updated May 25, 2004

Putting a Roof Overhead

Homeowners in several Nebraska communities have found hail and wind damage from the recent storms. Prevent costly mistakes. Evaluate the problem and needs, select products for the job, examine reroofing procedures and find reliable, qualified roofing companies and persons to help prevent problems.

A bid process and contract stipulations can ease the process from start to finish. An evaluation, before final payment for the job, helps ensure that the roofing materials and installation are suitable to specifications and allows time to ensure an immediate problem can be resolved.

Finding a Roofing Contractor

Referrals are a good place to start or ask local builders or lumber yard dealers who regularly work with roofing materials and with roofing professionals. Yellow pages offer some insight also. Interviewing two to three different contractors is suggested along with asking for three estimates. Ask for references, job-site locations or names of homeowners from each contractor and follow up with those contacts.

Consider length of time in business in the area, willingness and ability to handle complaints quickly and fairly, completeness of estimate offered and quality and job sites or photos shown, proper insurance coverage, references offered, and the proposal offered. Knowledge of the roofing materials and procedures, professional associations and continuous updating are other things to consider. Evaluate and hire a contractor after personal interviews, review of estimates and selection of products through comparison shopping and suitability for roof structure, climate and exposure and expected durability.

The services offered and materials included in the estimate should specify or address the complete roof system needed such as ventilation, waterproofing underlayment, special problem areas of potential or past leakage, decking or replacement boards and quality of product, removal of existing shingles, methods to be used around roof penetrations such as chimneys and vents, method of installation, gutters and downspouts, and cleanup.

Read up on reroofing basics. Your job is to become knowledgeable about types of products, underlayments, water drainage systems and potential roof decking replacement or deck rot areas, as well as insurance packages that protect you from worker injuries and third person liabilities and damages resulting form work being done. If you have flower beds or gardens and landscaping around the house, determine how these areas will be protected.

The lowest bid or highest bid may not be the choice for the job. You and your professional roofer must make the choices of need and work processes.

Finally, deposit requirements vary with contractors. Normally a deposit is expected, but paying for the total job up-front is not. A rule of thumb is the total deposit and progress payments should be less than 75 % of the total job price with the final installment following inspection and, if possible, a short trial period for exposure of the roof to rain and heat or cold weather. Make sure the price covers all materials, gutters, ventilation, clean-up, completion date, etc.

Warranties usually range from 20 to 40 years. However, the length of the warranty is not as meaningful to some as coverage in the first few years following application. This is the time, according to contractors, when problems caused by defects are most likely to occur.

Check with local ordinances to determine if permits are needed prior to starting roofing work. Ask about local building codes that may specify a certain Underwriters Laboratory class of shingle for fire resistance.

Source: Shirley Niemeyer, Extension Specialist, Housing & Environment, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

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