7 Things I Learned During Our New Roof Project

We recently completed our new roofing project.  Before I started the process, I knew very little about roofing and what to expect.  Thanks to a great roofer that we selected, I learned a lot of things about roofing that I thought I would pass along.

FYI, the roofing company that we used was Bob Schmidt Roofing in Metamora, MI. If you’re based in the Detroit area, Bob is the best way to go.  I would recommend him to anybody!

  1. Builders put on cheap roofs – Our house is 14 years old and this was definitely going to be the last season for our roof. When we moved into the house in 2007, one of the valleys was already bad.  Last year, we started getting noticeable curling and deterioration, and even had shingles start blowing off during windstorms.  Bob sees this all the time, and now that I look for it, I even see the cheap roofs going on brand new construction, so things have not improved in this regard.
  2. Builders save very little by doing so – I asked Bob what the difference probably was back when the roof was installed, in terms of the cost to the builder, between the cheap roof that was installed and one that would have lasted longer.  He said that the builder probably saved $200 and that a better roof would probably have lasted 5-10 years longer.  This astounded me.  But, if you think about it, $200 times however many houses a builder builds adds up, and if homeowners don’t want to pay for an upgrade, they’ll continue to get away with offering the cheapest roof possible.  It still drives me nuts to think that a roof that would have lasted longer essentially could have cost $40 per year ($200 for five extra years).
  3. Color is important – After we decided to go with Bob, he spent some time working with us to select a color.  He started pointing out roofs that had bad color matches to the house, and now it’s much more obvious when you see a roof that doesn’t match a house.  We picked a color that matched our old roof, but with the architectural shingle style and some color highlights, it continues to match our house while giving it a modern look.
  4. Tearing off is the only way to go – If you have one layer of shingles, you’ll get an option to add a second layer of shingles.  This is a terrible option, and if you do, you will probably only save a few hundred dollars, but will likely cut the life span of your ‘new’ roof by up to 50%.  The only circumstance in which this would make sense would be if you were planning on selling the house soon in which case you wouldn’t care about the lifespan of the roof.  Be careful, though, because knowledgeable buyers might see this is a reason to avoid buying your home, figuring you cut corners.   Which leads me to…
  5. Educated customers are the best kind – I previously shared the story about a roofing company that refused my potential business, refusing to even bid on my roof, basically because I asked too many questions.  Bob was the complete opposite.  He spent time explaining everything to us, and was available throughout the life of the project with any questions.  In fact, I e-mailed, phoned, and texted him probably 50 times with various questions, and he answered every single one promptly and graciously.
  6. Ventilation is key – When we narrowed our choices down, the thing that ultimately put Bob as our roofer was that he addressed attic ventilation as part of his bid.  In talking with neighbors, others had expressed concern that there were not enough vents drawing air into the attic.  Bob’s quote called this out without me even bringing it up, as his price included adding ten more vents, doubling the current capacity.  He said that this would extend the life of our roof, and also indicated that this would likely make the second floor of our house much cooler.  When he said this, my wife and I both looked at each other, as the second floor has always been an oven on any sunny day over 70 degrees.  Bob said that would be fixed, and early results (we’ve had a few days 75+ with full sun) show that Bob was right, as the second floor is much more comfortable.  I’m confident that this will carry to the summer months, and this will be huge, as we’ve run the air conditioner at a much lower temperature than I’d prefer simply to keep the second floor from baking.
  7. Don’t pay for the wrong numbers – There is a company that does a lot of work in our neighborhood that is much bigger.  They have multiple crews with crew sizes over triple what Bob offers.  They did a roof down the street in half a day, where Bob took two and a half days for ours.  They were assuredly cheaper.  But, Bob pointed out a row of shingles that started on one end and tailed off about halfway across the roof, as the shingles weren’t even installed straight.  He pointed out at least ten shingles that were already missing, probably having gotten stuck in the package, yet the roofer installed them anyways.  He pointed out how the roofers damaged their siding.  He pointed out how his guys vacuum out the gutters and blow off the roof with a leaf blower, which then allows any nails to fall and get picked up by the large magnet that they sweep.  The other roofer leaves it all up there, meaning they’ll find nails over their property for weeks to come.  Buying a roof is important, he pointed out, but if you want to simply buy a number (low price, lowest time) then you’re likely focusing on the wrong number.   Even though Bob came in higher, the quality of materials and workmanship gave me a much better value than I know the people down the street received.

All in all, I was very happy with our roofing project.  It was a pain for the week or so between when the shingles were delivered and when everything finally wrapped up (on top of the three days they took to install, we had days with complete downpour that delayed the start of the job).  But, I kept things in perspective, knowing that this one week would give us a roof that we can enjoy and that will last for years decades to come.  Thanks, Bob, for a great job!

