Five Critical Questions to Ask When Buying Your Roof

Feb. 24, 2005
With so many options, it’s important to ask the right questions
1. What is the product's history and performance record?To compensate for historical deficiencies, many manufacturers continually alter their product formulas. Look for proof that the product you choose has already stood up to the tests you plan to give it. If you want your roof to last 20 years, withstanding exposure to harsh chemicals and intense sunshine, ask the manufacturer for examples of similar success stories. Be aware: Many products that start out performing like champions lose their original physical properties with age. Ask to see actual roofs installed in your geographic area within your industry.2. What is the real cost of this roof?Figuring the cost of your roof requires looking far beyond the sticker price. The real value of a roof is calculated by factoring the system’s proven longevity, the energy savings it can bring if it is a reflective roof system, typical maintenance and repair costs, and also, if necessary, the cost of disposing of the roof when it’s old. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in most regions of the United States, reflective roof systems can save between $0.05 and $0.10 per square foot. Be sure to ask the manufacturer for life-cycle cost data.3. Who stands behind the system, and what kind of service and warranty do they offer?Don’t overestimate the value of a warranty. In many cases, it’s a piece of paper used as a marketing tool. Warranties protect the manufacturer and with some, the proof of failure lies with the owner. A warranty for 15 or 20 years makes you feel safe the day you buy it, but first verify that the roof system will last that long. Will the manufacturer last that long? Take time to understand the warranty; especially its exclusions. Many warranties are pro-rated and exclude common conditions like ponding water, hail, oil, or grease. Definitions for wind speed can be vague. Request references to measure customer satisfaction with warranty claims. Big company or small company, nothing is more important than integrity and proven commitment to service and product performance.4. Who will install my roof and what is their experience with this system?The best roof system in the world put in the wrong hands will fail. The quality of the finished product depends on the experience of the installer. Check to see if the product manufacturer provides installation training for the contractor. Ask the contractor for a complete project reference list to verify customers have been satisfied with the installation of the system you select.5. Will this system remain viable over time, allowing me to make alterations or repairs?Because some systems’ original physical properties change with age, they can become next to impossible to modify or repair. It’s common to make alterations after installation, such as changing the heating, ventilation, and cooling system or adding rooftop equipment, exhaust fans, or skylights. Making sure repairs are possible and warrantable will lessen possible frustrations. Request proof from existing roofs.Don’t make the mistake of assuming all roofing systems perform the same, or overestimate the value of a warranty. In the end, your choice will only be as good as your information. Ask the right questions. Taking time to understand your requirements and the capabilities of the roofing system will make a big difference in your satisfaction.This information was provided by Wooster, OH-based Seaman Corp. For more information, contact Seaman by calling (800) 927-8578, ext. 1335 or visit (

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