Everything you need to know about reroofing a house

reroofing a house

A roof is kind of like a hat for your house – it keeps rain, sun, snow, and every other earthly nuisance at bay. But if that hat wears a little thin, it won’t be able to do its job very well. Missing roofing shingles can be problematic, and leaks are the stuff of nightmares. If you’re ready for reroofing a house – or think you might be ready to reroof a house – here’s what you need to know.

Is it time to reroof?

Determining whether it’s time to reroof a house starts with looking up, and looking down. Do the following about twice per year, as well as after a bad storm:

  • Inspect the highest ceilings in your home (get ready to crawl into your attic). Look for signs of moisture, dark spots, stains, and light coming through the roof.
  • Get on top of it. Not surprisingly, thoroughly inspecting your roof involves visiting your roof. This is, of course, a dangerous endeavor, so if you’re not fully confident in your ability to scale your roof, have a professional come check it out. Either way, you’re essentially trying to determine if it appears worn out. Look for signs of wear on everything from shingles to gutters. Again, look for signs of moisture and soft spots, as well as mold and rot. Crystal-like shingle granules aren’t uncommon in gutters, but if you have a lot of them that could be a bad sign. Examine the shingles and see if any are cracked or missing. Cupping and curling can be signs that your roof is in bad shape.

Signs of moisture or dark and/or soft spots can be indications that you may have a bigger issue than re-roofing will fix, like mold or mildew. Contact a professional to get a full assessment as soon as possible. The National Roofing Contractors Association has some handy tips and a roof checklist available to help homeowners safely inspect their roofs and keep track of what they find.

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Repair or replace?

If your roof is fairly new or in decent shape, it may be wise to save yourself some cash and opt for repairs instead of a full-on replacement. If your roof is looking pretty rough or it’s been a few decades, it’s probably time for a replacement. The average lifespan of a roof depends on the material used:

Material Average Lifespan
Wood shake 30 years

Fiber cement shingles

25 years
Asphalt/composition 20 years:
Slate, copper, tile 50+ yearsSource: NAHB via U.S. News

It’s also important to consider your local weather conditions and patterns. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of snow or natural disasters like hurricanes, your roof’s life will likely be less than the average. Other factors also come into play, such as installation, pitch, and ventilation.

If you’re not sure about your roof’s age, the best things to do are check the seller’s disclosure and get a professional to determine its approximate age, as well as its condition.

Basically, you should opt for repairs if:

  • Damage is limited to a few missing shingles
  • Repairs are only needed on one side of the roof
  • Your roof is on the newer side

You should consider re-roofing a home if:

  • The flashing is corroded, damaged, or not properly secured
  • You’ve already had one re-cover
  • The life of the flashing isn’t commensurate with the life of the shingles
  • Your materials don’t go with your home’s style and you want something different (it’s your home, after all)
  • The material isn’t the best for the home’s location and weather conditions
  • You have made or will need to make multiple repairs
  • Your roof is near the end of its life
  • Damage is more extensive than a couple of missing shingles
  • A significant portion of the roof is damaged

Selecting the best roofing materials

The top of every house is essentially made of the same thing, right? Wrong. There are several types of roofing materials to consider, and each has its own pros, cons, and price.  

Asphalt roof:

This is the most popular material for residential roofs, with 12.5 billion square feet of asphalt shingle products produced each year. Value is the main reason that this material is so widely used. It’s relatively easy for professionals to install, and typically requires little maintenance. It is also fire and wind resistant, and performs well in extreme weather conditions. Dark asphalt shingles can fade, and some discoloration from algae can happen, although it’s relatively easy to remedy.

Slate Roof:

Slate looks upscale, is impervious to fire and rot, and has a long life expectancy. However, you’ll likely want an expert to install slate tiles – they are easily broken. Slate is considered an environmentally friendly choice but can be quite expensive.  

