Expert roofers: Clear gutters help to extend a roof's life

We asked three highly rated roofing contractors on Angie's List what homeowners need to know about their roofs.

Michael Monroe, owner, AllPhase Exteriors Inc., Concord, N.C.,

Randy Yeary, owner, Universal Roofing LLC, Indianapolis,

Penni Mendez, office manager, Prestige Roofing, North Las Vegas, Nev.,

Yeary: Binoculars are an easy, safe way to check your roof without getting on a ladder. Missing roofing shingles that may have blown off, nail pops where the nails have pushed the shingle up in the air and granules in your downspouts could indicate premature wear or a product failure.

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Monroe: People often don't realize the damage clogged gutters can cause to a roof. When water isn't properly drained away from the house, it can lead to mold and mildew under the roof. Keeping your gutters clean is the easiest thing you can do to prolong the life of your roof.

What are some concerns that aren't necessarily visible?

Yeary: Even if your shingles look good, it's always the things you can't see — the ventilation, underlayment and nailing — that are paramount to a good roof. One thing we see during tear-offs in older homes is underinsulated attic areas, which can cause ice damming.

Mendez: We tend to look at the underlayment and the age of what's underneath the tile and shingles. Sometimes there's a problem with pipe flashings — any sort of penetrations that weren't installed properly. Pigeons will get into the eaves and overhang, and make a big mess.

What are some energy-saving possibilities with roofing materials?

Monroe: Energy Star shingles, especially if you can get a tax credit. You should also consider your carbon footprint and who manufactures the shingles. We use CertainTeed shingles that are manufactured in North Carolina.

Mendez: Owens Corning has a series of Cool Shingles, which is a fairly new product. Homeowners interested in those can apply for a tax rebate. If you get solar panels, make sure it's installed properly and not just bolted to the roof. Make sure the installer is working in tandem with a roofing company.

What are some important things to keep in mind when selecting a roofing contractor?

Yeary: Make sure your contractor is aware of your municipality's permit process. It should be a red flag if a contractor asks the homeowner to get the permit.

Mendez: You want to meet whoever is going to do your roof. It comes down to your level of comfort with them. You always want to have a signed proposal or contract with a specific scope of work.

Monroe: Did you call them or did they come to you? Don't pay more than 25 percent for a deposit and hire local roofing contractors. Storm chasers follow the storm. They won't be around if you need them in the future.

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I totally disagree with Mendez and the deposit required. 50% prior to start is acceptable, as a contractor I have to be careful that I am not burned by the customer for the material. To give comfort to the customer however I do accept a lower percent upon acceptance of contract and the remaining deposit upon the delivery of material, depending on my comfort level with the customer.

One of the best ways to get around being burned either way is to have the customer go down and pay for the materials or have a check made out to the roofing supply company, email the receipt, next day materials are delivered - end of problem

unlike a loaf of bread from the grocery, a roof is expected to last longer than your next meal. The first time I use a new contractor, I ask to hold back 30% of the total for 30 days and have an independent inspector confirm that the work was done properly and the materials match the invoice. My insurance agent usually covers the inspector expense for me, even if the work was not a claim.

Regarding Bread: You pay for your bread before you leave the store not before you enter the store and you also already have it in your hands. There's got to be a balance between the service provider and the customer. Unfortunately I have seen too many customers scammed by "contractors" than the other way around. A company can put a lien on the house for payment due if not received. Be cautious with giving too much money up front. There's no incentive for the job to be finished or done right.

That is the difference between a largely known paper contractor and the small individual self proprietor contractor. While the big dogs base themselves on the company's name sack, preforming large volumes of jobs and making the most profit for industry standard exceptionable quality. Us smaller businesses are based on an individual's personal identity and demand far better quality then industry standards at lower costs for us to even have a chance next to those Company Brand Names! I offer all my costumers the satisfaction with my craftsmanship no matter what happens with my company's name. That's professionalism! It's you as the costumer that must ask yourself one vital question before you start any project. Top quality or finished in a fast time frame? The two DON'T go hand n hand. For example....General contractors hire sub-contractors so they can maximize their profit and over head expenses with the faster flow of jobs and charge the costumers top dollar. Knowing first hand how they like to pay those subs pennies on the dollars they make only means that quality sub-contractors are left to fend for themselves without a Corporation name to stand behind. A simple $4000 job from a small quality contractor could cost you upwards of 3 times as much with a general contractor. Especially if they offer you in house financing. The greatest value for your money will always be with the smaller contractors that will treat your home like their own and respect your satisfaction on every level unlike the lower paid subs that are just working for a paycheck under another company's name. Be very cautious of paper contractors and contracting agencies! As Jeff said, don't be worried or offended if a contractor asks you to pay for materials upon ordering or their arrival to the project site. This method creates a stronger relationship for both contractor and costumer relations. You don't want your contractor to feel like the job is at a lose before ever starting. Also ask your contractor for a material lien waiver.

In Maryland, a contractor can only ask for up to a 1/3 rd deposit. You can offer more, but the contractor can only ask for that much.

We ask for 40% when materials are delivered. Basically, the customer and I go forward together, neither one of us ever gets too far out in front of the other - I deliver materials, they pay for materials, if they don't pay at that point I don't start the job. When I go to the grocery store, I pay for my bread when I walk out, not after I've gotten home and made my sandwich - why should contracting be any different?

two years ago we had a new metal roof put on our home. Less then one year later the company was out of business. We checked up on them however with the economy what it is how would you know?

In response to getting a deposit. We NEVER ask for a deposit from the customer. After 16 years of building a successful roofing business we have never a customer stiff us out of any money. When you give great service, you just don't need to worry about a customer trying to short change you.

George Makdad must not be a California contractor. A contractor doing home improvement work in California may collect a deposit of 10% of the estimated total or $1000, whichever is less.

I have had my roof replaced and I did not give the contractor anything upfront. If I had a job to be done I would be more than happy to pay for the materials and then pay for labor if it is done right. I have had more problems with contractors being slow or not doing the job right or overcharging for basic jobs. I have very little trust in contractors until one proves me wrong. My experience has been that when a contractor gets a job, they try to get all of the income they have been missing from the one job they get. Some try to use "shop" lingo to confuse the consumer so they won't know what they are talking about and can make up things so they can charge you more.

Good luck getting 50% prior to the start date, I'm guessing you aren't in Illinois. If a customer "burning" you is going to be that much of an impact to your business, you may want to pursue other occupations.

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