The outcome of a roof installation is as much about the company that will be doing the work as the materials that will be used in the project. Making sure that both aspects meet and exceed expectations of your installation requires several due diligence steps before making the final decisions on the company you hire and the materials they are proposing to use in the project.
- Ask for quotes from several companies – Getting quotes from multiple companies can give you a sense of the cost of the project as the bids from the most reputable companies will generally be very similar in terms of labor, materials, and dump/recycle fees for basic projects. In these types of projects, be wary of bids that come in well below the rest of the estimates you have collected, as low-ball bidders may be using cheaper materials and day laborers rather than trained roofing professionals to do the installation.
- Don’t eliminate the highest bidder for complex projects – The variance in prices tends to increase as projects become more complex due to the design of the roof and/or the expertise required for installing materials such as slate and tile. For example, an estimate for a project that requires master craftsmen to install slate tiles on a steeply pitched roof will likely be worth the investment to get the installation done properly the first time around.
- Ask for proof of insurance – Roofing is considered to be one of the most dangerous professions in the country, so you’ll want to make sure that the company that will do the installation has both workman’s compensation and general liability insurance to cover on the job accidents. If the roofer doesn’t have insurance, you’ll be responsible for injuries and any damage that occur during the project. A lack of insurance often accompanies roofing bids that are substantially lower than the others that have been collected.
- Get specific information on the materials that will be used in the project – To get the best performance out of your roof, it is essential to use brand name products such as EcoStar, GAF, CertainTeed, Atlas, and TAMKO. Another common practice for low-ball bidders is to use off-brand materials, which are often lighter and less durable than those manufactured by recognized brands.
- Ask for warranty information – There are two types of warranties for roofing installations; materials and workmanship. The warranty on materials will be offered by the manufacturer while the workmanship warranty will be come from the company that does the installation. Generally speaking, manufacturer’s warranties run from 20 to 50 years depending on the materials. Look for a workmanship warranty that lasts at least 10 years, preferably 12. Any company that doesn’t offer these types of warranties should be eliminated from consideration.
Start your process of installing a new roof by investigating prospective roofers and the materials they intend to use. A quality roofing company will be able to offer skilled technicians, insurance to protect the homeowner, brand name materials, and warranty coverage for both materials and workmanship.
Installing a new roof is a substantial investment, which can be protected in large part by two types of warranties; those offered by manufacturers on their materials and by roofing companies on their workmanship. Here are the basics of each type of warranty.
- What is covered – Materials warranties cover defective materials used in a roofing installation. This type of warranty only covers materials that break down prematurely, and only under a strict set of conditions. For example, a warranty may be voided if materials break down due a lack of maintenance.
- How coverage works – Warranties on materials can either provide full coverage for the duration of the warranty, or offer prorated coverage after a predetermined length of time. For example, a warranty on asphalt shingles may cover the total cost of replacement shingles and installation for 10 years, with the percentage of coverage versus cost being reduced incrementally after that time until the warranty expires. Due to the durability of slate and tile roofs, the proration of coverage on these materials may not start for 50 years after installation.
- What isn’t covered – Damage caused by winds in excess of 85 miles per hour will not be covered by a warranty on materials. Additional areas that aren’t covered by these types of warranties include improper installation, damage due to the installation of roof structures such as satellite dishes, and material failures due to faulty repairs.
- Coverage – Workmanship warranties cover any issues that can be attributed directly to the installation of the roof. Generally speaking, materials that have been manufactured properly rarely break down prematurely, leaving mistakes made during installation as the most common causes of roof failures. Due to the likelihood that any roof failure is going to be caused by mistakes made during the installation, full coverage for the roof must include a workmanship warranty.
- Duration – The duration of workmanship warranties is set by each roofing company. Highly reputable companies will offer warranties of 10 to 12 years, while others may offer either no protection or warranties with shorter time spans. When shopping for a roofing company, the length of the workmanship warranty will be indicative of a company’s willingness to stand behind its work, which should be a primary factor in deciding on the best roofer for the job.
- What isn’t covered – Workmanship warranties are similar to those written for materials in that they don’t cover extreme weather events and damage caused by the installation of equipment or walking on the roof.
Determining warranty coverage should be a focal point of the decision making process for your roof installation. Keep in mind that longer warranties represent the good-faith backing of both the manufacturer and the roofing company, meaning that longer warranties will also represent quality materials and workmanship.
