For most homeowners, re-roofing is a downright hassle. But a bit of research can go a long way to make the experience a success. Follow these simple steps to help smooth the experience.
Be clear on your needs. This means understanding what type of roof you have now. Is it flat or steep? These are the two categories that describe 99 percent of building roofs. As a rule, if you can see the slopes of the roof by standing on ground level with the building, it’s likely a steep (or “pitched” or “sloped”) roof. If you cannot, it’s likely considered a flat roof. Once you know what roof you already have, you can decide what types of materials are appropriate for your job.
Decide on your time horizon. First and foremost, you must completely ignore the years of service implied in the warranty period on the brochures. These are practically meaningless and have nothing to do with the actual life-expectancy of roof products. What you should care about are your own expectations. Which of the following categories best describe your situation?
o Do you just want to get it done, and you don’t really care how long it lasts because in a few years it will be someone else’s problem anyway?
o Do you want a good roof that’s going to last and look good doing it because you’re planning on staying in your home for the foreseeable future and you want to upgrade now so you don’t have to re-roof again?
o Do you want a special roof to match your special home, a roof will last generations, look beautiful and make a statement?
Knowing where you stand on this issue will help you narrow down your roof choices. If you’re in the first category, it almost doesn’t matter what you choose as any new roof will do. Buy the cheapest roof and/or consider just patching and let the next owner worry about the future. If you fall in the second category, then you should consider at least the top of the line asphalt shingles, or better yet something like a steel or aluminum shingle, shake, or tile. If you’re in the third category, then copper roof shingles, slate roof shingles, zinc roofing panels, or one of the other specialty roof products should be on your list.
Narrow it down to product. For the vast majority of homeowners and owners of small building, steep roof choices come down to four primary options: asphalt shingles, concrete or clay, wood or one of the metals. In each category, there are tremendous variations in styles and configurations, as well as varying life-spans and performances. But be warned – it is not the case that any roof showing a “50 Year” warranty has a 50-year life expectancy. Choose your products based on the characteristics of the base material – not the paperwork that comes with the package! In other words, learn what actually happens to asphalt (there’s a reason the roads need to be regularly re-paved), concrete and metal after decades of exposure in your particular location. This will tell you what to expect as a lifespan, not the pretty brochure with pictures of brand new roofs. If you don’t know how to distinguish, ask a vendor of materials who supplies many types, instead of a roofer who only installs one kind.
Do it yourself or hire a roofer? Decide if you want to hire someone to handle material acquisition and labor (also known as “supply and install’) or whether you want to source your own material and either install it yourself or pay someone to do that for you.
Control the money, control the job. If you buy the material, you won’t have to worry about a lien from the primary supplier if your contractor runs into trouble (as is happening more and more these days). And if you make certain that you only pay for material as you receive it and labor as it’s performed then even if the fellow performing your work gets hit by a truck, you will have enough money remaining to complete the job in his absence.
“Walk the Job” yourself, or have someone you trust do it – before you make the final payment. It’s amazing how quickly problems will be solved when there’s money to collect – and how slowly when there isn’t. There is no way of telling 100 percent that the job is perfect, but at least you minimize the chance of problems if a critical eye does a once-over to look for the most obvious things. Inspect penetrations, chimneys, valleys, hips, and all flashings. It’s worth the effort.