In this blog series, I am discussing the value of “upgrading” to longer-life shingles, and if it is worth it to you, as the homeowner, to spend more money when replacing your roof. When you call roofing companies and get bids to replace your roof, you are looking at the bottom dollar on the bottom of that bid. How large a check are you going to write? What other costs are there?
I own my house here in Lees Summit. Technically I don’t, I pay the mortgage company and they own the house. The mortgage company requires me to purchase homeowners’ insurance. This is just like you, if you are talking to roofing contractors (renters don’t put new roofs on houses they rent, that would be the landlord’s responsibility). If you call your insurance agent, you will qualify for a significant discount when you put on a new roof. Your insurance agent calculates this discount simply based on the age of the roof, and doesn’t count any other factors in the discount. Your discount is the same whether you use the cheapest 3-tab shingles (perhaps we get 10-years out of these) or the most expensive slate (which has stood the test of time and we might expect 100+ years). Your discount is generally good for about five (5) years, and then starts to taper down. By the time the roof is ten (10) years old, you have no discount.
When you add that “new” roof discount over ten (10) years, you will note that (in our area) adds up to probably 50-75% of the cost of a new roof. You pay for a new roof today, which reduces the risk that your insurance company has on storm damage to your house so you are lower risk. As that roof ages, your damage risk increases, and your rates increase accordingly. However every time to put on a new roof, you get to push the “reset” button and start those discounts again at year zero.
When you factor these insurance discounts into your roof investment decisions, this discount becomes significant cost savings. Every time you replace that roof, you qualify for that discount. Now then, what prevents you from replacing a roof every five (5) years? Nothing, except that we have to consider the idea is to maximize the value of your investment. If you need help deciding when is the most cost effective time to replace the roof on your own home, contact your local roofing contractor. We're always happy to give you advice that gives you the best bang for your hard earned buck.
In previous blogs, I have been a strong proponent of upgrading from the minimum necessary to simply put a new roof on your house. And yet my most recent blog series is recommending that there are times when you shouldn’t upgrade? Before you discount my ramblings entirely, please allow me an opportunity to explain. I understand that a roof is a significant investment, so my recommendation is simply to invest wisely. I know a few extra dollars in my pocket is always welcome, and if I can save some money by shopping I appreciate that someone took the time to steer me in a better direction.
My first recommendation is simply that here in Kansas City that we get sunny and hot summers, icy winters, windy spring, violent storms that include tornadoes and hail, and generally harsh weather year around. While a base Architectural Shingle is often referred to as a 30-year shingle, it is quite unlikely that we will ever get anything approaching 30-year lifespan out of that shingle. One bad hail storm is all it takes to render them damaged enough to warrant replacement. However our sunny days with ultraviolet (UV) exposure take their toll as well. Wind-driven rain drives water in places it was never intended to be, and that impacts your roof. Our winters are based on ice; I have already written on ice impacts, causes, and minimization, but you cannot eliminate the impacts of freezing on your roof materials. Simply put, we don’t get anywhere near the forecast life presented by the marketing brochures.
Architectural grade 30-year shingles have been around awhile, we can accurately predict how long they will last in our Midwest climate (on average). Predictions vary, and a single hail storm or tornado will destroy a brand new roof, but our roofing company history is showing that fifteen (15) to twenty (20) years would be a good run for a 30-year roof. The upgraded roofing (40-year, 50-year, plus, premium, lifetime, whatever marketing terms are used) simply haven’t been around long enough to show they stand up longer. I have seen 50-year roof damaged by a hail storm, and while the neighbor qualified for a new roof from their insurance company, this homeowner was left with a damaged roof that looked bad but also didn’t qualify for replacement. And looking at these materials, there is nothing in them that leads me to believe we will ever get 40 years or more of life out of them, compared to the 20 years we might expect from the baseline roof. Do you want to take the risk on unproven materials? They certainly cost more.
Optional Upgrades and Costs
When it comes time to replace your roof, you are likely to notice a difference in bid prices. In previous blogs, I have identified two (2) mandatory factors that could impact the bids you receive from different roofing contractors; insurance and Homeowners’ Association (HOA) restrictions.
