Ask an Expert: Tips From a Roofing Contractor on Roof Replacement

roofing interviewBanner Home Solutions is a Maryland-based residential roofing and solar company and a GAF Green Certified Roofing Contractor. They were voted the number one roofing company in Maryland for three years in a row. I recently spoke with owner Joe Pecar about the most important decisions homeowners need to make regarding their roofs.

When should a homeowner consider replacing his roof?

 The obvious answer is when it starts leaking! But there might also be times when shingles blow off in a bad storm or the roof becomes damaged from falling debris. Even if it’s not leaking, you should get it inspected if you’ve had the roof for awhile. An inspection may reveal situations that could turn into problems if you don’t get them resolved.

With so many roofing choices out there—from asphalt shingles, tiles, cedar shake, slate, metal roofing, green roofing and more—how can a homeowner decide what kind of new roof to get?

Most people want a roof that meets two criteria: it looks nice and is very functional, so as to protect the home from damage and provide energy insulation. The lifetime of the roof may also be a consideration—and you can purchase a roof with a lifetime warranty, which means it’ll last as long as 50 years. You can also get roofs that are designed for your climate and weather. If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, you might want a roof made from shingles that are warrantied to last through winds as high as 130 MPH. In other locales, shingles warrantied up to 50 MPH might suffice.

Sometimes homeowners associations (HOAs) and historic commissions have regulations in place that tell you what you can and can’t do. In a historic district, you might be required to replace an older historic roof with a similar one. Some homeowners associations might not want you to install solar panels. So if you’re part of an HOA or own a historic home, make sure to check with them before making a roofing decision.

Roofer using handsaw

How can a homeowner find reliable roofers to do the job?

Look for a contractor that’s licensed and reputable—neighbors or friends are always a great place to ask for trusted recommendations.

On our website, we recommend that customers “Find out where the business is located; be wary of companies that don’t have a physical business address or an out-of-state address that could signal a fly-by-night contractor who won’t be around once money has changed hands, much less when a warranty issue arises. Ask the potential contractor of they’re a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If not—and even if they are—ask for references from local homeowners. Talking to former clients will reveal whether the contractor keeps to his schedule, provides accurate estimates, and cleans up responsibly—as well as the quality of his work. Because storm-chasing roofers follow the damage and generally aren’t from the area, they will have more difficulty providing a credible list of clients.

Should the roofer provide a free estimate? And visit onsite to pull that together?

 Yes! Any reputable contractor will be happy to provide you with a free written estimate detailing your project. If he won’t furnish a written estimate, remove the contractor from your list immediately.

Once you’ve selected the contractor you are most comfortable with, have a written contract signed by both parties in hand before allowing work to begin.

Above all, use your instincts when it comes to any business involving your home. If a roofing contractor is pressuring you or appears to be looking to make a quick buck, get away fast!

How much could a new roof cost?

The price of a new roof is not based on the size of the home. Rather, it’s determined by amount of roof space, including the pitch of the roof. Roofing is priced according to square feet needed, just like carpeting.

How many competitive bids should a homeowner get?

Like any other major repair on or investment in your home, two or three bids make sense.

Solar panel roof 2

Can the roofer help the homeowner obtain rebates if the roof is considered a “cool” roof?

We sure do. We can help the homeowners figure out rebates for solar panels if they decide to install them.

What should the homeowner expect during the roof replacement? How long will it take?

The average house takes one to three days to reroof. It depends on both the size of the job and how easy it is for the roofers to access the roof, get rid of the old shingles, and install the new shingles. If it’s easy to move a Dumpster near the house, it will be quick to toss the old shingles in the trash and install the new ones—but if a Dumpster is far from the house, that will add on extra time.

What should the homeowner expect after the roof replacement?

All the old shingles and debris should be cleaned up and carted away and, of course, the roof shouldn’t leak.

Does the contractor provide any maintenance or service after the roof is installed? What about a warranty?

Most roofing contractors do not offer a maintenance contract. With an HVAC system, an annual maintenance contract is recommended. But that’s just not the case with roofing. However, we do highly recommend that homeowners have the roof inspected 5-7 years after the installation to make sure no problems are developing. We also recommend a physical roof inspection every three years or so thereafter.

What can damage a new roof?

Snow and ice can cause a lot of problems in the winter. Icicles can trigger roof leaks; snow and ice can put a lot of weight and strain on your roof; and frozen water can create an ice dam—thick ridges of ice that build up along an eave. This blockage traps melting snow around the roof’s edge, causing water to back up and then seep under the shingles.

