Posted on Nov 14, 2012 @ 16:26 by Nick Domino
As a homeowner or landlord, when you discover that your roof needs to be replaced, brace yourself. You are probably in for a significant expense, and unfortunately, there is no avoiding it. So, just how much could it cost? Well, a number of factors drive this amount, including some items that may not necessarily be obvious at first.
The good news is that you can control the overall cost to a certain extent, since you have a number of choices to make – on things like material type and labor quality.
The bad news, though, is you may not have much flexibility on timing: when a roof needs to be replaced it cannot be put off! Roof damage can lead to serious water damage in your home, potentially causing structural issues.
So, if you find yourself at the point where you are considering roof replacement, how do you estimate its impact on your wallet?
The most direct way to approach this is to reach out to roofing professionals and get their opinions on your roof. They can tell you whether the damage to your roof requires replacement, or if simple repairs could suffice instead. Later on, if you decide to use a contractor, check out the best practices we highlighted in our article on hiring a contractor.
In the meantime, read on to learn about the basics of roofing costs.
The Basics of Roofing Costs
Costs for shingles, labor, and other roofing materials will generally be quoted in terms of “squares,” each comprising 100 square feet. In other words, a 10 foot by 10 foot patch of your roof makes 1 square. Although roofs come in many different shapes and sizes, an “average” roof in the U.S. often totals between 22 and 26 squares, or 2200 to 2600 square feet.
To keep costs low, do-it-yourself homeowners can usually install a roof on an average American ranch house for between $1,000 and $4,000, depending on the material quality used. In contrast, a professional roofer would probably cost between $2,000 and $8,500 for the same roof. Keep in mind, though, most homeowners do not have the ability to replace their own roof properly, and unless you know exactly what you are doing, it makes sense to pay a professional to ensure quality work.
Removing the Old Roof
The first major cost you will encounter when replacing your roof is the removal of the current roofing material. The magnitude of this expense varies, depending on several factors: the size of your roof, its height from the ground, its steepness, the material type, and finally the number of layers in it. A one-story, single-layer roof of minimal steepness will cost between $100 and $150 per square to remove. A double-layer roof at the same height would cost more like $115 to $165 to remove, while a triple-layer roof would reach $125 to $175 per square.
A steeper roof will increase these estimates, of course, as will a roof that is high off the ground. The materials being removed also play a role. Asphalt shingles are the cheapest to remove, while metal, wood, or slate will all cost more. Additionally, there is a cost for hauling away the debris, which may or may not be included in a roofer’s price, depending on the contractor.
Removal costs can be entirely avoided if you overlay a new layer of roofing onto the existing one, instead of fully replacing the roof. However, this practice comes with a significant downside. An overlay is estimated to cut as much as 20% from the lifespan of your new roof and might actually violate the warranty of the new roof’s materials. Also, many municipalities’ building codes specify how many layers a roof can have before it needs to be completely replaced. Your local roofer will know these codes and can check to see whether your roof has too many layers already.
When you are ready to replace your roof, you will be faced with a variety of materials from which to choose. The most common materials are: asphalt shingles, which generally cost between $120 – $140 per square, slate tiles at $125 – $145 per square, wooden shakes at $150 – $230 per square, clay tiles at $170 – $260 per square, and metal roofing at $350 – $1,100 per square.
Obviously, a roof’s cost increases along with the quality of its materials and the labor required to install it. However, keep in mind that higher quality materials can both last longer and look much better than lower grade materials. If your roof’s appearance is highly important to you, your final decision on roofing material may hinge on its aesthetic appeal.
Beyond the roofing type, there are other costs to bear in mind as well. For example, if you uncovered any evidence of water damage while removing your previous roof, you may need to replace the wooden decking underneath it. Also, roofs in northern areas with cold winters and frequent snowfall will usually need an additional layer of ice protection.
To ensure watertight seals, you should also make sure that your roof has sufficient flashing in vulnerable places, for example where chimneys or vent pipes penetrate the roof. In spots where the roof’s surface meets a vertical wall, specific “step flashing” will be required. Proper flashing installation will require a roofing expert, so unfortunately this step will not be eligible for DIY savings on your part.
One final cost to plug into your estimate is the construction permit that your municipality will likely require for the project.
Putting It All Together
Combining all these expenses, you can estimate the total cost of your roof replacement. The absolute cheapest way to do the job would be to use asphalt shingles, overlay the new layer on top of your current roof, and perform the work yourself.
However, there are hidden costs associated with that approach. First, consider the chunk of time you will need to invest in the project. Roof replacement has to be done quickly, since leaving your roof half-finished and exposed to the weather is dangerous. So, you will need to devote a continual block of time to it and finish it fast, rather than simply working on it gradually for a couple of hours per day in your spare time. Additionally, you need to be skilled enough to perform the work safely. You would need to rent or own the tools necessary and be able to dispose of the debris yourself. Finally, although the DIY method seems cheaper upfront, you may experience higher costs down the road because of the overlaid roof’s reduced lifespan and any workmanship quality issues stemming from your DIY labor.
A professional roofer will be much more efficient and knowledgeable than the average DIY homeowner and will be able to complete the job much faster and with higher quality work. Ideally, they should remove the current roof layer(s) to ensure a longer lifespan for your roof. The downside, of course, is that they will cost significantly more than a DIY job. Ultimately, the time saved and the assurance of a job well done are often worth the extra cost.
Having a solid roof over our heads is something we easily take for granted, but when that roof needs to be fixed or replaced, the costs can add up. By considering your available options and priorities ahead of time, you will avoid mistakes and keep your roof replacement costs from spiraling out of control.