How do you know when you need a new roof?

When picking a roofing contractor, do your homework

There’s a reason the phrase “a roof over your head” is so closely associated with having a place to live. No matter the size or style of your home, it isn’t complete without a roof. A good, solid roof system keeps you and your family dry and safe from the elements.

Twice-yearly inspections are a great way to help your roof last. Keeping a careful eye on shingles, flashing, gutters and signs of leaks go a long way toward getting the most life out of your roof. All too often, problems are discovered after leaking or other serious damage already has occurred.

How can you tell when your roof system has problems?

According to the National Roofing Contractors Association, here are some things to look for:

1. Cracked, warped or missing shingles. When shingles are missing or torn off, your home is vulnerable to water damage and rot.

2. Loose seams and deteriorated flashings. Without good, tight flashings around chimneys, vents, skylights and wall/roof junctions, water can enter a home and damage walls, ceilings, insulation and electrical systems.

3. Excessive surface granules accumulating in gutters or downspouts. This can be an indication of old shingles and also can block drainage.

4. Inside your house, look for cracked paint, discolored plasterboard and peeling wallpaper.

Choosing a roofing contractor

Of course, no roof system lasts forever. The sun, rain, wind and time eventually take their toll, and it’s time to replace your roof. When it comes to choosing a roofing contractor, the National Roofing Contractors Association offers some tips:

1. Insist on working with a professional roofing contractor. Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax identification number and, where applicable, a business license.

2. Ask roofing contractors for proof of insurance and insist on seeing copies of liability coverage and workers’ compensation certificates. Make sure the coverages are in effect for the duration of the job. If a contractor is not properly insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.

3. Make sure the contractor is properly licensed or bonded.

4. Make sure the contractor is financially stable. A professional roofing contractor can provide current financial information about the company.

5. Find a company with a proven track record that offers client references and a list of completed projects. Call these clients to find out whether they were satisfied with the work.

6. Insist on a detailed, written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications, including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.

7. Have the contractor list the roofing manufacturers with which his firm is a licensed or approved applicator.

8. Have the contractor explain his project supervision and quality-control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge of your project, how many workers will be required and estimated completion time.

9. Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations, such as the National Roofing Contractors Association.

10. Call your local Better Business Bureau or Department of Professional Regulation to check for possible complaints filed against the contractor.

11. Read and understand any roofing warranties that are offered, and watch for provisions that would void it.

12. The lowest bid isn’t always the best bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Price is only one criterion for selecting a roofing contractor. Professionalism, experience and quality workmanship also should weigh heavily in your decision.