Rots, cracks and burns

I’ve heard people recommend cedar shingle roofs because “they look beautiful.” Those people are on psychedelic mushrooms and/or haven’t owned one on a residential home. What they neglect to mention is cedar shakes are renowned for their ability to harbor moss, split, rot, attract crows and burn baby burn. On top of that, I understand the lifetime — with frequent maintenance and good fortune — is 15 years. Maybe cedar is a good choice relative to tissue paper or a good choice if you’re a roofing company.

Mine’s 20 years old and… not so beautiful. Though the homeowner association has finally relaxed the rules, allowing alternate to the cedar peril. They don’t offer hints on what kind of numbers to expect… so I feel as if I’m about to be cast into the wolves’ den.

I should have known the first estimate was going to be high when the guy introduced himself, asked “How long have you lived here?”, then followed it up with “I bet you have built up a lot of equity.” He did his roofer thing for forty minutes then handed me a packet with an estimate and a contract. While he was explaining why they were eminently qualified, thumbing through a notebook of roofing photos of sample work, I peeked at the Bad News.

Oh, lordy, it was. The range quoted is the equivalent to a new car. If I go with nagahyde thin shingles with the limited 40-year warranty, we’re talking Subaru Impreza. The triple layered, cubic zirconium jewel-encrusted thick Presidental shingles with the creatively limited 50-year warranty costs a Toyota Sienna. Given the roofing company hasn’t been in business that long, nor have the the products been manufactured that long, I think “50 years” is creative marketing. Also, at the rate my property taxes have been increasing —10% per year — it seems increasingly unlikely I’ll be able to afford living in my house that long anyway. Unfortunately, most of the work is pulling off the old roof and preparing it for conventional materials..

After he left, I read the contract. As with reading financial reports, the devil’s in the details. And the details of what’s excluded from that number worry me:

  • Replacement of some tubular exhaust thingie used by the heater and water heater. Whatever this thing is, I never knew existed, but that work is done by another company at a cost “not to exceed $486” extra.
  • Gutters. They’re in marginal shape, sure to be damaged further by reroofing. Estimates range from $2,400 for aluminum equivalents to what I have now, to $7,800 for the fancy-schmancy “Leaf GuardTM” to $13,700 for de luxe one-piece copper gutters made from smelted bicentennial pennies. (I’m kidding about the penny part.) The last one was probably thrown in just to make the others seem less expensive by contrast.
  • Permits – I have no idea what this will amount to. It’s King County, so I’m scared. Very scared.
  • Sales tax – nine percent, baby.
  • Damage – if they break the skylight, guess who has to custom order a new one and add to the fixed bid at the rate schedule they conveniently appended to the back of page three?

Two nearby houses had their rooves done just before the current residents moved in. I’m not very sociable with my other negihbors enough to ask for the gory details, but I may have to be.Anyone have a reroofing done that they want to talk about?

11 thoughts on “Rots, cracks and burns”

  1. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know nothin’ about roofin’, but there are a couple of these cool / weird rooves in town, and they always catch my eye. They may be environmentally friendly, or they may be rat-infested death traps (heck, they may be both!), but they certainly stand out either way.

    You know. . . which sounds like exactly what you want to impress the homeowner’s group closest to you.

  2. You had me interested until you got to the rat part. 😉

    Portland is such a cool city.

  3. Oh, I don’t think there are really any rats. From the couple of examples I’ve seen around town (including one building at Portland State University), they look super cool, but I think that’s just my inner hippy. My inner Nervous Nelly (they battle frequently!) looks at it and gets the shivers wondering how many bugs are up there…

  4. I’m not sure my reroofing experience from the other coast will help but I’ll give it a shot.

    Both our and my mother’s house have a combination of pitched and flat rooves (pitched in the front for both, flat in the back for us and on the side for her (insert long boring explanation about semi-detached housing construction here)). When originally constructed in the 1930s the pitched was slate and the flat was pressed aluminum. We had our pitched reshingled, the flat recoated, our porch roof (also metal) recoated, and our garage roof redone for about $11K. My mother’s roof (slightly larger and it included her porch roof) cost around $15K but she had her flat roof sealed and overlaid with a rubberized surfacing material. Both pitched rooves were redone with asphalt singles (not slate…slate would have been upwards of $30K; not worth it despite the 60-70 year shelf life). As for permits: oddly in DC roof repair is one of the few things for which you do *not* need a permit.

    My advice: get many estimates if you have the time and lack of leakage.

  5. I don’t know too much about roofing, but our condo association got bids from several places, and I think we ended up going with Legacy Roofing. Can’t remember what the price was, and they were for carport roofs anyway. We got the 3 tab asphalt shingles. They look nice, and did a good job (ie not leaving debris everywhichwhere, not damaging carports etc.)

  6. What about a Colourbond corrugated steel (or whatever the equivalent is over there) roof? It’s nice and waterproof (a definite plus, given “it rains 9 months a year in Seattle”:-) ), and offers far fewer points of entry for the burning embers from bushfires.

  7. Woodstock, Micah — thanks, it gives me a ballpark. I’ve arranged for some more estimates as comparables.
    Steve — the homeowner association would likely have conniptions. :-/

    Also, the permit cost is apparently “only” $100 — which is far less than the 25-50% I had been told.

  8. before you sign your life away, a few comments, if you’ll permit:

    Cedar shakes/shingles are no longer a viable roofing option. While once able to last 40-50 years, the old growth stuff is gone and what’s available now for a premium price will last about 15 years.

    Just stay away from metal. In theory it’s durable, but it has to be designed and installed properly. It rarely is, especially by residential contractors.

    Asphalt shingles are currently the best value in residential roofing materials (cost vs effective service life). No need to go to 50 years, but stay away from the commodity-grade stuff (20-25 year). Try for the 40 year product or, if necessary, 35. Ask for Malarkey, a locally (Portland) produced shingle from a commercial manufacturer, or Certainteed.

    Green roofing sounds and looks cool, but all the bugs have still not been worked out. Unless you’re willing to offer your roof as an experiment, just say no.

    It’s late in the season, so you’ll pay a premium for the work if it’s done now. If the roof can make it though another winter, even with some repairs, it’s sometimes beneficial to solicit bids early in the season (March/April), when contractors are trying to fill their schedules.

    Referrals are best, ask your neighbors, friends, family, store clerks, bankers, whoever might have a home with a roof. The biggest ad in the telephone book is by one of the shadiest contractors around.

    Just my $0.02, hope it helps.

  9. Thanks, Bob. I’m not even considering cedar at this point because it’s been such a pain in the ass to maintain.

    I’ve been looking at asphalt shingles, primarily the GAF and Certainteed brands. Both carry 40-50 year “warranties,” though honestly anything over 25 is hard to believe.

    Interesting that you say late season is a premium.

    I’ve been getting initial names from the shingle suppliers and recommendations. Three of the four vendors have come back with estimates, and they’re all over the board, which I understand is typical.

  10. We had Heritage 30 fiberglass shingles put on our roof a month ago for just a tad under $3000. It was installed by some nice mexican men by a reputable company, but not an advertiser or anything. Just someone we found via a referral from someone else who had used them (a real estate agent).

    We also had heating and air replaced (can I borrow some cash?) Go for the non-advertisers who are referred to you by someone who’s had it done, if this ever happens to you. The cost differences can be insane.

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