After years of keeping rain, snow and squirrels out, eventually your roof will need to be replaced. And if you live in an area prone to bad weather, you may need to replace your roof sooner than expected.

A new roof should provide protection from the elements and a sense of relief, not a financial burden. When it’s time to invest in a new roof system, you can reduce your expenses by following some simple steps.

In this article, you will find the following:

I. Three tips for effective roof maintenance
II. Major roof installation costs
III. Five ways to reduce roofing costs

Inspector evaluating roof replacement cost.

I. Three tips for effective roof maintenance

The best way to reduce long-term costs is to take care of your current roof through proper roof system maintenance. Improper maintenance can deteriorate your roof, leading to leaks, ponding water and mold.

Proper roof maintenance includes:

1. Cleaning your roof.

Keep your roof clean of accumulated leaves, dirt and other debris so water can drain properly. If water cannot drain properly, mold and/or a deteriorated roof membrane can develop, especially near drains, in the gutters and on flat sections. Trim tree branches that hang over the roof to reduce debris and potential roof damage.

2. Getting a professional inspection biannually.

Too often, roof problems are discovered after a leak or other serious damage happens. Most building owners can spot obvious roof problems without getting on a ladder, but professional roofing contractors are trained to inspect and uncover roof damage not visible to an untrained eye. A comprehensive roof inspection includes:

  • Structural inspection: A professional inspector will check for uneven roof planes and signs of sagging, as well as examine the gutter system, chimneys and vents. The inspector also should check your attic for proper ventilation as heat and moisture buildup reduce the life cycle of your roof.
  • Material inspection: A professional inspector will look for warped, cracked, deteriorated or blown-off roofing materials; loose seams or deteriorated flashing; debris in the gutters; and other visible signs of problems
  • Interior inspection: A roof leak may damage the interior of your building, so a professional inspection also should include inspecting your building’s interior for cracked paint on the ceilings or walls, discolored plasterboard and peeling wallpaper. Roofing contractors are professionally trained to check for any problems that may have occurred on your roof over time. If there are any leaks or signs of weakness, a roof inspector will notify you.
  • Workmanship inspection: A thorough inspector will examine your roof for problems with workmanship that could increase the risk of leaks or other damage in the future. Incorrect flashing, for example, is a red flag that needs to be addressed. After the inspection, you should receive a detailed report about the condition of your roof and what repairs, if any, are necessary to keep your roof in great shape.

3. Scheduling professional preventive maintenance

Regularly scheduled maintenance by a roofing professional is the best way to identify small or potential issues before they become big expenses. Professional preventive maintenance includes inspecting and cleaning drains; removing debris; inspecting penetrations, seams and flashings; inspecting the entire roof area for damage; and completing repairs as needed.

Maintenance often is an easy target when it comes to budgeting because it can seem like you are paying for things that aren’t broken. But when you postpone preventive roof maintenance, you only realize short-term savings.

According to a Professional Roofing article, “Paybacks of preventive maintenance” published by the National Roofing Contractors Association, once a roof system begins to deteriorate, and it certainly will without maintenance, resulting leaks and other problems can affect an organization’s bottom line in many ways such as:

  • Lost revenue from product damage or tenants moving out
  • Lost space from areas ruined by leaks
  • Equipment downtime
  • Air-quality issues (Leaky roof issues can breed microorganisms.)
  • Increased repair expenses
  • Overall building deterioration
  • Reduced energy-efficiency and higher energy costs (a light-colored, reflective “cool” roof loses its advantages when it becomes covered with dirt)
  • Potential for structural failure and serious damage

Following these three preventive measures will extend the life cycle of your roof and reduce expenses in the long run. For more information about roof repair and maintenance, visit everybodyneedsaroof.com, an official website of the National Roofing Contractors Association.

But when the inevitable time comes to replace your roof, you have two options: You can choose to re-cover your existing roof, which involves installing a new roof directly on top of your existing roof, or you can choose a complete replacement of your roof, which involves tearing off your existing roof. In many areas, building code requirements allow no more than one roof re-cover before a complete replacement is necessary.

When it’s time to replace your roof system, there are ways to reduce your installation costs.

II. Major roof installation costs

The price of a new roof varies depending on materials selected, size of the building’s roof, location of the building, local labor rates, time of year, the contractor doing the work, and disposal fees to remove and discard your old roofing materials.

Installing a new roof system is an investment in and upgrade to your property. Roofing costs generally fall into three categories.

Materials (40% of total costs)

The costs to install a new roof system varies depending on materials needed and selected. The materials needed for a new roof system include:

  • Roof deck: The roof deck is the foundation of your roof and needs to be strong enough to bear the heavy load of the roofing layers above it.
  • Base sheet: The base sheet is the first layer laid over the roof deck to seal the roof.
  • Underlayment: Underlayment is a water-resistant material that is installed over the base sheet.
  • Flashing: Roof flashing is installed at joints on vertical walls around your vents, skylights and chimneys to divert water from areas where it accumulates. Flashing can be madefrom many materials, but it’s typically made from a type of metal such as stainless steel, copper or aluminum.
  • Gutters: Gutters serve a similar function to flashing. The job of gutters is to collect water from the roof and divert it to an area farther away from your building through downspouts.
  • Roof covering: Shingles, tile, metal, TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) membrane or modified bitumen (protective membrane) make up the outer layer of your roof and are installed over the underlayment. These are the roof components you can see from your street. The roof covering is the first line of defense to protect your roof from hail, high winds, debris, rain, hurricanes and other weather events.
  • Vents: Vents keep moisture from being trapped under your roof. Vents allow moisture to escape and protect your roof from rotting or mold.