Gutters could need to be cleaned, repaired or replaced, along with downspouts.

If the seals and flashing on the roof aren’t done properly, the roof could leak, so seals all around chimneys, vents, flashing, and skylights need to be checked on a regular basis. Exposure to wind and rain often can trigger sealants to crack, enabling water to seep into your home. Vent pipe collars go bad every 3-5 years. Caulking wears out around the flashing or the flashing can pull away. Those are common problems to check for, although they shouldn’t show up for several years on a new roof.

Should homeowners clean off any algae that might grow on shingles over time?

Homeowners can hire someone to clean debris off a roof, but it’s fine to leave algae alone.

What can a homeowner do to protect a new roof?

If you do see a leak, have it attended to immediately. Otherwise, schedule an inspection every 3-5 years to identify problems before they occur.

This interview was given courtesy of Banner Home Solutions.

17 Responses

  1. Jen Pack

    My husband and I discovered a leak in our roof the other day, so we think it is time we call a roofing contractor to come look at our roof. I like the tip you give of looking for someone who will provide you with plenty of reliable referrals so that we can see how satisfied others have been with the services. I imagine that it would also be wise for us to have a good idea of what we are looking for before we call so that we can make the process as simple as possible.

    • Yes, but don’t wait too long. You want to avoid damage from rain, and you certainly don’t want insects to be able to get in. Most roofers will give you a free estimate, so you can ask them what else you should know about your roof. You can ask them if they see other holes or leaks or potential problems. You don’t want them to sell you a new roof if you don’t need it, but if they see other problems, have them take a picture of them to show you once they get off the roof. Then you can compare evaluations made by two or three roofers as well as price estimates. Good luck!

  2. Kendall Ryder

    I would have thought that it would take longer than three days for a roof replacement! That is good to know so now I don’t have to plan for the contractors to be there for a week like I was thinking. I will probably still plan for over three days. You never know what can happen, and it is better to prepare for any problems!

  3. Faylinn

    Lately, I have been thinking about getting a contractor out to my place to look at my roof, because it is starting to get really old. My neighbors have already given me a few suggestions about who to use, but I have no idea whether or not they are licensed. How exactly would I know if their license is valid or not, though?

  4. It is reasonable to ask them about their license. You should be able to go online in your state and find out if they’re licensed. For example, in the state of Maryland, I can go to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to check on licenses. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau. Good luck.

  5. Jalu Sakti

    I love how complete this guide is for residential roofing. I had no idea it only took 1-3 days to re-roof a house. I would expect it to take much longer! My wife and I are looking at roofing options for the house we are building, and I am glad we came across this article.

  6. I’m glad it was helpful!

  7. Kate Hansen

    Last winter the snow and ice caused a lot of damage to our roof. I am worried that this upcoming winter will take it’s final toll on our roof. I like your tip of cleaning and repairing the gutters so that it allows the trapped snow to melt and drain properly. I wonder if that will be enough to help prevent more damage to our roof. Thanks for all your tips!

    • I suggest you have a roofing contractor come out and inspect your roof. He’ll be able to tell you how to prevent winter damage. Good luck!

  8. Braden Bills

    I don’t know whether or not I should fix the little leak I have in my roof. I didn’t know that it was so important! I’ll be sure to get it done as soon as I can, because I don’t want to have to worry about any mold or anything.

  9. Adrian Moss

    Great Tips Diane! Having gone through many of these situations, the decision that is made could impact you in a positive or negative way. I am a roofing contractor myself, and we educate our customers so that they make the right decision whether they go with us or not! Awesome!

  10. Georgia Boothe

    Thanks for mentioning that it’s a good idea to get the roof checked, even if it isn’t leaking! Many people don’t consider the benefits of preventative roof maintenance. Just as it’s better to go for regular checkups than to wait until you’re very sick to see a doctor, it’s much better to keep your roof in tip top shape than to wait to get it checked out until you have a serious leak and lots of damage.

  11. Very true! Thanks for weighing in.

  12. Elsa Anderson

    I had no idea that the average house takes one to three days to reroof. If my husband tried to do it by himself, it would take at least double that amount. So to avoid being without a roof, I think we will call a professional roofer to help us fix the leaks we have. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips!

    • Lauren Pezzullo

      Elsa, we’re so glad these tips helped you. And yes, hiring a contractor is the safest bet to ensure a professional-quality job!

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