Frequently Asked Questions
The questions below are common for Residential roofing.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HIRING A CONTRACTOR:
- What should I look for in a construction contract?
A construction contract protects you. A good contract identifies what will be done, how it will be done, the materials to be used, model numbers, dates and payment schedules.
- Do I need a permit?
Most remodeling projects require a permit and work done without one may invalidate some aspects of your homeowner's insurance. When in doubt, contact your local building department.
- What will a new roof system cost?
The price of a new roof system varies widely, depending on such things as:
- the materials selected
- contractor doing the work
- home or building
- location of the home or building
- local labor rates and time of year
To get a good idea of price for your roof system, get three or four proposals from reputable contractors in your area. Keep in mind that price is only one factor, and it must be balanced with the quality of the materials and workmanship.
For each roofing material, there are different grades and corresponding prices. There are also a variety of styles and shapes. You need to look at the full product range and make a choice based on your budget and needs.
Within the roofing profession, there are different levels of expertise and craftsmanship. Insist on a contractor who is committed to quality work.
QUESTIONS ABOUT PRODUCTS / SERVICES:
- Do I need a new roof?There are many factors in deciding in you need a new roof.
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- What are my options if I decide to reroof?
There are two options. You can choose a complete replacement of the roof system, involving a tearoff of your existing roof system, or re-cover the existing roof system, involving only the installation of a new roof system. If you've already had one re-cover installed on your original roof system, check with a professional roofing contractor. In many instances, building code requirements allow no more than one roof system re-cover before a complete replacement is necessary.
- My roof leaks. Do I need to have it replaced completely?
Not necessarily. Leaks can result from flashings that come loose or a section of the roof system being damaged. A complete roof system failure, however, generally is irreversible and a result of improper installation or choice of materials or the roof system installation is inappropriate for the home or building.
- Can I do the work myself?
Most work should not be done yourself. Professional roofing contractors are trained to safely and efficiently repair or replace roof systems. You can damage your roof system by using improper roofing techniques and severly injure yourself by falling off or through the roof.
- How long can I expect my roof system to last?
Most new roof systems are designed to provide useful service for about 20 years. Some roof system types, such as slate, clay tile and certain metal (e.g. copper) systems, can last longer.
Actual roof system life span is determined by a number of factors:
- local climatic and environmental conditions
- proper building and roof system design
- material quality and suitability
- proper application
- adequate roof maintenance
Roofing product manufacturers offer a variety of warranties on their products. Take a close look at those warranties to see what responsibilites and financial obligations manufacturers will assume if their products fail to reach their expected lives.
- How can I determine my annual roofing cost?
When considering your roofing options, the following formula may help:
Total Cost (Materials and Labor) / Life Expectancy of Roof System (in years) = Annual Roofing Cost
What are cedar shakes and shingles?
In the Pacific Northwest, old-growth cedar was hand split to create evenly patterned, vertical-grain shakes. Many of these roofs lasted 30 years or more, establishing cedar's reputation as a fine-quality roofing product. Such roofs are still possible today but require extremely careful selection of material and high quality workmanship. One of the drawbacks of cedar, flammability, can be overcome with chemical treatment. Quality cedar can also be factory treated for wood rot. In order to get the maximum amount of use out of an untreated cedar shake roof, it is important to have the roof treated with a wood preservative (performed by a specialty contractor). Most cedar roofs can be cleaned and treated without pressure washing which can damage cedar roofing.
- What is a composition roof?
The newest of these roofs have fiberglass reinforcing mesh in the material and comes in a variety of colors, designs and qualities. It is not unusual to see a 25-year old composition roof in good condition, even though the original warranty was for 15 years.
A properly installed composition roof requires very little maintenance other than a periodic visual inspection. The best way to inspect such a roof is with a good set of binoculars. Walking on a composition roof for the purpose of inspection should be kept to a minimum - good advice for all types of roofs. Composition roofs should be cleaned with a pressure washer.
- Should I have a slate roof installed?
The slate roof is in a class by itself. As with yachts, if you have to ask the price.... But even here one needs to be careful. Not all slate will last in this climate. Vermont slate seems to be the best choice, and some imported Chinese slates are the worst. If you install a good slate roof, the best maintenance is to leave it alone for the first 75 years.
- What are those ugly black streaks on roofs?
Damp, humid climates can encourage the growth of fungus on asphalt shingles. The result is unsightly green and black streaks that are especially noticeable on light-colored roofs. But, there is hope! You can use shingles that are "fungus resistant". Shingles become fungus resistant with the addition of copper granules to the shingle surface.
