1. Keep up appearances. In planning your next major remodeling project, don't forget to consider the look and style of your roofing. When you consider that the average roof comprises 40 percent of a home's visible exterior, you want it to look good.
2. Sneak a peek. Inspect your roof from a safe vantage point using binoculars. Look for cracking, curling, and missing shingles. If your roof is made of asphalt shingles, also look for areas that seem to lack granular covering. You can examine your roof from the inside, too. In your attic space, use a flashlight to look for water stains that may indicate a growing roof leak.
3. Ask the right questions. A qualified roofing contractor should have a permanent place of business, a phone number, a tax identification number, and, where required, a business license. Also ask for proof of liability insurance and workers' compensation. Otherwise, you might be the one liable for job site accident coverage.
4. Know the code. Check your local municipal building department to see how many times you may re-cover an existing roof with another layer of similar materials. Some communities only allow two layers of roofing material, and require any additional layers to be torn off before more roofing can be installed.
5. Take a picture. There are ways for a contractor to take a digital picture of your home and show you different renderings of the house with different roofing materials.
6. Get it in writing. Roofing contractors should deliver a detailed proposal that describes the type of roofing, material, and color; other materials to be used; and the scope of work to be done. Remember to specify whether existing roofing will be removed or covered with a layer of new shingles, and to state who will be responsible for installing new flashing and vents. Most importantly, make sure the proposal indicates approximate starting and completion deadlines.
7. Top it off with the usual. According to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, asphalt shingles are installed on approximately four out of every five residential roofs in the United States. Asphalt products are available in two types—organic and fiberglass—and in a wide variety of colors, styles, and visual textures. Organic shingles are made of cellulose fibers, such as recycled waste paper or wood fibers. Fiberglass shingles are made of glass fibers. Both shingle types are covered with an asphalt coating and surfaced with weather-resistant mineral granules. Fiberglass shingles can be more prone to breakage during colder months, but offer greater fire- and moisture-resistance than organic.
8. Consider alternatives. Do you love the appearance of cedar or redwood roofing, but worry about fire safety? Check your local codes for guidance, then seek out either fire-resistant wood shingles, or metal and synthetic products that mimic the look. Such products also can match slate and tile roofs. Real clay or concrete tiles often appear in Southwestern- or Mission-style roofs. If you want that look, make sure your home can adequately bear the additional weight.
9. Vent a little. Attic ventilation ensures that your roof has a long and functional life. While ventilation requirements vary by region, the National Roofing Contractors Association generally recommends a minimum of 1 square foot of free vent area for each 150 square feet of attic floor.
10. Think of a roof as an annual cost. Ask three or four roofing contractors for estimates, and don't automatically assume the lowest bid is the best for you. A new roof is a significant investment in your home, but consider your roof's annual roofing cost: Divide the total cost of your new roof (materials and labor) by the life expectancy of your selected roofing material in years.
11. Get hip to the square. When roofing professionals refer to squares, they're referring to the amount of shingles needed to cover 100 square feet.
12. Go online for more info. The NRCA Web site (www.nrca.net) offers helpful homeowner resources, including a roof checkup checklist, guidelines for finding quality roofing contractors, and a database of roofing contractors searchable by ZIP code and roofing material expertise.