It May Be Over Your Head, But Your Roof Is No Laughing Matter


Remember El Nino ? – Meet La Nina, the new weather pattern on the block.

After El Nino’s surge of warm Pacific Ocean water churned storms that found all the leaks in your roof, the cooler but just as powerful La Nina weather pattern could bring on more storms to finish the job.

Rain isn’t really the chief culprit responsible for your roof’s demise . The rainy season merely reveals what you neglected all those sunny, arid years.

The hot sun’s ultra violet radiation, gale force winds, soggy condensation, mold, mildew and debris from over-hanging trees really stick it to a roof.

Unfortunately, if you need to find help for your roof now, good luck. After a banner year, thanks to El Nino, roofers are swamped heading into their busiest season. After coming home from vacations and sending the kids back to school, home owners’ thoughts turn to their only line of defense between them and the elements.Unable to obtain good help, you might consider stop-gap patching and repairs.

That might not be such a good idea. “Anytime you do a patch on the roof, the edges of that patch winds up being the weakest point of roof,” says Paul Elmore, owner of Responsible Roofing, in Mountain View, CA. “New material sealed onto old material isn’t as good as the original seal. It will fail where the patch meets the old material,” Elmore said.

Patching a tar and gravel built-up roof can create an ever-so-slight slope disrupting the roof’s natural incline, forcing water to settle into pools elsewhere. Then, the leak appears to move, while actually, the additional stress on the aging roof springs a new leak.

Rather than patching, consider your roof’s age.

The most popular composite tar-and-gravel shingle tops last only about 20 years. Wood shingle and shakes last longer, up to 40 years and clay, concrete and slate tiles, aluminum and other metal roofs can last a life time, according to the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Replacement costs generally increase with a roof’s life expectancy from a few thousand dollars for the popular composite shingles to tens of thousands for roofs with a longer life span.

If you roof is nearing the end of it’s life expectancy and showing its age, keep looking for professional roofers. It’s likely time for a new one and wet weather has already hit some regions.

Choosing a roofer

The association says shop around for referrals to contractors with solid track records. Make sure the contractor plans to obtain a permit and is financially stable, licensed and insured with both workers compensation and liability insurance. Ask for written proof of his or her credentials and coverage.

The non-profit, Washington D.C.-based Center for the Study of Services conducted a survey that revealed the more bids roofing shoppers received, the greater the spread between the high and low bids — sometimes by as much as $2,000.

From each roofer obtain an estimate based on a thorough roof inspection — inside and out. The inspection should generate a detailed report, as well as a bid.

Visit roofs the contractor installed and seek clients’ opinion of the work. Also visit the contractors office or shop. If it’s neat and organized or trashed, that will indicate the level of professionalism you can expect on top of your house, advises Jack Robinson, director of technical services at the National Roofing Contractors Association in Rosemont, Ill.

Robinson said insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and material specifications. Request the name of the site supervisor and the number of workers expected on the job. The contractor should also explain project supervision and quality control methods. Get in writing an approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.

The payment plan should match the work in progress. Never pay for the job before it’s complete. “We believed the (El Nino) predictions and had our roof redone last September. Our roofer did an excellent job. He came when he said and finished when he said. Maybe this isn’t as interesting as a horror story, but I sure liked it when I was warm and dry all winter,” said Judith Wasserman, an architect with Bressack & Wasserman in Palo Alto, CA.

For more information

The National Roofing Contractors Association , offers a free information kit, including a 12-page booklet “Buying a New Roof,” and referrals to member roofers.

The Center for the Study of Services’ 1996 Winter/Spring, Vol. 7 No. 2 San Francisco Bay Area-edition and the 1996 Winter/Spring, Vol. 9, No. 4 Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area-edition offers “Roofers,” an in-depth article that takes a hard look at roofing problems, roofing parts and techniques and tips for finding and hiring roofers. The article ($5 for members, $15 for non-members) also offers a consumer satisfaction survey of roofers. Checkbook’s Web site is .


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