Should I hire an independent roofing company to install the roof on the house I am building in Bellevue?
Assuming your question is a choice between asking your general contractor to take care of it versus managing the roofing project yourself but still outsourcing it, ideally, it is best if your general contractor / builder were to manage it. They will, in all likelihood, outsource it to a roofing specialized company, but the advantage you have here is, having a single point of responsibility for the entire house building project.
Still, some private homeowners are savvy enough to manage a house building project, even if they don’t do any of the physical work themselves, so there is definitely a potential cost saving to be had by keeping the margin the general contractor would have otherwise enjoyed.
If your question was, should I install the roof myself, I would likely say I would not recommend it.
Although roofing is not the most complicated part in the creation of a house, it has a lot of downside potential simply because it protects the entire house from rain, snow and whatever else falls from the sky. What’s more, a flaw in installation might not reveal itself for a long time after installation. In that case, a lot of damage – much more than the cost of the roof – can be done. Small leaks resulting from improperly installed under-components can turn slowly into big leaks. By the time you know the inner house walls are damaged, the repair bill can be enormous. Finally, there is the question if insurance and/or liability. Proper roofing companies are registered with the state, and should be licensed, bonded and insured. All that means is, you’re not on the hook, theoretically, if the roof was improperly installed.
What kind of roofing company should I choose?
Assuming you are taking charge of the roofing part of the project, there are definitely some things you should consider when selecting a roofing company:
How long have they been in business? Like any home service specialty, how long the provider had been in business will be the clearest indication of whether they have enough experience to do the job right, and within a reasonable time frame. If your house is the third house they’ve roofed in their existence, chances are, they’ll make a few mistakes, even if they offer a rock-bottom price. If they’ve been in business for two months, it might be time to look for another vendor. Still, they might be rock solid, and if they do offer a great price, it might be worth it, as long as you stay on top of the project as they do the work. Check with the Washington State Department of Licensing to see how long they’ve been in business.
Do they have references? Some businesses will give you a complete list of the clients they’ve done work for in the past. If you get that, you can pick random previous clients to call. Ask them how good the service was, especially if the work was done a number of years ago. (That’s gives the weather plenty of time to “test” the quality of the project. (Many leaks take years to manifest themselves, or at least, one winter).
Will they do a complete job of the roof? Some roofing companies will bid low, and to save money, will ‘forget’ to remove the under protection, but simply nail the new shakes or composite where the old used to be. It will look fine, but the fatigued, old waterproofing under the surface will fail much earlier, as it is usually only designed for a limited number of years. Understand what is included in the project, and make sure you see that each stage is done properly and fully. (If you are leaving everything in the hands of a single provider, you may not have to worry about any of this, but personally, I like to watch the whole project, end-to-end).
What quality of material will they use? Like most things in life, nothing is equal! There are, for example, many different grades of shake. You can opt for cost savings at the price of physical beauty and/or physical quality and durability. Since shakes are made of wood, essentially, no two pieces are identical. Know what you’re buying, and ask your roofing specialist what grade of material they plan to use.
In a new house project, there’s less roof material cleanup than there is after a re-roofing project. Re-roofing means all the old roof material – including countless yards of plastic waterproofing – has to be ripped off your house and dumped somewhere. No one likes to have to carry out the trash, as you know, and old roof rubbish is no exception to that rule. In addition, most trash depositories now require a payment for disposal, so consider all of these hidden costs when considering doing the roof project yourself.
Treating the roof after completion
Installing a roof is a bit like installing a deck. It looks great when it first goes in, but benefits a lot from an extra treatment of preservative and/or waterproofing. Composites don't usually need such treatment, but shake definitely does, and it can more than double the life of your new roof. In fact, a re-treatment every few years can extend the life of your roof for twice the warranty you get with the material. So, for the long term, budget a little money for a roof cleaning and re-treating every two or three years. In the Pacific Northwest, particularly Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Issaquah, getting your shake roof cleaned and re-treated every few years is essential.
Inspecting your roof after the work is done
A typical roof on a Seattle home has multiple layers. The rafters are usually covered with plywood. That ‘firms up’ the roof, giving it weight and rigidity, but mostly, it’s there to provide a base for the waterproofing sheets. This (usually black) tarpaulin-type material covers the entire roof in overlapping layers, in such a way that on it’s own, it would actually keep the weather out. Obviously, no one likes a plastic roof (no to mention the grief you’d get from your neighbors, the city and Washington State) so on top of that goes the now largely decorative lay of material which will be shake, slate or some kind of synthetic composite material. There are countless manufacturers and suppliers of materials, and for each layer of the job it seems. Each has its own fancy product names and purposes, but they all provide what is essentially three layers, unless the house is of unusual design: (1) Plywood on top of the rafters, (2) waterproof synthetic sheeting of some kind and (3) the visible roofing material itself.
Roofing is not rocket science, but it does have to be done right. In many European countries, for example, roofs (or ‘rooves’ in British English) are made to last more than a lifetime. They are heavy, and expensive to go in on the first day, but you never have to think about them much after the house is built.
In summary …
Be sure to check back next week, when I will talk about how long a project takes. It’s not complicated, but weather plays a big role.
See you next week!