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Léa Noémie Plourde-Archer
Léa Noémie
Plourde-Archer

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Renovation Guide: Fixing Your Roof

Renovation Guide: Fixing Your Roof

Last modified: 2018/07/04 | 8 mins

Being that it is one of the main structural elements of the house, it is important that you take proper care of your roof in order to avoid having to redo it every year. However, even with the best maintenance practices, there eventually comes a time when you have to get your roof fixed. Here are a few things that you should know about roofs, including materials and things you should check before you hire a contractor.

Proper inspection = healthy roof

In order to make sure that your roof stays in good condition, you have to hold a yearly inspection where you'll be able to notice any potential damage. Once the winter is over, climb on the roof to get a better view of the whole surface. Since the cold season tends to leave traces, it's better to wait until the snow and ice have melted.

This inspection will give you the chance to see if anything seems wrong and afterwards, if you have to hire a contractor, you'll be able to see if they find the same problems as you do. If certain problems seem to repeat themselves, you'll have to determine whether something else needs to be done, like fixing the ventilation system or the insulation in the attic, for example.

If your house is located near a lot of trees, you may want to do one or two extra inspections over the course of the year.

As you climb up on the roof, try to see if you find any noticeable cracks. If such is the case, said cracks will have to be filled as soon as possible in order to prevent further damage. Also, don't forget to check the current state of the drain and the plumbing stack, as recommended by André Gagné and Luc Paré, rooftop specialists (as cited in a report by Quebec TV show Légitime Dépense). For a complete inspection of the plumbing stack, you should hire a plumber who will be able to see if everything is in good condition.

Photo: Wikimedia commons

Unfortunately, materials have a limited lifetime: you'll have to get precise information about your rooftop material and the last time it was fixed, so you can find out at what moment it will have to be completely redone.

Consumer's rights magazine Protégez-vous evaluates that replacing a roof will cost at least $5000 and can easily go up to $10 000. It all depends on the chosen material. We're talking about a lot of money here but since the roof is such an important part of the house, it is a worthy investment.

Since a roof doesn't have to be redone every year, you should choose a material that is known for its durability. For more information about your current rooftop, check your pre-purchase inspection report. If anything had been noted at that time, they should still be taken into consideration for current renovation projects.

The materials that you end up choosing will depend on the type of roof (slanted, flat), its size and most of all, the budget you have set aside for the job. 

How to find a good roofer : what criteria you should look for

Finding the right contractor to work on your roof is a key step in the renovation process. You'll need someone that is competent and qualified for this type of work. They must also have the right permits and valid insurance policies. 

Never sign a contract with a contractor who hasn't been up on the roof to assess its current state. Any honest contractor will go up to see what needs to be done. Also, when signing the contract, make sure that they write in a lot of detailed information. See if there is a warranty attached to the work and/or the materials being used. If a problem occurs, this could prove very useful.

If needed, check our guide: Choosing the right contractor for your renovation project here

If each one of the contractors that you meet quote approximately the same price, chances are that they are giving you an honest price. However, if you notice any large differences between the amounts, you could always hire a building inspector or an independant roofing consultant. They should have the proper credentials to evaluate your house. This outside perspective could bring extra information about your roof, although you will need to pay a few extra hundred dollars to get that advice.

Lastly, we recommend that the work be completed in the Spring or, even better, during the Summer. Heat emanating from the sun will help ensure that the materials will stick to the surface and your roof will be ready and done for Fall...

Bi-layer roof installation

Photo: Guide Perrier

Most common rooftop materials and their caracteristics

Material Properties Pros and Cons Expected duration Cost (including installation) *

Multiple-layer asphalt

  • Mostly used for flat rooftops;
  • Tar used to be the choice material for this type of covering;
  • During the hottest days of summer, the tar would act by itself to fill the cracks;
  • It is actually made of felt that has been saturated with liquid asphalt inserted between each coat. The surface is then covered with gravel.

              Pros

  • Generally inexpensive (Prices may vary from one region to another);
  •  Asphalt doesn't last as long as tar does and the sun can cause damage on it (e.g. cracks)

              Cons

  • Heavy material and quite bad for the environment;
  • Gravel can also gather up in the drain, so proper maintenance is extremely important
    !

Between 20 and 25 years (less if not well taken care of)

Starting at $6 per  sq.ft. 

