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!

So Busy But In The Best Way Possible

One of my pet peeves is people who complain constantly about how busy they are, especially when they do so in a way that involves them taking time out of what they’re doing to log in somewhere and take the time to complain about being busy.  I figure if you are so busy that you are complaining about it, you should probably avoid taking the time to complain, because it’s just preventing you from getting what you need done.

So, I’m taking a slightly different spin.  I’m reporting on how busy I am, but with a positive angle.  Everything that I’m busy with is actually working toward something positive, so in all honesty, there are no complaints!

Here’s a list of the good things that have been keeping me busy:

  • Work project #1 – The place where I work made a big acquisition a few years back.  Bringing their IT into the fold of our IT was something I wanted to get involved with as early as 2009.  However, the decision was made to let the IT support stay with the old company for a few years.  Finally, they decided to make the transition, and it’s a year-long program that I lobbied hard to be a part of.  I got assigned as the project manager to move their shared files from the old company’s network to our network.  With about 2,000 users, there was quite a big file.  The transition took place over the last three weeks, and while there were some bumps, it was a great success!
  • Work project #2 – Along with the file transition, I was also assigned as the project manager to move all the computers and laptops to our company’s support.  Every desktop will either be replaced or re-installed with Windows 7 (they had XP), as well as all of our applications. There are over 2,100 desktops, so this will be a big project. We just had our first three desktops migrate over last week as part of our ‘early adopters’ program.  While three desktops doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s noteworthy because so much of the planning is up front, so the fact that they went in and users love the new setup was great.  This week, we begin the process of moving the rest, a process that will take approximately 7 months!
  • New roof – We had the new roof wrapped up late last month. It was a fantastic experience (or at least as fantastic as can be given how messy of a job it is).  It took three days, and the weather was no help (rain delayed the start by several day), but it looks fantastic.
  • Camper is de-winterized and ready to go – We had our camper stored at my in-laws, and we pulled it out, got everything de-wintereized and tested.  I washed and waxed it, and my wife washed all the bedding, dishes, and the entire inside.  Our first trip on the schedule in next month, but we will probably see if we can get a weekend trip in sometime this month, and it’s good to know it’s ready to go!
  • Stripping and painting the desk – I last power washed and painted the deck in 2009.  I did give it a quick coat in 2011, but it was time to give it some attention.  I spent an afternoon power washing, then had to wait a week as it rained a couple of times, but I’ve been busy getting it painted.  It will be so nice to have it clean, fresh, and also be able to put our table, grill, and the kids toys out there!
  • T-Ball – Little Boy Beagle is in a t-ball league, and I volunteered to be a coach.  It’s only an hour a week, but man, running around with 10 three and four year olds wears you out!  It’s fun and I hope that it establishes some good bonding between him and I, as well as sets a good foundation for him to participate in group sports.
  • Garage – With spring comes the old practice of tearing apart everything out of the garage.  Since we haven’t been able to put the patio furniture out yet, the furniture is spread around, but I still wanted to get the mower out, so I could change the oil, as well as the edger (which also needed a new blade this year!), so it’s been a whirlwind in the garage.  Not to mention that all this works around the kids growing stash of outdoor toys.

All of this has made me fall asleep on the couch more than a few times over the past few weeks.  It’s been exhausting, but when I look at the list, it all relates to positive things.  All the outdoor activity means that summer is coming.  The roof project means that we have done a major home improvement project that looks fantastic.  The work projects have been busy but they’ve been considered very successful.

So, while I’m busy, I have no complaints!

Readers, has your spring kicked into overdrive yet? 

We Decided On A Roofing Company

I’ve written a few posts lately about our adventures with choosing a roofing company.  The initial process didn’t get off to a great start.  Our first quote was taken on a whim, as I let someone in who was doing a door-to-door walkaround.  I knew I probably wouldn’t use them, but was interested to see where a starting point was.  He essentially told me it would cost around $13,000 to do our roof and I had to restrain myself from laughing in his face.

We moved on to the roofer that wouldn’t actually give us a quote, because he wanted us to outline the specifications.

Then, I started looking at various other sources and we started getting some reasonable quotes.

Here are the factors I used in determining our roofer:

Referrals

As I said, I didn’t just look up companies online, and save for the first company, I didn’t just get a bid from someone off the street.  I looked at companies that neighbors had used, friends had used, or were recommended by those involved in the construction industry.  Our roofer was a referral from someone I’ve known that works directly in the industry, and who he recommends when customers ask him for referrals.