Once we get beyond these minimums, and I would strongly encourage discounting of roofing contractors that don’t insure their employees, we can start to compare apples-to-apples. And we can start to look at reasonable upgrades in materials, and what might make sense and what is simply money spent on nothing.
When a new roof is being installed, you are presented a unique opportunity to upgrade some materials or installation practices that should be considered. You cannot retrofit these later; as your roof might last 20-years or longer, a small additional investment may well provide significant savings and should be considered. I am happy to discuss each of these individually with my clients and customers.
I use a 30-lbs felt underlayment as a minimum installation. In a previous blog, I explained different underlayment materials you can choose from; 30-lbs isn’t the cheapest or thinnest underlayment available.
Depending on the pitch of your roof, we may want to upgrade to ice-and-water shield for a portion of this as insurance against ice dams (another previous blog topic). If you have an ice dam problem with your roof, the ice dam problem needs to be solved. However if you have a relatively flat roof, ice-and-water shield is a great defense mechanism against ice dams causing roof leaks, and a roof leak in the middle of winter isn’t a pleasant proposition to address.
If your HOA requires 50-year Architectural Grade Shingles, we may want to consider an upgrade to a premium underlayment instead of the 30-lbs. felt. It depends on who manufactures your roofing materials, but every manufacturer has an upgraded underlayment then have specially formulated to work in their respective systems. I have used them, I like them, they have a lot of benefits, but they aren’t for necessary for every new roof either.
Here in tornado country, another item you may have read about is “high wind” pattern on shingles. Every roofing shingle is typically installed with four (4) nails/shingle; the high-wind pattern installs six (6) nails/shingle. While this sounds like a 50% increase in holding power, it really doesn’t equate to that. If you have a steeper pitched roof, this is something we may want to consider. I would point out that manufacturers’ rate their roof resistance to wind speed, and a high wind nailing pattern only marginally changes this resistance for lower sloped roofs. Again, this might be nice for you to consider as a homeowner, but it isn’t necessary for everyone.
These are just a couple of optional factors that increase material and/or labor cost. Depending on your individual roof, I may include them as “base” cost or I may include them as optional upgrades. When I bid a job, As a conscientious roofing contractor, I want this to be a job I am proud of, and my experience dictates that sometimes these are requirements based on your specific roof, and sometimes these are optional upgrades. I am happy to discuss this so that you, as the homeowner, can make an educated decision.
OK, you have put it off long enough, it is time for a new roof. You are seeing fine-grained aggregate near your downspouts after every rain (this is roofing material degradation), you are getting some curling near the edges of your shingles, you are getting staining, and basically you know how old your roof is. Sure, you could wait for it to start leaking, the final step, but it is really just delaying the inevitable.
So, you talk to your friends and neighbors to get some references, a great place to start. Next up, you call them to prepare some bids. And when you get those bids, you will note a range of prices. The first thing you are going to do is to focus on the cheapest bid price, and discount the other roofing contractors as simply trying to take more of your hard-earned money. That may be the case, but it may also be the case that you are comparing apples to oranges.
How much information did you give the roofing contractors? Did all of the roofing contractors interpret this bid request differently? Did some provide upgrades that perhaps others did not? Before you decide to automatically go with the low bidder, it might behoove you to understand the differences between the bids, and the factors that are in play here. Some of these are critical factors:
The biggest factor in difference of bid price relates to insurance. Of the individual construction trades, workers’ compensation insurance for roofers is typically higher than any other construction worker. Many roofing contractors get around this insurance cost by hiring “day labor” or “independent contractors” instead of hiring employees. Day labor isn’t covered by insurance; independent contractors are responsible for their own insurance (and often go uncovered). Employees have to be covered by their employer.
In previous blogs, I have captured differences in underlayment materials (15-lb. felt, 30-lb. felt, heavier felt, premium underlayments, ice-and-water shield). Each of these has a different cost, and each roofing contractor has a bid they prepare based on one of these underlayments. You cannot reasonably compare bids from a roofing contractor that installs 15-lb felt to a roofing contractor that installs premium underlayment coupled with ice-and-water shield as this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.
