Advice from the experts to help you choose the right roof and roofer

April showers may bring May flowers, but they can also bring leaking roofs. Spring rains may not always be welcome if you need a new housetop. Consider this information to help you choose the right roof and roofer.


Putting a new roof on your house is a major investment, so you want it done right. Before taking the plunge, spend some time investigating the different roofers in your area, preferably those who are professionally licensed. Here are a few guidelines to help you select the right contractor.

  • Make sure he has a permanent place of business, telephone number, business license, and is financially stable.
  • Ask for proof of insurance. Check for liability coverage and worker's compensation. You should also make sure that the coverages are in effect for the duration of the job. It is important that you realize that if the contractor is not covered, you may be liable for any accidents.
  • Check with your state's licensing board, and make sure the contractor is properly licensed.
  • Ask for references. Call these clients and find out if they are satisfied. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau--find out if there have been complaints filed against this contractor.
  • Find out what the roofer charges on average per square.
  • Insist on a detailed written proposal. Read it carefully and make sure that it has complete descriptions of the work to be done, including approximate starting and completion dates as well as cost and payment procedures.
  • Carefully read all warranties offered.


Besides the contractor, there are many things to consider when choosing a roof. Cost and durability head the list, but look, color, and architectural style are also important. A roof should complement the materials and style of your house but should contrast slightly to prevent an unbalanced appearance.

Builder Andy Chauvin of Trussville, Alabama, recommends you consider the color of the brick or siding when choosing a shade for your roof. He also suggests looking at the location of your house and its background. "Two of the most popular asphalt roofing colors are Weatherwood and Driftwood," states Andy. "These are good choices if you want your house to blend in to the background."


The NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association) is a perfect place to start when looking for a contractor. It will provide manuals on subjects such as asphalt shingles, steep roofing, and steep-slope roofing materials. It also offers a service to help homeowners locate a professional roofing contractor. You can call 1-800-872-7663 to obtain lists of NRCA-contractor members in your specific area, or visit their Web site at


When talking to a contractor about your roof, there are two important areas you should understand: the roof deck and the roof surface. Here are some helpful terms to know.

  • Cricket: A small gabled area on a sloping roof used to divert water around areas such as a chimney. If not built properly, it will lead to problems.
  • Deck/sheathing: The surface where roofing materials are attached. Often made of plywood, it is the surface where materials are applied.
  • Eave: The horizontal lower edge of a sloped roof.
  • Fascia: A flat board located at a cornice's outer edge.
  • Flashing: Pieces of material, such as aluminum, copper, or plaster, used to prevent water from leaking around any intersection of the roof.
  • Rafters: The supporting framework of the roof; pre-engineered rafters are called trusses.
  • Ridge: The top edge of two intersecting sloping roofs.
  • Square: The measurement for one roof area. One square is equal to 100 square feet.
  • Truss: These are engineered components that supplement rafters in many new homes.
  • Underlayment: This is a sheet of tar paper or weather protection membrane (often called felt roofing) that is used for a second layer of protection for the roof deck.
  • Valley: The angle formed at the intersection of two sloping roof surfaces.


The following list describes the various roofing options and a cost estimate from the least to the most expensive.

Asphalt is perhaps the most common roofing material and is often the least expensive of all the roofing types. There are two forms of asphalt roofing: standard and laminated. While similar, the laminated asphalt tiles cost more due to their more textured look.


Life: 15-25 years

Cost: $50-$150 per square


Life: 25-40 years

Cost: $100-$400 per square


Clay Tile

Life: up to 100 years (may have to replace broken or chipped pieces periodically)

Cost: $200-$400 per square

Wood Shingles

Life: 20-25 years

Cost: $250-$500 per square


Life: up to 75 years

Cost: $300-$800 per square

(depending on the style, finish, and thickness chosen)


Life: more than 100 years

Cost: $500-$800 per square


Life: up to 100 years (may have to replace broken pieces periodically)

Cost: $800-$1,000 per square"