Why Black is a Horrible Color for a Roof

Black roofs put fashion over function and are a horrible choice for energy. There are ethical reasons to choose a lighter color as well. Ask yourself these important questions before making a horrible decision:

  1. Do I want the color because it’s in fashion right now?
  2. If so, would you mind changing the color of the roof once this fashion trend changes?
  3. What is your resale of a house with a dated roof?
  4. Will a cost-minded and energy efficiency-minded millennial, which is that generation’s predisposition, consider buying a house they knew was inefficient?
  5. Do I mind having a very hot house where I have to pay a higher energy bill for the life of the roof?
  6. Do you mind having a roof that, because it heats up faster, will not last as long?
  7. Are you comfortable with the ethics of selling a home to another person knowing that you are passing along a problematic roof to an unsuspecting buyer when that time comes to sell your home?

These are all important questions and it’s also important to go into a situation like this knowing why most contractors are happy to put a black roof on your home.  In short, it’s easier to put on in cooler weather since the temperature absorbs heat and it will be more comfortable for installers to put them on in the cold.  Also, you have to understand the anatomy of a shingle to understand that the black granules on top will match the black asphalt which repels water.  If a black roof goes on, you will not be able to tell any flaws or scrapes or even scuffing that strips off the black granules, leaving exposed asphalt.

Black roof
Black Shingles not only absorb heat, they also make it easy to hide installation errors

Nearly all of us have seen avocado refrigerators or harvest gold stoves.  They were all the rage in the ’70s.  People loved them and ran out to get what was trendy at the time.  It was like all the cool kids had them and no one wanted to be left out.  Fast forward a few years and they’re right up there in people’s minds like mullet haircuts were in the 80s.  God help us all.

So when thinking about that black roof, think about what makes sense.  Do you want to be that house in the neighborhood that looks like it’s cut right out of an Adams Family movie?  If so, name your daughter Wednesday and call it a day.  Smart homeowners will think about the long-term ramifications of their poor decisions today.

And what about cooling costs?  Think about this nugget logically.  Have you ever walked on black asphalt with bare feet?  Is it easier to walk on light gray concrete?  Which will heat up more?  Which hurts more?  It will hurt your home as well and the heat will break down your shingles faster.  When they break down, you won’t be able to easily tell.  Why?  Because the asphalt that’s keeping the water from coming into your house is the same color as the granules on a black roof.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to be able to tell when a roof is starting to fail before you have damage to the interior of your home?  Wouldn’t it be better to know before your insulation saturates (and molds) and you finally find out when you see the staining on your drywall?

No, a black roof won’t be better in the winter.  What color are most roofs in the winter in the northern zone?  That’s right.  They’re white.  Even black shingled roofs are covered with white snow.  You’re not getting any benefit from a black shingle under a blanket of white snow.

I recently saw a well-respected builder who is also a building scientist get excited about his black metal roof.  I used to love his show.  So many good tips.  And now, every time I watch it I shake my head, disappointed in the knowledge that he either didn’t have the basic knowledge to understand that black absorbs heat.  I haven’t written him off but I now view his advice with a more skeptical eye.  So sad.

And finally, a cooling system will have to work harder, run longer and cost you more with a heat-absorbing roof.  Can you mitigate this?  Of course, you can buy a larger central air unit that will cost more to run.

So consider this — your decision to buy a black asphalt roof will stay with the house for 15 to 30 years versus a well-ventilated lighter-colored roof.  A wise decision today can make both your house and your wallet happier.

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