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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
6808 McLean Province Circle
6806 McLean Province Circle