Getting Up on Roofs: Expert Tips

The most important part of your home or building is the roof over your head. It protects you, your business and your possessions and can enhance the beauty of your property. That’s why you want to make certain that it is properly maintained and repaired.
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Your roof is not permanent. It needs care. You can give it that care by knowing what problems to look for and how and when to get professional help.

Too often it is taken for granted that as long as a roof isn’t leaking, it must be in good condition. That is not necessarily so. That’s why you want to take action now to help assure a long life for your roof.

The best way for you to minimize roof repair bills is to prevent damage before it occurs. This means periodic inspections, either from the ground or on a ladder. If you decide to inspect the roof from a ladder, follow these safety tips: inspect the ladder, rungs and rails for damage before using it; make sure the ladder is on solid, level ground; secure the ladder at the top to prevent it from slipping; extend the ladder at least three feet above the edge of the roof, and angle it 1 foot back for every 4 feet in eave height; and always use both hands when climbing the ladder. While inspecting a roof from a ladder, look for danger signs like: missing or cracked shingles; debris on the roof; clogged gutters and drains; severe weathering; curled shingles or fatigued roofing materials. Indoors, you’ll want to check for leaks or damp areas and stains on ceilings.

Generally speaking, a newer roof should be inspected annually while a roof that is eight to ten years old should be inspected more often. If you are unable to safely make an inspection yourself, have a roofing contractor do it for you. The cost is reasonable, and it could prevent later unnecessary repairs.

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Repairing a roof is a serious business. The proper repair of modern roofing systems frequently requires specialized knowledge, the application of new technologies and highly specific skills. It therefore cannot be over-emphasized that repairs should only be undertaken by a professional roofing contractor who knows how best to deal with the problem at hand.

If your roof is relatively new and has developed only a minor leak, normally it can be easily corrected. Roofing that has been damaged or has blown away can be replaced, and leaks around flashings can be repaired.

If there is any damage done to the roof by storms, hail, flying debris, or by other tradesmen working on your completed roof, you should notify your roofing contractor immediately.

Remember that roof damage, if neglected, will only get worse. A neglected roof can cause damage to other possessions – possibly even structural damage to your home or building.

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If your roof is beyond repair or if repair costs are excessive, reroofing is the best solution. Most cities and counties in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area have adopted reroofing codes to define specific requirements necessary to reroof a structure. In addition, the California Energy Commission has adopted energy-saving “cool roofing” regulations that help to conserve energy by reducing heating and air conditioning loads on buildings. All competent roofing contractors are familiar with and comply with these codes.

When reroofing, the condition of the roof structure and its supports should be inspected for damage and repaired as needed. Hidden damage or dry rot not discernible at the time of inspection may result in additional cost to the owner. It may also be necessary to strengthen the roof structure to support the new roof, especially if you are considering replacing a lightweight roofing material, such as asphalt shingles, with a heavier roofing material like concrete tile.

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During a reroofing job, you have a unique opportunity to add insulating material. Because most of your heat loss occurs through the roof, adding this insulation will save you money on your energy bills.

Recognizing the extreme importance of conserving energy in the state, the California Energy Commission has adopted regulations that establish minimum levels of insulation for most commercial, industrial and institutional roofs. The required minimum R-value of roof insulation varies according to the climate zone within which the building is located and whether a new building is being constructed or an existing building is being reroofed. Single-family homes are currently exempt from this requirement. Nevertheless, it is nearly always cost-effective to add insulation when reroofing your home.

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The most important part of maintaining your roof is to get the job done right the first time. This is where a licensed, insured roofing contractor comes in. He is the pro – someone who will deliver an effective, long-lasting roof and stand behind his work.

A licensed roofing contractor has a wide range of capabilities. He will work on decks and building foundations as well as roofs – wherever waterproofing is needed. He knows all types of roofing and can recommend the best application for your particular need. He will quote a fair price before he starts to work and will use only skilled craftsmen.
Whether they operate large or small businesses, professional roofing contractors all have the following traits in common. Professional roofing contractors are:

Licensed. The State of California has adopted standards for licensing roofing contractors. Only those who meet the standards by testing qualify for a state license.

