A PRIMER ON ROOFING and ROOFING COSTS
There are many factors we take into account when estimating roofing costs: location
and access to the roof-can you drive a loading truck up to the building? Are there trees
or wires impeding material deliveries and roof removal? Existing roof removal-what type
of roofing material-and how much of it is on there now? Roof size, roof slope, complexity
of the roof, materials used, chimneys, vents, skylights, local permit/code requirements,
etc. Roofers talk about roof size in terms of squares, which is a roof area measuring
10’ X 10’ or 100 square feet. A typical residential roof in our area will be anywhere from
10-25 squares. The prices below are per-square installed. They are subject to change
and their purpose is to help you compare costs of differing roofing materials to each
other. They do not include roof removal, sheathing (plywood) installation, rot repairs,
permit costs, or the other factors listed above. You should not use them to estimate
the cost of your roof. Your roof will cost more-it’s the law; may as well accept it. Roof
life is also subjective; we are providing what we consider to be a reasonable expectation.
Specific product reviews are also available online, and product manufacturers generally
have their own websites.
Q & A with BERKELEY ROOF SERVICES:
I have a leak, what should I do?
Don’t panic! Eventually it will stop raining, things will dry out and in a couple of days it won’t seem so dire. Nothing is more important than your safety, and you really do need to be able to keep working to get those kids through college and pay for your roofer. So don’t be an idiot and go onto the roof until you’ve considered the dangers and taken precautions. Place buckets and pans, use towels, rags, or old bedding to absorb as much water as possible. If you have a flat roof and are able to get up there safely, check the drains for blockage. Most leaks on flat roofs manifest themselves at the drains and are due to debris or stray balls blocking the drains, which back-up and overwhelm the flashings. This is often the case at the beginning of the rainy season when the summer and autumns debris has collected on the roof. If you have a sloped roof, check the gutters, valleys and drainage areas for debris build-up. Call a roofer. In a leak situation people often call several roofers and it’s not unusual to show up at a pre-arraigned time to be told that someone has already taken care of the problem “I’m sorry, I meant to call you but…”. If you develop a problem towards the end of the rainy season, deal with it. Don’t wait until that first rain in October. If you have a leak in April it will still be there in the fall, and roofers can be unable to meet the demand for repair work at the beginning of the season. Also, prices are higher in the fall. So be proactive. The most common roof repair is application of roofing mastic (cold tar) and tarpaulin installation.
When should I consider getting a new roof?
Most people know when their roof is reaching the end of its life, because it looks it. It’s not an exact science, but we generally know within a year or so. So we have a choice. Be proactive and replace the roof, or wait for the leak, and act when we have to. Human nature being what it is, we never like to spend time and money before we absolutely need to: roofing is intrusive, dirty, loud, and expensive, so let’s put it off as long as we can. However, when leaks finally manifest themselves in the corner of the kitchen or above the bed, they may have been going on for some time already, possibly years. This can lead to mildew, mold and rot, which in turn leads to additional cost.
Replace your roof in the spring or early summer when everyone else is procrastinating: that is when roofers are more hungry for work and therefor prices are more competitive.
It happens every year: Labor Day has come and gone, the kids are back in school and thoughts turn to the coming fall and winter. “Take your time” you say, “as long as you get the roof done before the rain starts”. The trouble is that hundreds of people are thinking and saying the same thing! This is when the seasonal roofing circus gets into full swing. The pressure mounts to finish one roof and get onto the next. The client is calling and asking where you are. Then there are a couple of days of rain and everyone goes bonkers!-insisting that the schedule be maintained, even though it’s raining. This is when bad roofs happen. Then there are the roofers who could “fit you in” between the rain storms, and one has to ask where did that extra space on the schedule come from? Are those roofers picking up unskilled day-laborers to accommodate the extra work?
Do I need a new roof?
Yes of course you do. Well perhaps not. Sometimes repair work and maintenance are appropriate, and can add an additional year or two or five to a roof. Sometimes this can be just a waste of money. You should talk to a reputable roofer and be clear about what you are asking for and what your expectations are and listen closely to the response. From a roofing professional’s viewpoint, the trouble with performing repair work on roofs and giving someone the thumbs-up is that you then own that roof. When the inevitable leak does show up-and this can be years later-it can be presented as your fault or something you missed. Roofers are very reluctant to offer any type of guarantee on repair work.