Shingle

I started learning as much as I could about shingles after starting the process.  I started looking at quality reports of various shingles available at Consumers Reports, and I also did quite a bit of reading online.  One thing that I stumbled across that turned out to be a great resource was a forum I found where people in the roofing industry chat with one another, and out of the brands I narrowed down to, the one we chose generally had the most favorable overall tone.  For the record, we are going with a CertainTeed shingle.

Materials

One of the things my parents mentioned that they did when they had their roof installed several years back was to have all materials outside of the shingle also made by the shingle manufacturer.  This would mean that if a claim needed to be filed down the line, the manufacturer couldn’t turn to faulty materials made by someone else as an excuse not to honor the warranty.  I didn’t mention this to the roofers, but I started keeping an eye on it.  All materials, save for the actual ridge vents, will be CertainTeed materials.

Installers

One of the things I learned is that most roofing companies offer a warranty dependant on the grade of shingles that you use.  This warranty can qualify for extensions, less proration, and additional gurantees if the roofing company goes through a certification process.  With CertainTeed, they look for things such as length of operation of the business, the fact that roofers have gone through their process, and that they’ve been checked for adherence to their installation process and have successfully proven that they install the shingles per the manufacturers specifications.  Once they have this certification, the warranty is guaranteed.  As the owner of our chosen comapny said, “I could install the shingles upside down, and CertainTeed would not be able to deny the claim.”  For the record, he’s never installed any shingles upside down.

The Fine Print

Some of the warranty extensions require that better materials are used in certain areas, specifically along the bottom edge and along the ridge.  Some roofers will attempt to bypass these, but I have in writing that our company will use the materials required.  This should lead to a more long lasting roof as well as keep in line with the warranty requirements.  Some companies told me in person that they would do this, but did not include that promise in their quote.

Additional Items

One of the things that I’ve heard is that the builder of our homes did not install proper attic ventilation.  This makes sense because in the summer, our upstairs gets very hot, and I’ve done some testing to show that a lot of heat radiates from the top of the house, more so than other similar houses I’ve lived in or been in.  Our installer noted this and included as part of his quote to add additional ventilation as well as ensure that the existing ventilation is functioning as it should.  No other roofer did this.  Our roofer also does little things like paint the pipes that come out of the roof, and a few other little touches that I liked.

Price

Once I got the range of pricing that I knew was reasonable for our roof, I started looking at pricing.  I didn’t go with the lowest price, because they did not use the grade shingle that I wanted, plus they are a gigantic company, meaning that they couldn’t offer the warranty upgrades that others did.  While many others in our neighborhood used them, I passed.  I ended up choosing somewhere that was in the middle range, but considering the additional ventilation upgrades and some of the other touches, it was a good price.  He also included a small shingle upgrade for more coloring options.

Next Steps

We need to choose an exact color for our roof.  The first thing our guy will do is actually go with us to other houses nearby that have the roofs we are looking for.  He said that he would never let us choose a roof based on a brochure or a small sample board.  No other company was this diligent about making sure that we ended up with a color that we’d be happy with.

Following that, we have to schedule a date for our install.  He indicated that our roof would probably take two days.  He said that he uses the same crew for every job, and that while they’re not as large as others who can get it done in a day, the fact that he has the same five guys means that he knows exactly what’s going on.  He also indicated that they will only ‘tear off’ what they can get done that day.

Our next door neighbor will likely need a roof soon.  They’re trying to put it off a year, especially since the main breadwinner works for a company involved in the defense industry, and will be subject to some furlough days.  Still, their roof was installed at the same time. Our roofer gave them a quote and indicated that if we both use them and he can do the jobs back to back, we’ll each get a 5% discount.  This would be a few hundred dollars each.  I’m not going to wait on their decision, but this would be a nice little savings if it worked out.

The weather here is still cold and snowy, so I’m not in any hurry to get started until the weather breaks, and based on how things are lining up, we should be able to meet that, as long as April turns out to not be a rainout.

I’m glad that we got the selection process out of the way. Next comes the fun part, having it installed.  (And the not so fun part, paying for it!)

Would We Have Been Better Off Getting A Roof Before We Needed One?

