Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to minimize roof repair bills is to prevent damage before it occurs. This means periodically inspecting the roof. Inspections should be made at least twice a year – in the early spring to assess any damage from winter weather and in early fall to detect any damage or deterioration which has occurred during the summer. Additional inspections should be made in the aftermath of unusual weather or events, such as heavy winds, hail, earthquakes or severe temperature conditions.
Steep roofs can be inspected 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, curled or cracked shingles, debris on the roof, clogged gutters and drains and severe weathering. If you are unable to safely make an inspection yourself, have a professional roofing contractor do it for you. The cost is reasonable, and it could prevent later repairs. Inside, check for evidence of possible leaks such as damp areas and stains on ceilings, peeling wallpaper and discolored wallboard.
Because they are generally more accessible, building and homeowners can conduct more detailed inspections of low slope (“flat”) roofs. The following items should be on your preventive maintenance checklist:
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.
No. It is not always necessary to tear off the old roof before installing a new one, but it is frequently advisable to do so. The California Building Code allows some types of roof to be recovered, rather than replaced, so long as there is no more than one existing application of roofing material on the existing roof and the existing roof is not water soaked or so deteriorated that it is not an adequate base for the new roof. The California Building Code does not allow wood shake, slate, clay, cement or asbestos-cement tile roofs to be recovered under any circumstances.
Even when not required by the Building Code, tearing off the existing roof can have advantages. Removing the existing roof will reveal if there any defects in the roof deck and allow them to be repaired prior to the installation of the new roof. Similarly, removing the existing roof will reveal if there are condensation problems in the attic. If there are, additional ventilation can be engineered into the new roof system to address the problem. Removing the old roof will usually result in a smoother finished roof surface. Roofing over an existing shingle roof, for example, may result in an uneven and aesthetically displeasing appearance. Keep in mind, too, that the existing roof structure may not have the capacity to support the combined weight of two roofs. This is especially true if a lightweight roofing material, such as asphalt shingles, is overlaid with a heavier material like concrete tile. Removing the existing roof will allow the roof structure to be strengthened to ensure adequate support for the increased load.
Where it is not prohibited by the California Building Code, recovering an existing roof will almost always be less expensive than tearing off the old roof before installing the new one. It is not always the best choice, however.
There are several types of warranties: contractor’s warranties that cover workmanship, manufacturer’s warranties that cover materials and extended manufacturer’s warranties that cover materials and labor. It is important that you clearly understand their respective terms and conditions.
It is absolutely essential to obtain a workmanship warranty from your contractor. This is the warranty that ensures that your roof will perform satisfactorily. It is your insurance against leaks. Contractor’s 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 proved through several weather cycles.
Manufacturers’ material warranties tend to be long, but limited. Most provide for the replacement of defective material (often on a prorated basis according to how long ago the material was purchased) and many do not cover the 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. It is therefore unwise to judge a manufacturer’s warranty on the basis of its 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.
An extended warranty that covers both materials and labor is sometimes available for purchase from the manufacturer at an additional cost. Extended warranties are more commonly offered to commercial than to residential customers. Even when they are available to homeowners, however, the cost can be prohibitive.
Make sure that you read carefully and clearly understand any and all warranties that you are offered. View unrealistically long warranties with skepticism. After all, a warranty is only as good as the contractor or the manufacturer who stands behind it.
Whether they operate large or small businesses, professional roofing contractors all have the following traits in common: they are licensed by the State of California; they are well-established, with a permanent place of business, a telephone number, a tax identification number and, where appropriate, a business license; they are experienced and knowledgeable; they carry both workers’ compensation and liability insurance; and they are committed to worker education and safety.
Find out as much as you can about the contractors you are considering. Call a local trade association, such as the Associated Roofing Contractors of the Bay Area Counties, for background information and contractor referrals. Once you’ve contacted these contractors, ask those who bid on your job for the following:
If you still have doubts, contact the Contractors State License Board or your local Better Business Bureau for further information.