While it’s possible to DIY your own roof, there are a lot of good reasons to hire professionals. Unless you’re a bit of daredevil, you probably don’t want to learn on the job when you’re balancing on a surface designed to make rain and other things roll off.
You also don’t want to finish shingling, get down, and realize your calculations were slightly off and your lines are cockeyed. That said, there’s still a lot you need to worry about and prepare if you’re hiring contractor, either for a few patches or replacement or a new construction roof installation.
The old adage “get it writing” definitely applies to hiring roofers. Don’t be surprised if you find roofing quotes vary quite a bit, even between roofing companies asked to do the same thing.
Once you’ve chosen a team, establish clear contact points and payment terms. Here are some points to agree on — with your family and your contractors — before anyone starts nailing down shingles.
Research Your System
Not all roofs look the same, cost the same or have the same lifespan. You need to decide what kind of shingles you’re going to install — metal, wood or asphalt — and what type of lining you'll need given the climate you live in.
The more you understand about the system you’re going to install, the better you can compare the quotes you receive and also look for padding in the estimate.
The work order should include all of the products you plan to use — membranes, starter strip, shingles — so you have it in writing that the contractors will use them. You’ll also understand the warranties that come with the roofing system and who to contact if there’s a leak or other problem.
Is the time guarantee on the roofing pro-rated or a full warranty? The more you understand the answer, the more accurate your expectations will be.
Establish Communication Lines
Workers are going to have questions as they remove an old roof and put a new one on. Who’s going to be their main point of contact? Ideally someone will be on site at all time to answer any questions. If not, can they call you or rely on a neighbor who may have keys to the house?
Roofers can be very busy. In some climates, specific seasons of the year are particularly loaded with jobs. You need to know how many days and daytime hours the work will require so you can notify your family and neighbors.
A little flexibility may also be needed. You may think you’re going line up the construction to match when your family is on vacation, but don’t be miffed when the roofers call up the day before everyone is about to leave and tell you they need to push back work for a week. That said, you want to get in writing how long the construction will last and perhaps include penalties for the going too long over schedule.
Clean and Protect
What’s going to be done to make sure your slate walkway isn’t shattered and your marigolds aren’t flattened? Agree with your construction team on what the plan will be for protection around the house.
If you’re building a new property, you probably also have elements in place you don’t want damaged, even if it’s the wooden frame for a new building or the recently planted grass.
Before the team arrives, you want to make sure the tools and toys that are stored around the house, like the garden hose and red wagon, are put away so the contractors aren’t spending time cleaning up before they start work.
Talk with the construction lead to figure out how long the dumpster with the old roofing material will be sitting in your driveway. Check if team members will be walking around the property with magnets to forage for accidentally discarded nails and staples.
If you have to protect your plants and flower beds from falling debris, you ‘ll need to cover them with fairly strong material. Be sure to request the roofers also lay down tarps to catch the pieces of shingle shards and nails they’ll be tossing down as they discard old tiles. (Of course, this isn’t as necessary if it’s new construction.)
Get Your Gear
If you’re planning to DIY a new roof, you’re going to need to buy or rent quite a bit of equipment. Getting rid of the old roof layers requires a roofing shovel, pry bar and tin snips. To attach the shingles, you’ll need a roofing nail gun, roofing hammer, and air compressor. Plus, there are a lot of tools you may not consider such as circular saw, sawhorse, and cordless drill. Don’t forget the safety harness that will keep you strapped to frame and other safety equipment.
Notify Family and Friends
No one wants to be woken up by construction, not your neighbors or family members. Be sure to give everyone some courtesy notice about the beginning and end of the roofing projecting, including the work hours. You may want to arrange for your kids and pets to be out of the house during the noisiest construction times. Also, be sure everyone has a safe pathway if they’re going to be coming in and out of the house when workers are on the roof. Make sure the workers know which doors and gates they shouldn’t open, if only to keep a pet from running out.