Our roof is definitely due for replacement this year.  Even though we didn’t move into the house until 2007, I know that the roof was installed sometime in 1998.  Some of the building inspection stickers are still on the electrical box in the basement, and it indicates that the final inspection of the house was done in March of 1999.  Since it takes a few months to build a house, I can safely surmise that the roof was installed sometime likely in the summer or fall of 1998.  That would make the current age of the roof just under 15 years.  Since over half of the houses in the subdivision have had their roof replaced, it’s reasonable to think that ours is not out of the ordinary considering the grade of shingles likely used

I’ve been starting to get some pricing and I am not liking at all what I’m finding.  Just this year alone, the price of shingles have gone up roughly 9%.  Looking at some chatter on Google in previous years, this has been pretty much the standard increase over the last two to three years.

This sucks because I had started saving for our roof when we moved into house in 2007.  Based on prices I’d heard at the time, I figured saving $1,000 per year was a safe bet with the hope that the roof would last until 2013 or 2014.  Considering the costs associated with moving, we didn’t set our first $1,000 aside until 2008, but have been saving roughly at that pace since then.  That leaves us with around $6,000, which according to everything I heard, would have been plenty even two or three years ago.

Now, not so much.

With the increase in shingles over the past three years alone totaling roughly 30% over those years, I now look at it and figure it might have actually ‘saved’ us money to get the roof done prior to that.

If I make the assumption that the labor charges are a mark up of the materials cost, then what it tells me is that over the last three years, the price has gone up by 30%, where the useful life of my roof has diminished by its last 20% (three years divided by the fifteen year life that it got).

So, had I gotten a new roof when there was still 20% roof life, I would have saved 30% in total costs.

Again, these are rough numbers.  It’s not like I got any quotes, but talking to family members and neighbors who got their roof done in 2010 or right before, it’s clear that the prices for what I’m getting today would have been drastically cheaper then.

Hindsight is 20-20 so there’s no way I could have anticipated the cost of the roof.  Most of it is attributed to the rising cost of, what else, gas prices.  Apparently many of the same materials and chemicals that go into roofing are tied into gasoline and oil, so the average increase of annual gas prices is directly tied to the increase in roofing.

This sucks because now the $6,000 that we’ve saved looks like it won’t be enough to cover the cost of a new roof, at least from what I’m seeing.  We have cash set aside for other things, but I really was hoping to continue our savings goals elsewhere, where now we’ll likely have to shift things around that will impact things in a negative way.

It’s also worth pointing out that even had I had some crystal ball and would have seen that getting a new roof three years sooner might have saved money, in the end it probably wouldn’t have.  First, we would have only had $3,000 put aside at that point, so we most definitely would have had to find money from somewhere else, and probably more money than we’ll have to look for today.

Second, we plan on staying in the house for a while, to the point that we would likely replace the roof we’re about to replace, and the early replacement would have taken three years off the life at the end, so it would have gotten us someday.

Rising fuel prices are one of my pet peeves, and to hear that the increase in the expected cost of our roof is tied to this makes me just as angry, probably more so given the extra costs runs in the thousands versus the $0.20 cents per gallon that gas prices often represent.

In that three year time frame since prices started jumping dramatically, guess how much my salary has gone up?  Exactly zero.  While I’m working to change that, it stinks because even saving that $1,000 becomes more and more difficult when prices elsewhere rise and your income doesn’t.

I’m sure most people out there haven’t been so lucky as to get a 30% increase in rates, and while I don’t think the people associated with the roofing industry are rolling in cash because of this, you can bet that someone somewhere is making good money off this increase.  Someone who already has more than enough money, if I had to guess.

Readers, have any of you had to get a new roof over the last couple of years?  Have you gotten sticker shock due to the rising shingle prices seen over the past few years?

A Roofing Company Refused My Potential Business

This whole business of the new roof is getting tiresome already, and we’re still very far away from getting anything done.

Heck, I can’t even get some companies to come out and give me a quote.  I’ve never had an experience like this.

I called JKM Roofing (of Michigan) that was referred to us by a neighbor who had their roof done last year, and it turns out my parents had used them a few years back as well.

I talked to the guy that answered, who was the owner, and explained that we were in the market for a new roof.  He asked some pretty specific questions about what we were looking for, and I answered the best I could.  He spent some time answering some questions I have about ridge vents, which is something I’m considering.

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the quiz portion of the conversation was about to start, and I decidedly failed that.

He asked;

  1. What roofing material we were looking to get, including how much ice guard we wanted.  I said that I was just getting information about things that went into making these decisions, and I would look to him for recommendations and discussion.
  2. He asked when we wanted the roof done.  I said sometime during the upcoming spring or summer.  At the time, it was mid-February, around 20 degrees, and there was a good pile of snow everywhere.  While I’ve actually seen a couple of new roofs go on in our subdivision over the last few weeks, I have no interest at all in a new roof until the weather turns.
  3. He asked how many quotes I was planning on getting.  I told him likely between 3-5.