Your Homeowners’ Association restrictions – when I have repeat business in a neighborhood (and you got my reference from your neighbors – right?), I know the Homeowners’ Association restrictions. Some of these are based on roofing materials, and they are always an upgrade in cost. Other roofing contractors may not be aware of these mandatory upgrades and may bid your job based on lower quality roofing materials.
Differences in labor. If a contractor uses a high-wind installation pattern for installing your roof, this takes 50% more nails to install the same roof than a roofing contractor that uses a standard installation pattern. This equates to both increase in materials (50% more nails isn’t free), as well as an increase in labor time (50% more nails on each and every shingle adds up for the installer).
So, what upgrades should you consider as important, and what upgrades should you consider as maybe nice but not required? This will get us into a new series of blog topics.
Most homeowners know that when it becomes necessary to install a new roof on your home, this isn’t a small investment. You obviously want to save money; but you also want the maximum value for you investment. You are smart, and you realize that sometimes when you pay a little more, you get a better product. However, in a previous blog I identified that sometimes when you pay more you get a Roofing Contractor that hires employees and pays Workers’ Compensation Insurance. What you get by paying more here doesn’t end up on your roof.
I already identified that of the individual construction trades, workers’ compensation insurance for roofers is typically higher than any other construction worker. Many roofing contractors get around this insurance cost by hiring “day labor” or “independent contractors” instead of hiring employees. Day labor isn’t covered by insurance; independent contractors are responsible for their own insurance (and often go uncovered). Employees have to be covered by their employer.
Before you discount the importance of insurance, I encourage you to think through this. The cost of insurance is proportional to risk. It is just like your auto insurance policy, if you have tickets, collisions, and drive an expensive car, your auto insurance premiums are higher because you are more risk. It is illegal for you to forego auto insurance, but that doesn’t mean that every driver on the road is insured either and some drivers take on excess risk.
The same is true for Roofing Contractors; we pay higher premiums for our employees compared to construction workers because we have higher risk. We work on roofs all day, we have risk of falls and falling off a roof has high risk of injury. We also work with power tools, we do heavy and tiring labor, and all of this equates to potential for injury.
So what does this mean for you, as the customer? If you hire a Roofing Contractor that uses day labor, or you hire a roofing contractor that uses independent contractors, you are liable for these injuries, as the homeowner. I encourage you to contact your insurance agent, they will be happy to discuss your liability for hiring uninsured workers to work on your house. Your Homeowners’ Insurance covers more than just damage to your home, but it may not cover damage to uninsured contractors you hire. This is like you driving without auto insurance; you need to plan for likely events we hope will never occur. You wouldn’t think of driving without auto insurance, why would you hire high-risk construction trades that aren’t insured?
And a side note, Roofing Contractors that pay Workers’ Compensation insurance are sticklers for safety. Our insurance rates are based on risk, if we can show safe workplace practices we get reduced premiums. Which would you rather have working on your roof; a contractor that places an emphasis on safety, or a contractor that places an emphasis on cost and passes the risk to you as the homeowner? You don’t “see” insurance in the finished product, but if an accident happens you will “see” what happens when it isn’t there.
Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs); we love them, we hate them. We love them when it prevents our neighbors from doing something stupid that impacts me. We hate them when they prevent me from doing something I want to do, it is my house after all and why should they care. Love them or hate them, when we buy into those neighborhoods we commit to living within the HOA restrictions.
So what does this have to do with your replacement roof? Believe it or not, most HOAs will have restrictions based on what roofing materials you can use. Here in the Kansas City area, historically many HOAs required Cedar Roofs. And Cedar Roofs look great!!! Granted that is when new, but Cedar Roofs are also expensive, labor intensive, maintenance intensive, fire risk (and associated insurance cost), and they harbor insects and creepy-crawly critters. Thankfully, mostly due to fire risk and influence from insurance companies, most of these Cedar Roof HOA restrictions have been removed. However this doesn’t mean you can install the cheapest 3-tab shingle either.
