Can I Install My Own Roofing? Here’s What You Need to Know

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DIY roofing isn't all that difficult for a small, relatively flat area, such as the roof over a porch, but for large or steep projects, it's often a better idea to let the pros handle it. The larger the project, the more time it takes, and the more complex it is, the greater the likelihood of not getting it right on your first attempt. Ultimately, it's best to consider the full scope of the roofing project and weigh all the pros and cons of doing it yourself before making a final decision. You may save a lot of money doing it yourself, but then again, the added cost of hiring a pro could be a much better investment in some scenarios.

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While you could install a new roof in some scenarios, it's not always the best choice, as a number of issues could arise, including some involving your own personal safety.

Investing the Time

Even without considering the cost or the skills needed, do you have the time to handle a roof replacement yourself? Depending on the scope of the project, this may involve tearing off old or damaged roofing materials and installing underlayment, caulking, filling nail holes, and completing a number of other tasks besides installing the actual roof covering.

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For a tiny shed, a doghouse, or even a porch roof, this may be a rewarding and totally manageable DIY project. On the other hand, if you're trying to re-roof an entire two-story home, it's a considerable time investment, even with a friend's help. How many hours are you willing or able to put in per day? What if it rains before you have at least some type of weather-resistant material on the roof? With professionals on the job, it's their duty to wrap things up in a reasonable amount of time. Plus, they generally have a large and experienced crew, ensuring a speedy project compared to the DIY approach.

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Doing it yourself over a number of weekends guarantees a full roof project stretches out for weeks on end. There's also no guarantee of good weather on the days you're available, so you may have to sit out on some of the days you planned to work on the roof. Consider the weather and temperature conditions for the time of year and whether it's OK to leave part of the roof project unfinished for weeks at a time.

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Investing the Money

As with most DIY projects, replacing or repairing a roof yourself costs less than hiring someone else to do the job. Replacing an entire roof is a significant expense even as a DIY project, averaging $150 to $1,500 per square of roofing material, with a square covering 100 square feet.

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The total cost of a roofing estimate from a professional company breaks down to about 40 percent materials and 60 percent labor, so you're saving loads of cash by doing the job yourself provided you do a pro-quality job and don't need to redo any of your handiwork later. Roofing labor ranges from $2 to $6 per square foot on average, with regional variations that affect the total cost. If you plan to tear off the old roofing, keep in mind that you'll need to rent a dumpster or other means to gather the old materials and cart them away. A professional already knows good ways to do this and can put those costs in your initial project estimate.

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Asphalt shingles are often the least expensive and the easiest to install since they're sometimes tacked atop the old shingles. This saves money whether you do the project yourself or you hire a roofing company. Expect to spend $2,000 to $4,000 on average in materials alone for an asphalt shingle roof for a home or $8,000 to $20,000 including labor for a professional job depending on your region and the difficulty of the project. If you do it yourself, buy more materials than you think you'll need, as some shingles might be damaged during installation, and you'll want some extra matching material should you need to patch the roof in the future. For a DIY project, you'll need specific tools and equipment to make the job go smoothly, so buying or renting items is an added expense.

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If there's structural damage, such as rotten wood beneath the shingles, it's probably best to hire a pro to do the repair work. Be sure to tell the company about any suspected issues ahead of time to get an accurate estimate and to ensure safety on the job.

Considering the Permits

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Like many home improvement jobs, permits may be required for a roofing project whether you do the work yourself or hire someone to do it. For a minor situation, such as patching a hole or replacing a couple shingles, a permit isn't necessary, but if you're replacing all the shingles or any structural elements on the roof, such as the decking, you most likely need a permit. Every community sets its own rules for permits, so check your local building codes or contact the building department to find out what's necessary for your specific project.

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Most experienced local roofing companies already know what's necessary and will acquire the permits for the job, but it's always best to ask a company representative if they will handle this task. Besides getting the permits, a good roofing contractor also knows the local building codes and ensures they're followed on every job. An inexperienced homeowner may inadvertently forget to follow code or acquire permits, which could result in having to tear off everything again to follow the local rules. It's unfortunate, but it happens.

