8 super-specific questions to ask your roofer before you sign the contract

There you are. You’re sitting at your kitchen table, and across from you is a roofing contractor. He’s telling you all about what he’s going to do to replace your roof, how long it will take, and of course, what it will cost. Then he asks if you have any questions.

You freeze.

You feel like you should ask some questions. After all, you’re spending a lot of money for a roof you’ll be happy with. You should be comfortable with your contractor’s knowledge and practices, and understand how your roof will work.

When talking to your contractor, Milt Kreitzer, vice president of operations and sales for Castle Roofing in Dayton, Ohio, a valued IKO ShieldPro Plus™ member  and IKO customer, says you should ask these eight very specific questions:

Do you use a complete, matching system of roof components?

A roof is more than just shingles nailed to some plywood. It’s a complete system of roof components — synthetic underlayment, ice and water protector, hip and ridge shingles, starter strips, flashing, shingles, vents — all designed to work together.

Kreitzer recommends making sure all of your roofing components come from the same manufacturer. “Don’t mix and match to get the price down,” he said. “It might be a little less expensive, but it could complicate elements of the installation.”

He also said to be sure your roofer is using products as prescribed by the building code in your city or state. For example, he says, “In Ohio, code requires ice and water protection on the eaves and valleys.”

How many nails per shingle?

The correct answer to this question is, “It depends on the specific instructions each manufacturer has for their products,” according to Kreitzer. “No two shingles are the same.”

Nails, of course, affix the shingle to the roof deck. While the recommended nailing practices will vary between shingle products and manufacturer, IKO is pleased to offer its IKO Dynasty shingles, which feature a reinforced nailing band requiring only four nails per shingle.

What type of flashing do you recommend?

Areas where the roof meets a structure like a chimney or a dormer are especially vulnerable to water intrusion. That’s where flashing comes in. Kreitzer said flashing is extremely important. “It’s your primary defense against water. Your roof is only as good as the flashing.”

While some contractors will simply do a “facemount flashing,” Kreitzer says this usually isn’t enough. He recommends Z flashing for brick or stone siding and reglet-set flashing for clapboard siding. These flashings feature channels and bends that integrate with the siding and help prevent water intrusion from wind uplift. Ask your roofer which flashing they recommend based on your home’s siding material and wind exposure.

How will you seal off the pipe boot?

Another area that’s often overlooked is the pipe boot, where vent stacks emerge from the roof. Kreitzer says this is a special area of concern. “Most pipe boot manufacturers don’t offer a warranty,” he said.

Kreitzer says that makes it doubly important to make sure the pipe boot is sealed correctly, with ice and water protectors installed around them, because if they’re not it can lead to significant damage.

What valley installation will you use?

Roof valleys are another key area of vulnerability to leaks, as this is where the most water gathers when it rains. “Typically this is one of the places, next to flashing, where leaks occur due to improper installation,” said Kreitzer.

He says the way to handle valleys has changed over the years, and recommended approaches may vary depending on the construction of your home and the region where you live. However, good valley installation will include a combination of ice and water protector, flashing, and shingles installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

In any case, Kreitzer recommends you ask your contractor what method they use and how it will work.

How will you cap the ridge vents?

Most roofs have vents on the ridge to allow the roof to breathe and prevent moisture from building up in the attic. It’s also the part of the roof that endures the greatest wind shear.

“Common practice was to cut three-tab shingles to use as ridge caps,” said Kreitzer. Instead, he recommends using ridge cap shingles. They don’t require cutting, which means faster, cleaner installation.

Products designed specifically for for ridge cap application include IKO Hip & Ridge shingles or IKO Ultra HP pre-formed ridge shingles.

How far will the shingles extend over the drip edge?

Water can defy gravity.

When it rains, it flows down the slope to your rain gutters. Then, some of it holds onto the edge of the shingle and can make its way back up the underside of the shingle. Even with a drip edge installed (an aluminum or plastic strip that protects the edge of the deck), water can find its way to the roof deck and cause damage.

To prevent this, the edge of the shingle should extend past the drip edge. How far? “Shingles should overhang the drip edge to a nominal quarter inch,” said Kreitzer. “This allows water to fall off the shingle and into the gutter.” He added that it also reduces the likelihood for water to climb back up the underside and soak into the roof deck.

What will the weather be like when you install the shingles?

Installing a roof is a fair-weather job, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate, and sometimes it’s cold and grey on installation day. On those days, Kreitzer recommends you make sure your contractor uses recommended cold-weather installation practices. This typically means using spot adhesives to secure shingles until proper bonding takes place.

“Your roofers should keep an eye on the weather,” he said. “On cold, gloomy days they should do a spot seal-down.” That way, the roof will stay in place until the sun’s had a chance to do its part.

Replacing your roof requires a significant investment and can be daunting for most homeowners. Making sure you know the right questions to ask will help you choose the best contractor and make sure you are equipped to understand the process of protecting your home.

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