For example, I recently prepared a bid to replace a Cedar Roof. The homeowner asked for “Timberline” shingles. While “Timberline” is specified in many HOA restrictions, Timberline is actually a trade name for GAF; what HOAs are requiring are called “Architectural Grade” shingles (I just put a Band-Aid on my finger, Timberline is a trade name that has become a generic term). Within “Architectural Grade” there are several grades. I know that some of the roofing contractors prepared a bid based on the Base 30-year Architectural Shingles; however my experience in this neighborhood is that the HOA restrictions do not allow for a 30-year Architectural Roof, they actually require a thicker roof. Depending on the manufacturer, they may rate Architectural Grade shingles such as 30-40-50, or they may put some terms such as 30-plus-premium or 30-plus-lifetime. Anyway, I knew that this particular HOA required 50-year Architectural Shingles (premium, lifetime, 50, depending on how the manufacturer names them) and adjusted my bid price accordingly (a 50-year Architectural Grade shingle isn’t going to be as cheap as a base 30-year Architectural Grade Shingle). While other roofing contractors bid the job (for a fair bit less) based on materials not allowed by the Homeowners’ Association. Thankfully I had an opportunity to educate the homeowner before he made a decision he would come to regret, as putting unapproved roofing materials on your house would have likely been met with some punitive actions by the Homeowners Association.
Here in Jackson County and surrounding areas, we were enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures and fantastic weather, but now that the cold weather is here, it is important to do some preventative maintenance on your roof to prepare it to withstand winter. According to El Nino, we are likely to be warmer than normal, but also more moisture, so having your roof in tip-top shape is important.
Where do you start? First, make sure your gutters are clean and drain well. Most of the leaves are off the trees, and if you have trees overhang your roof they are also in your gutters. It is critical that any water on your roof have a clear drainage path, and having gutters clean is critical to this drainage path. This drainage path will also help alleviate ice dams, depending on how cold we may get.
While you are cleaning your gutters, check for missing or damaged shingles. You can typically see missing shingles from the ground level, but there are areas of your roof that you can only properly observe from a higher vantage point. If you have any trees that overhang the roof, the branches can contact the roof and this will cause damage to shingles. Also any twigs or fallen or broken branches on your roof can potentially cause damage. These branches should be trimmed, and any damaged roof shingles replaced. Shingles have glue strips, and the unseasonably warm temperatures we are having will ensure your glue strips activate prior to winter’s cold.
And last, check your flashings. Especially plumbing and vent stacks, as these flashings have a rubber seal to ensure the seal to the roof penetration is tight. This rubber breaks down with ultraviolet (sun) exposure. When the rubber breaks down, this will result in a roof leak.
If you don’t want to climb onto your roof, you can call a professional roofing contractor to provide this service as well.
DIY-capable homeowners do their research. They select the best products, they shop for the best prices. Certainly warranty of the underlying material is part of what drove you to selecting your roofing materials. A new roof is a significant investment with a long life (30-50 years on asphalt shingles). A good warranty could save you a bundle, in the event there are problems in the future.
However, the manufacturer’s warranty only covers manufacturing defects in the roofing material itself. Architectural shingles may well include a Lifetime limited warranty from manufacturing defects to the original homeowner. This may even be transferrable to the next subsequent homeowner (if you sell your house). However note that this is shingles only, many other materials (read the under the shingles series) do not have the same warranty.
More importantly, this warranty doesn’t cover two (2) items:
Asphalt roofing companies operate high-technology manufacturing plants; the risk of manufacturing defects is very low; hence why they can offer generous warranties. At the same time, manufacturers are very aggressive in inspecting the roof prior to providing warranty coverage and have identified that most causes of “warranty” claims are due to the installer’s workmanship, and not the material itself. I have seen situations of delaminating shingles where the manufacturer simply dropped a handful of new bundles on the driveway and left. So while you may think you have limited-Lifetime coverage, you may have nothing.
What can you do to protect yourself? As a professional roofing contractor in business for over 20 years, and with intent to stay in business and service my customers longer, I provide warranty coverage against any errors in workmanship. In addition, I am “Installer Certified” for several lines of asphalt shingles that I install; the manufacturer’s warranty includes a reasonable labor or installation cost to repair or replaced manufacturing defects in these situations.
