All You Ever Wanted To Know About Roof Repair and Replacement
Hurricane Matthew spared Charleston from his worst, but many in the coastal communities with older roofs did sustain damage of varying degrees. Unfortunately my roof at approximately 17 years of age was still the old style three tab shingles rated for only 60 MPH winds and was one of the casualties.
I am a consumer, not a roofing contractor, but I thought I would share what I have learned after going through this process to save time for others.
Repair or Replacement
The first question you likely have is should you repair or replace your roof.
It likely makes sense to repair your roof if you only lost a few shingles, you haven’t previously experienced any leaks in the house and your roof is not more than 15 years old (in the south – probably more like 20 years if it doesn’t get extreme exposure to the sun most of the year).
Replacement probably makes more sense if:
-Your roof is greater than 15 years old. Age is not the only determinant as many other factors such as quality of application, geographic region of the country, consistency and intensity of sun exposure, ventilation below the roof surface and many others will determine how long a roof will last, but age is a good place to start.
-A significant number of shingles were lost particularly if widely disbursed across several roofing surfaces. In our case we lost between forty and fifty shingles spread widely across two of the roof pitches. To replace the shingles that went missing requires removal of adjacent shingles as a roof is a system with many shingles overlapping one another to form a water tight barrier. Once removed, these adjacent shingles can be tacked down with roofing adhesive, but don’t seal as well after you break the sealing strip and remove the nails. This is particularly a problem if your shingles are advanced in age and brittle.
-You notice significant amounts of “granules” in your gutters, on your porch, deck or as in our case stuck to the siding of our house as a result of the hurricane winds blowing them around. Another quick test is to go up on the roof (safely of course). On all but the steepest pitches, you should have enough footing to maneuver around safely. If your roof is excessively slick, you have likely lost most of the granules. Granules are significant because they provide the UV protection for your roof surface. Once the granules are gone, you are left with the fiberglass matting that is the base of an asphalt shingle. Before long that matting will break down and you will start to see water penetrating the shingle surface and damaging the plywood below or worse - making it into the interior of your home where repairs can get expensive.
-You notice the shingles beginning to “curl.” This is obvious with the old three tab shingle (as opposed to the architectural style shingles currently used in coastal areas to meet wind codes). Three tab shingles have separations between each shingle tab in straight identifiable lines that are staggered by row across your roof surface. If the edges of the tabs are beginning to show valleys from the edges of the shingles curling, your roof is near its end.
-Finally, and perhaps less importantly, you plan on selling your house within a year or two. If so, a new roof is a strong selling feature particularly on an older home and will likely yield near what you will pay for the replacement in sales price.
Of course getting the opinion of several roofing contractors can also be helpful and lead to consensus on whether to repair or replace your roof. Keep in mind there is a built in conflict of interest inherent in their advice as they stand to gain far more from a replacement than a repair. But these companies don’t like to deal with customers who are dissatisfied with a repair, so the conflict has some mitigating factors.
Involving Your Insurance Company or Not
The first thing you should do in deciding whether or not to involve your insurance company is to get repair estimates from roofers and their opinion on the matter. Most bonafide roofing contractors have worked with insurance adjusters and they know how your situation will be treated. In my case being most of the damage was on the south and west facing pitches of my roof, the consensus was that the insurance company would agree to the cost of replacing only those pitches. What you then need to do is weigh the cost of what the insurance will pay for (taking into account depreciation for roof age if applicable) in comparison to your deductible.
In the case of a named storm, most of us near the coast have a higher deductible than for a normal claim. It is typically a percentage of the part A dwelling coverage on our homeowners insurance policy. Insurance companies use this higher deductible to limit their out of pocket for significant risk events such as hurricanes in coastal areas.
My deductible happened to be on the low side for a named storm at only $4,500. Most folks in the area have wind and hail deductibles between $6,000 and $9,000 based on what the roofing contractors I spoke with had encountered.
I received repair estimates between $375 and $1,500. The high quotes were primarily from companies that preferred to quote a replacement because they didn’t want to be called back out for leaks. Some companies I called wouldn’t quote a repair at all after I told them the age of the roof.
Replacement is obviously significantly more expensive, so you will want to spend more time doing due diligence. Actually they say on average people spend about 10 years in each of the houses they own and only ever replace one roof in a lifetime. As with any infrequent decision of significant financial consequence it is worth dedicating adequate time to making the right decision.
Get at least three quotes. If you get more, throw out the highest and lowest then go with the lowest estimate in the ballpark if the contractor is someone you feel comfortable with.
