Re-Roofing and New Roofs

Nothing lasts forever. That’s especially true of your roof; no sooner is the last nail driven than the clock starts ticking. While there are a number of factors that influence how long a roof will last, including the roofing material, weather, climate, quality of construction, and how well it’s maintained, you can expect a roof to last for 20 to 30 years from the date it was installed. Sooner or later, you’ll have to decide whether to repair or replace your roof, how to find the right roofing contractor, and how to find the best price on a new roof.

What Affects the Cost of a New Roof?

When the time comes to get an estimate for a new roof, don’t be surprised if you get a wide range of estimates. Many factors determine cost, and it’s not uncommon for three contractors to look at your roof and see three very different projects.

Roof Size: Since roofing material is sold by the square (a unit of measure that equals 100 square feet), a contractor’s first step will be to determine your roof’s surface area.

Roof Pitch: The logistics and safety concerns that come into play for a flat roof are much different than the type that need to be considered for the kind of steep roof found on an A-frame or Mock Tudor.

Roof Removal: Many jurisdictions will allow a new set of roofing shingles to be laid down atop an old roof. However, this can only be done once. If you’ve already got a double layer of shingles — or if you opt to remove either the existing single layer of shingles, or decide to remove the substructure of the roof as well — the job is more complex and therefore more expensive. Expect that cleanup and disposal costs will also be included in your estimate.

Type and Quality of Roofing Components: There are a number of types of roofing materials, including cedar shakes, metal shingles, photovoltaic shingles, slate, ceramic tile, and the asphalt shingles with which we’re all familiar. Waterproofing like tar paper or Tyvek is also needed. You may choose to use felt or another material for added insulation. The decking, ventilation, fasteners, and fascia materials must also be taken into account.

Other Factors: From a warranty to roof access to the time of year during which your roofing job is being done, there are other issues your contractor is likely to take into account when drawing up an estimate.

New Roof Installation vs. Roof Repair

If your roof needs work, you’re likely to choose one of the following:

Roof Repair: As we covered above, your roof has a finite service life. It may be that your roof only needs repair — a few shingles replaced, a small hole patched — but there’s more to consider. First, how large is the repair? If a significant portion of the roof needs to be repaired, or if there’s heavy damage either to the deck or the substructure, replacement would be better. That’s also the case if your roof is near the end of its useful life.

Roof Overlay: This involves laying new insulation and shingles over the existing roof. It’s less expensive than removal and replacement, since it usually involves less materials and labor. However, if you or the home’s previous owner have already done this, you can’t add a second overlay over the first. You should also remember that the added weight can add structural strain, especially if there’s going to be additional weight — as there would be with a heavy snowfall, or the installation of solar panels — on your roof.

New Roof: Let’s face facts: nobody wants to re-roof their home. It’s noisy, expensive, and disruptive. But as we’ve seen from the other options listed, there are times when it just makes more sense to start over from scratch. That’s especially the case if the decking or framing are damaged, but it’s equally true you’re doing an extensive renovation or remodel, or making repairs to prepare your home for sale. One last consideration: an overlay won’t last nearly as long as a new roof, so if you’d rather not have to go through the same headaches in the near future, bite the bullet and do the job right the first time.

How Much Will a Roof Repair Cost?

There’s a very wide range of roof repair prices. Some “contractors” will be unlicensed and uninsured, and may work out a deal whereby you purchase materials and they provide the labor for a low cost. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Not only will you get what you pay for in terms of labor, but you may get more than you bargained for if there’s an accident on-site or if the time comes that you realize the job wasn’t done properly; your bargain contractor might vanish like steam from a bathroom mirror, leaving you in the lurch with a leaky roof.

For a reputable contractor, the cost can run upward of $700 to $1,000 per square, since you’re taking into account materials, labor, and insurance costs. Needless to say, local labor costs will also influence the cost of the job, since the breakdown of materials vs. labor is usually an approximate 40/60 split. For practical purposes, that means a roof is going to cost you much less in Brooklyn, MS than in Brooklyn Heights, MN, and that in turn will cost less than it will in Brooklyn, NY.

How Much Will a New Roof Cost?

Let’s say that you’ve assessed your budget and your needs and decided that you’re better off with a new roof than an one that’s repaired or overlaid. The demolition, cleanup and disposal phases are more involved. If the deck and underlying frame need repair or replacement before the new roof is installed, there are still more expenses added. And if you’re renovating or remodeling — especially if it’s a project that involves significantly changing the geometry of your roof — the scope of your roofing project will necessarily change with it.

That can seem intimidating, but remember two things: first, this is an investment; second, there are few things more expensive than a cheap roofing job. With that being said, you can expect to add $100 per square — or more, depending on location and the nature of the job — to the estimates listed for a roof repair if you’re getting a new roof. Overall costs can range from $2,000 to $25,000. Industry and customer surveys suggest that the average cost is in the range of $7,000 to $12,000.

How Do I Find the Best Roofing Price?

Very carefully. And no, we’re not kidding. There are five steps you should follow to find the right roofer at the right price:

Ask for Papers: Depending on where you live, your state or municipality will have requirements for contractors. Familiarize yourself with these regulations — licensure, certifications, insurance, and the like — so you can be sure you’re asking the right questions and your contractor’s papers are in order.

Ask for References: An experienced roofer should be happy to have you see their work, and to talk to their satisfied customers. Avoid anyone who is inexperienced, or whose work or reputation send up red flags.

Get it in Writing: Even the best qualified and best-intentioned contractors make mistakes. A written estimate and contract that spells out their obligations and yours is in everyone’s best interest, especially if the time comes for an insurance or warranty claim.

Solicit and compare a number of quotes. Read them carefully, making sure you’re being quoted for the same work. Come up with a list of questions for each bidder, especially if you see one or more contractors offering a service that another doesn’t (or if one has costs listed that the others do not). If the conversation doesn’t feel right — the contractor is evasive, defensive, or vague — continue down your list.

Don’t Choose on Price: There’s some truth to the old adage that you get what you pay for. Given that even an inexpensive installation doesn’t exactly come cheap, you’re better off spending a bit more for a better result. Shoddy work that needs to be repaired or redone in a few years can actually lead to your roof costing much more than it would have had it been done right the first time.

Fran Whittaker-Wood
Home Improvements Expert

Fran loves all things home. She is passionate about finding the best architecture, design and home interior projects from around the world, and has a keen interest in discovering the newest and most exciting design trends.