Don’t let anything (other than the roof itself) go over your head
Roofing work isn’t cheap. A full-on roof replacement can cost anywhere from $8,700 to $22,000 on average, which is why it’s important to shop around and find a good price from a qualified professional. This is where roofing estimates come in.
A roofing estimate—also known as a roofing bid—should tell you everything you need to know about your project. This document varies greatly among local roofing contractors: one might give you a handwritten, one-page summary, where another draws up an official-looking document that spans pages. Either suffices, as long it contains the following information.
1. Project Timeline and Basic Company Information
Every roofing estimate should include basic information about the company and the timeline of the project. This includes:
Contact information such as phone numbers and email address
An outline of who’s responsible for what (Who’s overseeing the day-to-day? Where do you send payment?)
Estimated start and completion date
You can use this information to research your contractor and get your questions answered. Are they legitimate? Do they have a history of quality work? Not every contractor has a large online presence, so you might have to dig further than a Google search.
2. Proof of Licenses and Insurance
Different cities and states have different contractor’s license and insurance requirements (think: liability insurance and workers’ compensation). Hiring a contractor who doesn’t meet the qualifications carries a lot of risk—not just for shoddy work but also for personal injury. A reputable contractor will provide proof.
You can verify a contractor’s license by checking the license number on your state’s licensing board. You may also want your roofing estimate to include proof of bonding, which protects you if your contractor fails to complete their job.
3. Itemized Costs
A good roofing proposal will spell out all of the costs associated with the project so there are no surprises. It also helps you compare bids. At a minimum, this should include the cost of:
Cleanup and removal of construction debris
This list should be extremely detailed. You shouldn’t just be looking at the flat cost of replacing a worn-out section of your roof. Instead, you should be looking at all of the associated costs—like how much it’ll cost to tear out the old roof, install the underlayment, add new shingles and flashing, repair gutters, and clean up after the project is completed. Your contractor may even list out something as inconsequential as the number of nails they expect to use. It all adds up!
4. Information About Your Roofing System’s Components
Roofs have many different components. Some (or all!) of these may need to be replaced, depending on your job. At the very least, your roofing estimate should include information about the major components, but it could also include additional information about things like waterproofing and ridge capping. Look out for these four major categories.
Underlayment is a protective layer put over your roof’s decking. Your contractor should outline the thickness, type, and manufacturer of the underlayment they plan to use. There are three main types:
The pros and cons of each vary, so talk to your contractor about which would be best for the job.
Homeowners must choose between two types of ventilation: active ventilation and passive ventilation. Active ventilation circulates by pulling outside air into your home and pushing inside air out of your home. Passive ventilation circulates using natural forces like wind and thermal buoyancy. Passive ventilation is a greener option, but it’s not as consistent as active ventilation.
Once you choose the type of ventilation, you’ll also have to choose the type of vent.
Shingles are typically priced per square foot. Like underlayment, your contractor should outline the type, manufacturer, and amount of shingles they plan to use. Most homeowners choose from asphalt, metal, clay, wood, or solar singles. They each have their own pros and cons, so the right choice depends on the project.
Flashing is a thin metal material used to help direct water away from areas of your home like the chimney, walls, and roof valleys. Your estimate should outline the type of metal used, where the flashing will be placed, and if your existing flashing can be reused.
5. A Plan for Possible Decking Replacement
Decking is the heart of a roof, but wood (the most popular type of roof decking) is prone to rot. And you can’t tell if your decking has rotted out until your contractor starts to tear apart the old roof. For this reason, your estimate should include how much it will cost to replace decking. Sometimes this is automatically included in the estimate, but other times you’ll have to ask.
6. Guarantees and Warranties
The materials your contractor plans to use typically have some sort of manufacturer warranty. Your contractor may also provide an additional workmanship warranty to guarantee the quality of their work. This should be clearly listed on your roofing estimate so you can compare between contractors.
What About a Roofing Contract?
If you find a favorable estimate, you can start the contract process. The information on a roofing contract will be similar to a bid but with additional clauses that protect both parties from liability (because money is actually exchanging hands at this point). This includes:
Additional specifics on payment terms, including down payment and final payment provisions
Provisions for change orders or add-ons that result in extra charges
A lien release, which protects you from liability if your contractor doesn’t pay subcontractors and suppliers
A termination clause
At the end of the day, casting a wide net should be the first step. Review roofing estimates from multiple professionals before signing a contract.