Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Roofer

nick-coyle-carlson-exteriors-project-managerProject Manager Nick Coyle has been in the roofing industry practically his whole life. He currently manages the roofing crews, meets with homeowners to provide estimates on roof replacements, roof repairs, and stop tricky roof leaks. I sat down with Nick to find out the most popular questions from homeowners but more importantly the questions homeowners should be asking before hiring a roofer.

 

Mastic Russet red vertical siding, white trim, natural clay shake siding, certainteed moire black shingles in canton il

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you licensed and insured?

Nick said this is almost every homeowner’s first question. Most roofers say yes but many homeowners fail to ask for proof. A quality roofer should proudly display this documentation and make it easy for a homeowner to verify. Nick leaves a copy of Carlson Exteriors Inc Roofing License and current insurance with the homeowners that he meets with.

Carlson Exteriors' License, Bond, and insurance

Do I have storm damage?

The best any roofer can do is to give his professional opinion. Nick takes photos when he is inspects roofs to bring down and explain what he sees to homeowners. Nick can provide his opinion whether the roof looks storm, wind, or hail damaged but ultimately the decision lies with your insurance company. When homeowners contact insurance about potential storm damage, they start a claim which has the potential to raise your rates. Nick advises homeowners to familiarize themselves with their current plan, know their deductible, and to see if it’s worth potentially having higher rates. Example- If it’s a small repair that barely exceeds a homeowner’s deductible; it might not be worth making a claim.

What’s the difference between synthetic felt and regular felt?

Synthetic felt has grown with popularity amongst roofing companies. It’s easier/safer for crews to walk on and it has a higher resistance to ripping in the wind. Regular 15lb or 30lb felt rips very easy in the hands, while synthetic felt is practically impossible to rip. Some shingle manufacturers require synthetic felt to qualify for warranties. Carlson Exteriors only uses synthetic felt. Click here to read more about synthetic felt.

Winterguard and Diamond deck photo

What’s the difference between the Landmark shingles and the Landmark Pro Shingle?

This question usually comes after Nick presents the estimate to homeowners. Landmark is the standard shingle and Landmark Pro is a slight upgrade. Both are manufactured by CertainTeed and both qualify for the Unconditional Roof Warranty. Aesthetically, Landmark Pros have a wider selection of color choices and the shingles are Max Def. Max Def means the lights are lighter and the darks are darker giving each shingle a higher contrast. Landmark Pros have a 15 year algae warranty to protect your roof from getting streaky. Nick advices homeowners with many mature trees to select the Landmark Pros because of the 15 year algae warranty. Landmark Pros can have a higher wind rating than the Landmarks; this is dependent upon your contractor. Landmarks and Landmark Pros both can meet the max wind rating of 130 mph if shingle starter is also applied up the roof rakes. Carlson Exteriors uses starter up the rakes to ensure max protection for every homeowner.

Ridge vent vs Box vents – Is one better than the other?

As long as the roof is adequately vented ridge vents and box vents are equal. Currently the trend is to go with ridge vents because it provides a cleaner look on the roof. Nick advises homeowners who are thinking about putting the house on the market to select ridge vent because of the current housing trend. When replacing the roof, there is no price difference between using box vents or ridge vents. Every roof Carlson Exteriors replaces, Nick does an inspection to make sure it has enough ventilation. If a home does not have much ridge line, Nick advises box vents.

Questions Homeowners Should Be Asking Roofers

Can you be more detailed about the products you are using, how you use them, and why you use them? 

Nick says many roofers only provide a price for roof replacement with minimal supporting information. Nick gives every homeowner a packet of information that includes:

  • Summary of roof replacement process/ what to expect
  • Roof selection guide
  • Warranty information
  • Letter from Carlson Exteriors Bank
  • Letter from Carlson Exteriors Supplier
  • Information sheet about synthetic felt
  • Information sheet about ridge vent
  • A copy of Carlson Exteriors Roofing license
  • A copy of Carlson Exteriors current insurance
  • Information sheet about protection from ice dams
  • A customer reference list with contact information (Upon request)

All of this falls into gauging a roofer’s professionalism. If a contractor just provides a homeowner with a slip of paper with the cost it’s essentially the same as someone expecting to sell a used vehicle on craigslist with no listed mileage, information on condition quality, and not allowing a test drive. Click here to read more about gauging contractor professionalism.

Upon comparing two estimates that are $500-1000 different, what am I getting or not getting?

So many homeowners think all roof quotes are created equal and the cheapest is best. Nothing could be furthest from the truth. The easiest way to find out why the cost difference is to call the more expensive roofer and see what they are providing  above and beyond the lower estimate. Usually it is because of a better warranty, higher quality products, not re-using certain products (drip edge, flashing, etc), better reputation, better customer service, or more stable company. More stable companies have an office and don’t work out of their house, they have office hours where customers can walk in. Stable companies pay their employees with checks and not cash.

Nick concluded our conversation by saying he wished homeowners did more research on roofers and the owners of the company. Information, good or bad, is so easily found online; it’s ashamed that many homeowners don’t utilize this resource. He recommended homeowners to read “How To Find a Contractor You Can’t Live Without” and “Why does a 30 year shingle not last for 30 years?” to better educate themselves on products and finding contractors.

If you are in need of a professional opinion of your roof, need a roof replacement, or have a roof leak and want Nick Coyle to inspect – Contact Carlson Exteriors.

 

Understanding Roof Underlayment

When replacing your roof, it’s very easy to get caught up in shingle color and brand. Before you rush into that, make sure your contractor is not skimping on the underlayment. Not all underlayment is created equal. Not all contractors install underlayment in the same locations.

