Your roof is a significant investment. So once you’ve paid for your new roof, you can rightfully expect it to last at least a couple of decades, depending on the material. But sometimes a roof can fail after just a few years. When a new roof fails, it can be a massive headache for the homeowner, and a huge expense. Usually, some simple mistakes can explain the failure. If you want to keep a new roof from failing, there are some common mistakes you should absolutely avoid. It’s not hard to install a great roof if you know what to look out for. But if you fall into any of these common mistakes, you could be sorely disappointed after just two or three years.
Don’t Get Hung Up on Upfront Costs
It’s natural when you are searching for a roofer to look for the lowest bid. Everyone loves a deal, and you don’t want to spend any more than you have to. But beware of the lowest bidder. If one roofer is offering a price far below everyone else, there is a reason. No roofer is going to lose money on a job. So if a roofer is submitting an unusually low bid, you can bet they plan on making that money up somewhere. As experienced roofers, we’ve seen some of the tricks these low bidders use to keep costs down, and they’re not pretty.
When you take bids on a new roof, look for value over time. How much will a roof cost you over its expected life span? Will this roof gives you decades of use with minimal maintenance? Or will you be making repairs to your roof and your home every few years? Don’t be afraid to ask your roofer questions. Homeowners who show some interest in what their roofers are doing are much less likely to be scammed.
Keep in mind that materials matter. Not all asphalt shingles are the same, and typically you get what you pay for. Make sure you discuss your roofing options with your roofer. You want to get the best roof that you can afford. Also, make sure it is rated to stand up to the local weather. In Atlanta, we get some high winds, so get a roof that is rated for wind. Also, consider the weight of the new roof. An upgrade from asphalt to tile or slate can be beautiful, but those materials are also much heavier. If you’re adding more weight, you may need to build in more structural support, which adds to time, labor, and materials costs.
Don’t Skimp on Installation
Remember what we said about the lowest bidder. They will be making up their profits somewhere. Often that comes in the form of sloppy labor and inexperienced workers. Putting up a great roof isn’t rocket science, but there are definitely lots of rookie mistakes to avoid. Even worse, if a roofer is quoting you a really low price, they are probably not going to do the best detail work in the areas where it counts.
One problem we have seen with many cheap roofs is poorly or improperly installed flashing. Flashing is vital to the proper functioning of your roof. It helps channel water away from seams in your roof and can help direct water off the roof in areas where it can collect, like valleys between two slopes. This is detail work that matters. If the step flashing around a chimney is not installed correctly, water can leak through almost immediately, causing attic damage and, eventually, ceiling damage. Even worse, some roofers skip the flashing altogether and think they can get away with some caulking. This saves on materials but costs you rather quickly. Caulking without flashing can dry, crack, and leak after just a few years.
Another area where we have seen sloppy installation is with the way shingles are attached to the roof. Almost all roofers today use nail guns to install shingles. But the pressure on the nail gun has to be set just right. The nail needs to penetrate the shingle all the way to form a tight seal. But too much pressure can rip the shingle. Inexperienced or careless roofers can damage almost every single shingle on a new roof by using the wrong pressure setting.
Make Sure You Have Good Attic Ventilation
There’s nothing worse for a roof than moisture. Just like your shingles help protect your roof from above, attic ventilation protects your roof from below. An attic is a great buffer zone between the outside weather and your indoor living space. But if your attic is getting hot and humid, it could be a danger to the roof. When the air temperature inside your attic is different than the air temperature outside, condensation can build up in the attic. If condensation starts to collect on the beams that make up the frame of your roof, it can damage the structure, causing mold and rot. The condensation can also start to drip onto the attic floor, causing damage to the ceiling below.
An attic’s ventilation should ideally be balanced between intake and exhaust. However, if there is a slight imbalance, the exhaust should never be greater than the intake. Typically, the intake comes from soffit vents that run along the soffit of your home. Exhaust is usually from ridge vents along the top of the roof. Current building codes recommend 1 square foot of vent space for every 150 square feet of attic floor. The square footage should be split evenly between intake and exhaust.
Be Careful About Flashing
A cheap roofer who does a sloppy installation may skimp on the flashing. But flashing is actually one of the most critical parts of your new roof. Not only should you not skimp on flashing, but you also need to make sure that you have the right flashing in the right places. Roof flashing protects the most vulnerable points on your roof. The two primary uses of roof flashing are to protect areas of strong water flow and penetrations in the roof.
In the valleys of your roof where two slopes meet, you will need flashing made of long pieces of sheet metal. The flashing should be installed before the shingles so that the shingles overlap the edge of the flashing slightly. It needs to be secured properly with nails and sealed with tar or caulk.
Flashing is also essential where there is a penetration in the roof, or where the roof meets a wall. Examples of penetrations include chimneys, vents, and skylights. In some cases, a skylight or a vent will come with a prefabricated rubber boot that acts as flashing and seals the seam around the unit. Around a chimney, step flashing protects the area where the brick meets the decking of the roof. Step flashing is often installed overlapping and with caulk for an extra strong seal. In addition, a chimney may require a cricket, which is a ridged piece of flashing on the up-roof side of the chimney that directs water around the chimney. This prevents water from pooling on the top end of the chimney.
The best way to make sure your roof will last is to have it installed by experienced professional roofers. At Eagle Watch Roofing, we stand behind our work with one of the best warranties in the business. We also bring years of experience on thousands of roofing jobs. Finally, we always suggest you see what others are saying. So go ahead and check out our testimonials page. We would be happy to connect you with real clients like yourself, as well.