Doing inspections of your roofing system on a regular basis and after extreme weather events can provide early warning of potential issues, but this benefit can be wiped away quickly by a fall due to unsafe procedures while walking the roof. To avoid a potentially catastrophic accident, there are 5 measures you can follow to maximize your safety while walking your roof.
1) Wear safety gear on steep roofs – One of the biggest risks of steep inclines is that a small slip, if not arrested quickly, can turn into a fall off the roof. This risk can be mitigated by wearing a safety harness system that can keep you on the roof in the event of a slip. If you don’t have this type of gear, opt for visual inspections from a ladder and hire professionals when it’s time to walk the roof.
2) Before going up, take a look at the roof for anything that might make it slippery to walk on – Recent rain, dew, snow or ice can make a roof dangerous to walk on, even it has a lower slope. If you have any doubts about traction on your roof, wait for it to dry out before walking on it.
3) Wear shoes or boots that provide traction – Boots or shoes with rubber tracked soles will provide better traction than footwear with flat bottoms. If you’ll be walking on a surface that has a moderate or steeper slope, wear rubber soles even if the roof is dry.
4) Sweep off leaves and other debris as you walk – The roof surface may look dry, but moisture can be trapped on the underside of leaves and debris, making them slippery to walk on. As you walk across your roof, take a broom to clear your path to maximize traction.
5) Be wary of walking on moss and algae – Both of these growths trap moisture, which can diminish traction on the roof. If at all possible, walk the areas of the roof that don’t have moss or algae. If the roof is completely covered, test the grip of your shoes on the perimeter before walking across these areas. If purchase on the surface is marginal, call a professional to clear the roof before you walk on it again.
Walking on your roof may be far more dangerous than you think, with consequences that can be quite serious. Before walking your roof, take all necessary safety precautions. If you’re still unsure about your safety, wait until conditions improve or call a professional roofing company to handle the work, as a serious fall can have greater implications than any problem with the roof.
When high winds have been forecasted, building owners should be ready to take steps before the event to protect the roofing system and afterward to minimize the effects of any damage.
Before the Storm:
1) Secure rooftop materials and equipment – Walk the roof to remove any loose roofing materials that can be turned into projectiles by high winds, including any broken flashing, nails and screws. Check the areas where air conditioners, heating systems, and satellite dishes are attached to the roof to ensure that they are secure. In high wind events, it is often loose materials and heavy equipment that get blown across the roof that cause the most damage to roofing systems.
2) Clear drains, gutters and downspouts – If the event is going to include rain, make sure that it can be channeled off of the roof quickly by clearing all aspects of the drainage system. Sweep off any leaves and debris that have collected on the roof to prevent potential blockages that could occur during the storm. This can prevent another common form of damage that results from extreme weather; increased weight bearing from pooled water. At 6 inches deep, water weighs about 30 pounds per square foot, which can add significant stress to the structure of the building, especially on large areas with minimal support.
3) Trim back tree branches that may be blown on to the roof – Tree branches that either fall or are blown back and forth across the roof can cause significant damage. This damage can be mitigated by assessing the surrounding foliage and cutting back areas that can threaten the structure. Pay attention to trees and foliage that are upwind from the structure as they are the most likely to be blown on to the roof.
After the Storm
1) Inspect the interior for signs of leaks – Look for water stains on the ceiling as well as the walls. If the ceiling has acoustic tiles, lift a few very slowly to determine whether leaking water has pooled on top of the tiles.
2) Inspect the roof – Even if the interior of the structure is dry, the roof may still have been damaged during the storm. Water may still be pooled on the roof despite your best efforts. If you can get to the drains, see if removing the collected debris gets the water flowing again. If not, there may be a clog in one of the downspouts. Pay close attention to flashing to see if it has been damaged or pulled away from each structure.
3) Check the membrane for blisters – Blisters may be an indication that water has seeped in and is trapped between the deck and the membrane. Take note of the location of the blisters so that an assessment can be made on where the trapped water came from.
Acting quickly prior to the arrival of a high wind event can help to protect the roof, while taking action immediately after the storm passes can minimize the effects of any damage that may have occurred. If you have concerns about the structure, schedule an inspection with a roofing company before the storm hits to ensure that you’re at the front of the line for repairs after the storm passes.