How to Hire a Roofer: One Homeowner’s Experience

How to Hire a Roofer: One Homeowner’s Experience

If you are like me, the only time you think about your roof is at these times:

  • Insurance: your insurance company says your roof needs to be fixed before they will issue a policy
  • Roof leak: it’s raining and the puddle of water on the floor tells you that your roof is leaking – time to hire a roofer
  • REALTOR recommendation: Your REALTOR tells you that you need to replace your roof if you want to sell your home for top dollar

I’ve been through all of these scenarios and none of them are fun. Roof replacement is not for the faint of heart – sticker shock is a normal reaction when your roof estimates start rolling in. Roofers are so busy that sometimes you need to beg a roofer for an appointment just to get an estimate. So how did I deal with the above roof issues? Like most homeowners, I kicked the roof replacement can down the road as long as I could. 

  • Insurance: I needed to renew my home insurance policy. Part of the renewal process was to have someone from the insurance company come and inspect the home. The inspector flagged my roof as sub-standard – he said that it looked like the roof had < 5 years left on it. The roof was an older wood shake type. Some of the wood shingles were faded and tired, while some of the shingles had green moss growing on them. I wasn’t keen on getting a new roof at that time, so I had a local handyman power wash the roof and treat it with a water-resistant roof stain. Once the insurance company saw the updated roof pictures, they wrote the policy.

  • Roof leak: when I found out that my roof was leaking (from the puddle in my bathroom), I called a roof repair company. The roofer came out in the middle of the rainstorm, hopped on my roof, and did his thing. About an hour later, he came down off the roof and had tarped over the area that was leaking. He told me that my roof would need to be changed soon and that he’d credit me the labor for the tarp if I ended up using him to change my roof. The tarp stayed on the roof for 12 months.

  • REALTOR recommendation: when I began the process to sell my house, I interviewed a few real estate agents. The REALTOR that I selected told me in no uncertain terms that my roof was shot and that it needed to be replaced before I put my home on the market. Of course I asked why I couldn’t provide the buyer with a credit for the roof after the home was under contract. Her response was that the roof is responsible for 40% of the home’s curb appeal. Making a first impression to a potential buyer is more than worth the cost of a new roof when compared to having my house languish on the market with no interest. Why give a potential buyer one more thing to worry about? Her suggestion to get a new roof wasn’t as much of a suggestion as it was a requirement for her to sell my house. I begrudgingly agreed and started the process to get a new roof.  

The cost of changing your roof is significant – people always say that your home is the largest investment that you’ll ever make – a car is the second largest. In some areas, a new roof can easily equal or exceed the cost of a car. Depending on where you live, how big your house is and a whole host of other factors, the cost to get a new roof is high. I’ve seen national estimates run between $8K to $12K to change a roof. In my experience, my cost was 2X to 4X that amount. Here are a few of the factors that will influence how much a new roof could cost you: 

  • Size of the house
  • Pitch (flat or sloped – flat will be cheaper)
  • Access to the roof
  • Type of roof you want (asphalt shingles are cheapest, tile & clay are more expensive)
  • Location, time of the year you want to change
  • Local code & permit requirements
  • Number of skylights, chimneys, or other features

I went into the roof replacement process with an expectation that it would be an expensive project. Even with this expectation, I was shocked when I started getting estimates back. I talked with 5 roofers over the course of 2 weeks. I had selected asphalt shingles to replace my aging wood shake roof. Since the newer asphalt shingles are thinner than wood shingles, I decided on the GAF Timberline HD shingles, which were supposedly a bit thicker to mimic the look of my wood shake shingles. The range of estimates I got back (for the exact same job) ranged from $18K to $55K. I was shocked – I couldn’t find any measurable difference between the $18K bid versus the $55K bid. I looked at Yelp & Google Reviews to see if these reviews could help me make a decision. Unsurprisingly, all of the 5 vendors had both positive and negative reviews. Since I don’t like spending more money than necessary, I ended up going with the $18K bid.

Here are some of the questions that I asked each roofer when they came out to visit: 

  • Are you licensed?
    • Correct answer: Yes

  • Do you have insurance (worker’s comp and general liability)
    • Correct answer: Yes

  • Does your estimate include roof removal and site cleanup?
    • Correct answer: Yes. If you’ve never been through a roof replacement, you can’t grasp what a messy job it is. Nails, rocks, shingles go flying everywhere. Make sure your roofer is going to clean everything up. 

  • Will you protect the landscaping around my house?
    • Correct answer: Yes. The mess gets everywhere. If you aren’t careful, you could have hundreds of old, rusty nails fertilizing your plants

  • Do you handle the required permits and inspections?
    • Correct answer: Yes.

  • Does your estimate include everything? (permits, removal, roof, cleanup, gutters)
    • Correct answer: Yes. Make sure you know what you are getting and what is extra. It’s always safer to over communicate and triple confirm details if you aren’t sure. Once you sign that contract, you have no leverage.

  • What is the warranty for my new roof?
    • Correct answer: Yes.

  • Who do I call if the roof is leaking?  
    • Correct answer: You can call us during the warranty period. 

If it isn’t clear, you should get as many roof replacement estimates as possible. I’ve never seen such a wide range of prices ($18K to $55K for the exact same job). My only explanation for the disparity in estimates is that maybe some roofers were intentionally pricing their bids high since they were already swamped with work. For a couple of roofers, I needed to call them back a few times before I was able to get them to come out. Selecting which roofers to call in the first place is where trusting a local REALTOR’s preferred vendor list could be helpful. In my case, I actually did call the preferred roofer of my REALTOR, but his bid ended up being on the higher side. 

No matter how you start your process or how you get roofer recommendations, you have to get as many bids as possible. Roof replacement is a painful, but necessary part of homeownership – do your homework up front and you could save tens of thousands of dollars. 

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