Labor (55% of total cost)

Professional, skilled workers tear off and remove your old roof and install a new one. Depending on the age of your roof, several layers of built-up roofing may be removed. Built-up roofing (also called BUR) is the most common roofing material used on low-slope roofs because it creates a continuous sealed surface. Built-up roofing is composed of alternating layers of reinforcing fabric and bitumen (asphalt) that is topped off with a layer of aggregate such as gravel or stone. In addition to removing your old roof, the roof deck may need to be repaired or replaced before a new roof can be installed.

Disposal (5% of total cost).

In addition to new materials and labor to install them, the roofing materials removed need to go somewhere—either they are recycled or are thrown away, and both incur costs. Costs for disposal vary according to the size and complexity of the roof system removed.

III. Reducing roofing expenses: five ways

Although you can’t control the actual cost of materials, there are a few things you can do to reduce the overall cost of your roofing project. 

1. Do your homework.

Roofing projects are complex. Understand the size of your roof. If you don’t know, schedule a professional roof inspection and gather measurements. One roofing square equals 100 square feet of roofing material. Once you know how many square feet need to be covered, familiarize yourself with the complexities of your specific project, the roofing materials available and what you want installed.

2. Choose the right material.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to roofing materials, but keep in mind that not every material can be used on every roof. Asphalt shingles are the most common material used on residential roofs. For commercial roof systems, some common materials include:

  • Metal
  • SBS modified bitumen
  • Tile
  • TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin)
  • Shingles

In the Gulf Coast region, the most common roofing materials used on commercial roofs are metal and SBS modified bitumen. Typically, metal roofing is rated to withstand winds between 110 mph and 160 mph. Galvalume® steel (steel coated with aluminum-zinc alloy) and aluminum-based roofing resist salt corrosion. Metal roofs also can last more than 50 years and are recyclable. These traits make them a popular choice for owners of commercial roof systems in this region. 

Another common commercial roofing choice is SBS modified bitumen. This roofing material is made from asphalt and rubber. It is exceptionally flexible and an ideal solution for flat roofs.

For each roofing material, there are different grades and corresponding prices. There also are a variety of styles and shapes. Look at the full range of products available for your roof and make a choice based on your budget and needs. Once you’ve done some research, you’ll be able to discuss the details of your project with a professional roofing contractor.

3. Keep your options open

When shopping around for roofing companies, be wary of extremely low bids. Low prices are nice, but something that sounds too good to be true should raise a red flag. Low bids sometimes mean low-quality work. Check with your state’s consumer protection agency (www.usa.gov/state-consumer) to make sure the company you work with is licensed and insured. Check to see whether the contractor is a member of any local, state, regional or national roofing associations, such as the National Roofing Contractors Association. Ask about worker credentials and whether they are ProCertified® to install the roof system you want. For more tips on prequalifying a professional roofing contractor, visit everybodyneedsaroof.com.

4. Timing is everything. 

Roofing contractors generally are busiest during late summer and early fall. This is because there is a push to complete projects before the end of the season. And this is when building owners usually start thinking about preparing for a change in seasons. It’s best to work in advance of the start of the season. Contact your roofing contractor before the season starts to secure your spot on the calendar. If you wait until the end of the season, you may need to wait until next year. But scheduling your roofing project in late winter or early spring may yield lower prices and off-season discounts.

5. Use your roofing insurance.

Insurance covers roof damage not caused by neglect. For example, if hailstones puncture the roof membrane and cause your roof to leak, your insurer may pay for some or all the roof system replacement. If your roof is damaged from a weather event, document the damage as soon as possible. Take detailed photos and videos of your roof’s condition.

Also, make sure to contact a public adjuster (www.yourneighborhoodadjuster.com/what-is-public-adjuster) before contacting your insurance company. A public adjuster is an independent insurance professional who will help you settle the value of your claim. When you submit your insurance claim, your insurance company will send out their own adjuster who will inspect the damage and decide the amount the insurance company will provide for roof repairs. 

This is why it’s good to contact a public adjuster first. You will be prepared for the insurance adjuster’s inspection based on the public adjuster’s inspection. Working with an experienced roofing contractor also is valuable throughout this process. Your roofing professional will know where to look for damage and assist you with determining the costs of repairs.

The bottom line... 

Remember, replacing your roof is an investment. You want a roof system that will last for years to come at an affordable price. Before starting a new roofing project, conduct some research to become familiar with materials and options. Doing so will help you be confident you are cutting costs without cutting corners. 

And don’t forget the importance of roof check-ups and maintenance. Routine service extends the life of your current roof. A professional roof inspection can save you money by allowing you to fix an issue before it becomes unfixable. 

Tupac De La Cruz

COO , Roofing Solutions

Tupac has over 17 years of experience in the roofing industry. He sits on the executive board of the National Roofing Contractors Association.

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