Tile Talk: Aesthetics vs. Compliance

Enhancing Your Brand As a Roofing Professional 

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance 









(Editor’s Note:  Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance.  The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems.  Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.) 


The challenge of aesthetic versus code compliance confronts roofing professionals on every project and the difference between contractual and brand awareness are key to a contractor’s long-term survival.  Contractors need to understand what they are required to meet, what is a best practice, and what the term aesthetic means in roof assemblies.  In order to prosper, roofing professionals must be known for performing quality work at a competitive price with high customer service rankings. 



Codes have been developed to provide the best practice for minimum requirements for long-term performance.  This will allow a benchmark for proper selection of products, testing requirements, or standards that will hopefully mimic the best performance in the field.  These are reviewed on a regular code cycle to allow revisions, updates, and new products and requirement to be identified. 

While benchmarks are critical, they reflect the current status and the minimum standards that must be met.  When new or alternative products enter, they may not always have a formal minimum standard in place.  This will require greater research to determine the ability to comply with the intent of the codes.  In such cases, the roofing professional should work with the local building official to determine the proper approval process.  While the national model codes will address most needs, the local building official will hold the final approval for what is allowed in their jurisdiction 


Best Practices 

While the codes reflect the base requirements, often the long-term performance is enhanced through best practices that might exceed code requirements.  This is where industry associations can be a vital resource to the roofing community.  The ability to recommend upgrades for greater roof performance can help brand you as the roofing professional with higher customer rankings.  In today’s market, building owners are increasingly receptive to greater education and understanding on what an upgrade might provide in the way of long-term performance to the roof assembly.  A roofing professional armed with proper information on costs and greater performance can improve their market brand through increased expertise. 



As industry associations, the greatest inquiries come from the aesthetics versus code requirement issues.  For steep-slope applications, these are challenging as they become a significant component of a roofing professional’s brand to the consumer.  With the internet full of information, pictures, and anecdotal evidence, the consumer is more educated on what is right and what is acceptable.  Requirements will identify what is right, but the overall workmanship will define what is acceptable.   

Aesthetic issues generally come from performance, visual condition, and the intended perception of what the customer is expecting.  Issues for roofing materials can include coloring, scratching, alignment, coursing, flashing, ridge, and rake treatments With the increased complexity of the roof designs for steep slope, there are more aesthetic issues from consumers for an overall concern of how the roof will look, versus how it will perform.   

In most cases, the aesthetic issues can be prevented with greater awareness during the installation process.  For steep-slope applications, this might include greater visualization and inspection of a roof from the street and higher levels.  With very few areas of today’s roof designs not visible to the building owner, the overall quality of work will need to be to a higher standard.   

Roofing professionals play a vital role in educating the building owner on expectations, including the use of alternative materials, product selection, installation processes, and aesthetic issues.  For the cladding materials, this can include the natural color blending and surface finishes, and even the potential for surface scratchings, breakage, and other aspects of roofing that might arise.  If the building owner is aware of the issues prior to commencing work, there is less opportunity for claims to arise during the process.  Make sure that you can properly identify and communicate what is a requirement, an upgrade, and what will constitute an aesthetic issue.  The ability to help recommend viable upgrades will increase your brand as a roofing contractor. 

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