2024-07-19 2:53 PM

A Crash Course On Roof Replacement

Replacing a roof is a generally unwelcome task, but with solar photovoltaic (PV) shingles, synthetic slate, and even green roofs becoming more affordable, many are considering whether it’s time to replace an aging roof —or upgrade to solar.

Most homeowners are pursuing a roof replacement for the first time, which can be overwhelming — and an abundance of scams are poised to exploit that inexperience.  To assist, I’m providing readers with a crash-course on roofing — what’s available, costs and longevity, and how to avoid scams.

Roofing typically consists of overlapping layers of tiles or shingles made of asphalt composite, wood, metal, clay, concrete, slate, or synthetic (rubber).  The cost per square foot ranges from $1.50 for low-end asphalt to $30 or more for slate shingles.  Labor is usually charged by the square foot as well, ranging from $2 for a basic install to $8 or more for a metal roof.  Our best cost estimate for a typical, 2,000 sqft, total roof replacement is roughly $25,000 for asphalt, $35,000 for wood, $50,000 for synthetic slate, $60,000 for clay/concrete, $70,000 for metal, and $80,000 for slate (based on an average of high and low estimates for each material and corresponding labor costs across multiple sources).

Solar panel integrates into the roof tiles or shingles. 3d illustration.

The life expectancy of roofing options varies dramatically, from 12 years for low-end asphalt to the immortal clay tile (which needs only spot replacements when cracked).  Slate and concrete boast 50+ year life spans as well, however these as well as clay will result in a heavy roof, which may not be possible without reinforcement.  If this is the case, consider synthetic (rubber) slate tiles, which are lightweight, typically guaranteed for 50 years or more, and much less expensive.

Over the past decade, the cost of producing a megawatt hour (MWh) of solar energy has dropped over 80 percent, from $378 to $74 (the average home uses about one MWh per month).  With the cost per MWh of coal just north of $120, solar is now officially cheaper than coal (in fact, cheaper than any source other than on-shore wind).  

Many homeowners are especially interested in a solar roof install due to the Inflation Reduction Act, which expanded and extended tax credits for clean energy upgrades through 2032, including a 30 percent credit against solar installation costs and battery costs.  While installing a home battery system, you can also enjoy 30 percent tax credits on vehicle chargers, electrical work, and any other related upgrades you want to knock out while the discount applies.

A solar roof, unlike the roof-mounted panels of the past, generates electricity directly from the shingles.  Active glass solar tiles are combined with steel roofing tiles based on the amount of energy production desired, and a home battery system is required in many cases, so pricing varies greatly.  There are several options out there, however two stand out, with Tesla and Luma producing more than double the energy of other competitors.  Tesla sports the top (class A) fire rating, 120+ mph (category 3 hurricane) wind rating, a class 3 hail rating, and a 25-year warranty.  Luma sports a whopping 200+ mph (category 5+ hurricane) wind rating, and a 25-year warranty, but falls short with a class 3 fire rating.  The estimated cost for a typical home installation typically starts around $55,000 — though costs could exceed $75,000 based on configuration and roof size.  Tesla only replaces entire roofs, however Luma can accommodate a partial install — and claims to be upgradeable.

Scammers abound in contractor-land, but a few basic things will protect readers from most attempts.  First and foremost, avoid unsolicited offers from door-knockers and storm-chasers — and don’t let them inspect your home, even if they claim to see urgent damage.  Unless you can see an imminent change in your roof, any urgency being expressed is likely a pressure tactic.  Similarly, don’t trust claims of leftover materials from other jobs being available, or any non-contractual arrangement.  

If concerned about possible damage, call your insurance company and have them do the inspecting.  Before allowing someone into your home to inspect, take pictures of your attic and roof beforehand, so you can identify any damage done during inspection.  

When seeking any contractor work, always reach out to at least three companies with verifiable reviews and references and receive detailed quotes.  This will help identify any unusual items.  Ensure that the contract includes a full scope of work, including the lead time, duration, and detailed explanation of the installation and steps for the job.

Before signing any contract, be sure that you have personally verified the credentials and insurance of the contractor.  They should, at minimum, have a current Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation License (contractor’s license), a VA-61A Certificate of Workers’ Compensation Insurance, proof of General Liability insurance, and a manufacturer certification.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, trust your gut.  If you feel pressured, or if anything feels off or uncomfortable, walk away. 

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In Memoriam: Cathy Quinn

Catherine Garhart Quinn passed away peacefully on July 13, 2024. She was born in Sharon, PA on June 24, 1945, to Bernard and Anne Garhart.