Most people give little thought to their roof until one of two events occurs: It starts to leak or it looks so shabby it needs to be replaced.
In one sense, this is how it should be. There's enough to maintain in a home without worrying about your roof. In another sense, it overlooks the fact that a roof can go a long way toward improving or changing your house's appearance. You have your choice of color, texture and price. And, today's roofing products combine durability with good looks.
With a little research, you can install an asphalt shingle roof yourself, but it is hard work. Other types of roofs require professional installation, so you may have to hire someone. Picking a contractor is as important as choosing the right roofing.
Ask for as many references as you can get. Check that the contractor has a license if you live in a state that requires it (not just a business license but a license for the trade). Ask to see insurance and bonding certificates.
Review the contract carefully. Any home-improvement contract should be specific. It should cover when the work will start and when it will be completed (depending on weather) and the complete cost (including the disposal of roofing debris); the type and color of roofing should be specified in detail. Incidentally, the word "square" will probably come up. A square is 100 square feet of roofing.
Ask the contractor if the existing roofing needs to be torn off because some communities allow no more than two layers of shingles on a roof. Also ask if the deck or portions of it need to be replaced.
Check the roofing's fire rating (Class A is most resistant to flame spread, Class B is next, followed by Class C). Some communities permit only Class A and B roofing.
You also should make it clear that the job site is to be as clean after the job as before it. This includes using a magnetic sweep or dragging a magnetic bar over the driveway to catch roofing nails.
For more information on working with roofing contractors: the National Roofing Contractors Assn., 10255 W. Higgins Road, Suite 600, Rosemont, Ill., 60018.