Carlson Exteriors uses Winterguard, CertainTeed’s brand of ice and water barrier. Per city code this barrier is placed at all valleys and at the eaves.  However, there are locations this barrier should be applied that are not required by city code. These locations are all roof penetrations (such as vents or furnace flues), around chimneys, skylights, and anywhere a roof line meets a siding wall. These joining areas are first susceptible to leaks if your home is not sealed correctly by using a ice and water barrier. Many manufacturers require these additional areas to have an ice and water barrier applied to qualify for the roof or shingle warranty.

An Ice and Water Barrier (like Winterguard) should be applied around pipes, around chimneys, skylights, and anywhere a roof meets a siding wall
An Ice and Water Barrier (like Winterguard) should be applied around pipes, around chimneys, skylights, and anywhere a roof meets a siding wall

 

Make sure your contractor is not using a 15lb or 30lb felt. This used to be contractor’s only option but the roofing industry has evolved into synthetic felts. The old felt would tear easily and gave no traction to installers. If your home has the old felt under your shingles, if any shingles would blow off your flimsy felt would be left exposed. If exposed for too long, it will rip leaving your OSB to fend for itself. Synthetic felt eliminates this problem. Synthetic felt is extremely durable and resistant to ripping or tearing. Installers also prefer it when installing because it’s easier to work on.

When you meet with a contractor, remember more than the shingles are working to protect your home from roof leaks or ice dams. The whole roofing system, combined together, protects your home.

Early Signs of Roof Failure

roof with loose shingles

As the snow and ice melt off your roof, it’s a good time to see if your roof sustained any stress or damage from the winter.

  1. Brown Spotting or Tea Staining on your ceiling. This is the easiest way for you to catch a small leak early. The spot might not drip or be wet to the touch but it’s a sign of a leak and will be worth having check out. If you know the leak has been fixed and want to get rid of the stain, use a stain-blocking primer like Kilz or Bullseye first then use your regular ceiling paint. Without the stain blocker primer the brown spot will come through the ceiling paint, even if the leak has been fixed.

    brown spot on ceiling tea stain on ceiling
    A tea stain or brown spotting on ceiling is an indicator of roof leak
  2. Missing Shingles. If you can see your roof in it’s entirety you will still know if you are missing shingles by finding pieces in your yard. Shingles lose adhesive strength as it ages. Drastic temperature changes are hard on the shingle bonding strip. After this is weakened, wind easily blows off your shingles leaving you exposed.

    roof with loose shingles
    Over time weaker shingle lose adhesive bond strength and may blow off easier
  3. Curled or Cracked shingles. Over time asphalt shingles dry out and become brittle and fragile. Frail shingles are no defense against environmental dangers (like hail) and need attention sooner rather than later. It’s easier to see curled shingles from the ground – the edges are often described as looking like a potato chip. Cracked shingles may only be visible while standing on the roof.

     

  4. Cracked or Damaged Pipe Flashing. Pipe flashing wear out quicker than the rest of your roof. It’s an easy fix in terms of roof repairs but may be harder for the average homeowner to see. The only way to inspect pipe flashing conditions is from being on the roof. Often it’s just best to call a local contractor that you trust to come over and inspect!

    cracked pipe boot flashing
    Cracked pipe boot flashing causes leaks

You might want to check out our short video by Project Manager Nick Coyle on why your 30-year shingle won’t last 30 years.

Water Management

Rotten OSB and moldy insulation from water running behind siding and house wrap

Uncontrolled water is the biggest threat to homeowners. It’s a slow and silent killer. Here are the most common issues we see on homes.

Lack of Kick-Out Flashings. Even if your gutters are pitched correctly and don’t leak, they may appear to be leaking where the gutter butts up the wall. Or it might look like nothing is wrong at all. Overtime, water constantly slipping between the wall and gutter will find its way behind any house wrap or moisture barrier you have in place. Read more about kick-out flashings

siding and underlayment rotted from water running down the wall
Without a kick-out flashing, water is free to run down your siding and can creep behind your house wrap.
Rotten OSB and moldy insulation from water running behind siding and house wrap
Once you remove the house wrap you can see all the damage that the un-controlled water did behind the house wrap.

No Downspout Extensions. Often times homeowners remove these extensions out of aggravation. These extensions might seem like a trip hazard, a pain to mow around, or get trampled easily. – but don’t get rid of them! Your home and your foundation need these extensions to route water away from you home. You can add hinges to these extensions to eliminate all the hassle they cause. Click here to read more about downspout hinges.

downspout extension laying down and then in the up position
Left: Downspout is fully extended for proper water flow Right: Downspout has been lifted up to allow for mowing

Inadequate or No House Wrap. Depending on when your home was built and the history of your city’s building codes, your home might not have any house wrap or moisture barrier. For example, the City of Bloomington, IL did not start requiring any form of house wrap until the late 70’s. Practically all houses built before the early 70’s (in Bloomington, IL) are without house wrap. Siding, bricks, shakes or any other exterior cladding are not intended to protect your home from water intrusion. If your home does have house wrap, it might be done incorrectly: applied in small pieces, too many mechanical fasteners, or taped incorrectly. There are alternative moisture barriers to house wrap at similar expenses- Read about EnviroDri.

cedar siding on chimney. Underneath chimney is rotted usb
Cedar siding doesn’t always protect your home

Bad Pipe Flashings. Pipe flashing have a shorter lifespan than your roof and will need replaced a few times before you need a new roof. It’s a simple fix but if the flashing is cut too large, water will still get in. Watch Nick Coyle replace a pipe flashing.

cracked pipe boot flashing
Cracked pipe boot flashing causes leaks

 

If you are unsure about any of these, call a local, trustworthy contractor to give you a free inspection.