Roof Repair 101

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With the generally silent, steady job it does protecting you and your home, it's easy to take your roof for granted„Ÿeasy, that is, until a leak sprouts or a shingle slips. A well-constructed roof provides many years of service, but with all the elements it battles year-round, wear and tear are natural results. Proceeding with repair is a big-ticket project loaded with choices impacting the structural integrity of your home, so carefully consider your options

With the generally silent, steady job it does protecting you and your home, it's easy to take your roof for granted„Ÿeasy, that is, until a leak sprouts or a shingle slips. A well-constructed roof provides many years of service, but with all the elements it battles year-round, wear and tear are natural results. Proceeding with repair is a big-ticket project loaded with choices impacting the structural integrity of your home, so carefully consider your options before hitting the roof.

Repair or replace?

A well-built, well-maintained roof will usually have a lifespan of around 20 years, and you'll definitely know it needs attention from such signs as damaged or loose shingles, a film of moss or algae indicating moisture retention, and visible wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations. Spot repair may be possible if the majority of your roof surface has plenty of mileage left in it; otherwise, there are a few roof replacement strategies to choose from.

A whole new roof is one of them, providing the opportunity for secure sealing, the latest in underlayment materials and flashing, and a longer guarantee of material integrity for a lifespan of 20 years or more. The other is to apply a new roofing layer on top of the old, possible only if your existing roofing is one layer thick and in good condition, has strong decking, and has shingles compatible with the new application.

With a second roof layer, longevity isn't as extensive, being around 25 percent less than that of a single-layered new roof. This is due to the additional heat that will be contained in the original roof and dry out the new layer. If your roof's condition provides the opportunity to choose between these options, consider the number of years you plan to stay in your re-roofed home. If a long haul is in the cards, a whole new roof is the wise choice, while a shorter stay justifies saving cash with the second-layer option.

Product selection for weather protection

An important part of your roof redo is the weather protection incorporated underneath the shingles you see. Accumulated moisture is the ultimate enemy of every kind of roofing material and can cut down on its lifespan in a hurry, so an underlayment like Grace Ice & Water Shield is a worthwhile investment. This self-adhered material is applied under the shingles and directly to the roof's decking, creating a watertight bond that not only protects your roof from pools of water caused by ice dams, but also from wind-driven rains and snow.

Chimneys, skylights and dormers also benefit from protection, and that's where a material called flashing comes in. Placed where these features meet the roof, flashing creates a water and air-resistant seal for strength outside and comfort and energy savings indoors.

Choose a contractor with care

Roof repair is a huge investment and should be handled only by experienced and qualified professionals. So take care of your roof and your cash by spending time to research candidate contractors. Start by verifying the roofer's permanent place of business, telephone number, tax identification number and business license. Ask the roofer for proof of insurance, then make sure the roofer is properly licensed or bonded and financially stable (a good roofer can easily provide financial information about his company). Also ask for a list of references and take the time to verify them. Finally, remember that the best roofing contractor is only as good as the workers who install the system, so be sure to ask what type of safety training and educational programs have been provided for the contractor's team.

Warranty warnings

Another area for careful consideration is the warranty zone. Roof warranties only cover materials, so the skill and training of your contractor can have an adverse affect that won't be revealed until it's way too late. A so-so installation can cut a 20-year roof down to 10 years of service, sinking the return on your coverage accordingly. So beware of warranty coverage limits and loopholes, and resist the temptation to select roofing material based on a possibly empty marketing claim. You and your home deserve the best roofing solution that money can buy, and any cash-saving shortcuts will come back to haunt you with the arrival of the first big storm.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of 'The Money Pit', a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the showfs podcast or sign-up for Tomfs free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programfs website.

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