Beware of the Inexperienced Roofing Contractor

Experience matters in the roofing business—where the tried-and-true roofer triumphs, the inexperienced roofer stumbles. Even minor roof repairs are rarely a DIY project for homeowners. Roofing is complex and complicated—and there is no substitute for the knowledge gained over decades of doing the job right.

The least experienced contractor usually offers the lowest bid. However, no homeowner should hire a subpar roofer just to save money. What seems like a great deal today can cost you tomorrow in high-cost repairs or even a full roof replacement.

Inexperienced roofers can damage homes, shorten roof lifespans, and leave homeowners unhappy with the overall aesthetics. Before you hire a contractor, beware of forgoing that stellar reputation in exchange for the cheapest price in town.

Low value.

The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” holds true in many facets of life. However, rarely is it more relevant than in the home improvement industry. When inexperienced roofers skimp on labor to cut costs, homeowners can expect subpar quality in return.

Amateur roofers still learning the ropes create the perfect storm for premature roofing problems: low proficiency, shoddy craftsmanship, and installation mistakes. Homeowners often have to pay a contractor twice: once to do the job, and again to correct the shortcomings.

Hiring a professional costs more up front but pays off in the long-term value, protection, and lifespan of your roof.

Less protection.

GAF and other leading brands only certify contractors with extensive experience. Certified roofers can access the industry’s most powerful warranties—but don’t expect the same protection from an inexperienced roofer. Even with the best roofing product on the market, homeowners enjoy little peace of mind without a performance guarantee straight from the manufacturer.

Another barrier to your protection is insufficient contractors insurance. Without enough insurance to cover property damage or an on-the-job injury, inexperienced roofers can leave you holding the bag. Before you sign a contract, always confirm a roofer has enough insurance to cover the complete cost of the project.

Protection is also a matter of partnerships with manufacturers. Where reputable roofers typically use a consistent dealer, inexperienced roofers may purchase from multiple suppliers. Installing mismatched shingles tops the list of mistakes amateur roofers make by using more than one roofing supplies dealer.

Scams and rip-offs.

Many inexperienced roofers practice without a valid license. Some fail to meet city requirements—other prefer to fly under the radar. Whatever the reason, unlicensed contractors are far more likely to hit you with a roofing scam. Homeowners held liable for accidents caused by an unlicensed roofer can face ramifications including fines, forced removal of a new roof, and refusal of coverage from an insurance company.

Rookie mistakes.

Installing a roof is a complicated process—even the minor details matter. Expect an inexperienced roofing contractor to make fundamental mistakes throughout the installation.

Nailing errors.

Reputable roofers put systems into place to install shingles based on the type, number, and placement of nails. Deviating from the system can cause major roof defects.

Exposed nails, high nails, over-driven (and under-driven) nails, and improper nail placement can all cause multiple problems from damaged shingles to leaks. Nails put in incorrect places can punch through the mat of a shingle, or blow shingles off your roof. Nails applied outside the “nailing zone” can lower your roof’s wind resistance.

Too many nailing errors can void a shingle warranty and threaten the integrity of your roof.

Missing starter shingles.

One of the most important first steps of roof installation, starter shingles ensure your roof performs its most important role—to keep water from penetrating the foundation and interior of your home.

Reputable roofers lay down special shingles fitted with adhesives along the eaves of the roof to prevent damage after extreme weather. Missing starter shingles risk water infiltration and aesthetic problems in the eaves and rakes of the roof.

Field shingles installed on the edge of a roof without an initial layer can butt up against one another and create a channel for water to get underneath. Without starter shingles, even a particularly windy day can lift a roof away from a home.

Improper flashing.

The metal that helps protect your roof from water intrusion, flashing suspends the flow of water away from a home, rather than allow the roofing and underlayment to absorb it and cause damage. Every high-performing roof demands high-quality, properly installed flashing.

Inexperienced roofers make the foolish cost-saving mistake of reusing old flashing. If your roof has openings—a chimney, window, or skylight—old, low-quality, or improperly installed flashing can cause water to penetrate the roof valleys, joints, and edges, leaking water into your home.

Neglecting attic and ceiling ventilation.

A roof is an entire system, comprised of many components—including attic and ceiling ventilation. Improper ventilation can build up moisture over time and cause significant damage to your roof and home. Insulation ruined by improper ventilation can also lower your home’s energy efficiency and raise your utility bills.

No leak barrier.

One of the lesser known components of a roof, leak barriers protect your roof’s most vulnerable areas. Reputable roofers install leak barriers below the shingles in vertical walls, valleys, eaves, chimneys, and skylights to prevent moisture from getting behind the shingles and into roof deck and frame of your home. A roof built without a leak barrier can cause significant rot damage to your home.

Shoddy shingle installation.

Misaligned, improperly overlapped, inadequately spaced, damaged or cracked, bulging or otherwise poorly installed shingles lead to leaks, water damage, and aesthetic problems.

Manufacturers have specific regulations on installing a roof—for example, how many nails to use per shingle. Following the regulations determines whether the manufacturer stands behind their warranty when a roof fails earlier than its guaranteed lifespan.

Inexperienced roofers may cut corners to save money by layering new shingles over existing ones. However, a reputable roofer will remove the old shingles before installing new ones, inspecting the roof deck for fragile areas and hidden damage.

The extra weight of additional layers can also harm your home’s walls and roof structure. Shingle layering and other types of shoddy installation techniques cause a range of problems from small leaks, to foundation damage, to total roof failure.

Incorrect slope.

Roofers select specific shingle types and sizes based on the slope of a roof. Selecting the wrong type of shingle for your slope can cause water damage to your roof, attic, and home.

Poorly installed gutters.

Poorly installed gutters can sag, become loose, and slope inadequately. When gutters overflow or overshoot water, leaks can enter your home and create a world of problems.

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