(Price may vary according to current oil prices)

Bilayer elastomer membrane

  • Double membrane made with modified bitumen;
  • Often use by roofers;
  • Also used as an undercoat membrane for slanted roofs, below other types of roof coverings (like asphalt shingles. In general, it is used on flat roofs.

            Pros

  • Very durable.
  • Smoother finish.

           Cons

  • Risk of fire during the installation process, due to the fact that the roofers use blowtorches;
  • Comes from asphalt, therefore not very environmentally friendly;
  • More expensive than asphalt;

Between 25 and 40 years

Between $8 and $12 per sq.ft.

Asphalt shingles

  • The weight of a roof shingle affects its durability;
  • The heavier it is, the more durable;
  • Depending on the manufacturer the warranty can last between 10 and 35 years.

            Pros

  • Good resistance to humidity;
  • Inexpensive;
  • Requires very little maintenance;
  • Different colours, finishes and styles available;
  • Material quality affects its durability. Make sure that you are working with good quality shingles.

           Cons

  • You'll have to replace shingles on a semi-regular basis.

Between 15 and 30 years

Between$3.50 and $9 per sq.ft.

Wood shingles

  • Different wood essences available;
  • If the shingles have a rough surface, they will have to be stained every 15 years, whereas if they have a smooth surface it will have to be done every 5 years;
  • Warranty: between 25 and 55 years;
  • Very waterproof due to the wood torrefaction process;
  • Flammable: get your roofer's opinion about this potential problem and check building codes.  

            Pros

  • Good resistance and durability;
  • Available in different colours (essences) for treated wood.
           Cons
  • Very expensive to install;
  • Must be stained on a regular basis;
  • Flammable.
30 years+

Between $9 and $25 per sq.ft.

TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin)

and

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Terpolymer)

  • TPO is made with vinyl whereas EPDM is made from synthetic rubber;
  • These materials are often used for flat roofs or green roofs.

             Pros

  • Very weather resistant (sun, frost, rain, wind, etc.)
  • Light and durable. Also very resistant against mould and require very little maintenance.
  • White membrane, which doesn't conserve heat. Helps reduce heat island effects in big cities. 
  • Contrary to other types of roofs, they are recyclable. Therefore, they create less pollution.

            Cons

  • Made from oil products, meaning that it is not necessarily the most eco-friendly product out there;

Between 15 and 30 years

Between $6 and $10 per sq.ft.

Green roof (with or without garden)

  • Good alternative to other materials;
  • A nice rooftop garden can add a lot of value to a house;
  • Green roof= eco-friendly.

                 Pros

  • Reduces the heat island effect in addition to helping with the roof's insulation, all of which has an impact on energy consumption levels.

                Cons

  • Very expensive and requires a lot of maintenance;
  • Very heavy: the house's structure will probably have to be reinforced (we're talking about an extra 10 to 15 pounds per square foot).

It all depends on the amount of maintenance.

Between $10 and $25 per sq.ft. but you must also think about adding the price of another material for the undercoat (approx. $8 to $12 per sq.ft.)

Total: between $18 to $37 per sq. ft.

Metal roof (aluminum, copper, etc.)

  • Long lifespan;
  • Above-average quality when compared with other materials;
  • Easygoing;
  • Ages well;
  • Adds cachet to the house.

                 Pros

  • Easy maintenance;
  • Available in a wide variety of colours;
  • 100% recyclable (in the case of aluminum);
  • Very durable (it is said to last a lifetime);
  • Weather-proof;
  • Light (aluminum);
  • Incombustible.

               Cons

  • Expensive at first;
  • Expensive to replace.

On average, approximately 50 years.

Aluminum: $8 to $12 per square foot

Galvanized steel: $5 to $12 per square foot

Copper: $14 to $30 per square foot

* Please note that prices are subject to change. The same goes for the expected lifetime of the product. Good maintenance, along with a yearly inspection, is necessary. 

Sources : (all in french) Légitime Dépense (Télé-Québec): Les revêtements de toiture Légitime Dépense (Télé-Québec): Réfection de toiture Protégez-vous: Refaire votre toiture: nos conseils Protégez-vous: La toiture: les matériaux Le Guide Perrier

 

Here are some videos that we filmed with roofers that are a part of our network (in french only)

 

To find out about the average prices of different home renovation projects, check out our Home renovation price guide. 

Get 3 renovation quotes for your roofing renovation project

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