How to buy a new roof. All about getting a new composition shingle roof and the re-roof process from to start to finish.

Monday, December 19th, 2016 by Ernie Smith

So how do you go about buying a new roof nowadays? What’s the very first step? And the last one? And what exactly goes on during the re-roof process?

If you’re facing the prospect of getting a new roof, don’t be surprised if you’re facing a little intimidation too.

That’s not unusual. Buying a new roof is a pretty rare event, and not without some aura of mystery for most first-time roof buyers. Getting a new roof is usually one of those things you get familiar with because you have to. And when it’s over, it’s not hard to forget about it.

You’ll probably have lots of questions (besides the ones mentioned above). Do I need to be home? How long does it take to put on a new roof? What about the dogs? Or the tortoise? (Yes, the large family tortoise - after a few decades in this business you tend to see it all.)

If buying a new roof is all Greek to you, just take a deep breath and we’ll walk you through.

To help put things in perspective, you might compare buying a new roof to smashing your car.

What do you do first? Well, if you’ve had a big storm you should contact your insurance company and then collect a few bids. A really good roofer will work with your adjustor. If it’s just ‘natural causes’ go straight to step two, and call some good contractors.

In roofing, the ‘bid’ usually serves as the contract too. Maybe you already know a good roofer, or your insurance company does. (Do keep in mind you can choose who you want, regardless who pays.) Read our article on Choosing a Great Roofer for some great advice.

The price of a new composition shingle roof depends on a few different factors.

(You knew we’d say that.) How big is your house? How many stories? Is it steep? Is there another layer of roofing underneath the first one?  What about rotten wood? Is the house hard to access? Are there skylights and chimneys that need some attention? Do you have friends in high places? (That was a joke.)

Keep in mind, when it comes to price, that your roofer wants your business (they’ve got bills to pay too). Rest assured that a reputable roofing company will be trying as hard as they can to be as competitive as possible. 

It’s best to have a face-to-face meeting with your roofer at your house (or wherever the property is that’ll be getting the new roof).

A meeting on the premises makes it easier to tell the roofer your concerns, point out any leaks or areas of interest, and even introduce the dog (or tortoise, or whatever the case may be). It’ll be easier to communicate, and a meeting ‘on the ground’ ensures a more thorough and accurate estimate, and ultimately a better job.

Afterwards, if you prefer, you can do business (meaning checking out the contract and even signing it) via email, the Post Office, and/or by fax. (Again, the following four terms are usually interchangeable in the roofing business, i.e., the bid, the contract, the proposal, and the estimate.)

Discuss ‘extras’ and possible surprises that might inadvertently affect the final cost of a new roof.

Nobody likes surprises, and neither does the roofer – there’s very little money in fixing small areas of rotted decking and fascia. (The fascia is the trim board around the edge of the roof.) Again, see our article on Choosing a Great Roofer, particularly tip # nine.

It’s standard practice, when buying a new roof, for the roofer to address specifically any possible unforeseen extra costs, and spell things out in the contract. Make sure you know what’s included and what’s not.

Also go over attic ventilation strategy and ask about upgrading exhaust pipes. Ask the roofer, if applicable, about chimneys and skylights. And if permits or inspections are involved, ask who’s responsible. If you live in an area where hurricanes are a problem, there’ll be extra regulations and inspections. (In Texas we follow the high-wind TDI Windstorm code.)

At this point your roofer may or may not ask for a deposit – at any rate, your roofing materials are usually ordered and delivered to your property soon thereafter.

How do you know the right shingle to get, or what kind of roofing materials to talk over with your roofer?

This part is pretty easy for most folks here in the U.S., since the vast majority of existing suburban homes are topped with composition shingles – and the vast majority of all newly installed (brand new) roofs are also, surprise, composition shingles.

30, 40, and even 50-year warranty ‘laminated’ (sometimes referred to as Timberline, Architectural, or Designer) shingles are the most popular types of composition shingles. Get the heaviest composition shingle you can afford, especially if you live in a ‘high-wind’ area. (The higher the warranty the heavier the shingle.) Of note, although 30-year warranty shingles are by far the biggest sellers, some homeowner associations will require a shingle that’s a little weightier.

Composition shingles are so common and widely-used that often an experienced roofer will have a certain color and warranty in mind within moments of seeing your house. In fact, there’s a good chance your new composition shingle roof will be similar to your old one in many respects, especially if you live in a neighborhood. A good roofer will make suggestions and guide you along. Choosing a composition shingle that’s right for you is usually a fairly straightforward and painless process.

What happens next after signing the contract, and what’s the best way to prepare for your brand new roof?

Once you’ve hooked up with a trustworthy roofer, relax and let them do their job. Their reputation is on the line, so they’ll be aiming to please. You’ll be covered by a workmanship warranty, plus they’ll want you for a reference in the future.  

Look at your new roof job as a bona fide construction project. The existing roof will (usually) be stripped, so there’ll be some debris. You’ll be slightly inconvenienced and the noise will drive you crazy, but a new composition shingle roof can take less than two days! Most people are fascinated by the whole process and amazed at the speed of the workers.

Once your materials are delivered things usually start to move pretty fast, barring inclement weather.

Likely your roofer will put a sign in the yard. (Although yard signs are self-serving, they also signal the competition that a decision has been made.)

Since weather is a big factor, the agreed upon ‘start date’ for your new roof job is subject to change, so it helps to be flexible. Make sure there’s electricity outside, and leave a contact number in the unlikely case a supervisor needs inside.

The roofing material will be delivered via a big rig with a forklift that drops the shingles in your drive. (It’s pretty neat to watch.)

Below is a final ‘heads-up’ list of things to be aware of, what to expect, and how to prepare for the installation of your new composition shingle roof (or any other type roof).

*A new roof project is extremely loud if you’re inside the house. If your nerves are easily rattled, arrange to be somewhere else (and keep in mind the crew may be banging away right up until dark, especially in the summer).

*A new roof is a construction zone, so everybody needs to be careful going in and out of the house.

*Secure your vehicles and pets (don’t let the Rottweiler eat the crewmembers) and keep in mind the ordeal may be more than a bit nerve-wracking for indoor critters.

*You should also secure outside ornaments of interest, potted plants, and stuff on the ceilings and walls. (It’s not a bad idea to ‘secure’ the neighbors and the burglar alarm too.)

*Your roofing crew will have plenty of tarps and rolls of plastic and tarpaper on hand for bad weather, and they’ll batten down the hatches when it’s time to go home.

*Once again, make sure there’s electricity outside (for possible bad wood repair), and don’t fret if there’s roof granules in the driveway and gutter, for several weeks to come.

After your new roof is installed, breathe a sigh of relief.

That wasn’t so bad, right? Everybody was in and out like a flash.Your sales rep or supervisor will now check things out, and do a final walk-through, if they haven’t already.(You can mention the term ‘punch-out’ if you want to sound cool. Or not.)

You’ll know things are almost over when the crew starts packing and cleaning, which usually comes complete with a magnetic sweep of the driveway and grounds.

Now you can swap the final payment for a warranty. (If a windstorm inspector has been part of your roof job they may stop by one more time.)

Finally, you can pull the cars back around, unleash Brutus, (or the tortoise), and make inquiry about any last-minute items that might be on your mind.

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Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
19422B Hwy 6
Manvel, TX 77578

Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
2904 Trimmier Road Suite A2
Killeen, TX 76542

Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
235 South 70th Street Suite 105
Lincoln, NE 68510

Ernie Smith & Sons Roofing
5660 Bayshore Rd #45
North Fort Myers, FL 33917
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