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21 thoughts on “7 Things I Learned During Our New Roof Project

    • Just so long as your friends know what they’re doing. I know it’s not rocket science but it’s also one of those things where a repair or do-over is pretty difficult.

  1. When we built our house 9 years ago we went round and round with our builder about what shingles we wanted to put on our home. He wanted to go with the cheaper stuff, we wanted to make it last. I’m not exactly sure what he was arguing about – it’s not like we weren’t paying for it!
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  2. The whole “hot roofs shorten shingle life” thing is a myth. Yeah, tons of builders and roofers–very good builders and roofers–believe it, but it’s still not true. Check out Building Science’s website for research on the subject. And because hot roofs aren’t a problem, neither is a second layer of shingles as long as the first later isn’t curling. If it’s curling, though, it can damage the new roof.

    Whenever we replace our current roof, I’m going with a standing-seam metal roof. It should outlast ME!
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    • Interesting. I’ve seen research supporting both sides. I would think that the quality of the shingle might have an effect. After seeing how thin and flimsy the shingles were that came off the roof, I couldn’t imagine that having intense heat from the sun as well as from the bottom might not have some effect, but that’s just my untrained view. I also know that our shingles were going through significant curling, so no way would a second layer have worked. That seems to be the first thing that happens with many of the cheap builders roof, so I’d think that a second layer probably isn’t too feasible there most of the time, unless you get the new roof put on way before it starts to actually deteriorate.

  3. I think this is true for all work performed! You get what you pay for in most cases. A roof is an expensive replacement and requires some time to find the right guy. A roof is something you may do once in life though. Selecting an accountant, attorney, plumber, auto mechanic is someone you will use over and over again, but for much less money. Taking the time to find the right one will save you a lot of money in the long run.
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  4. Excellent tips that many wouldn’t think about because really how often does one buy a new roof. The homes in our neighbourhood were built in the late 90’s and we’ve noticed over the past year that so many of them are having their roofs replaced. I always thought that a roof was suppose to last for 20 to 25 years as well, but as you say, if the builder is trying to save money they have it done cheaply and then the homeowner ends up having to redo it in 15 years.
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    • They have so many outs in terms of fulfilling the warranty, they never pay, even though they’re ’25 year’ shingles.

  5. We are building a new house right now and we have determined that builders will always use the cheapest material product, even if it only saves them a few bucks.
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  6. I would also suggest an Energy Star rated roof. That’s what we got two years ago and love it. It didn’t cost much extra and saves a bundle, plus we got a break on our taxes because it was energy efficient.

  7. I had to have the roof replaced on my first house. Luckily, I was able to negotiate that the seller pay half (would have been all, but they disclosed it already and I got a good deal because of it). I was living in Central Pennsylvania and had a couple of Amish guys do it. They came highly recommended in the area and completed the job quickly. I guess I will find out in the next years how good of a job they did (it is now a rental of mine).
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    • That’s great. I hope it lasts a long time. Not to stereotype, but Amish usually provide quality workmanship.

  8. It is possible to save a substantial amount of money on a new roof if you purchase the materials and then just hire a company to install your materials. If They are running short of nails or shingles, you can always go and get more and know exactly what the cost will be. Any company worth their salt should be able to give you a pretty iron clad quote for just the labor because they will incur zero material costs.
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    • I could see that backfiring because if they have to stop and wait while you run out and get more stuff, they might charge you for additional time or days. I’d rather an all inclusive quote, which is what we got. The only variable that would have been a possibility would have been if there was a bunch of rotted plywood, but we were fine.

  9. Home builders definitely cut a lot of corners when putting up brand new subdivisions. If you are buying a new home I would suggest putting at minimum 2% of your purchase price in a reserve each year to support annual house maintenance. You may not need it the first year you buy but this article proves that projects (sometimes big $$$ ones) hit earlier than expected.
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  10. It is relief to find out that the person you hire for a project can give value for money. Good roofers can help you choose wisely and decision making is easier that way.

  11. Enjoyed the post and great tips you offer your readers. Glad to hear your new roof project worked out and you are happy with the results of the job. You’re right on with the advice on materials and aspects such as ventilation. Thanks for the info.

  12. LOVE #5. Educated customers make my job MUCH easier in the long run. It also helps to have customers that are decisive. And yes, a $200 savings at the front end can end up costing you thousands in repairs. If your contractor isn’t willing to be open with you and answer all your questions, they’re not worth your time or money. Great post with awesome information!
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