Well-established. A professional roofing contractor will have a permanent place of business, a telephone number, a tax identification number and, where applicable, a business license.

Insured. There are inherent dangers to applying a roof. The contractor who carries both workers’ compensation and liability insurance has protected you in the event of damage to your property and injury to his workers while work is being performed on your property.

Committed to safety. The best roofing contractor is only as good as the workers who install the roof system. Professional roofing contractors invest in worker training and education and are committed to their health and safety. Ask every contractor you are considering about the types of training workers receive and the company’s safety record. Insist on having your roof installed by skilled, experienced and safety conscious craftsmen.

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Not all roofing contractors are professional, and too many home and building owners have paid dearly for using amateurs.

This type of operator is unlicensed, uninsured, and probably lacking in experience. He may use high pressure or scare tactics, and “bonus offers” to get your business. He may encourage you to pay in cash or to issue joint checks to avoid his tax obligations. Beware of any and all such schemes.

If you do use an unlicensed, uninsured firm or individual, don’t be misled into believing that your homeowner’s or personal liability policy necessarily protects you. In many cases, you may be liable for suit.

A large number of home and building owners have been dragged into litigation involving unlicensed contractors. If an employee of an unlicensed contractor is injured on your home or building, you may be responsible for his injuries or disabilities. In addition, you probably have no protection in the event damage is done to your property or the property of others by the roofer during the course of the work.

Often the end result of using an unlicensed roofer is a bad roofing job or the wrong approach to the problem. This is worse than no job at all, and may end up costing you more in the long run.

Another reason to avoid this type of operator: if he does not pay the suppliers whose materials are used on your project, you may find a lien placed on your property even though you have paid for the work. This means that you may end up paying for the same materials twice.

All in all, most home and building owners have found that using unlicensed, uninsured roofers is not worth the risk.

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Because an informed customer is a good customer, find out as much as you can about the contractor you are considering. Call the Associated Roofing Contractors of the Bay Area Counties, Inc. for referrals or browse the contractor listings on our web site ( Once you’ve contacted these contractors, ask those that bid on your job for the following:

Check the customer references. Be sure the contractor has performed as promised. If you have any doubts, contact the Better Business Bureau or the Contractors State License Board. You will find out quickly if there have been a number of unresolved complaints about the contractor.

Be careful not to base your selection on price alone. A low bid is not necessarily the best bargain.

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There are two types of warranty: the contractor’s warranty that covers workmanship and the manufacturer’s warranty that covers materials.

Be sure that your roofing contractor provides you with a workmanship warranty. This is the warranty that ensures that your roof will perform satisfactorily. It is your insurance against leaks. Workmanship warranties on roofing and reroofing vary in length, but most are for two years or more. This assures that your roof’s performance will be proven through several weather cycles. Unlicensed operators who offer longer warranties may not be around long enough to back them up.

Manufacturers’ material warranties tend to be long, but limited. Most provide for the replacement of defective material, but often only on a prorated basis, and many do not also cover the labor cost of installation. Few warrant the roof to be free of leaks. Restrictive provisions which limit the manufacturer’s liability (and your remedies) in the event of a problem are common.

Do not judge a manufacturer’s warranty on the basis of duration alone. Too often, the length of the warranty is based on marketing considerations, and not on a realistic appraisal of how long the material will actually last (or how likely it is that the company will be around to back it up).

Make sure that you read carefully and clearly understand the terms, conditions and limitations of any and all warranties that you are offered. And view unrealistically long warranties skeptically. Remember: a warranty is only as good as the contractor or the manufacturer who stands behind it.

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If you have your roof done in the spring, you will generally find better availability and faster service. The licensed contractor is able to schedule your job when he is not busy with emergency repairs created by bad weather. What’s more, roof removal and reroofing projects are more effectively completed during dry weather.
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The Associated Roofing Contractors of the Bay Area Counties, Inc. represents a concerned group of locally-based, professional roofing contractors who exclusively employ skilled union craftsmen. They are dedicated to keeping industry standards high and to making it easy for you to locate a professional. They will help you in any way possible with your new roofing or maintenance and repair needs.

If you need further information, call the Association Office today at (925) 472-8880

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Make sure that you use a licensed, professional roofing contractor. This is your best assurance of getting a quality roof.