retardant treatments, please consider the following.

Fire Hazard

Cedar shake roofs are highly combustible. Asphalt roofs are not. The Fairfax County building code requires that cedar shakes be factory-treated with a fire retardant. Accordingly to a representative of the Fairfax County Fire Marshall's Office, the protective value of the fire retardant is lost within two years.
Roofers can be hired to semi-annually apply more fire retardant (thereby increasing the already substantial periodic maintenance costs of cedar shake roofing). Asphalt shingles carry Underwriter Laboratories Class A fire rating, the best available for any roofing material. The fire rating for the cedar shake to be used in connection with the previously cited $5575 cedar re- roofing installation estimate is Class C.
The owner of a single family house covered with cedar shakes assumes the risk of burning his own house down if the house's fireplace is used. In a townhouse development, a spark blowing from the chimney of a home using its fireplace is just as likely to ignite the roof of a hapless neighbor who refrains from fireplace use due to a fear of roof ignition.
The NFPA (formerly known as the National Fire Protection Association) has analyzed thousands of fires reported to local fire departments in which a wood roof was the first element of the structure to ignite. Of those fires occurring between 1994 and 1998, 19.3 stemmed from what the NFPA calls "exposure to a hostile fire," such as a flying spark or ember. Another 15.7 occurred as a result of lightening. When a fire originates elsewhere in the structure, the NFPA notes that a wood roof serves to provide additional fuel to the fire.
Roof Walkers
Cedar shake roofs are exceedingly vulnerable to damage. The shakes become increasingly brittle as they age. When cedar shake roofs are walked on, the shakes crack and break. It is very difficult to engage a gutter cleaner who will set up his ladder twice in the front yard and in the back yard; instead, they want to set up the ladder once in the front and walk over the roof to reach the rear gutter. This damages the roof. When a house is painted, the painter must walk on the adjacent neighbor's roof in order to paint the sidewall siding under the staggered roof lines. This also damages the roof.
Pests
One roofer described cedar roofs as "bug farms." Many roofers refuse to install cedar roofs. Many of those roofers also decline jobs that involve removal of an old cedar shake roof prior to installation of new asphalt shingles. This is because of the slipperiness and the hideously gross insect-infested nature of the old cedar roofing.
Silverfish infestation is a common problem in the McLean Province community. The owner of 6808 McLean Province saw first-hand, during a roofing repair, the teeming masses of silverfish under the cedar shakes.
The roofers we consulted informed us that, in addition to silverfish, mites and earwigs commonly infest cedar roofing. Birds will peck at the roofs in order to obtain an insect meal.
Another common McLean Province community-wide pest problem concerns squirrels in the attic. Roofers explained that cedar roofs lack a drip edge, so installation leaves a natural gap between the roof sheathing and the fascia. Homeowners who subsequently suffer a squirrel invasion try to remedy the problem by covering the gap with metal mesh. The roofers explained that asphalt roof installation entails a drip edge snugly installed against the sheathing and fascia that eliminates the squirrels' ingress to the attic. Adcock's Trapping Service advised the owner of 6808 McLean Province Circle that the lack of a drip edge allowed squirrels to enter and colonize her attic.

Environmental Harm

Cedar shakes are manufactured from trees harvested from the Pacific Coast rainforests. The highest quality cedar shakes are obtained from the heartwood of cedar trees that are over 100 years old. People concerned with the proper stewardship of rainforests and old growth forests object to the harvesting of cedar trees for such a short-lived product as cedar roofing.

Conclusion

A roofer offered us a nutshell description of the difference between asphalt and cedar roofing. He explained that a house roofed with asphalt shingles is protected from moisture by the shingles. He explained that a house roofed with cedar shakes is protected from moisture only by the roofing paper; on this roof, the job of the cedar shakes is to protect the paper from the sun and wind. In contrast to the water-shedding nature of asphalt shingles, cedar shakes absorb moisture.
Cedar roofing is highly combustible and conducive to pests; asphalt shingle roofing is not. A cedar shake roof has a short lifespan, coupled with an exceptionally high installation price and expensive regular maintenance and repair needs. An asphalt roof is significantly cheaper to install and has a long lifespan with no such regular maintenance or repair needs. Over a thirty-year period, in additional to countless headaches and demands on a homeowner's time, a cedar roof can entail financial costs over six times greater than an asphalt roof.
Cedar shake is a grossly inferior roofing material. We believe that people who choose it do so on account of an aesthetic consideration. We believe, however, for three reasons that aesthetic considerations should not be the compelling consideration when you make a decision on our request to approve asphalt roofing. First, roofs are not a prominent part of the community's appearance because the height of McLean Province homes and the narrowness of our streets make the roofs difficult to see. Second, McLean Province III already uses, and is currently required to continue to use, asphalt roofing. Third, since all the old cedar roofs in McLean Province I and II will need to be replaced within the next 1-5 years, roofing uniformity (if that is desired) can be achieved quickly.
We urge your favorable consideration of our request to re-roof your properties with asphalt shingles. We would be pleased to show you display samples of various alternative types and colors of asphalt shingles to assist your decision-making.


Sincerely,

Susan Burnett
6808 McLean Province Circle

Anne Pace
6806 McLean Province Circle

 

 

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