Asphalt composition shingles are generally the least expensive. Nationwide, composition shingles are the most popular type of roofing material, Smith said. Many of these shingles are also designed to resemble wood. Fiberglass-based asphalt shingles have a higher fire resistance rating, usually Class A, while those with a paper byproduct base are Class C, said Russell K. Snyder, spokesman for the Asphalt Roofing and Manufacturers Assn. in Rockville, Md. Laminated fiberglass shingles are available with a thicker, textured look that has more visual appeal than a flat shingle, Snyder said.
With treated wood and many other roof types, the material used underneath can increase fire resistance. Local regulations may require certain methods of installation.
Spending thousands of dollars for a new roof can have some additional benefits besides fire protection. It may qualify homeowners for lower insurance rates, although that varies by company and home location, said Debbie Rosenzweig, staff writer for the Western Insurance Information Service in Tustin. A new roof adds significantly to a home's value, said James A. Link, president of the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors.
Whatever homeowners decide to do, they should avoid the experience of one young fellow in Hemet.
Batt. Chief Cary said the man was smoking while replacing his mother's untreated wood roof with composition shingle. After doing half the roof, he came down for lunch. His lunch break ended when a neighbor told him the roof was on fire. Cary said a cigarette apparently ignited the old wood roof, causing about $90,000 damage to the house and contents before firefighters extinguished the blaze.
HOW TO CHOOSE A ROOFING CONTRACTOR Ask for customer references. Look at examples of the contractor's workmanship and ask previous customers if they were satisfied with all aspects of the job.
Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if anyone has filed a complaint against the contractor.
Make sure the contractor has a state license number; check with the Contractors State License Board in your area to see if the number is valid and the contractor is in good standing.
Find out how long the contractor has been doing roofing. (Generally, the lower the state license number, the longer the contractor has been in business.) Be sure the contractor has a permanent business address and phone number, so you can contact him later if problems arise.
Get several written estimates and compare them. Give each contractor identical, itemized specifications.
Verify that the contractor has workers' compensation and liability insurance. If the contractor is not insured and a worker is injured on your property, you will be liable. You may also want additional insurance, in the form of a bond that guarantees completion of the project and payment for labor and materials.
Get a written warranty on both materials and workmanship, and get starting and completion dates in writing also.
SOURCE: National Roofing Contractors Assn. and California Contractors State License Board. The NRCA offers a free brochure with more information on choosing a new roof. Call (800) USA-ROOF for a brochure or referrals to member contractors in your area.
COMPARING ROOFING MATERIALS
Roof Type Approx. Cost Life Span Fire to Install* Resistance** Treated wood-- $9,701 25-30 years Class A, B or C heavy shakes Untreated wood-- $8,801 25-30 years not fire- heavy shakes resistant Clay tile $15,008 Lifetime of house Class A Concrete tile $14,400 Lifetime Class A Fiberglass shingle $4,807 20-30 years Class A Laminated $5,962 25-30 years Class A fiberglass shingle Metal tile $10,500 40-50 years Class A or B Cal-Shake $11,524 30 years Class A (perlite mixture) Permatek (cement $11,930 50 years Class A or B and wood fiber) Built-up rock (for $5,334 10-15 years varies; depends flat roofs-- on materials includes layers of asphalt, gravel and tar paper)
*Based on 2,000-square-foot home with detached garage. Prices include removal of one roof plus any needed reinforcement and new plywood sheathing. Cost is approximate and may vary depending on roof design and condition.
**Class A resists severe fire danger originating outside the structure, Class B moderate fire danger and Class C slight fire danger. Ratings may depend on installation method and particular grade of material, with Class A usually the most expensive.
Note: When choosing a roof, consider local weather conditions and individual roof design. Each roofing material has different quality grades and cost varies accordingly. Cost may also depend on the condition of the present roof and whether it has to be removed or the new material can be installed over it. Homeowners should check local building codes and requirements.
SOURCE: Lang Roofing Inc., Bell Gardens (prices), National Roofing Contractors Assn. and product manufacturers.