Reflections of a re-roofing

(When I get back, I’m migrating off of WordPress. It’s got Yet Another Bug whereby if I embed a table, it’ll arbitrarily delete it after a couple of edits. This. Bleeping. Blows.)

The actual roof work finally started and finished while I was traveling. This was great for me because I avoided all of the pounding, shaking, and disruption. And, as I was 5,000+ miles and nine time zones away, it was out of my “circle of concern,” I just let things occur. When I got home, the gutter guys had just finished adjusting the overhang.

I’m happy with the work, but a project this big is worthy of reflection. So here goes…

What I wanted done was pretty simple:

  • Removal of the old cedar shake roof.
  • Replacement with asphalt composite shingles. Cedar shakes are evil, rot, crack, burn, attract crows, moss over.
  • The only thing cedar shakes do better is provide their own structural support. Asphalt composit shingles do not. Because of this, the new roof needed application of plywood underlayment. It pushes up the cost about $3k.
  • Replace the Gutters — my old ones had issues, including not being level.
  • A warranty. It’s more of a confidence booster.

In the chart below is a rough breakout of the normalized costs:

As I related here, here and here, the descriptions of work and bids were all over the place. The most expensive one, Company Delta, produced a mere one page description of work. If I’m going to spend this much money, I want specific detail. (And actually, even if I’m not, I still want detail 😉

What’s startling about the proposals are how much just the basic roof varied. This is about as apples-to-apples as one can compare.

Company Charlie did not initially include replacement of the gutters until I asked again, then he proceeded to do the equivalent of pulling a number out of his posterior. Maybe it would have been only that much. They and Company Delta didn’t include replacement of the very rusted out exhaust pipe held together only by twenty years’ worth of spider carcasses. To be fair, Company Alpha doesn’t do the work themselves, either, but has a relationship with a firm that does, and would oversee that work for me.

Since Company Bravo was the only one that suggested the facia, I’ve lumped this under “extras.” Companies Charlie and Delta did not, nor did they mention the rusted exhaust pipe.

Another thing that’s interesting is how much down-payment the companies asked for. In the contracts, this down-payment was given either at acceptance (Companies Alpha, Charlie and Delta) or at delivery of the materials (Company Bravo), with the balance paid upon completion. In actuality, Company Bravo didn’t ask for a deposit. It’s not unexpected because the actual re-roofing takes less than a week (once it starts). Contractually speaking, he could have asked for payment as the gutter guys left. However, he actually did me a favor and gave me a few days to recover from jet lag before dropping by.

I ultimately accepted Company Bravo’s proposal because it was the most thorough and included a nice-to-have: the addition of painted facia beneath the gutters. Not only does this provide a steady attachment surface for the gutters, it’s broad enough that I can hang plants and Christmas lights and mobiles constructed of old AOL subscription CDs.

There were two overruns, both minor. To apply the facia, some of the roofing (insert fancy technical name for the boards that protrude) had to be trimmed back flush. The other item was jacking up the sagging roofline and replacing the part of the post that had rotted out. Another, specialist contractor was involved, putting the finishing touches on his work as I got back from the airport. (After 30 hours of plains, trains and automobiles, I wanted to sleep. Thus I was not as receptive to the explanation of his work, though his enthusiasm was appreciated.

If I were to name one thing that made a difference in interaction with the various companies, it was the representative’s enthusiasm. With Company Bravo, I was dealing with the owner. This what he does for a living, he likes it, and he’s happy to talk shop. With Companies Alpha and Charlie, I spoke with salespeople who likely had done something completely different five years ago. This was just another gig to them, and it showed. I never actually saw the representative for Company D.

As far as options, on the roofing material, there were a dozen types (times six shades of brown, gray and black — but not green, yellow, red, purple or neon orange) “approved” asphalt shingles to choose from. Three companies, Elk, Certainteed and GAF, were most of those. Elk’s the budget brand – mild warranties, probably lower profit margin for the roofers because no one was recommending them. Certainteed and GAF were comparable, having tit-for-tat levels of shingle premiumness. Other than the cosmetics, they were indistinguishable.

There was a slight local preference to Certainteed. Company Charlie claimed to have arcane knowledge of the Certainteed Masters, extending the warranty to “Lifetime,” which I called as “marketing bullshit.” To be clear, this warranty is for the material only. One can imagine that if I have a problem forty years from now, e.g. when I’m eighty, I won’t be climbing up the roof, pulling off the sole, errant shingle, and sending it back to the manufacturer (postpaid) for a cheerful replacement that I’ll subsequently install. Beyond thirty years, the warranty becomes “marketing fluff.” For example, this year Certainteed did extend theirs to “lifetime*,” in response to GAF’s increase. The asterisk limits this to the me plus next homeowner.

The roofing companies all had five to fifteen year warranties on their labor. Practically speaking, it seems like a leak’s going to occur in the first year. From one to five years, it’ll be “manufacturer defect.”

I went with a middle-lower tier of shingle for cost reasons.

There were fewer choices on Gutters. Beyond the “base” level that I got, there were the LeafGuard (or mabye it’s LeafCatcher or LeifErickson) at 3x the cost of the base. That’s a lot of money. For the difference, I calculated I can pay someone to get up on my roof 4x a year for at least 20 years. Also available was a copper constructed gutter that I had joked was made of smelted bicentennial pennies. At 6x the cost of base gutters, it was that expensive.

The only other “option” I remember was being able to specify “Type 30” paper instead of “Type 15.” The only explanation I received was from Company Bravo cautioning me that, some times it has a tendency to fold. As there was inadequate support for “Type 30,” I went with the “Type 15” that Company Bravo recommended.

The next thing for me to do is get the blessing of the homeowner’s association to paint the trim to match the different shade of white on the gutters. My Y chromosome limits how well I see this in less-than-direct flood lighting, but but the XXs in my household do, and it bugs them.

5 thoughts on “Reflections of a re-roofing”

  1. Doug in Exile

    I’m disappointed that you didn’t go with the unavailable yellow shingles. You know you wanted to….;-)

  2. Actually, Doug, red would have been my preference. (Yes, I miss my Miata.)

    By the way, one of my neighbors was in the process of reroofing their house. (Tree fell on the roof, damaging it severely; the roof’s as old as mine, insurance totaled it) They hadn’t secured permission of the homeowners association and received a “cease work” order.

  3. Doug in Exile

    Ah, the dreaded Homeowners Ass. In your efforts involving ham radio, you’ll get to know them very well, as at least one member will insist that your modest, easily removed, wire antenna will make their precious property values plummet. Tell me truthfully, WHERE in King County have property values ever done anything but inflate? I should have such trouble with property values here in Zion.

  4. I am looking at replacing a cedar shake roof – housing inspector gave it thumbs down (the only bad thing with the house). What State/County are you located in …it sounds like and looks like WA which is where I am buying (King Co) You sounded pleased with Company B. Could/would you share the name privately?

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