Roof Replacement Cost: 6 Ways to Save Money

Shop around, schedule roof replacement during the off-season and use your homeowners insurance to cover costs, if you can.
Home Ownership Costs, Mortgages
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roof replacement cost

After 15 to 20 years of keeping rain, snow and squirrels out of your hair, your roof likely will need to be replaced — maybe sooner if you live in an area prone to bad weather.

The average cost to replace an asphalt shingle roof, the most common type of residential roofing in the U.S., is $20,664, according to a report by Remodeling magazine that looked at national costs to install a “midrange,” 3,000-square-foot roof with skylights and a vented ridge.

But keeping a roof over your head may cost more or a lot less, depending on where you live, the size and complexity of your roof, and the materials you choose.

Here’s how to prepare for this major home improvement and some tips for controlling costs.

» MORE: Explore your home improvement financing options

How much does it cost to replace a roof?

Roofing costs, which can be broken down into three general categories, can go up or down depending on your choices:

  • Materials: Shingles, underlayment, drip edge, flashing, protective coatings, etc.
  • Labor: Skilled workers who tear off the old roof and install your new roof
  • Disposal: Recycling or trashing of roofing materials after they’re removed

“With asphalt shingles, we typically see figures from $3.50 to $5.00 a square foot, installed,” says Todd Miller, president of Isaiah Industries Inc., a roofing manufacturer in Piqua, Ohio. “When you get into higher-end products, which include metals, tile and slate, typically you’re going to see figures anywhere from $9 to $15 a square foot.”

Roofing materials aren’t cheap, especially if you have a large or complex roof, but what raises the cost is professional installation.

Roofing materials aren’t cheap, especially if you have a large or complex roof, but professional installation is what boosts the expense. Labor often accounts for 40% to 50% of the cost, Miller says, largely because a lack of skilled roofers has driven up rates. The more complicated a roof, the more labor it takes and the higher the costs.

Signs you need to replace your roof

Dipping into your savings for a new roof hardly sounds appealing, but sometimes you may not have a choice. Scott Bulifant, the residential sales director at Baker Roofing in Raleigh, North Carolina, says the following signs indicate a roof will need replacement soon:

  • Curling shingle edges
  • Visible loss of roofing granules (“bald spots”)
  • Brittle or cracked shingles
  • Missing shingles or visible mat (the protective material underneath)
  • Water leaking into attic or house

Even without water dripping from the ceiling, waiting for “one more year” can cause problems that could cost more in the long run than the replacement expenditure, Miller says. And passing the buck to the next owner may be harder than you think.

Buyers and mortgage companies avoid a failing roof like the plague, so replacement may be what it takes to pass inspection — but don’t expect a full return on investment. The average roof replacement recoups only 68.8% of its cost in increased home value, according to Remodeling magazine’s most recent Cost vs. Value report. A $20,664 roof replacement would add only about $14,216 in value, for example.

» MORE: What to expect from a home inspection

How to reduce roof replacement costs

1. Do your homework

Understand the size and complexity of your roof and know the exact materials you want to have installed before talking to contractors. These details help keep estimates consistent and encourage competitive pricing, Bulifant says.

One ‘roofing square’ equals 100 square feet of roofing material.

If you encounter the term “roofing square” while researching materials or getting estimates, know that one “square” equals 100 square feet of roofing material. And if you’re talking with a roofing contractor, installation and disposal fees probably are included in the estimate.

2. Shop Around

Get quotes from several roofers and always request and check local references before hiring someone. Be wary of extremely low bids, which could mean subpar work, and make sure they offer a warranty on materials and installation.

Check with your local building department or state consumer protection agency to confirm the roofers are properly licensed and insured.

3. Time it right

Roofers are busiest in late summer and fall. Scheduling your roof replacement in late winter or spring may yield lower prices or off-season discounts.

4. Use your insurance

Homeowners insurance usually covers roof damage that’s not caused by neglect. If a hailstorm knocks some shingles loose, for example, your insurer may pay all or part of the replacement cost.

» MORE: Understanding homeowners insurance

5. Do some of the work yourself

Consider doing part of the work yourself. If you have the time, the proper equipment and a stomach for heights, removing old roofing before the installer arrives could help cut costs. Make sure your contractor approves before you break out the fork and roof jacks, though. It’s dirty, backbreaking and sometimes dangerous work, and you may have to arrange the disposal of the old materials on your own.

» MORE: When to DIY vs. hire a pro

6. Consider an overlay, but carefully

An overlay involves installing new shingles on top of the existing ones. Because the old roofing stays put, overlays require fewer labor hours and cost less than replacement.

Approach overlays with caution, however, as they may void or shorten the manufacturer warranty on roofing materials. And overlays typically increase future replacement costs since multiple layers will need to be removed the next time around.

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