The less you know about what goes into a roof repair or total replacement, the more your head starts spinning when bids from different contractors start coming in. 😉
One company is only going to charge you $3,000 for materials, but they include about three weeks worth of labor. Another business gives you a bid for $10,000 and they can be done in just two days!?
A third company comes in telling you that the whole roof, sheathing, fascia, etc. needs replacing and it’s a $20,000 job! And so on and so forth.
Therein lies the importance of two responsibilities from the homeowner:
- researching a company’s background before asking for a bid
- getting several bids from pros, perhaps companies from different areas
That being said, what good is getting five different bids if they’re all in cahoots to railroad you? This is why it’s important to know what goes into a roof repair or replacement, what the average costs for each are, and what you should legitimately expect to pay for a quality job. So let’s get into it:
Condition of the Old Roof
About 80% of homes in the U.S are covered in asphalt shingles1. Asphalt roofs have the distinction of not only being the most prevalent, but also the material with the shortest lifespan, so it constitutes a majority of the roofing jobs for contractors in your area. People choose to either replace their current asphalt roof with new shingles or replace them with a metal roof, cedar shakes, tile, etc.
For most homeowners, a new roof is not a pet project like turning a basement into a man cave, it’s a mandatory job, because with a leaky roof, the kitchen is slowly converting into an aquarium. 😉
Some asphalt roofs have supposed lifespans of up to 20-30 years, but the truth is they start showing wear in about 10+.
If the granules have degraded and the shingles are starting to curl, it’s best for a new roof replacement. If only a few shingles have blown off because of a wind storm, they can be replaced in minutes.
If a new roof is needed, you must decide what to do with the old roof. The obvious choice would be to tear it off and start anew, but that adds a lot of labor to the job.
Many homeowners are surprised that their roof tear-off can take 3-4 days when installing a new one is done in an afternoon. They’ve also never had a single old shingle crumble into about 19 pieces when you’re trying to carry it off, nor have they known the joy of pulling up 20,000 nails. 😉
It is possible to shingle over top of the old materials, but you may be putting lipstick on a pig, so to speak, just to save some money. This may be an especially poor course of action, if the plywood sheathing underneath is rotted and failing, thus leading to an early demise of your new roof.
Understanding Roofing Squares
Roofing measurements are hard to understand simply because they couldn’t think of a term besides square to define the dimensions. Most people understand a square to be a square foot, the standard measurement for home living area blocked out in 12” X 12” increments.
A roofing square however is a 10′ X 10′ block. Therefore your roof’s surface might be 2,200 square feet, but will only need 22 square of roofing materials.
Understanding roofing square is important because that’s how contractors charge for materials and labor, even for tearing off the old roof. Contractors might charge up to $200 per square to remove a few layers of old shingles, depending on whether there are 2-3 layers underneath that were roofed over, and if the roof pitch is very steep.
The number of roofing squares represents the first line item to get in your quote – how much per square to tear off?
More than Just Top Roofing Surface
No matter what type of roof you’re sourcing to have put on (asphalt, slate, clay, wood, metal), understand that the surface price is only a fraction of the total cost of materials. — This is because there are many layers and features underneath that help make the roof a properly-ventilated, waterproof, cohesive unit.
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