Make sure all roofers you are considering are licensed and bonded so if one of their guys falls off your roof they don’t sue you as the homeowner.
Make sure your roofer is a certified installer of the manufacturer’s product that they are proposing to install. The most popular brands of shingles are Certainteed and GAF and it is critical for warranty purposes that the installer is certified by the brand. As an aside, these two manufacturer websites are probably the best place to find your roofing company candidates as they will list certified contractors in your area and their level of certification. For example GAF has variable levels of certification for installers and the higher levels are allowed to offer you a longer and more comprehensive warranty.
Another good way to find a contractor is to walk around your neighborhood with a close eye on the quality of recently replaced roofs. After you look at a few of them you will get a feel for the details that make a difference. When you find one or two that look outstanding (or very poor), knock on the door and ask the owner who did the work and their experience with the contractor. I found several neighbors who were more than happy to make a recommendation for the good ones and even a few who were ready to tell you who not to use based on their experience. As an aside, when you are buying a house and it needs a roof, you really don’t want to negotiate for a seller to have a roof put on the house as part of the sales contract. You are better off to take the money off of the purchase price and choose a roofer and a roof yourself. The seller is just going to find the cheapest contractor they can, certified or not, because it will become your problem in the future. This was a hard learned lesson for one of my neighbors.
Don’t give the contractor too much up front. I had contractors ask for anything from 20% to 50% up front with the balance due upon completion. Some offer financing at reasonable interest rates.
You are Really Buying A Set of Warranties When You Buy a Roof
When buying a roof, you are buying some materials, an installation experience but most importantly you are buying a warranty from water and other elements penetrating the inside of your home from above. More specifically you are buying warranties from your roofing contractor and the manufacturer of the product they are going to install.
In my case both the Certainteed Landmark and the GAF Timberline HD shingles in contention were warranted for 50 years against manufacturer defect in winds of up to 130 MPH.
The GAF HD stain warranty is 15 years compared to only 10 at Certainteed, but other than that I was told by my installer that the manufacturer’s warranties for these two products were the same and both were very high quality products.
One key thing to know is that few shingles are warranted against hail damage. “Impact resistant” shingles are and they are significantly more expensive and are typically not quoted by roofing contractors unless asked for specifically. Given the shingles on my house had survived 17 years without hail damage I decided to retain the risk between me and my insurance company rather than purchase the more expensive shingles.
Installer Labor Warranty
Here is where there was some differentiation among the contractors that bid for the job. Most had a 5 year installer warranty meaning if the shingles failed due to installer error, the contractor that installed them would replace the shingles for free including both materials and labor. One contractor stood out because they had a 10 year warranty.
Another key thing to take into consideration in selecting your contractor is how long they have been in business. Not so much to tell you if they know what they are doing (I would rely more on the brand certification for that), but to indicate whether or not they will be around for the duration of the warranty period should something happen. As it turns out most roofing contractors have been in business less than 5 years as many companies start, fold up and re-form as some other entity. Likewise, when a hurricane comes through, contractors end up coming to the area from all over. Some are attempting to legitimately get work because things are slow where they are from while others are just looking for a quick buck and may or may not do any work at all for it.
This is why not giving them a significant down payment is important.
A company that has been in business for a long time working primarily in your local area should have a huge advantage over fly by night carpet baggers regardless of a discount in price. This is specifically important in a purchase like a roof that will need to last 20 years.
You also want to make sure your warranty is transferrable and whether or not there is a fee for doing so if you plan on selling your house anytime soon.
Help In Offsetting the Cost of a Replacement
To my great surprise there is some significant help for things like roof replacements in South Carolina and particularly in hurricane prone areas of the state.
South Carolina Safe Home Grant
First is a Grant that Post and Courier reporter David Slade’s articles of 2014 and 2015 brought to my attention. Created in 2007 in a package of insurance-related reforms, it's funded by 1 percent of the money the state collects each year from a tax on insurance premiums, plus the tax on Wind Pool policies, which together add up to about $2 million annually (more on the impact of this obviously low limit later).
This grant will provide up to $5,000 of Grant aid (read: you do not have to pay back) for the upgrade of an existing residence against the potential damage and loss of life from a hurricane. Eligibility for the Grant requires the home and owner to meet the following requirements:
-You must own and reside in a single-family detached home (but not a mobile home)
-County must be covered by the program (Charleston is)
-The home can’t have a taxable and insured value of more than $300,000
-The home must be adequately insured
The grants can be used for upgrading a roof surface, exterior doors, installing hurricane-rated shutters, reinforcing roof framing and reinforcing roof-to-wall connections among other things. The grants are not available for new construction or simple repairs, but replacing a roof does count as a retrofit, so long as the new roof meets standards for hurricane-resistance.
