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.

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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.