Most Roofing Companies will say how much it costs “will depend” on your roof and not publish pricing about until after an estimate.
Partial Replacements vs Full Replacements
Partial re roofing is always an option versus a full on roof replacement, the correct choice will be up to the age and damage of your roof. Most common scenario is when just an addition to the home needs to be redone.
They’re not wrong about it "depends," because it truly is going to be different based on your particular roof. Unfortunately there’s simply no way to tell you exactly what your roof is going to cost before inspecting and measuring the roof because it’s not like buying an appliance or a car or anything with an established fixed price with uniform manufacturing.
Your roofing cost will be determined by:
- Roof Complexity (slope, features, how many floors/levels and design)
- Size (How big is it? Measured in squares)
- Materials (manufacturer, quality of shingle, design of shingle)
- Permit Costs (usually fixed cost if required depending on your town)
- Waste Removal (cost to dispose of the old roof materials)
- Add Ons (skylights, gutters, solar panels)
- Labor cost (removal of old roof, installation of new roof)
The reason you see a huge range of pre-estimate “cost estimates” of a new roof like: $5,000 to $12,000 or $14,000 to $24,000 or $300 per square to $600 per square is because of the unique combination of the above features. You could have a roof that could cost $7,000 or $12,000 based on material choice alone!
For example is your roof is a walker roof (you can walk on it) or is it steep (requiring safety harnesses to work on). Steep roofs will cost more because of mandatory insurance and safety requirements. The other major factor behind the cost is going to be the actual square footage of your home. In the roofing world the size of your roof is measured in “squares” which is 100 square feet.
Where a roofing company might cut corners in order to reduce the price on the bid:
The “square” measurement is the most important number for you to know because all material costs are shipped in “squares,” time estimates and labor costs are usually determined per square and physical removal costs are always per square.
Mix and Matching "roofing systems."
A roof is much more than just the outer covering you see. It isn’t just the shingles on the top.
Make sure to get an itemized list of the products used, because if you just see a line item that says “materials” and a cost next to it, the contractor might be just using whatever is available or cheapest at the time. For example using GAF Shingles with store brand / knock off underlayments or ridge caps. This would be a terrible mistake to make because you no longer have any warranty protection at all from any manufacturer.
For a manufacturer to guarantee their product install, they have to have “standards” in place that they can absolutely say won’t deteriorate for a certain amount of years or decades. That means that if you mix and match roofing materials just to lower the cost you are going to void any kind of warranty protection. Pick a system and stick with it to maximize your investment protection.
What You Can Do:
- If not included in the estimate, get a breakdown of the exact materials, these are the most common for any roof install:
- Starter Strips
- Ice & Water Shield
- Ridge Cap Ventilation
- Ridge Cap Shingles
- Decking (if decking replacement is necessary)
Putting down less ice and water shield
6 feet of ice and water shield is necessary for manufacturer protection against the elements. We live in an area that sees a lot of snowfall, ice build up and rainfall during the year coming from Nor’easters, blizzards and just plain ole summer thunderstorms. Ice and water shielding protects your roof against ice build up (called dams) and moisture damage at the most vulnerable points, it is underneath the shingles, usually around the perimeter of the roof.
However, ice and water shield is usually more expensive than simple underlayments (the stuff under the shingles that protects the plywood from ongoing moisture damage), because it’s reinforced to better withstand all the run off that hits the edges of the roof. So, what we commonly see is one of two things: a contractor might not put down any ice and water shield at all, or cut the standard 6 feet down to 3 feet.
That’s a cut corner that will reduce your price on the estimate, but it’s going to cost you big. Not taking this preparation measure can void insurance coverage, warranty coverage AND cause the roof to fail prematurely. The manufacturer makes the 6 foot requirement standard because that’s how it’s designed to protect your home.
6 Feet is the Manufacturer Recommendation on Ice & Water Shield
Roofing contractor isn't insured or able to pull building permits
You can check to see if your contractor can obtain building permits legally by checking their insurance. Permits cannot be issued without insurance.
If the labor cost is abnormally low, then odds are they aren’t properly insuring their people. New York State workers comp for roofers is pretty much the most expensive insurance rate out of all varieties because the risk of injury on a roof is much higher than say, working in an office or doing carpentry work. For every single roofer that goes up on the roof, it costs $32.42 per $100 in wages paid to that individual, just to properly have insurance coverage for the job. You can verify this information yourself with New York State rates. A roofer is class 5551 for all kinds of roofing except flat roofs.
I’m sure you’re familiar with paying taxes and insurance, and just imagine for a moment that you had to pay an additional $32.42 out of every $100 you earned. Now imagine for a moment that you’re a business owner trying to win work to pay your people. You could just...not pay workers comp and save 32% of your labor cost! Or pocket the difference…
Except here’s the thing. New York State is very hip to that game. In order to get a valid Builders Permit you must be current and active with workers comp and all required insurances. When a building permit is issued they have a record of all the work going on, and very regularly conduct audits at job sites, which includes drive bys. You may not even know they’re watching the job site. They don’t inform the company, the client or anyone. But this is primarily for consumer protection and workers protection.
New York State will then audit the roofing company based on how much they’re paying in workers comp, and if they aren’t paying the amount they should, or not paying at all, they will be shut down and slapped with huge fees.
That means that the labor warranty that they give you is now completely invalid because they no longer exist and are flagged by the state.
There is the roof decking (usually plywood, which is the barrier between the outer protection of the roof and the inside of the home. Sometimes this needs replacement depending on damage or soft spots that are causing vulnerabilities in the roof.
Why it should scare you if the roofing company does not have insurance
Here’s where it gets really scary: if the “contractor” you hired isn’t properly insured, in the eyes of the law, you now become the “general contractor” who is employing an individual to do the work.
That means that YOU bear the responsibility for anything that happens, and your standard homeowners insurance or landlord liability insurance isn’t going to cover it for you. Most policies will void any damage caused by the “knowing use of illegal or unlicensed contractors.”
So lets say for example, that the contractor goes up on the roof and falls off the ladder and injures themselves. They file a claim with their insurance company, their insurance company pays them for medical treatment...and then that insurance company goes after you.
Let’s look at the California case, Mendoza v. Brodeur - one neighbor goes to their other neighbor and hired him to do some work for them. The homeowner thought that their neighbor was an independent contractor, carrying their own insurance. However, when that “independent contractor” got hurt, and filed the claim, the courts rejected the fact that the homeowner claimed they thought the contractor was insured, established that the homeowner was now the direct employer and therefore was required to have workers compensation to cover any injuries that may or may not happen. Because the homeowner, for obvious reasons, did not have workers compensation, the homeowner had to cover all the costs personally.