The process requires application which is accomplished by having a certified wind inspector complete a report, which costs $150. After the inspection, the homeowner files the paperwork provided by the inspector and completes the application. This process is glacially slow requiring up to a year for review and approval. Once the grant is made, the homeowner has 6 months to have the work completed. The state sends the grant to the contractor to ensure the funds are used for their approved purpose.
Here is the big problem. This program is obviously so popular and funding so minute that it is available only to a few. In fact, they stopped even taking applications some time ago. With all of the recent damage to roofs from the storm, I can only imagine demand for these grants will remain high. However if you have a replacement window for your roof of 2-3 years AND you have the spare time to monitor the status of the program for when it begins accepting applications again (I’d check around March every year), it may just be worth about $5,000 in your pocket. A huge win!
There are two tax credits that are claimed on the South Carolina state income tax form related to the Residential Retrofit Credit (form TC-43). These credits will essentially rebate up to $1,000 of your expense for retrofitting your house, and rebate the sales tax paid for materials.
If you are reading this outside of South Carolina, take a look at incentives your state may offer to help offset the cost of similar retrofits. I would wager states with significant coastlines have credits or deductions (if they have a state income tax).
Given the 17 year age of our roof, the west/southwest exposure baking the house in the intense afternoon sun, significant granule loss, the high number and dispersion of lost shingles and likelihood of selling this house in the next few years, we decided to go ahead and replace the roof.
With the total cost of my roof replacement at $8,000, two pitches likely to be reimbursed by my insurance company and a $4,500 deductible, it didn’t make sense to make a claim with the insurance company as there would be no benefit in doing so and with a claim on my record, my premiums would increase.
Given the storm, I expected that demand for roofing services would be high and that was the case. I was able to get 3 contractors out to quote the replacement. A fourth gave a notional ballpark amount that was in line with the three other quotes I had received. To my surprise several contractors including one that prominently advertises on local television didn’t return several phone calls in a request for quote. One contractor said the earliest they could send someone out would be 6 weeks which to me indicated a poorly run outfit. With 50 shingles missing up on my roof, waiting 6 weeks to decide if I wanted to go through with the replacement wasn’t an option.
One solution I considered to save some money was having repairs made and then resuming the search for a contractor to complete the replacement in the spring after all of the storm damage replacements were complete. However, after asking each contractor who bid a replacement if the price would be less if we waited until the spring when demand had waned, each said they were not adding anything additional in price and that waiting to get in the queue would do little more than make the wait to complete the replacement longer.
After weighing the options, despite an 8-10 week wait from the time of signing the contract, we decided to go forward with Tri County Roofing https://www.tricountyroofingsc.com/. The cost for replacement will be $8,000. This was not the least expensive quote we received, but they were reasonably in the ballpark. Here are the items that sealed the deal:
-We went with the GAF product because of the extra 5 years of stain warranty (and their color pallet is more consistent resulting in a deeper black for the Charcoal color selected)
-Tri County’s roof was the first I noticed in my neighborhood as being of high quality and the neighbor I spoke with raved about the experience
-They have been in business in Charleston for 43 years so I expect they will be here to back their warranty
-They are certified GAF Master Elite Installers. Because of GAF’s stringent standards, only 3% of all roofing contractors have qualified as Master Elite® contractors
-They offered a 10 year warranty on workmanship when others who were close in price were only offering 5 years
-While I realize he won’t be the one installing the roof, the sales guy I dealt with, Jay Ouzts, was the most professional and knowledgeable guy that came to the house, so I felt most comfortable these were the guys who would do what they said they were going to do
-They made it clear they would “dry in the roof” which means make temporary repairs to keep the inside protected until they are able to complete the replacement
If you are in the Charleston area and looking for a reasonably priced repair from a licensed and bonded contractor, I had a positive experience with CMS http://www.cmsofsc.com/ on another property. They quoted this particular repair at $480 and that is who I would have gone with for the repair had I gone that route.
So there it is. All I ever wanted to know about roof repair and replacement. Hopefully this article saves you some time when you need to have work done on your roof.
Follow Up After Completion:
The wait was 10 weeks and the roof installation went as expected. The crew was so efficient they completed the entire job in a single day and did an amazing job cleaning up all of the nails and debris in the yard. There were several inspections that took place after the installation was complete to ensure the shingles had adhered properly and nothing was missed. All in all I highly recommend Tri County Roofing if you need your roof replaced.