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Buying a new roof... the inside scoop

Q: Dear Mr Roofer, the roof on my home is over twenty years old.  I'm concerned because I've heard that a new roof can be very expensive and I have no idea who to trust.  Are there any secrets to guarantee a successful roof replacement project?

                                                                   - Bob from East Amherst, NY

A: Great question, Bob!  A successful roof replacement project involves planning, research, and common sense.  Here's a "crash course..."


       First, an assessment of the existing condition of your roof will help to establish a timetable for the project, and determine the degree of urgency.  If you wait until your roof is leaking, you've waited too long! 

       There are a few telltale signs to look for to help you decide when it is time for a new roof on your home.  Visually inspect the roof from the ground, using binoculars if available.  Look for the following evidence of your roof's condition.

       Immediately after they are first installed, asphalt roofing shingles begin to lose their protective coating...the tiny stones or granules that make up the visible surface.  You may notice them collecting in your gutters or at the bottom of your downspouts.  This is perfectly normal, and several factors affect the rate at which the granules are shed.  When enough granules are missing to expose the asphalt layer underneath, deterioration accelerates as the petroleum evaporates from the asphalt and is baked or rinsed from the shingle mat.  Unprotected, the shingle mat becomes brittle and begins to curl, blister, and buckle, ultimately losing its weather resistance.  Toward the end of its life cycle, a roof shingle may crack in place, or come off in the slightest wind.  Plan to replace your roof before that happens!  

       Roof inspection is one of the services typically performed by a professional roofing consultant.  Starting at about $100, a thorough inspection is performed, examining all the critical components, including shingles, flashings, skylights, ventilation and gutters.  For an additional charge, a written report will describe and document the existing condition of your roof, including photographs of the critical components, and recommendations as appropriate. 

Note:  A "final inspection" may also be appropriate after a new roof has been installed, as a prearranged condition of final payment to the roofing contractor.


       A successful roof replacement project involves a winning combination of several key ingredients.  Among the most important are good materials, well qualified and motivated installers, and a company that brings these elements to your project in a consistently safe, reliable, and mutually beneficial legal transaction.

      Where can you find a roofing contractor who is right for your project?  Ask acquaintances for referrals.  Contact material suppliers in your area for referrals.  Check with your local building inspector's office to verify current licensing compliance.  Contact your local Better Business Bureau to investigate a company's complaint history.  The frequency of job signs on front lawns can also be a good indication of jobs well done.  Rarely is an unsatisfied customer anxious to drum up more business for a contractor who did not live up to his promises. 

     Value perception is a very personal judgement.  Interview prospective contractors as if you were interviewing a job candidate.  Did the contractor arrive on time for his scheduled appointment?  Was he or she knowledgeable and able to answer your questions patiently and to your satisfaction?  Did he leave a detailed written proposal on company stationery for you to consider?  Does the company have a regular place of business to which you could go if you needed to discuss an issue or concern after the job is done?  If you don't feel comfortable with a contractor before the sale, keep looking.   

     Are you looking for the cheapest price?  Beware!  Judging a contractor's proposal on price alone can encourage shortcuts.  And as everyone knows, roofing work can be dangerous.  High insurance premiums are a necessary cost of doing business as a legitimate roofing contractor.  This vital protection is certainly worth the added expense to the wise consumer.  Be sure to ask any contractor you are considering if he is willing to have copies of his insurance certificates mailed directly to you from his insurer.  This will eliminate any opportunity for inadvertent misrepresentation of coverage.

Common Sense

       In the end, you are bound to select the contractor who satisfies your own very personal perception of value.  While none of the tips mentioned above is an absolute guarantee of your satisfaction, with the proper planning and research (including the expert guidance of your independent professional roofing consultant) you will have exercised as much precaution as possible, and maximized the likelihood of a successful roof replacement experience.  Whether your final selection is based on your perception of quality or value, a feeling of confidence in the company's reputation, or a strong referral, it is always a good policy to get everything in writing before you sign on the dotted line.

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