Making Roofing Choices and How to Hire a Roofing Contractor
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Making Roofing Choices and How to Hire a Roofing Contractor

How to choose a roofing material and hire a roofing contractor.

At one time or another most homeowners will have to make a decision on whether or not to repair an existing roof or install a new roof. A typical general contractor may be qualified to install an asphalt roof, but you should contact roofing contractors for difficult applications such as metal, slate, tile, or a flat roof system.

Whether your roof work is a new project or a renovation, you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of various roofing materials and applications. Some of the most common roofing materials are asphalt roof shingles, cedar shingles, or cedar shakes.

Roofing System Components

Most homes have a pitched shingled roof. However, shingles are only part of a roof system. Metal flashing is carefully installed at the roof’s vulnerable areas such as valleys, vents, chimneys, edges, dormers, and at any other point where a structural element penetrates the roof surface.

While some do-it-yourselfers may consider installing roof shingles themselves, the proper installation of metal flashing can be tricky, and working on a roof can be difficult and dangerous. A licensed roofing contractor will be skilled enough to complete all of the roof work and be insured for any injuries or damages they might incur.

While everyone notices the shingles and perhaps the flashing, there is a complex structural system that ties the roof in with the rest of the house structure. Rafters or roof trusses are designed for the desired pitch and load bearing specifications. Roofing materials can add considerable weight to the framing members and in some parts of the country, heavy snow loads and wind must be taken into consideration. Plywood or OSB sheeting is installed over the rafter or truss joists, and then covered with water resistant barrier such as asphalt felt or a waterproof membrane.

Roof vents on the roof top work in conjunction with venting in the soffit or gables to provide the required ventilation to prevent overheating and moisture build-up in the attic and roof sheathing. This helps to avoid premature deterioration of the roof system.

Roofing Materials

Trying to determine which roof is right for you may be a complicated task. There are various considerations which include style, color, life span, cost, and ease of installation and repair.


Asphalt roof shingles are the most common choice. They are available in many different colors, are relatively easy to install, and affordable. They require little or no maintenance when new, but begin to crack and curl over time. Repairs are relatively easy to perform. The average life span of asphalt shingles is 15 to 20 years, but higher quality shingles provide improved durability and can last up to 35 years.



Cedar shingles or cedar shakes are popular choices, but are significantly more expensive than asphalt shingles. Cedar shingles can last more than 20 years; properly installed and maintained, cedar shakes, which are typically hand-split and thicker, can have a life span of 50 years or more. Left untreated, both have a poor fire rating; they will warp, split, rot, and weather. Therefore, periodic treatment with a product made for that purpose is recommended. Cedar shingles and shakes are neither difficult to repair or replace.

Certi-Guard® pressure - impregnated fire retardant treated cedar shakes and shingles are available in Class A, B and C roofing systems for use in many areas where the building code requires flame-resistant roofing materials to be used. For more information on cedar roofing fire ratings, go to The Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau at .


A metal roof is becoming an increasingly popular choice. There are several types of metal roofing such as terne (tin-zinc alloy coated steel), copper, aluminum, galvanized steel, and vinyl-clad steel.

Some vinyl-clad steel manufacturers tout a life span of nearly 100 years; traditional painted aluminum or steel may last 35 years; a terne roof using a carbon steel substrate can easily last more than 100 years with very little maintenance required. A copper roof can last well over 150 years when properly installed.

A metal roof must be flashed and fastened with the same type metal to avoid electrolytic action and subsequent corrosion. Metal roofing is relatively expensive, but the life span of some choices can be well worth the investment

Slate, Concrete, and Tile

Roof tile such as roof slate, concrete roof tile or clay roof tile has the longest life span of any roofing material; it will last for the life of the house, requires little maintenance, and is fire proof. Difficulties can arise when cracked, broken, or chipped tile need to be repaired or replaced. If not attended to promptly and correctly, damage to roof system components beneath can result. Tile is heavy, has limited color choices, and is quite expensive. Structural considerations need to be analyzed prior to installing a slate, concrete or tile roof.

Questions to Ask Your Roofing Contractor

Besides asking where they are located, three references, and have they had any complaints, here are a few more questions you should ask before hiring a roofing contractor.

Ask about their payment schedule. Will they require a deposit before the work starts, payment upon completion, or a partial payment in the middle for large jobs?

Ask for a written contract including explicit payment instructions and total price.

Ask about insurance and bonding. Always look for a bonded contractor which shows that he can perform the work and complete the project, giving you piece of mind that if a problem were to arise you would be protected. Often, a contractor requires a prepayment, in part or whole, for a job not yet completed. A payment made by the client in anticipation of agreed-upon work is always a risk. To offset this risk, the contractor purchases an advance payment bond with a face equal to the payment. If the contractor does not complete the work, the bond insurer will reimburse the customer, up to the face value of the bond. When you hire a contractor, you expect him to complete the project as according tot he terms of the agreement. However, the contractor may be unable to finish the job, due to a bankruptcy or another problem. If that occurs, a performance bond, purchased solely for your project, will compensate you for any loses you incur, up to the value of the bond. To recover, the loss must be part of the negotiated contract. The contractor purchases a separate performance bond for each project.

Ask about a guarantee for workmanship and a manufacturers’ warranty. If he installs the material incorrectly, he will void the warranty.

Ask if they are required to pull re-roofing permits for renovation work. If the contractor does not give you a straight answer, go somewhere else. In fact, you should ask your local building department what their requirements are beforehand so that you know if the contractor is telling you the truth.

Also be wary of a roofer who asks you to obtain these permits.

Have your contractor provide Certificates of Insurance for liability and Worker's Compensation before work begins on your home.

If your contractor hires out the work to a subcontractor, it is a good idea to go over all of the same questions with them. Of particular interest is insurance; be sure that the subcontractor holds all of the proper insurance so that you are not held liable for any accident that may occur on the job.

Ask if they provide an inspection program for the first year and see if they will include this in the contract price. If you are satisfied with their work, you can hire them to perform ongoing inspections and repairs when needed.

Ask if they hold a current membership in any local and national roofing associations.

Ask if a lawsuit is pending and find out what the suit entails. This may include going to the local courthouse and looking at the court documents filed for the case to date.

Make sure that the roofing contractor protects any landscaping around the home and removes the old roofing material and debris at the conclusion of the work.

Final Tips

Request a written proposal and examine it carefully to make sure you it is both complete and fair.

Don’t pay in full unless the work has been completed.

Don’t pay in full without a final inspection.

Don’t pay in full until material and worker's lien releases have both been received.

Don’t agree to an oral contract. All items should be clearly documented in writing.

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Comments (1)

Thanks, excellent info to know!!