I’ve been told I need a new roof. How should I proceed?
Talking to neighbors, friends and colleagues can help you to identify competent professional in your area. Call 2, 3, or 4 roofers and request a roofing estimate. Take notes as you talk to different companies: of how they deal with you on the phone; their punctuality; their professionalism; and their responsiveness. These are all good early indicators of the type of company you are dealing with. As is the quality and clarity of the estimate produced-it should be concise, readable, and understandable. It’s not rocket science. If you are unclear about anything in the proposal, ask for an explanation. Be suspicious of costs that are way lower (or higher) than others and remember that the price is not the only thing you are comparing. In a few years you may forget about the cost of the roof but you will always remember how the job went-if they showed up when they said they would; if they cleaned up each day; if they had a good attitude and work ethic; if they treated you with respect and took care of your home and garden. These are the things that stay with us. As you narrow down your choices of contractor, talk to them to get a further understanding of their process and schedule. When you decide on a contractor discuss how you should prepare; arrange to view colors and samples; and decide on a start and finish date. If you are already in the rainy season you may have to be flexible with the schedule, as a day of rain may lead to a delay of two or more days in the schedule.
What does the consultation process look like?
We set an appointment and one of our estimators will meet with you to discuss your short and long-term objectives. He will then take measurements of the roof area by hand and analyze the condition of the existing roof. He will sit down with you, go over your options and based upon your needs and your budget, will show you brochures that describe the best products available along with samples. If you want to completely change the look of your roof, we will offer different materials and products to do that. We will then provide you with a very detailed proposal that outlines the work to be performed and answers all the questions that you have. For example: "In the long run, what added benefit does option one have versus option 2?"
How should we prepare for re-roofing?
So you’ve taken the plunge and decided that you can’t put off the roofing any longer. Talk to your roofer and discuss how the process will affect you, and how you should prepare. The existing roof removal is often the noisiest, dirtiest, and most intrusive part of the project. Notify your neighbors and tenants. Make sure they understand that workers will be swarming over the site and will need access to and from the roof; they will probably need to park a dump truck or dumpster next to the building in which to discard the existing roofing materials. Alternative parking arrangements may need to be organized for residents. Also, TV antennas and dishes, data cables and telephone lines may be temporarily disconnected or otherwise affected by the re-roofing. Talk about site protection with your roofer. Some degree of protection should be expected to be included in the original estimate; however, if you have a prized Japanese maple, a new mosaic driveway, a vegetable bed or a fish pond, etc., you should bring them to the attention of the roofer as soon as possible so he can be properly prepared. Also you should understand that there are costs involved with installing and removing site-protection-plastic sheeting, plywood, drop-cloths, and so on. Roof removal can cause a huge amount of dust and debris: keep doors and windows closed; make provision for your pets and think about how they may react to the re-roofing. Some pets seem to enjoy the excitement of a few days kerfuffle, some can be wholly indifferent, while others can freak out. With an anxious pet, interior protection may be even more important than site protection. Make sure you talk to your roofer and get a good understanding of what to expect. In most cases some dust and a small amount of debris may fall into the attic. In other situations larger amounts of debris, including old roofing materials, will fall into the attic. Significant debris should not be left in the attic. It is a potential fire hazard and may serve to compress insulation. If you store your family treasures up there you should make provision to protect them. Most roofers will remove as much of the debris as possible from the outside, but are reluctant to enter into attic spaces unless contracted to do so. Attics are often hot, confined, spaces that are difficult and dangerous to work in. Working in these spaces can lead to a huge increase in the potential liability. Unrolling sheets of plastic in cramped conditions while balancing on exposed rafters can easily lead to someone losing their footing and putting a foot through the ceiling! Typically, if requested, a roofing contractor will lay out plastic drop cloths in the attic at the start of the project and remove them at completion. This task can be performed on a time-and-materials basis or with an agreed price prior to the start of work. Again, make sure you discuss these issues prior to the start of the project to insure that you and your contractor fully understand what the expectations are.