Permitted projects typically must be inspected and approved by a building inspector. The inspector checks out the project once it's complete and sometimes during the project depending on the situation. Be sure to find out the full details if you're getting the permits yourself or ask your roofing contractor so you know what to expect during and after the project.

Benefits of Warranties

Roofing manufacturers generally offer a warranty ensuring their products won't fail for a specific number of years. That warranty is only valid if the shingles or other roofing materials were installed properly according to the manufacturer's specifications. If you install the roof yourself, you may not be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

A professional roofing company usually offers its own warranties guaranteeing the work is free from defects for years to come. As an example, if the roof leaks a month after installation, call the company, and they should fix the problem for free. If you installed the roof yourself and it leaks, it's up to you to make the repairs, and if you aren't able to do so, you'll have to pay someone else to do it. A reputable company's work is much more likely to hold up over time than doing the job yourself if you don't know that much about roofing. In other words, there's a greater likelihood of issues that require additional work if you do it yourself.

Potential Safety Hazards

Any project requiring tools or ladders has its own inherent safety risks. Some of the most common risks for roofing projects include falling off the roof or ladder, injuries caused by tools or nails, and heat-related health issues. If the home hasn't been maintained in a while, it's possible the wood beneath the shingles is rotten enough that you could step right through it, which could be a serious issue.

Any of these hazards could also happen to professional roofers, but the difference is that the pros have had far more experience dealing with the tools, walking on sloped roofs in varying weather conditions, and using ladders properly. They're far more likely to spot a potentially hazardous situation before it becomes a real issue.

Property Damage Concerns

Although rare, it's possible to cause more damage to your home during routine repair or complete roofing projects. For instance, if you're moving a ladder and it slips and shatters a window, that's another repair project and out-of-pocket expense. Your homeowners' insurance may not cover the damage if it was caused by negligent handling of the ladder.

If your roofing contractor breaks the window, in most cases, the roofing company is liable for the damage, not you or your homeowners' insurance. Before hiring a contractor, make sure the company has liability insurance and workers' compensation coverage for its workers. Not having either is a major red flag and a risky consideration, so it's best to find another contractor, even if the original company was recommended by a friend.

DIY Isn't Always Easy

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While setting rows of shingles in place may seem simple enough, there's a lot more to roofing that just the shingles in many cases. Certain important parts of the project, such as a chimney or roof cricket, are easily overlooked by a novice. The chimney cricket is a custom-built feature that helps prevent water from pooling against the chimney, as over the years, water could wear down the masonry. Local codes often dictate how high up the chimney the cricket must reach. Building a chimney cricket requires making a frame specific to your chimney and roof slope and then covering it with roof decking, underlayment, and ice barrier followed by flashing or shingles.

Flashing is another part of a roofing job that's really important, as it helps prevent leaks around skylights, vent pipes, and dormers. These pieces must be sized and installed properly, or they won't do their job well, and it's important to use the right flashing for the job. Any of these auxiliary tasks on a roofing project are a good reason to consider hiring a pro instead of doing it yourself, as the pro has far more experience and knows how to do the job well. After all, it's in the roofer's best interest to get it right the first time so he doesn't have to repair shoddy work.

Getting What You Really Want

When it comes to getting exactly what you want in terms of roofing materials and project scheduling, doing it yourself puts all the power in your hands. This isn't always the case when hiring someone else for the job. For instance, if you want an uncommon or hard to find roofing material, there's a chance your contractor might say no due to its availability, cost, or difficulty of installation. Some materials, such as clay or slate tiles, are so heavy that your roof may need structural support, which is another expense and requires more time on the job. Keep in mind that if a roofing contractor tells you a specific material is difficult to install, it'll be even harder to install it yourself, as you have zero experience with the material.

Scheduling is also a valid concern, as many contractors like to start early in the day or work until the last bits of daylight fade into the distance. Roofing projects are noisy, so if you work from home or like to sleep late, roofers will disrupt things for a while until the project is finished. This might mean making other arrangements as far as working elsewhere or otherwise staying away from your home during contractors' hours. If you do the work yourself, you have ultimate freedom in when to work, but it may seem like the project goes on forever if it's a big job.

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