DIY? Or hire a pro?

Installing a New Roof

by Debra Karplus

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Leaks appearing on your upstairs ceilings, walls and in the corners, shingles blown off your house, and grainy pieces of shingles coming out of your gutter downspouts after a rain are all signs that you might need a new roof. If your current roofing materials or labor are still under warranty, the person or company who installed your roof is obligated to repair or replace the damaged part of your roof at no cost to you. If not or if your roof is older than thirty years old, it may be time to install a new roof.

Installing your own roof saves money.

Roofing is a very labor intensive job. The cost of the labor far exceeds the cost of the materials. So if you opt to do the job yourself, you can save quite a bit of money. Removing the old roof is tedious and messy; a new roof can easily be installed atop an existing one, saving a great deal of money and clean up. You may be tempted to try this.

But you need to remember that warranties on new roofs are often jeopardized by doing this, so you definitely want to have the existing roof removed first. You'll need to rent a large dumpster for this from a company that hauls away materials like those from a roofing job. Low flat roofs are relatively quick to install. But if your roof is high, steep, or has many dormers as older homes often do, it will take more time to install a new roof.

The materials you'll need for a roofing job can easily be purchased from a home improvement center or many hardware stores. You'll need to ask them or search online for guidelines for precise measuring so that you purchase the correct amount of supplies you'll need for the job. Materials including asphalt shingles costing about $30 for a packet of 22, flashing, several packets of roofing nails costing about $10 a packet, roofing tar costing approximately $20 a bucket, and the felt underlayment (about $100 depending on size) that is goes under the shingles during installation.

Be absolutely sure how to do the job. Improper installation of flashing, for example, can cause costly leaks around dormers, so in the end, you won't have saved any money at all! So really learn how to do the job before getting out onto your roof.

Hiring a professional to install your new roof may be sensible.

Your time and safety are intangibles that you value. Perhaps you want to hire a pro to install your new roof, a job that may possibly only occur once in your lifetime. Start by getting at least two estimates. Many home improvement centers do roof installation, so it's worth having them crunch some numbers for you. Additionally, you may want to call a local roofing company that friends or neighbors highly recommend.

Expect to hear a large range of estimates. One woman wanted her turn-of-the-century detached garage and three-story house with an expansive front porch, large back porch, dining room dormers, and three attic dormers roofed. One roofing company quoted her $22,000 for the job, another estimated $8,000. She asked for names of customers, spoke with some of them, and drove by their homes to look at their roofs before signing any contracts for a new roof.

She was pleased to have ultimately hired the less expensive company. Five workers under the supervision of a certified roofer did the entire job including clean up in two and a half days during the hottest part of a Central Illinois summer. The shingles come with a 30-year warranty, possibly longer than this 60-something consumer will be around!

Roofing is messy, and regardless of who does the job and how prudent they are, you are likely to find more roofing nails on your property long after the job is completed. Clean-up is more challenging if you have shrubbery near the house or have a gravel driveway. It's simply harder to find the nails!

After the roofers are gone, you may want to walk the periphery of your house numerous times, or hire a teen to do this. Take a metal garden tool such as a rake or hoe and place some strong magnets under it while carrying a bucket. Do this repeatedly after a windy or rainy day. You will be amazed at how many roofing nails you'll pick up, despite careful clean-up from your roofers. Never walk barefoot, wear hard-soled shoes, and make sure you are current on your tetanus shot, just in case.

You'll be amazed at how much more beautiful your house looks with its new roof. Be sure to shop carefully before your roofing job. You'll be glad you did.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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