Roofs aren’t sexy. Who buys a house because of its crisp new black asphalt shingles? Probably, some buyers.
But not most, and the reasons are simple. A roof doesn’t fall into the category of a fabulous chef-equipped kitchen, a bathroom with soaking tub, or even a mud/laundry room with sink, cubbies, bench, and built-in ironing board.
Yet, they are very critical to protect your home’s infrastructure and keep out rain, snow, and ice as well as act as a buffer against high winds, sometimes with ferocious force from a hurricane or tornado. They also help keep your home’s interior warm in winter and cool in summer by acting as a thermal barrier. And a roof constructed from quality materials that’s properly installed can last decades—often, well past the time you own the home.
However, all too often homeowners pay little heed to the quality of the roofing job if they’re buying a home, except to hear from a home inspector that the roof is OK and may last several more years—or longer. If not, that may become a point of negotiation between buyer and seller.
Sadly, when it comes to having a new roof put on and hiring the right contractor, many homeowners remain in the dark. Don’t. You need to be well informed. Installing a roof becomes a major home improvement project since it affects your home’s overall curb appeal, structurally protects it, and costs you several thousand dollars on the minimum or far more.
Fortunately, you have numerous choices, starting with materials. The most common and affordable are asphalt shingles; more expensive are clay tiles, metal, and slate; and the more novel is a vegetated or green roof.
What you decide should be based on the following considerations:
- your budget;
- how long you hope the roof will last;
- what type of warranty you’re seeking;
- the style of your home and pitch of the roof;
- what neighboring houses have used (since you don’t want to have the least costly type of roof in an area of almost all slate and metal choices);
- the amount of upkeep you want to invest since some are more durable than others; and
- where you live. (The green roof won’t work as well in a very cold climate; and not everywhere are there installers who know how to tackle some of the more expensive choices like metal.)
As with any home improvement project, it’s essential to do your homework and check references, see examples of completed work, and know what the project entails. For example, what materials will the roofer use underneath and how will he or she deal with a chimney, gutters, and those peaks and valleys?
We’re going to walk you through three main options over the next few weeks, starting with asphalt shingles, a time-tested option that works well on almost any size and style house. Additionally, most roofing contractors are skilled at installing this choice, along with adding a proper underlayment and removing any old roof layers. Our source is Paul Kazanofski, owner/founder of Revision Homes LLC in Nashville, Tenn., whose company buys and sells residential real estate. Additionally, Paul frequently teaches about the ins and outs of fix and flips and home rehabilitation projects for the site Learnfromgreen.com.
Basic color, weight, shape, and price. Asphalt shingles come in numerous colors, from white to black; more novel hues of reds, blues, browns, and grays, as well as in weathered wood tones for a naturalistic touch. Their textures also vary from flat or three-tab shingles to 3-dimensional ones known as architectural shingles and considered the “designer” solution in the same way that a Wolf or Viking chef is in the oven category. Almost any asphalt shingle can be purchased in different shapes.
Prices. The cost factor will vary greatly according to your choice, the size and pitch of your roof, and how much prep work is needed. This prep work refers to how many layers of previous roofing have to be removed and if they should be taken off, as well as how much work is involved with other roof components such as working around chimneys. Finally, price is impacted by where you live since labor will be more expensive in most major metropolitan areas versus rural sections of the country. Generally, a 3-tab roof for a 2,000-square-foot home with a low pitch may run anywhere from $5,500 to $6,500 while architectural shingles on the same size roof may cost $6,600 to $7,500.
Durability factor. The lower-cost three-tab shingles usually last 15 to 20 years. The more expensive architectural ones can work for as long as 30 to 40 years. The reason is not just that they’re heavier. Rather, they are also fabricated with a tar line in front that makes them adhere to adjacent shingles, helping tie the entire roof together in one strong bond so as to withstand strong winds and rains better.
Warranty. All shingles will come with a warranty for the materials but it’s key that an installer follow proper roofing installation guidelines, otherwise the warranty could be nullified.
Credentials. And this brings up the importance of who does the work. Ask for proof of a license and that the roofer is bonded since the work can prove hazardous. Most states require licensing but there can be slight differences from city to city or towns; so check in advance. Also check references, examine a few examples of their work first hand. Find out about the quality of their work history by calling or looking online to see if there have been complaints lodged against the person or firm with the Better Business Bureau. An experienced roofer will know to check:
- inside the roof to be sure all the baffles were installed properly and that insulation doesn’t block air flow;
- whether ridge venting is necessary since it isn’t always the case according to author Joseph Lstiburek in an article in Fine Homebuilding magazine;
- if shingles are properly installed since they should butt up to the metal flashing that surrounds any chimney brick;
- that a rubber membrane or “ice and water shield” is added beneath shingles along overhangs and in valleys to help prevent leaks if ice dams develop, which can do major damage to the roof and the home’s interior;.
- if gutters and downspouts need to be replaced, and if so are constructed on site because they’re then more likely to be seamless and work better. They also need to be the right diameter for the roof’s pitch so water can flow down adequately all the way to the ground;
- that workmen have cleaned up thoroughly since it’s easy for nails to land inadvertently on the property when work is being done, which can damage cars and hurt pets and people;
- how the homeowner wants to handle regular maintenance, possibly with a return annual visit or after major storms. The cost may be additional but can prove worthwhile and extend the life of all shingles and roof.
Also know that not all roofers ask to be paid in advance because they have a history of having a good cash flow. Some may, however, ask for a deposit. Always sign a written contract that stipulates the scope of the project including materials to be used, total cost, time table, and warranties.