One of the biggest motivations of DIY is saving money. Make sure you understand the limitations of the manufacturer’s warranty. More importantly though, make sure you don’t try to spend dollars to chase dimes. By that I mean, don’t try to save money on your roof by DIY if you think you will have warranty coverage later. And with your house as your most significant investment, do you really want to risk your first line of defense against the weather to trying to save a few dollars? You likely have other home improvements you would like to focus on; leaving roofing to the roofing professionals will enable you to undertake these other projects, and know that you have warranty coverage for installation and workmanship errors as well as labor in the situation of manufacturer’s defect.
As a roofing contractor, I field a lot of questions about different components of a roof. Enough so that I think a series of blog topics to educate on all the parts would be useful for my prospective clients (and honestly for any homeowner, even if you don’t call me). In a previous series, I thoroughly discussed roof decking (planks, plywood, OSB, installation), typically all installed by carpenters and not by roofers, but what roofers have to start with. In this series, I will discuss all the parts that go under the shingles (and that you don’t otherwise see). Let me know if you find these blogs useful.
When you look at a roof, what do you see? Shingles, they are the visible finish layer. Maybe some metal around penetrations (i.e. chimney, roof vents, plumbing vents, and skylights). Just how much is “below the surface” and more importantly, how much does it matter? Like many things, the devil is in the details and the preparation before the shingles is critical to preventing roof leaks. Some of the items that you don’t see are:
1) Drip Edge (previous blog on this topic)
3) Ice and Water Shield (previously covered in blog series on ice jams)
5) Starter Strips
6) How transitions in the roof are detailed (pitch transitions, chimneys, crickets, headwall, sidewall, valleys, dormers, roof intersections)
All of these details get addressed and materials installed before the first shingle gets installed. That is a lot that is “below the surface” and in some subsequent blog topics on these materials Williams Roofing & Construction will delve into importance of each, because all of these really do matter when it comes to installing a long-lasting and leak-free asphalt shingle roof. You will never look at your roof the same way again.
In previous blog topics, I identified what a sheathing or roof deck is, and identified that it is commonly plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). I have further expanded this discussion to identify how plywood is manufactured, how OSB is manufactured, and why both are superior to wood planks that may have been used in distance past. However one of the questions I regularly field is OSB vs. plywood, which is superior?
From a roofing contractor perspective, for new house construction the sheathing or roof deck is installed by the carpenters. For replacement roofs, for jobs the roofing contractor tears off the old roof, we have an opportunity to inspect the sheathing or roof deck and replace is necessary. Where we see damages to sheathing or roof deck, it is usually the result of a roof leak.
Some factors that enter into the homeowners or roofing contractor’s decision to use OSB vs. plywood for repairing damaged sheathing or roof deck include typically limited to cost. As both are wood commodities the price of plywood and OSB are variable and change almost daily. Sometimes plywood is cheaper, sometimes OSB is cheaper. When the contractor built your house, you can bet this was the deciding factor.
While some roofing companies will sell you on performance differences, the Engineered Wood Association identifies that plywood and OSB are structurally equivalent. Among the general public, there is a perception that plywood is higher quality; probably based entirely on appearance as plywood is still recognizable as wood and has an appearance they are familiar with. For this reason alone, the homeowners decision would drive plywood vs. OSB decision.
I will tell you that there are distinct differences in performance with prolonged exposure to water. With prolonged exposure to water plywood is definitely the superior product. When plywood gets wet, it swells consistently and will return to its original dimensions as it dries; not so with OSB. When OSB gets wet, it can remain swollen as it dries out, resulting in sheathing or roof deck that is no longer smooth and this will telegraph through to the finished roof when using asphalt shingles (we previously identified that smooth sheathing or roof deck is critical).
As a roofing contractor that has been in business over 25 years, I didn’t stay in business this long because my roofs leak. Since my roofs don’t leak, the decision to install plywood vs. OSB is job specific and includes input from the homeowner on what they prefer and the finished cost.
We are an experienced Lees Summit roofing company with over 15 years experience in repair, service and installation.