Planning to move in two years? Consider a less costly material. Want to match neighboring residences? Choose a material to complement their roofs. And if regular maintenance will be required for a rooftop heating or air-conditioning unit, skylight or satellite dish, select a product that's able to withstand foot traffic, such as composition asphalt.
If a roofing contractor recommends a product, make sure the material has a solid reputation.
"A lot of products have come onto the market -- and a lot of them that have exited the market" have done so under less than ideal circumstances, Woodward said.
Fire-rating requirements can vary in areas designated as high hazard, in new construction, with additions or repairs and for detached garages and spaces not designed for living quarters. Check with the local building department.
But proper selection and a lifetime warranty don't mean there will be no maintenance.
"The most costly mistake homeowners make is thinking that once they have put on the roof, they don't have to do anything else," said Joe DePinho, owner of DePinho Roofing in Orange. The valleys, where two roof planes meet, and rain gutters should be kept free of pine needles, leaves and other debris that can cause damage by diverting water under the shingles or onto the eaves.
Whatever the material, DePinho said, the best way to extend the life of your roof is to stay off it. Because a homeowner walking on a roof can do more harm than good, DePinho recommends paying the $100 to $350 fee for a professional roof inspection.
When selecting a roofer, ask whether the manufacturer offers a better warranty for working with a preferred contractor.
Most roofers are well-versed in several products. But that doesn't mean they can install every type. Get referrals from manufacturers, the Better Business Bureau, family, friends and satisfied neighbors. And talk with those homeowners about the installation and product. Visit www.cslb.ca.gov to check the contractor's license status.
"And make sure the workers comp policy is current," Lomeli stressed. Otherwise, if someone is injured on the property, the homeowner is liable, he said.
Woodward cautioned against buying a less-expensive roof today and worrying about it tomorrow.
"Begin with the end in mind," he advised. Think about "how long you intend to use it. And that will ultimately bring you to the right product."
Michelle Hofmann can be reached at michelle firstname.lastname@example.org.
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How they stack up
Among the commonly available options in Southern California, from top:
* Asphalt shingles come in a variety of colors and patterns. They can be walked on, making repairs easy.
* Cement composite tile, such as slate replica, is a cheaper and lighter alternative to quarried stone.
* Durable cedar shakes come pressure-treated with fire retardant and are known for their insulation value.
* Clay tile, available in many colors and styles, requires no maintenance and should not be walked on.
* Fireproof concrete tile patterns can capture the look of hand-hewn shakes.
Raising the roof
For more information on roof options, visit: