Commonly asked questions
Q: How can a home owner recognize when a roof system has problems?
A: All too often, roof system problems are discovered after leaking or other serious damage occurs. Periodic (twice-a-year) inspections often can uncover cracked, warped or missing shingles; loose seams and deteriorated flashings; excessive surface granules accumulating in the gutters or downspouts; and other visible signs of roof system problems. Indoors, look for cracked paint, discolored plasterboard and peeling wallpaper as signs of damaged roof areas.
Q: What are my options if I decide to reroof?
A: You have two basic options: You can choose a complete replacement of the roof system, involving a tear-off of your existing roof system, or re-cover the existing roof system, involving only the installation of a new roof system. If you’ve already had one re-cover installed on your original roof system, check with a professional roofing contractor. In many instances, building code requirements allow no more than one roof system re-cover before a complete replacement is necessary.
Q: My roof leaks. Do I need to have it replaced completely?
A: Not necessarily. Leaks can result from flashings that have come loose or a section of the roof system being damaged. A complete roof system failure, however, generally is irreversible and a result of improper installation or choice of materials or the roof system installation is inappropriate for the home or building.
Q: Can I do the work myself?
A: Most work should not be done yourself. Professional roofing contractors are trained to safely and efficiently repair or replace roof systems. You can damage your roof system by using improper roofing techniques and severely injure yourself by falling off or through the roof.
Maintenance performed by home and building owners should be confined to inspecting roof systems during the fall and spring to check for cracked or curling shingles and cleaning gutters filled with dead leaves and other debris. If you must inspect your roof system yourself, use a firmly braced or tied-off ladder equipped with rubber safety feet. Wear rubber-soled shoes and stay on the ladder (and off the roof system), if possible.
Q: How long can I expect my roof system to last?
A: Most new roof systems are designed to provide useful service for about 20 years. Some roof system types, such as slate, clay tile and certain metal (e.g., copper) systems, can last longer.
Actual roof system life span is determined by a number of factors, including local climatic and environmental conditions, proper building and roof system design, material quality and suitability, proper application and adequate roof maintenance.
Roofing product manufacturers offer a variety of warranties on their products. Take a close look at those warranties to see what responsibilities and financial obligations manufacturers will assume if their products fail to reach their expected lives.
Q: What will a new roof system cost?
A: The price of a new roof system varies widely, depending on such things as the materials selected, contractor doing the work, home or building, location of the home or building, local labor rates and time of year. To get a good idea of price for your roof system, get three or four proposals from reputable contractors in your area. Keep in mind that price is only one factor, and it must be balanced with the quality of the materials and workmanship.
For each roofing material, there are different grades and corresponding prices. There also are a variety of styles and shapes. You need to look at the full product range and make a choice based on your budget and needs.
Within the roofing profession, there are different levels of expertise and craftsmanship. Insist on a contractor who is committed to quality work.
Q: How can I determine my annual roofing cost?
A: When considering your roofing options, the following formula may help:
Total Cost (Materials and Labor) ÷ Life Expectancy of Roof System (in years) = Annual Roofing Cost
Terms you should know
Deck/sheathing: The surface, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), to which roofing materials are applied.
Dormer: A small structure projecting from a sloped roof, usually with a window.
Drip edge: An L-shaped strip (usually metal) installed along roof edges to allow water run off to drip clear of the deck, eaves and siding.
Eave: The horizontal lower edge of a sloped roof.
Fascia: A flat board, band or face located at a cornice’s outer edge.
Felt/underlayment: A sheet of asphalt-saturated material (often called tar paper) used as a secondary layer of protection for the roof deck.
Fire rating: System for classifying the fire resistances of various materials. Roofing materials are rated Class A, B or C, with Class A materials having the highest resistance to fire originating outside the structure.
Flashing: Pieces of metal used to prevent the seepage of water around any intersection or projection in a roof system, such as vent pipes, chimneys, valleys and joints at vertical walls.
Louvers: Slatted devices installed in a gable or soffit (the underside of eaves) to ventilate the space below a roof deck and equalize air temperature and moisture.
Oriented strand board (OSB): Roof deck panels (4 by 8 feet) made of narrow bits of wood, installed lengthwise and crosswise in layers, and held together with a resin glue. OSB often is used as a substitute for plywood sheets.
Penetrations: Vents, pipes, stacks, chimneys-anything that penetrates a roof deck.
Rafters: The supporting framing to which a roof deck is attached.
Ridge: The top edge of two intersecting sloping roof surfaces.
Sheathing: The boards or sheet materials that are fastened to rafters to cover a house or building.
Slope: Measured by rise in inches for each 12 inches of horizontal run: A roof with a 4-in-12 slope rises 4 inches for every foot of horizontal distance.
Square: The common measurement for roof area. One square is 100 square feet (10 by 10 feet).
Truss: Engineered components that supplement rafters in many newer homes and buildings. Trusses are designed for specific applications and cannot be cut or altered.
Valley: The angle formed at the intersection of two sloping roof surfaces.
SOURCES OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
American Society of Home Inspectors
932 Lee Street, Suite 101
Des Plaines, IL 60016
Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association
4041 Powder Mill Road, Suite 404
Calverton, MD 20705
Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau
P.O. Box 1178
Sumas, WA 98295-1178
Metal Construction Association
104 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 1500
Chicago, IL 60603
National Association of Home Builders
1201 15th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
National Association of the Remodeling Industry
4900 Seminary Road, Suite 320
Arlington, VA 22203
National Tile Roofing Manufacturers Association
P.O. Box 40337
Eugene, OR 97404-0049
NRCA Consumer Advisory Bulletins
Roofing Qualification Statement as suggested by NRCA is a form home and building owners should ask prospective roofing contractors to complete and submit with proposals. The form asks for information about contractors’ companies, work in progress, references, finances and insurance.
For a free NRCA catalog of publications and audiovisual programs or to purchase any of these publications, visit NRCA’s Bookstore or contact NRCA’s customer service department at (866) ASK-NRCA (275-6722) or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.