Ask the Carpenter: Up on the housetop, a debate on metal vs. asphalt shingle roofs

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
Metal roofs can be noisy.
Metal roofs can be noisy. AP

Q. I am seeking advice on replacing a roof on a summer camp, a typical asphalt-shingle one with no ventilation. This is not a heated building, and the soffits are not tight; I can see light at the seams. One roofer recommended an asphalt roof with a ridge vent. This seemed unnecessary to me because the place is seasonal, even though we have electric heat (we never use it) and a wood stove.

There are lots of raised-seam metal roofs around here. I’ve heard they have a longer life; some look quite handsome, some are really ratty. I fear they may be noisy when it rains and as they expand and contract. What is the best roof for us?

CAROLYN BISHOP, Belmont and Caroga Lake, N.Y.


A. Let’s work out a deal – two weeks at camp for a new roof – just kidding! Let’s talk about metal roofs first. They are attractive and last a long time but are noisy. People actually pay money for that sound to help them sleep.

Bottom line: Do you like the noise? Also, you may find that some roofers will not want to install a tin roof.

How about asphalt roofs? You are right; they are everywhere. You can spring some coin and get 30-year architectural shingles that look like wood shakes.

Asphalt shingles are everywhere. —AP

I, too, like the idea of the ridge vent or a few gable vents. Installed along the roof peak, ridge vents are probably the most important ones in any “passive’’ (non-electric) roof-ventilation system. Hot air that accumulates inside the attic, or in your case, the underside of the roof, rises by convection and escapes through ridge vents. As hot air escapes, fresh outside air is drawn into the attic through soffit vents.

On an asphalt-shingle roof, ridge vents are usually covered by a layer of shingles. You’ll find that the heat in the upper areas of the cabin will vent better, and this setup may assist in the cooling of the cabin. You will also find that when running the wood stove, you’ll lose heat faster from convection.

At the end of the day it’s your call, and there’s no rule requiring you to add the vents.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to [email protected] or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at for our special Fall House Hunt coverage starting Sept. 11.