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Keys to a Healthy, Long-Lasting Roof

There’s nothing more important to the well-being of your house than a properly functioning roof. Winter is fast approaching and if that lid isn’t in good shape, you could be facing some serious and costly problems.

With that in mind, we asked several reputable GTA roofing companies for tips and suggestions on how to maintain and extend the life of your roof; and if you have to replace it, what you need to consider before starting the work and how you can then pick a reputable roofing contractor.

Constant Inspection

The key to keeping a roof in a state of good repair is regular inspection, whether you do it yourself (be careful up there!) or hire a professional.

Cleaning eavestroughs after inspecting roof

•Look for penetrations on the roof – plumbing stacks, roof vents, flashing at the walls and around chimneys and skylights – and ensure everything is sealed properly. “It’s seldom a roof leaks unless there’s damage to the shingled materials,” says Craig Bennett of Avenue Road Roofing.
•Keep eaves troughs and downspouts clean to help prevent water from running off your roof.
•Bennett recommends going inside the attic to inspect the condition of the boards. “If you look at the underside of the roof deck often it will reveal if there are any issues,” he says.
•On flat roofs, keep an eye on drains; leaves and debris can plug them and cause the water to back up. Examine the condition of the roof for evidence of wind scouring, which displaces gravel and leaves the waterproofing membrane subject to premature damage, Bennett notes. Look for blisters and buckles and inspect all flashing for dried out caulking.

Proper Prep

A well-constructed roof is built with quality materials and is prepared properly.

Shingle roof repair

•There should be underlayment and ice and water shield – a material that prevents damage from the elements – and drip-edge flashing.
•Proper intake and exhaust ventilation. This means the proper routing of vents from bathrooms to the outside to prevent moisture build-up under the roof, which can lead to mould and rot.
•Have a roofing contractor come out and do a free inspection and estimate the cost of potential repair work. “A lot of reputable companies offer free estimates,” says Slavik Kouchil, project manager with Pro Roofing. “So you can ask someone to come in and tell you what problems there are, and if you do need a new roof how much it will cost.”

Replacing the Roof

If the time has come for replacement, contact a number of roofing companies and ask them to come out to your house to do an estimate.

Roofer inspecting the roof

•This usually involves a contractor taking measurements and photos of areas of concern.
•The inspector should also visit the attic, looking for dry rot, insulation blown over soffit areas, impeding ventilation, and evidence of leaks – “the things that can give you clues as to what on a particular roof requires more attention,” Bennett explains.
•No contractor can know for certain what the substrate of the roof looks like until the shingles and underlayment are removed. There can be unforeseen surprises such as rotted boards, mould, asbestos or animal infestation.
•Competent companies will have a good idea of what they’re up against based on the pre-inspection. “Often it boils down to experience,” Bennett says.

Picking a Contractor

A bit of due diligence can go a long way when picking a contractor.

•”Look at the company’s longevity,” recommends Peter Bowman, general manager with Dominion Roofing. “Most roofers are out of business within about seven years” (Dominion has been in business since 1922, he notes).
•Visit the contractor’s place of business; if they don’t have one, it could be a red flag.
•Ask for references and inspect previous jobs; speak to other homeowners about the work that the contractor did.
•Demand the contractor provide proof of current business insurance and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) clearance.
•Check that there are endorsements on that insurance for particular jobs. For example, a contractor working on flat roofs and using torches should have an endorsement to do that kind of potentially dangerous work.
•Pick a company that’s bonded. “It speaks volumes about the quality of the contractor,” Bennett says, “because it’s very difficult to become a bonded roofing contractor.”

Selecting Materials

The materials you choose will determine the cost and duration of the job.

Asphalt shingle roof

•Asphalt shingles are the most common; higher-end options include cedar shakes or slate, which can cost three times as much as shingles. Though some asphalt shingles can give your roof the appearance of slate at a lower cost,  Bowman notes.
•The roof’s designs, its pitch, whether there are dormers, if there’s penetration caused by vents and plumbing — all of these are variables that will impact the cost of the job. “If you’re on a flatter deck and working with shingles, it goes a lot quicker and it’s a lot easier,” Kouchil says.
•With the changing nature of winter – more freeze-thaw cycles these days than prolonged cold – Bowman recommends using a substantial amount of ice and water shield in addition to the conventional underlayment that covers the roof deck. This provides added protection against damage from the elements.
•Do research ahead of time so you have a sense of what you want with your roof job.
•Try to come to the contractor with ideas about the look and materials you want and your budget. “It’s really about what the homeowner is trying to accomplish architecturally,” Bowman says.

Quoting the Job

A good rule of thumb when having your roofing job priced by a contractor: “If it sounds too to be true, it probably is,” says Bowman.

•Most reputable GTA contractors should charge around the same amount (usually within 10 to 20 per cent of one another, according to Bennett).
•If companies are low-balling, beware, Bowman cautions. “They’re either not going to provide the material they said they would or when that job is finished you’re never going to see them again, because next week they’re going to have another phone number and be called something else.”
•Low-cost contractors are likely not paying insurance or taking out WSIB coverage for their workers – which, according to recent changes to Ontario law, could result in the homeowner being partially liable in the event of an injury on the roofing job, says Bennett.
•Look out for contractors demanding substantial deposits. “Most financially stable companies will not require a deposit beyond 10 to 20 per cent,” says Bennett.
•Ditto for a company that asks for all the materials money up front. “That signals that somebody could be close to the edge financially,” Bennett says. “Good companies usually have accounts in good standing with their suppliers.” He recommends consumers investigate supplier references. “That tells a big story.”

By Ryan Starr

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