Roofing Estimate or Inspection: Which Do I Need?

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated September 12, 2022
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Photo: karamysh / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Roofing estimates and inspections are often used interchangeably, though they are different.

  • Roofing estimates are typically free and offer a quote for repair work to fix a known issue.

  • Roofing inspections search for unknown problems and cost between $75 and $600.

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Your home’s roof has an extremely important job—keeping everyone inside safe, warm, and dry. When there’s a problem with your roof, you may wonder whether you need, a roof estimate or a roof inspection? They seem like interchangeable terms, but they’re actually two very different services. A roof estimate is usually free or less expensive than a roof inspection and requires less time. But there are other differences you should consider before deciding which is best for you. 

What Is a Roofing Estimate?

Also called a roofing bid, a roofing estimate is a document created for you by a roofing professional that lays out all the information you might need to fix a roofing issue. Roofing estimates vary in format and length, but should always include the following information:

  • An outline of who is responsible for overseeing the project and collecting payment

  • Basic contact information for all parties involved

  • A project timeline with an estimated start and completion date

  • Payment terms

  • Proof of licensing (in some states), liability insurance, and worker’s compensation

  • Detailed itemized list of costs for labor and materials at every step of the project

  • Information about the underlayment, ventilation, shingles, and flashing to be used

  • A decking replacement plan, if necessary 

  • Warranties and guarantees for products and work quality

To get the best roofing estimate when shopping around for a qualified contractor, you should gather multiple bids to compare terms, cost estimates, and timelines. You can use the information on each bid to do further research about each company, ensuring that they are legitimate with updated licenses and a history of quality work.

“When you compare bids, ensure that you are comparing apples to apples,” says Ami Feller, Expert Review Board member and owner of Roofer Chicks in New Braunfels, TX. “Not all contractors are necessarily quoting the same quality of materials, installation, and warranties.”

Are Roofing Estimates Free?

Professional roofing estimates are usually free, or at least low-cost, when done by the company that will also handle the roofing project. When creating an estimate, roofers typically concentrate on just one area rather than evaluating the entire roof. For that reason, estimates take relatively little time to complete compared to a full inspection.

When to Get a Roof Estimate

Woman working on replacing the roof drain pipes
Photo: Iryna / Adobe Stock

Request a roof estimate if you are sure you know what the problem is with your roof. A roofing estimate is usually a free or low-priced evaluation of one problem area of your home’s roof. So if you’ve got a leak and you already saw that you’re missing shingles, a roof estimate is the right choice for you.

Roof Estimate Pros

The biggest pro of a roofing estimate, when compared to a roofing inspection, is usually the cost. Roofers will usually offer free estimates. If they don’t, you can try to negotiate the price of your roof estimate.

Timeline is another pro of an estimate versus an inspection. That’s because, with an estimate, the roofers typically concentrate on just one area rather than evaluating the entire roof itself. 

Roof Estimate Cons

While you can often get free roofing estimates, the range of those estimates can be vast. Different roofing companies have different numbers of staff. The equipment available to the roofers you’ve hired will also impact the number on the final estimate. If a company has all of the latest equipment, that can also impact pricing.  

“Also materials used and warranties affect the pricing,” says Feller. “Many people think all roofs are the same, and that couldn't be further from the truth.”

What Is a Roof Inspection?

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Photo: highwaystarz / Adobe Stock

Where roof estimates are essentially a quote for repair work done to a specific issue that you already know about, roof inspections require a pro to go over your roof with a fine-tooth comb to identify any potential problems.

4 types of roof inspections compared by cost, with drone ranging $150 to $600

Roof Inspection Cost 

A roof inspection costs $220 on average, but your total may vary depending on the size and style of your roof and the type of inspection you’re having done. You’ll receive a basic report after your inspection breaking down the fees for the inspection itself, any expert labor, and a certification letter, if applicable. Roof inspectors typically offer the following options:

  • Physical roof inspection: $75–$200. A traditional inspection involves checking your roof and interior for holes and visible damage. Good for flat, easily accessible roofs.

  • Drone roof inspection: $150–$600. A drone operator can pilot a drone to check your roof’s exterior and take photos for you, your contractor, or your insurance company.

  • Infrared roof inspection: $400–$600. A drone with infrared technology can photograph unbalanced heat and moisture levels in your roof to help detect serious issues before they’ve caused significant structural damage.

To save money, check your insurance policy before hiring a local roof inspector to see if it covers the cost of a roof inspection. Some roof contractors may also offer basic free inspections before writing up a repair estimate, though these are typically not extensive enough to meet the requirements of lending or insurance companies.

Roof Inspection Pros 

Roof inspections are comprehensive; they get into your roof’s anatomy and identify any problems it may have. They are also not too costly, with the average roof inspection price coming in around $220. This full analysis can give you excellent guidance on which parts of your roof need work first.

Roof Inspection Cons 

Suppose you already know what work your roof needs. In that case, you may end up paying for an unnecessary inspection. Another con of roof inspections is that you may find the work you have to do is much more intensive than you initially realized.

Roof Estimates vs. Roof Inspections

When it comes to choosing the right one for you, it really depends on your roof’s specific issue. If your roof has obvious problems or damage, it’s best to skip the inspection and instead start requesting roof estimates as soon as possible. Roof estimates are a way of assessing the cost of repairs to a specific, known problem on your roof. 

Roof inspections are necessary when you aren’t sure what’s going on with your roof and you need more information about what the problem is with your roof, and how to fix it. Roof inspections are also very common for real estate transactions. Most home inspectors are generalist, and many recommend having the roof inspected by a roofing contractor.

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