Tile Roof:

Clay and ceramic tiles have long lifetimes and are fireproof. However, this type of roofing material isn’t the best choice for areas with high winds and fluctuating weather. They’re relatively durable, although delicate when walked on.

Metal Shingles:

Metal shingles are typically more expensive than many other types, however, they are touted as environmentally friendly, and resist buildup of water and ice. Aluminum roofing systems can even qualify for Energy Star incentives. You’ll want an experienced contractor to install this type of roof.

Wood shakes and shingles:

This is a popular choice for green-centric homeowners, especially if the shingles are made from recycled wood. They add a lot of character to a home, but mold, rot, and insects are potential problems. It’s important to examine the quality and fire resistance of different types of wood shakes.

Concrete tile roof:

Concrete is basically its own universe of roofing materials. From options coated with thin metals to others imitating the look of wood shakes, the choices in the concrete tile realm are steadily growing and improving on earlier problems. They’re more expensive than some other options, but offer good protection against fire, insects, and rot.

No matter the type of roofing material you opt for, watch out for lifetime warranties. “A lot of shingles have gone to a lifetime warranty, but it’s more of a marketing ploy,” NRCA  Director of Technical Services Joan Crowe advised. “The warranty is usually only for the material itself. Let’s say after 20 years your shingles start to deteriorate – you’ll get a prorated amount for the material, but it’s not going to really cover the cost of the whole roof. Don’t use a warranty as a guideline when selecting a shingle, it doesn’t mean it will last your whole lifetime.”

Hiring the right roofing contractor

As with most home improvement projects, selecting the right person for the job can be a tiresome task. But by knowing what you’re looking for, how to manage the bidding process, how to vet potential hires, and what to look for in your contract, you can make this less of a headache and have your new roof sooner.

Crowe said that the biggest mistakes homeowners make come into play during the hiring and contract phase. “We recommend getting at least three estimates to compare,” Crowe said. “It’s also important for homeowners to read their contract thoroughly, and make sure to get a very detailed, itemized proposal from their contractor.”

Before you begin searching for professionals, do your research (obviously you’re already acing this step by reading this article). You can also use online renovation cost tools to get an idea of what your project may cost.

Crowe recommends making sure each professional is licensed and insured – some areas require a license, and others do not. She also advises that homeowners check references, see how long the professional has been in business, consult consumer advocate sites like the Better Business Bureau, and consider checking in with local building departments.

Once you’ve selected professionals that you trust and would like to get bids from, it’s important to provide the exact same information to every potential hire in order to accurately compare bids. Similarly, it’s important to make sure that every roofing contractor provides you with bids for the same scope of work. While no two roofing contractors will do business in the exact same way, detailed bids should essentially give you an idea of the finer points of the materials, procedure, scope, timeframe, and who is accountable. These bids may include a number of things:

  • Who is responsible for what and the scope of work
  • Start and completion dates
  • Payment terms
  • Cost of labor and any necessary cleanup
  • Cost of and information about all materials used
  • Cost of any necessary permits
  • Proof of license (if required in your area) and insurance
  • Work and material warranty info

After that, it’s a matter of asking questions, and then hiring the person with whom you feel the most comfortable. Carefully read your contract and make sure it’s detailed, ask questions, and then sign on the dotted line. A solid contract likely includes the following items:

  • Specifics on materials used
  • Payment terms: down payment, progress payments, final payment, and terms for withholding payment until the job is completed in a satisfactory manner.
  • Change-order or add-on details that explain when extra charges may be incurred.
  • A lien release, which protects you in the case that any subcontractors are not paid by your contractor.
  • A termination clause, so you know under what terms you or your contractor can sever your agreement.

A roof is an important – and expensive – part of your home. By performing regular roof checkups and doing your research, you can make sure your home’s hat stays in tip-top shape for as long as possible, and that reroofing a house goes as smoothly as possible.

Everything you need to know about reroofing a house was last modified: July 27th, 2017 by Sheree Whiteley
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