Roofing in the Pacific Northwest presents a unique challenge that almost no other region in the country faces. A lot of rain. Clearly, it rains in places like Florida, too, but it tends to rain, then stop raining so a roof can get a break and a chance to dry out. It’s also much warmer, and the sun can bake a roof dry quickly in that heat and sunshine.
Puget Sound can be cool and damp for a long time. This gives moss and other flora the opportunity to take hold and get established. Some animals, too, are happy to dig their way into a roof and raise their young there, without the worry of their nest being baked in 120+ degree temperatures. All of this presents the Seattle area roofer with a particular type of experience, and a certain needed set of skills. You have to build a roof that’s going to last decades and should be able to withstand Mother Nature’s attempts to eat it away.
How many years have they been installing roofs in the area?
There’s nothing like experience. It’s why armies in war time will use live ammunition sometimes in training exercises, even if it means some casualties will result, because experience with the real thing teaches you a subject like nothing else can. Roofing might not be rocket science, as a roofer friend of mine once told me, but when you get it wrong, you can wreck a lot more than the roof. That’s why your roofer – at least, the team supervisor / manager – must have plenty of roof installations under his or her belt. It might take a hundred or two roof installations to really get the hang of it. So, ask them how many they have installed, and how many of those were in the Puget Sound.
What roofing products do they offer?
As my father once said, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. He did love animals, so I know he meant that figuratively, but with respect to roofing, this means there are many ways to replace a roof. On the market today, there are so many varieties of roofing material as well as countless manufacturers wanting to see their exciting products on the top of your house, so take your time to explore what materials your roofing company likes to use, and which ones they’ve had experience with.
Only a generation ago, plain wood shakes made from cedar trees were very popular. They were simple, abundant, and most roofers around could install them. Wood shakes come with their own set of challenges. Each piece is unique, and every now and then, a “bad” shake makes its way in the mix, and now you have a small but significant time bomb that might spring a leak in a few years, instead of lasting 25 years before presenting a problem. Today, there are synthetic alternatives to the familiar shake. Some, even close up, look like the real thing, but are made entirely in a factory with synthetic materials. They usually come in a variety of designs – I mean, within one product, they have a ‘variation’ to give a natural look – so that from the street, your roof will look like it is covered in natural wood shakes.
Do they offer a better deal for installation in an off-season?
It’s easy to guess that weather has a lot to do with how a roofer operates. When the weather is good, and the sky clear, they don’t have to worry about rain damage in the middle of the roofing project, and it’s also easier for the workers to do their work. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep your footing on a mossy roof in the middle of winter. Homeowners, too, prefer to get their exterior home projects done in the dry, summer months, instead of the dark winter of short days, but roofing companies are faced with a challenge. If they don’t install any roofs all winter long, what happens to the staff? Should they be let go, then re-hired with the weather and business pick up in the spring? Some do it that way, while others see a benefit in keeping their staff all year long – as well as keeping all that experience – so, talk to your roofer about a winter project special. Some of them offer that, and it’s usually easier to get the exact days you like on their schedule.
Off-season roofing does require some extra equipment, usually. Even when the forecast is good, there is always a chance that the weather can change in this region of the country, so your roofer will need to have sufficient tarps and tie-downs to help them protect your property in the event there is an unexpected change in the weather.
How many teams do they have, and how many are there on each team?
The bigger a roofing team is, the faster the work will be finished. There is of course an upper limit to the number of people who can work on a single roof at the same time, but two, three or four persons can make the project wrap up quickly.
Experience, too, counts within the team members. Who is going to be there when the project is going all day? Make sure that if the roofing team is left there to its devices all day, and a ‘supervisor’ has left the scene to go kick-start or check in on another project, there is still enough good experience on the job to complete the project properly.
Are they licensed, bonded and insured to do roofing work?
It’s tempting to hire an uninsured team to replace your roof – you might save a few bucks – but what happens when there is an accident? While someone is on your property, particularly on your roof, you really do what them to be fully insured. If they are not insured, and they have an accident, they can legally come after your assets and income in order to pay for their medical expenses. That can be an astronomical amount of money.
Even if your own homeowners insurance is great, you never know for sure how coverage applies with a situation where a contractor is legally obliged to hold the primary coverage. An insurance company might reasonably state that they are not obliged to pay. Be safe, and see proof of your contractor having complete coverage.
More next week!