How long will it take to re-roof my home?
Well of course it depends on the type, size and complexity of the roof. Roofing by its nature is fast, and the vast majority of projects are completed start-to-finish within a week. Your roofer should have a good understanding of what to expect.
What about permits?
Most municipalities require building permits for re-roofing. The costs and relative benefits vary from town to town, with some areas requiring inspections from their building department at various stages of the project, and others performing a pro-forma drive-by. In some areas permit fees seem to have become less an insurance of quality control and more a simple revenue stream with very little if any oversight offered by the local building department. Depending on your location, the inspector may enter the premises to review the in-house smoke detectors, or require chimney spark-arrestors or gutter screens be installed. Most homeowners are able to obtain re-roofing permits themselves. They may need to provide a copy of the roofing contract–particularly if the permit cost is based on a percentage of the roofing cost; and possibly a sample of the proposed roofing materials. Your roofing contractor will also be able to obtain a permit. They will be required to have a current contractor’s license, proof of liability and workers compensation insurance, and a local business license. Certain areas are subject to additional permit/code requirements, such as rural areas and the Wildlife Urban Interface zones, and buildings in close proximity to the bay. Permit costs in our area range from a set fee of $75.00 to 4.5% of contracted roof costs.
What if wood rot is discovered?
Unfortunately rot in various forms is not uncommon in re-roofing. Usually damage is found around drains, valleys, drainage channels, eaves, and gutter areas. If you have reason to suspect rot is present on your roof before the start of the project then you should discuss remedial work and associated costs prior to the roof removal. The problem is that we cannot know how extensive a problem may be until the roof has been removed. For this reason some roofers offer rot repair at an agreed dollar amount per square foot. Most roofers however provide remedial work on a time and materials basis.
What is a "Cool Roof"?
Cool Roof is a term that is generally understood to refer to an energy-efficient roof surface which is able to reflect sunlight-primarily damaging ultraviolet radiation. This limits heat build-up in the space below and will add life to the roof covering itself. These systems have become more prevalent with the statewide regulations (Title 24) which mandate cool-roof installation on most commercial applications. These roofs are usually bright white TPO or PVC membranes, or are applied as a liquid coating over a conventional roof. Certain composition shingle products such as Solaris or Cool Star are also title-24 Cool Roof compliant. Green, or growing roofs which have grasses and plants are also considered cool roofs.
What is the best roof color?
The conventional wisdom is that lighter-colored roofs will reflect more sunlight and will therefore be cooler and last longer. If you have a flat roof or if your roof is not visible then a light color or Cool Roof may make good sense. Bear in mind that a Cool Roof is very bright white, and even if you cannot see it your neighbor may! It is not pleasant to overlook a Cool Roof. Personally, I think light colored roofs tend to make a house look anemic. In our area we are blessed with a moderate climate and we only get a few days each year when the temperature soars into the 90’s and beyond, so the question is somewhat moot. If you live east of the tunnel then a Cool Roof or at least a light-colored roof is worth considering. If not, and your roof is visible, then my advice would be to select the color you like, one that works with your house color scheme.
What is a roof inspection?
A roof inspection is similar to a home inspection, which is usually requested and paid for by a potential buyer or a funding bank during a real estate transaction. In most cases a home inspection produces a thorough document detailing a home’s condition. Structural issues such as termite damage and rot are investigated, and the electrical and plumbing systems are examined with a comprehensive report being presented. The roof often receives short shrift with statements like: “We recommend that the roof be inspected by a qualified professional.” Hence a call for a roof inspection. Inspections can range from exterior visual assessments relying on reported conditions, to more intrusive inspections where core samples are taken to determine the amount (layers) of roofing, and type of materials used, including asbestos or other components that may require abatement. If a roofing system is expected to require significant work within 5 years it will fail the inspection, which can have an influence over a bank’s willingness to provide a loan. Depending on the location and complexity of the structure you would expect to pay $250-$700 for a residential roof inspection.
How long will my new roof last?
Your new roof should last a minimum of twenty years and depending on the product that you select, can last up to thirty-five years when properly maintained and regularly cleared of debris.