At that point, the guy blew my mind and told me flat out that he didn’t see an opportunity to work with me and advised that I look elsewhere.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and asked him what he was talking about.

He said that he found that he didn’t want to work with customers who didn’t know the specifications of the roof I was looking for, who don’t know the time that they want it done, and that if a customer goves with over three quotes, he doesn’t want to work with them.

So from what I’m hearing, I’m supposed to be an expert on roofs before I talk to him, rather than relying on the expertise that I would expect he is supposed to bring to the table.  I’m also supposed to have given an exact date of when I wanted my roof done, even though we were in the throes of winter.  Furthermore, according to him, trying to get more than three quotes and, oh I don’t know, be an informed customer, is a bad idea.

Now, I get the fact that these guys are out there giving free estimates, and that there are likely costs involved.  They have to come out, take a look around, measure, estimate, spend the time putting together costs, and all that, but to me, that’s part of the job of owning a freaking roofing company!  If you can’t handle the sales portion of it, then I don’t care how great of a roof you install, you still pretty much suck as a company.

We’re nowhere close to getting a new roof, and I already want it to be done with!

Planning For A New Roof

Our roof is around 13-14 years old depending on what period of the construction process in which it was installed.

In any case, it’s showing it’s wear and is probably not long for this world.

The deterioration of the roof has become apparent in three ways:

  1. Eroded valleys – This is a design flaw more than anything else.  Our house has two stories, and the second floor is a little smaller in the front of the house than is the first floor.  As such the downspout from the front portion of the second floor simply drains straight down into the valley that takes it the rest of the way.  All this extra run-off has rapidly deteriorated those valleys (there’s another around the garage area).  When I get the roof re-done, I’ll either have them install extensions to carry the water all the way to the lowest level of drainpipes, or have it doneafter the roofers are done.
  2. Shingle curling – The shingles are starting to curl along the edges, likely from all the exposure to the sun.  I had given thought over the last year or two to having the valleys patched to give it some time, but once I’ve seen the rapid pace at which the shingles are curling, that would likely be wasted money.
  3. Discoloration / mildew – The north facing side of the house typically doesn’t get as much sun, so the dew and rain don’t dry off as fast, which leads to many houses developing mildew.  We also have a few trees overhanging this, so this has reared its ugly head over the last couple of years, as the roof above our garage looks nasty.Had the shingles been in better shape I would consider power washing them to temporarily remove this discoloration, but as it stands, the power washing would likely just accelerate the deterioration of the already-wearing shingles, so it’s not even worth the bother.

I had been hoping to make it to 2014, but things are progressing rapidly enough that I could see this taking place in 2013.

I’ve been asking the neighbors their thoughts, as many of the houses around us were completed around the same time.  Some neighbors in other parts of the subdivision have already replaced the roof, and most of the ones I’ve spoken to have indicated that they’re estimating the next couple of years as the time, so I know I’m in the right range.

I’ve also been asking around to neighbors that have already had their roofs done or who have received quotes, just to see if I can estimate what our costs might be.

I know I want to have the current roof removed.  Technically, you can add another layer but I’m not interested in putting new shingles on top of ones that have already deteriorated.  I just don’t see them lasting very long, and that would just hide any potential damage that lies under the current shingles.

I also want to replace the big box vents that air out the attic with ridge vents, that run along the top of the roof line, give  more even distribution of heat out of the attic, and I would also think would release more heat, given that they’re at the peak of the roof versus the box vents that are located at least a few feet below the roof peak.

I’m estimating that this will probably cost $5,000 – $6,000 given what I’ve heard from other neighbors and comparing the sizes of our houses.

We’ve been saving for a new roof since we moved in, knowing that it would eventually happen, so if we can wait until 2013, we should have all of this covered in our earmarked account.  If it needs to be done this year or if the cost is higher, we have enough other earmarked accounts that we could cover ourselves easily.

I also wonder if it would be of any benefit to try to collaborate with the neighbors.  If we all plan on getting it done at around the same time, it might be worth checking with a company to see if there could be any type of a break for multiple neighbors on the same block agreeing to do their roofs simultaneously.  I am not putting a lot of hope in this, as everybody has different schedules and will likely be looking at different criteria when choosing a contractor, but still, you never know.

What has been your experience with a new roof?