At Home Places

Bob and Pat Crawford of Boonsboro recently had their roof replaced. They received estimates from two contractors and decided to go with Colby Bachtell LLC, a residential and commercial roofing company in Hagerstown.


Research will aid homeowners’ decisions

written by Lisa Tedrick Prejean
photography by Kevin G. Gilbert

A tiny leak in the garage was Bob Crawford's first clue that his roof needed to be replaced.

"The house is about 25 years old, and had the original shingles on it," says Bob, who lives in Boonsboro. "My roof was old and started looking worn." Bob and his wife, Pat, wanted to make their house look nicer. "It seemed obvious that we needed to put a new roof on."

The Crawfords started seeking quotes for a roof replacement. They received estimates from two contractors and decided to go with Colby Bachtell LLC, a residential and commercial roofing company in Hagerstown. "I had known Colby since he was a child. He played ball with my son," Bob says. "He gave me an estimate, and it was a great price, so I went with him."

A tiny leak in the garage was Bob Crawford's first clue that the roof of his Boonsboro home needed to be replaced.

The process is not always so straightforward. Knowing when to repair or replace a roof and how to select a contractor to do the work can be an overwhelming task for a homeowner.

"This is a major investment in your home. Replacing the roof is typically the biggest investment you are going to make on your house while you are living there," says Colby, who has been in business for 14 years and recently purchased the Snavely building on Leitersburg Pike. "If your roof starts to leak, that affects all areas of your house."

Obvious exterior signs that a roof needs to be repaired or replaced include pieces of shingles in the yard, shingles beginning to curl up because they are old and brittle, or shingles coming detached because the nails pop out. Interior clues that point to roof damage include water spots or discoloration on the ceiling.

If a home is 25 to 30 years old, and the original shingles are still in place, those will most likely need to be replaced soon, says Stewart Hickok, project manager for Bonded Applicators Inc. in Waynesboro, Pa., who recommends getting estimates from three different contractors. "That's one of the things I tell every homeowner. Then get rid of that low price and the high price, and take that guy in the middle."

"Try to know who is working on your home. If they're a reputable business, you're going to be able to research that"

Not all damage will require a complete roof replacement, and the extent of the work required can be determined during the estimate process. Most roofing companies offer free estimates. "If you have two contractors that concur, chances are you need to have something done," Stewart says. The estimate should include time and materials — the shingles and underlayments used with the shingles.

Look for contractors who have been in business for several years and who have good reputations. "Word-of-mouth is a great way to find out," Stewart says. "Try to know who is working on your home. If they're a reputable business, you're going to be able to research that," Stewart says. "There's a lot of fly-by-night outfits out there."

Homeowners should not agree to having work done unless a contract is signed. "We don't take any money until we're done," Colby says. "I've heard horror stories where people put a large deposit upfront. Be wary of giving people money upfront before any material has been delivered to your house or any work has been done."

Also be cautious of a contractor who automatically wants to sell a roof replacement. Some roof damage could be fixed with a minor repair. "We are not out to sell everyone a new roof," Colby says. "We do enough business that we don't need to sell everyone a new roof."

Steps to a new roof

A contractor will come to the homeowner's property, assess the need, take measurements of the roof and create an estimate. A contract will be offered, and if signed by the homeowner, the process will begin. The price of a roof replacement will vary based on the size of the roof, the extent of work being done and the type of shingles desired. The estimator will need to know if the homeowner wants the shingles to be an equal replacement or an upgrade. It is also helpful if homeowners know what style and type of shingles they want. Contractors might bring samples with them. Stewart recommends that homeowners do research on the internet about the type and style of shingles to determine what kind of look is desired.

Pat selected a reddish brown asphalt shingle to complement her home's dark brown brick. "The shingles we had were very light. I wanted something darker and with a richer color."

Victor Ramo works on Bob and Pat Crawford's roof in Boonsboro. Victor is employed by Colby Bachtell LLC, a residential and commercial roofing company in Hagerstown.

Submitted Photo

Asphalt shingles are the standard for many Tri-State homes, but some homeowners opt for slate roofs as well, Stewart says. "Eighty-five percent of homes are going to go with an asphalt shingle," Stewart says, which is in line with the national trend. Four out of five homes are protected by asphalt shingles, according to the Asphalt Manufacturing Roofing Association, "A lot of people don't know of the options. There are a lot of different types of roofs out there. It's mind-boggling. The budget is going to dictate what they are going to do with the roof."

The designs are practically limitless. "There are so many different designs," Stewart says, noting that appearance can increase cost, as well. "The more designs and patterns you have in a shingle, the more expensive it's going to be."

Homeowners should ask about ice and water shields. "The ice and water shield is one of the most important parts of the underlayment," Stewart says. "In our area, they are highly recommended."

Eco-friendly products are available, but are typically more expensive than standard products. Some newer shingles are embedded with reflective granules to create so-called "cool roofs," ones with high solar reflectance and thermal emittance properties. Some metal roofs that reflect sunlight are also classified as green products.

One of Colby's crews attended a training session on solar shingles that was held near Rockville, Md. Most area homeowners don't opt for solar shingles because the cost is about three times more than regular shingles, Colby says, noting that there is more labor involved, too, which increases the overall cost.

Let the work begin

Homeowners who have contracted for a complete roof replacement should anticipate noise and destruction initially. The contractor will take off the old roof and replace it. "Personally, I wouldn't install anything over an existing roof. We always recommend a complete tear-off," Stewart says. "You have to expect a few days of chaos. There's a lot of noise with the demo work and the installation."

During the process, the contractor should protect the homeowner's assets around the house. Landscaping and garage doors should be covered with tarps or other materials. "When he leaves, it should look the same as when he came," Colby says of the landscaping.

While homeowners could request that the work be done while they are on vacation, most don't. "Having your roof removed and replaced can be a stressful experience," Colby says. "Some people like being there."

It isn't necessary for homeowners to be present when the work is being done, however, because the workers do not need to enter the house. The roofing contractor would only need to go in the house to check for proper ventilation in the attic or if the homeowner has a question and wants the contractor to see something in the house.

Once a roof is installed, it should be inspected every five years. Most companies that install roofs can perform inspections. This will tell the homeowner what repairs, if any, are necessary, Stewart says, noting, "A properly installed roof is not going to need much maintenance." During an inspection, the contractor can check not only the shingles, but also the vent and pipe flashings to see if those need to be replaced.