Buying a Roof? Be Savvy

Buying a Roof? Be Savvy
By Al Taylor

A roof sheds water, but it is not waterproof. What? That’s right. Imagine your house upside down in the water. Would it sink? In most cases, yes. So, if you need roof replacement or repair, do your homework to make sure you get the best job by a reliable contractor.

These remarks were made to me by a roofing professional backed up by photos of some pretty shoddy work, done at cheap prices. As the old saying goes, you’ll remember the poor quality long after the bargain price.

He pointed out to me that the roof is the most important feature of your home. If it leaks you are in for expensive repairs. The whole house structure depends on a well-installed roof.

By the time most of us think we need a roofing job, it’s a result of a problem like leakage, curled or missing shingles, mould, or rot and it probably should have been looked after some years ago. You need a professional. So what do you look for in a contractor? 

• Is he insured and does he have workers’ compensation? Ask to see policy numbers to confirm coverage.

• Get references, preferably from neighbours

• Get it in writing: what is to be done, guarantees on the roof material, cost, workmanship

It is remarkable that the vast majority of people just call some roofing companies and get a few quotes and go for the lowest quote, with nothing in writing. Sometimes we just want a patch or a second layer of shingles over the old and don’t want to face up to the reality of the cost of a new roof.

A second layer just masks the problem, and, the shingle manufacturer will not guarantee the shingles in that case. The contractor might tell you there is a 25-year guarantee, but that is not the reality. 

There are a number of roof treatments out there: steel, asphalt, slate, cedar shakes, roll on, and so on. There are pros & cons for each type. For example, colour on steel roofs can fade and asphalt is subject to early replacement under some conditions, like inadequate ventilation.

Ventilation is key, especially in cottage country. Which is best, whirly bird types or passive ones? Again, there are pros & cons. Spinning roof ventilators can cause a vacuum, sucking heat, or cold air out of the building, rendering it inefficient. Both types can leak if improperly installed. Make sure your contractor cuts proper openings to install vents. It’s not unusual to see shredded wood in the attic or garage where it was done with a hammer.

Chimney flashing is where a lot of problems occur. Improper flashing installation is often the culprit when you see water stains on the ceiling. That attracts ants that love moist surroundings while they set up shop and munch away at the wood. Check it annually. Caulk if necessary.

Caulking is a maintenance issue. You should have a regimen of checking the areas where there is caulking around skylights, vents, chimneys, satellite dishes and aerials. Don’t use cheap caulking. The good stuff that does the best job is $10.00 plus per tube, and it’s worth every penny.

Your roof is the first thing prospective buyers inquire about and a sound, good-looking roof enhances the curb appeal and the value of a home.

Here is a final piece of advice. YOU SHOULD RECEIVE EVERYTHING IN WRITING, and at the end of the job you should get two warranties, one from the shingle manufacturer and one from the installer on workmanship. Yes, you will pay more for that than you would for the bargain roofer with the taillight guarantee (when the taillights on his truck are gone so is he and the guarantee), but it is worth it. A good roofer will return to fix any problem.