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Ten tips


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001

Keep your balance when hiring a roof contractor

If you can see that a number of your roof shingles are deteriorating, broken or missing, it might be time to reroof your house. The following tips can help you through the process.

1. Consider your options. Asphalt shingles work best for most homes, and fiberglass-reinforced asphalt shingles dominate the market. You can choose from a variety of other roofing materials, such as wood shakes, tiles, slate or metal, but some of these may be too heavy for your home's structure.

2. Hire a good roofer. Solicit at least two bids, check references and investigate company reputations with the Better Business Bureau at (800) 955-5100 and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (800) HELP-FLA (435-7352).

3. Keep your senses. Don't automatically opt for the lowest bidder. Consider other key factors, such as professionalism and workmanship.

4. Ask a lot of questions. How long have you been in business? What kind of workers' compensation and liability insurance do you carry? How many projects like mine have you completed? Are you a member of a national trade association? Are you certified?

5. Get it in writing. Your contract should spell out a timetable for the job and specify the roofing material's brand and model information. Also, the contractor should take responsibility for obtaining necessary permits.

6. Understand the warranty. Read the warranty carefully and watch out for loopholes that would void it. Keep the wrapper from a package of shingles in case any warranty issues come up.

7. The new over the old. Your contractor may be able to put new asphalt shingles over the existing roofing if your home's rafters are sturdy. But avoid adding a third layer because it may be too heavy.

8. What about coating? A coating can lengthen the life of your roof, but it's no substitute for repairs if your roof is worn out. Don't apply a coating if serious problems have set in.

9. Expect quality work. Your roofer should replace damaged sheathing, flashing and roofing paper; use nails instead of staples; use at least four nails for each asphalt shingle; and preferably use a hammer instead of a nail gun.

10. Pay the right way. Aim for a down payment of 10 percent or less. Make your final payment after you've obtained lien waivers or releases from all the suppliers and subcontractors who participated in the job.

- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.

Sources: Better Business Bureau (; National Roofing Contractors Association (800-872-7663,; and Consumer Reports (

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