- What is the purpose of ventilation?
The purpose of ventilation is to reduce summer heat and moisture from the attic and rafter spaces. The uniform building code requires, and most manufacturers recommend, a minimum of one square foot of venting for every one hundred fifty square feet of ceiling space. Fifty percent of that amount must be in the form of high vents, located near or at the ridge of the house. The balance can be in lower areas, such as the soffits. The vents should be equally distributed so as to provide for proper venting to all portions of the roof.
- What types of vents are available? For a comparison of vent types, click here
- How much insulation do I need?
Insulation is part of the whole roof system, and is designed to prevent both cold and heat from entering the house. Insulation is rated by R factors, which is a measurement of resistance to heat flow. Heat is energy and it always moves toward cooler areas - out of the house in winter, into the house in summer.
The temperature in a well-ventilated attic ideally should only be a few degrees different than the outside temperature. Therefore, to protect the house, the first place to install insulation in an attic is between ceiling joists. If using batts, place the paper or vapor retarder side against the ceiling to resist the movement of water vapor. If using loose fill, a vapor retarder ideally should have been placed over the bottom of the ceiling joists before the drywall was installed. Be sure that insulation between ceiling joists does not block any soffit vents. If your house has them, keep the insulation about a foot short of the connection between roof and wall to permit free air movement.
If it's in your budget, you can then place insulation batts between the roof rafters and the walls, but that will have considerably less impact on protecting the house than putting insulation between ceiling joists.
- Why install a skylight?
Today's factory-built skylights and associated flashing systems are an excellent way to add light and venting to the home. For best results, skylights are installed with the first roofing layer. Such installation should be coordinated between a carpenter and a roofer. Learn more
An operable skylight can be used to vent the home. It is often used as a substitute for any mechanical air conditioning system. For venting purposes, such a skylight is ideally located on the north or east side of the home, away from the prevailing winds and rain pattern. Many manufactured skylight systems are available with insect screens, shading systems and various methods of operation, including remote control electrical devices.
- When is the best time to perform chimney repairs?
The best time to perform chimney repairs is just before the installation of a new roof. Repair work should be performed by an experienced chimney mason and coordinated with the roofing contractor. Special attention should be given to the installation of a proper flashing system, a process that requires the work of both the chimney mason and the roofing contractor.
- I've got a brick chimney. Does it really need reflashing?
Some roofing contractors will not reflash the chimney unless it is specified in the contract. The truth is that if the chimney is not reflashed when the roof is installed, the chances of the chimney leaking within the next 3-5 years are very high! If you're going to make the investment of getting a new roof system installed on your home, ensure that it will keep you dry for years down the road. Make sure that the contractor has specified that the chimney will be reflashed.
- Do I need gutters and downspouts?
Some roofing systems such as hot tar or torch-down flat roofs may not require separate gutters however, almost all roofs require downspouts and a proper drain system, which takes the water from the roof away from the foundation of the house. Learn more about the types of gutters
- What kind of maintenance do my gutters need?
- Over the years, gutter supports become loose, rusted, and broken. Check them periodically and replace or repair as necessary.
- Be sure to clean leaves and debris from the gutters each fall before the rains / snow begins.
- Check that the downspouts are clear. If not, blast the debris out with a hose stream,
or use a plumbing snake.
- Check during a rain for any leaks at the gutter joints. A bead of caulk will often be
enough to seal the leak.
- Use leaf guards on the gutters to prevent accumulation. Use strainers over the downspout holes. These can be made from a short strip of rolled chicken wire that is inserted into the downspout hole.
- How do I control moss?
It is possible to prevent or at least reduce the amount of moss on a roof by installing a zinc strip under the edge of the ridge cap on the roof. It is also possible to buy some composition roofing materials with zinc granules compressed into the shingles. The presence of zinc (or copper) on the roof changes the chemical composition of the rain water flowing onto the shingles. This change in the composition of the water reduces the likelihood of the growth of moss, lichens, and similar organisms on the roof surface.
Where moss has already started to grow on the roof, it is necessary to treat the moss with commercially available liquids or granules which are specifically formulated for the control of moss on roofs. Some, but not all, of these products are quite toxic and require careful attention to application instructions.
Once the moss has been killed (usually takes a few weeks), it is possible to use a soft broom to sweep the dead moss from the roof. However, the removal of the dead moss is not nearly as important as killing the moss.