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How to Hire a Roofer!

A new roof is a serious investment. Here are some hints on how to make it pay.

Whether you're considering slate with copper flashing or something a little more modest, a new roof is a major investment that typically runs into the thousands, even for the ordinary three-tab asphalt shingles that cover most houses. The materials themselves represent a relatively small portion of the bill. The bulk of what you'll spend goes for the skilled labor involved. And that makes choosing an experienced pro the best way to protect your investment and ensure a leak proof job. Simple, right? Unfortunately, roofing is an easy-entry business that requires little more than a pickup, a ladder and some basic tools to get started.

FINDING AND QUALIFYING

Check the yellow pages under "Roofing" only if you can't get a recommendation from a neighbor, a friend or someone at your local lumberyard or home builder's association. Gather at least two prospects. Make sure each has been in business at least five years -- roofers who do shoddy work usually don't last that long.

 

Start your prospect check with availability. There's no reason to waste time if he's booked until next year. Get names and addresses of references, and drop any contractor who balks at providing them.

Then do a drive-by inspection of a few recent jobs. Check that the spaces between individual shingle tabs, known as water gaps, line up laser-straight as they alternate shingle rows. Make sure that shingles are trimmed in a clean line along the valleys where they overlap the valley flashing. On roof ends, shingles should also be neatly trimmed so they align with the roof edge. Ragged lines mean slipshod work. Also look for neat, tar-free flashing at roof valleys and eaves.

If the roofs stand up to scrutiny, call references directly and ask them the following questions:

Would you use this roofer again?

  • Did the roof leak? If so, did the roofer respond promptly, was he courteous and did he charge you for any additional work?
  • Did the job come in on budget? If not, by how much did he exceed budget? Were the extra charges justified?
  • Did the roofer damage any bushes or flowers, and did he leave nails in the driveway? Flat tires are a common complaint during and after a roofing project. Good roofers pick up any dropped nails with large rolling magnets throughout the job.
  • Was a designated foreman available to address your concerns during both the tear-off and the installation of the new roof? (These jobs are sometimes done by different crews.) You want a point person for questions and concerns you have throughout the job.

 

When a roofer comes by to look over your job and work up a price, note his appearance. Pride extends beyond the job site. If he isn't clean enough to sit at your breakfast table, do you really want him working on your house? Then detail the full range of your expectations. Find out who will do the work and the foreman's name. And get everything in writing.

MAKING THE DEAL

If you like what you see, it's time to verify that the roofer carries workers' compensation coverage and at least $1 million of liability insurance. Get his agent's name and proof-of-insurance certificates. Then get an estimate, which should be free. Because roofing is a short-term job, break up the total due into two payments: one-third up front for materials, and the remainder when the roofing and cleanup are done to your satisfaction. Also insist on a warranty that covers leaks, flashing failure and other labor-related defects. A one-year warranty is the minimum, though two or three years is preferable. These same stipulations should go into the contract, which should also include what type of shingles will be used. Request the highest-rated, longest-lasting shingles you can afford.

Shingle manufacturers generally back their products for 20 to 30 years. Some warranties are void if shingles are put on over existing shingles, so tearing off the existing layer could be required, at an additional cost. Asphalt roofs last 13 years on average, so a 20-year warranty should be fine. Just be sure you get the paperwork and proof of purchase needed to pursue any problems down the road.

GETTING A QUALITY JOB

Several other quality checks will also help you ensure a leak proof job for decades.     

  • Replacing valley and eaves flashing is cheapest and easiest when re-roofing, so do it now. Also have pipe boots or roof jacks replaced to direct away water where pipes or gas vents protrude. Leave chimney flashing alone if it's in good shape; otherwise, have the roofer call in a mason.
  • Now is also the time to make sure you have proper attic ventilation. Have it checked by the roofer or an HVAC contractor. Poor airflow can heat an attic to 130°F in summer. In winter, moist interior air can condense on the underside of the sheathing, rotting it. You may want to have ridge and soffit vents installed to circulate cool air into the attic, alleviating both problems.
  • If you suspect some of the plywood decking beneath the shingles is rotted, put a small allowance, say $200, in the contract for replacing it. Clearly state that you must approve any charges above this amount, and that you get the money back if the decking is in good condition.
  • Ask how the roofer will protect bushes and plants (roofers usually use plywood). Draw clear lines of responsibility for any damaged plants.
  • Find out how the trash will be disposed of and nails picked up. Be sure Dumpsters or trucks used for garbage pickup don't roll onto a new lawn or over an underground sprinkler system. What's more, there should be thick plywood under Dumpster or truck wheels to protect the turf or driveway. An alternative is to pay extra and have the old shingles carted by hand to the curb.

Finally, trust your intuition. If a roofer rubs you wrong, even at the contract stage, don't be afraid to back out before signing and resume your search. Unless water is pouring in overhead, it pays to take your time on this major investment. One last point, take the roofer up into your attic just before the job is scheduled to begin and say to him or her "see there are no cracked or damaged rafters or framing members at this time".

Metal

Metal roofing materials are a great alternative because not only are they light weight they are also very energy efficient. Unlike asphalt roofs, which require re-roofing between every 12 to 20 years, metal roofs will not decompose. These roofs can also withstand every weather condition Mother Nature has to offer.

Over time, these roofs save one a lot of money because there is no second investment in roof replacement. Metal roofs are practically maintenance free. All that is required is an occasional hosing down. Most metal roofs usually come with a 30 to 50 year warranty. Some insurance companies in certain states even offer discounts of up to 35 percent to homeowners with metal roofs.

Of course, owners expect to hear the soothing sound of bouncing rain drops on the roof when it rains.

Duraloc Metal Panel 

This roof option is coated with a granular texture to make it look like traditional asphalt shingles so they're gray in color. This product comes with a 50-year warrantee. It is fire resistant and can withstand winds up to 120 MPH.

Owners should expect to spend $10,000 and $12,000 for complete roof replacement (includes materials and labor). Estimate is based on 25 squares of roofing (a unit of measure of roofing which is a 10 foot by 10 foot area).

Vertical Metal Panel

This roof option is available in many light colors that reflect heat. These panels will reduce the temperature in an attic by up to 50 degrees. The panels can also resist winds of up to 120 MPH.

Owners should expect to spend $6,000 to $8,000 for complete roof replacement (includes materials and labor). Estimate is based on 25 squares of roofing (a unit of measure of roofing which is a 10 foot by 10 foot area).Thanks to our friend Danny Lipford for this great article!

Jim Salmon