Replacing a roof is a big expense—fortunately, one that a house faces only every 20 to 30 years. If your home is due for a new roof, you probably have a lot of questions. These 10 tips can get you started.
1. Get the hang of the roofing lingo
Learn the basic parts of the roof and some of the terms of the trade before you start talking to contractors:
Shingles are the visible top layer of the roof. Asphalt shingles are the most common.
The decking is the plywood foundation of the roof, to which the shingles attach. It’s sometimes called the sheathing.
Underlay membrane is the water-resistant protective barrier between the decking and shingles. Traditionally, the underlayment was treated felt or tar paper. Superior products are on the market now. For example, Sears Home Services uses a durable synthetic underlayment that doesn’t rip, like felt or tar paper can.
Roof vents are small protrusions from roof that let heat escape from the attic.
Flashing is a metal strip that covers gaps on a roof, such as where two roof sections meet or at the base of the chimney or vents. The drawback with metal flashing is that it rusts. Sears Home Services instead uses a synthetic waterproofing sealant to keep water from seeping between gaps.
A square is a measurement of roof surface area that’s equal to 100 square feet.
2. What to ask the roofing contractor
Here are some questions to ask contractors you interview:
Are you licensed and bonded?
What insurance coverage do you have?
What warranties do you provide for materials and labor?
Is there an extended warranty? What does it include and how long does it last? How much does it cost?
Who is responsible for getting the required permits?
Do you follow all applicable codes and regulations?
What work have you done in my area?
3. Focus on value, not price
Everyone wants to save money, and while price is a consideration, the most important part of the decision should be value and return on investment. You’re looking for a fair price that covers the cost of quality products and installation.
As you get estimates, ask what’s included in the price. Does it include all materials for your roof replacement, right down to the nails? All labor, including getting the permit and arranging for any required inspections? Removing and disposing of the old roof and delivering the new materials? Does the deal include a project manager?
Also find out what happens if there are unforeseen costs, such as replacing the wood sheathing under the shingles.
4. Why is a tear off better than a roof over?
You might be tempted to save money, time and mess by placing the new shingles directly over the old ones, which is called a “roof over” or overlay.
While a roof over cuts labor and disposal costs, the potential problems with this shortcut vastly outweigh the benefits. Roof overs shorten the lifetime of new shingles because heat and moisture build up under them. Problems with the underlying decking don’t see the light of day, literally. And a roof over can void the warranty on the shingles.
That’s why it’s important to have a “tear off” that removes the shingles and underlying protective membrane. Your new roof will last much longer.
5. Ask about ventilation
Good attic ventilation helps a roof last longer. The right ventilation can reduce the attic temperature in summer and reduce moisture buildup in winter. Ask contractors what kind of venting is included both on the top of the roof to exhaust hot air and in the eave soffit at the base of the roof to draw in fresh air.
6. What’s the plan if the decking is in bad shape?
Under the shingles and protective membrane is the sheathing, also called the decking; it’s usually half-inch plywood. You want the decking to be sound; attaching new shingles to faulty wood can reduce the life of the roof.
Find out what the contractor does if they find unsound areas in the decking after they remove the old shingles. If they replace it, how does it affect the cost? Sears Home Services includes 64 square feet of decking in the price to take care of small repairs needed to keep your home dry.
7. Thicker shingles
You have plenty of choice when it comes to shingle colors, but just two basic choices on shingle type: three tab and architectural. Architectural shingles are thicker and last longer, but they also are more expensive.
8. Know the shingle’s wind warranty
A roof’s ability to hold up in a high wind matters in areas where hurricanes can rip off a roof. Wind speed warranties vary: some max out if the wind reaches 60 mph, while others cover winds up to 130 mph. Sears Home Services is the only national provider of the Owens Corning Preferred Protection Warranty.
9. What kind of inspection is there?
Find out what kind of inspections the contractor to ensure the quality of the work. Discuss what the inspections consist of and how your contractor make sure that your new roof is completed to your satisfaction.
Some contractors—including Sears Home Services—provide independent third-party inspections after installation, so you know you can trust the results.
10. Understand the after-sale service
One of the most important elements of any home improvement project is the service you get after the installation is complete. Here are questions to ask:
Does the contractor offer a satisfaction guarantee, and if so, what does it cover and for what length of time?
How are service calls requested? Is there a cost?
Will the company be around for the next 10 years if you need them?
At Sears Home Services, we want you to find the roofing contractor that’s right for you. We believe in providing you with the resources and information you need to make an informed decision. We’re confident that once you have this information, you’ll know you can trust Sears Home Services to give you all the help you need throughout the process.