If you’ve ever had to get a new roof, you know it’s a significant investment. Replacing your old roof is on the most costly things you can do to your home.
I have replaced three asphalt shingle roofs and done roof repairs on many homes. I’m sharing what I learned during the process, the specific questions I ask and how to find qualified contractors. I’ve also shared my tip for how to get some or all of your roof repair paid for by your insurance carrier if there is damage.
Signs You Need to Replace vs Repair Your Roof
The first step, If possible get someone you know and trust to go on your roof before the roofer and take pictures. That way you’re armed with information before a roofer comes to tell you not surprisingly that you need a new roof.
1.) Leaks – If you are noticing a leak, this is usually the first sign that your roof needs attention. I recently had a roof leak and was given two bids. One to patch over the old shingles ($800) and one to replace the roof ($15k). If your roof is over 15 years old, it might not pay to patch it. Repairing damage from leaks is expensive and leaks are hard to find. Where the water appears in your ceiling, might not be where the where the water is getting through the roof, so you will often have to patch a large area.
2.) Weather Damage – Roofs can be damaged during storms. Tree branches, wind and hail can all do damage. Before you hire a contractor it is a good idea to see if your insurance company sees damage that might be covered partially or fully by your insurance.
3.) Roof Age – How long your roof lasts depends on many factors. It depends on the age of your roof and the materials of your roof. An asphalt shingle roof can last from 15-30 years depending on the type of shingles and the conditions in your area.
How to Find a Reliable Roofer
One of the best ways to find REAL reviews is on Nextdoor. I’ve had really good luck with messaging people that live in my neighborhood to ask for feedback. It’s also a good idea to check any potential roofing contractor through the Better Business Bureau. I don’t trust Angie’s list or Home Advisor because it’s more of an advertising platform.
A reputable roofing contractor will show you pictures of your roof and also meet your insurance person up there, if you think you have an insurance claim. If you take nothing else away from this, get your roofer to go on the roof with the adjuster. I have had three roof replacement projects that were mostly paid by the insurance company doing this.
Once you find a reputable roofer they should be willing to give you past customers to contact for references.
Types of Roofing Products
- Asphalt Roofing – Asphalt is the most popular choice for roofing material. Asphalt shingles come in a variety of colors, are affordable and easy to install. On the downside, asphalt shingles have a fairly short lifespan and require routine maintenance and inspection.
- Metal Roofing – Metal roofing is becoming more popular. Most are made out of steel, but you also see stainless steel and copper metal roofs. These are more expensive than asphalt, in part due to the cost of installation. The advantage is that they last much longer and have longer warranty coverage than asphalt shingles. They can also be quite noisy when it rain, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your point of view.
- Premium Roof Systems – These materials are the most expensive, but have the best curb appeal. This includes such things as synthetic shingles, cedar shake and slate.
List of Questions to Ask A Potential Roofer
- Are you licensed and insured? Verify that the roofer has proper licensing and that they carry both liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance to protect you in case of any accidents on the job site.
- Can you provide a list of references? As I said, I have contacted past customers to get feedback from them on the quality of their work. Very often the roofer will have multiple projects going on at once and you can go visit a current job site. It’s worth doing so you can see if they protect the landscaping around the house and did a good job on the roof installation.
- Do you offer a warranty? Both the new shingles and the workmanship should come with a warranty. Ask for the paperwork.
- What is your work schedule like? You’ll want to know when they will start, what their daily schedule will likely be, and when they expect to finish.
- Who will supervise the project? It’s important to know if the person you’re talking with will be on-site during the work or if another person will be the project manager. You should also ask how to communicate with them during the project. In my experience, the person who sells you the roof isn’t there for most of actual work, but they should come by at least once or twice a day. My roofer was asking questions and texting during the process, often with pictures from above.
- How will you protect my property? Replacing a roof is messy and a good roofer will have a plan to protect your property. Ask about precautions they’ll take to avoid damage to your landscaping, driveway, and other parts of your property. An experienced roofer will usually use some kind of metal detector to find nails after they are finished.
- Do you subcontract any work? If so, you’ll want to ask similar questions about the subcontracted roofing crew credentials and proof of insurance coverage.
- How will you handle waste disposal? The company should take responsibility for clean-up and disposal of the old roofing materials.
- What will be the total cost of the entire project? Ask for an itemized, detailed written estimate to understand the cost of materials, labor, and other expenses. This can tell you a lot about what’s included.
- What will you do in case of bad weather during the job? You want to make sure that your house will be protected in case of rain, high winds or other inclement weather.
- How do you handle unexpected repairs? If the roofer discovers damage beyond what can be seen initially (like rotten decking or faulty insulation), how will those additional costs be handled?
- What is your procedure for installing flashing? Flashing is essential to prevent water leaks around chimneys, vent stacks, and other roof penetrations. Make sure they don’t plan to re-use old flashing.
- Will you replace the drip edge or edge metal when you install the new roof? Drip edge is critical for directing water into the gutters (if you have them) and decking from water damage. It is the metal edge around the perimeter of the roof. It should usually be replaced when installing a new roof and it’s required by most building codes. Inspectors love to point this out if you are later trying to sell. The cost of drip edge is approximately $2 per linear foot.
- What type of underlayment will you use? The underlayment is the layer between the decking and shingles. There are two main types, felt (black material) and synthetic (can be green). If you are getting felt there are two different weights, 15lb and 30lb. The heavier weights cost more and also might be more expensive for labor. The synthetic is even more expensive than the felt and repels water, which can protect you from leaks. If you don’t plan to stay in your house for 15+ years you should weigh the pros and cons.
- Will there be ice dam protection? This is something to think about if you live in colder climates (or lately even in warm ones).
I hope this research helps you. I know it’s something I pull out when I’m talking to a roofer for reference. It gives you peace of mind to go into the process armed with the right questions and as much information as possible.