Installing a new roof can be an expensive undertaking. As you compare the various costs of different roofing, the little voice in your head might be shouting to go the cheapest way possible. It's okay to shop smart when trying to stick to a budget. But picking cheap materials can cost you in a big way later on. Save your wallet and your stress levels by knowing why installing a cheap roof is a bad idea and how to choose an affordable option instead.
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What are Cheap Roofs?
There is a difference between a cheap roof and an affordable roof.
A cheap roof happens when you buy the most inexpensive products available without caring about performance. An affordable roof is when you shop around for products and choose the cheapest but best-performing option.
When you use the same brand for all of your components, you install a manufacturer's roofing system. This option is usually higher due to patented brand products. But when you choose the cheapest brand for each part without using the same brand, you're on the road to installing a cheap roofing system.
Before we jump into all the reasons a cheap roofing system is a no-no, let's take a look at what parts make up a roofing system. Each of these components is crucial for a functional roof that lasts the expected lifespan. A roofing system consists of 6 parts.
Underlayment is a layer of felt material that goes onto the roof decking (the wood) before installing your roofing. This material will protect the underside of your shingles from damage due to the abrasiveness of the wood.
- Ice and water shield
Your roof also requires a waterproof membrane. This shield protects the roof valleys from damage due to water or ice. Without this barrier, roofs can develop leaks during heavy rain or snowstorms.
- Starter shingles
Before you install the shingles, you have to use starter shingles. These pieces add waterproofing to the rakes and eaves on the roof.
This layer is what you see when you look at your roof. There are many roofing materials, and some won't be shingle type, such as metal standing seam panels. Asphalt shingles are the cheapest type of roofing material. If you're on a tight budget, 3-tab shingles are the most affordable option. Learn about the best asphalt shingle brands and their costs here.
Your roof also needs the proper ventilation. Houses have two ventilation systems to focus on - active or passive. Active ventilation is when the air from outside gets pulled inside and then pushed back out. Passive ventilation occurs when the attic air gets pushed around due to natural sources (wind).
- Ridge caps
Ridge caps go on the peak of the roof where the roof sides meet. These shingles are different in design from a starter or regular shingles.
Why Cheap Roofs are Bad?
It can be terrifying to try and pick a new roof when your money is stretched thin, especially when you see the high costs of roofing materials.
But trying to pinch pennies by buying the cheapest materials will cost thousands of dollars shortly down the road.
There are a lot of brands out there, ranging from high to low costs. Typically, products that are significantly lower than the competition have more unsatisfactory performance.
The cheapest shingles will meet the bare minimum of requirements for roofing. They may be unrated for fire and impacts and have the lowest wind ratings of 60 mph, whereas top brands have wind ratings of 90 (3-tab) to 130 (architectural) mph.
Low wind ratings mean that the shingles will be more prone to tears, rips, and cracks. Some shingles may blow off from wind or pull up, allowing water to get underneath the shingles. This moisture can cause the wood of your roof structure to mold and rot, leading to a weakened system that can compromise the safety of your home.
These products will also be more vulnerable to algae, lichen, moss, mildew, and mold - harmful microscopic organisms that can cause significant damage to your roof.
Not only do cheaper roofing systems have poorer performance, but they also have shorter lifespans compared to name-brand shingles.
The cheaper a roofing system is to install, the sooner you'll have to replace your roof, despite claims by the manufacturer on the material's longevity.
The cheaper production techniques that allow shingles to come at a low cost put them at higher risk of damages due to conditions like the sun, wind, rain, snow, and impacts. Your roof may not fail at first. But over time, you'll start noticing leaks, ripped shingles, and pieces that tear off in the wind or after freezing.
Once you start making multiple repairs to a roofing system, a total roof replacement won't be far behind. And because most cheap materials don't have a warranty, you'll face the costs of installing a roofing system twice.
Another reason that cheap roofs are a bad idea is because of warranty exclusions. Most brands require you to use multiple roofing components to qualify for warranties.
The exact number of pieces necessary for warranties varies from two to four items, depending on the manufacturer. Most manufacturers do not set rules for which parts you must use, as long as you use the appropriate number.
When your roof doesn't have a warranty, you'll end up paying out of pocket for any damages or repairs. The best shingles have warranties for wind, algae, and material defects. In comparison, cheap shingles come as-is, with zero warranties.
You have to ask yourself before making the final decision: is it worth saving money today but spending more overtime for repairs and a new roof replacement? Or should you pay a higher upfront cost and not have to worry about spending money for the next few decades?
When you're trying to save money, one of the first things people do is consider the contractor with the lowest bid. But you get what you pay for, and in terms of roof installation, that means minimal installation techniques.
The cheapest roofers often do not have certifications and may cut corners during installation, such as skipping the use of all six components of the roofing system.
Cheap contractors may use 3-tab shingles instead of ridge caps, air gun nailing - which can damage the shingles - and might not install ice and water barriers, underlayment, or drip edges.
If you're trying to qualify for manufacturer's warranties, there may be requirements that you use brand-certified roofers, who charge higher costs due to their experience.
Shop Smart, Not Cheap - Tips for Saving Money on Roof System
As we've demonstrated, cheap roofing systems save you money initially but can cost you extra funds down the road when your roof fails. However, there are ways to achieve a quality roof without having to spend a fortune. Try these tips to save money on your roof system without buying a cheap roof.
- Do Your Research Ahead of Time
Before you reach out to a contractor, it's a smart idea to do your research and have all the necessary information. Contractors will often try to sell you on the highest-priced materials, so knowing what you need before you start ensures your money gets spent on the right parts.
Knowing the size and complexity of your roofline is also helpful for getting accurate quotes, allowing you to pick the cheapest, most reliable contractor. Be sure to ask if they give the quote based on square footage or roofing square; one roofing square equals 100 square feet (12" x 12").
It also helps to know which roofing material you want to use. While you'll save the most money by installing asphalt shingles - primarily with 3-tabs - you'd get the best investment by choosing a metal roof.
Metal will have a higher up-front cost, but the lifespan is two to three times longer than an asphalt roof, reducing the number of times you'll have to replace your roof over the next few decades. Other roofing material options include composite, clay, concrete, or wood, all more expensive than asphalt shingles.
- Choose a Mixed System
If you're looking to save money without sacrificing quality, consider installing a mixed system over a manufacturer's design. A mixed system will save money without risking the issues of using a cheap roof.
When you install a mixed system, you choose the necessary components from your preferred brand to qualify for the brand warranty. And then select cheaper products for the remaining pieces. It's always best to spend the money on quality shingles rather than going cheap on roofing coverage.
And to ensure your roof matches in appearance, many people also choose to pick the matching ridge caps and starter shingles. These three components make up the necessary pieces to get the full warranties.
To cut costs, choose cheaper brands for the remaining components, such as your underlayment, vents, ice, and water shield.
Mixing brands can save you money over installing a manufacturer's system. You can save $500 to $2,500 (depending on house size) by combining different brands.
- Cost Analysis
This cost difference is due to two factors vital to how well a roof performs after installation.
The first factor is the cost of brand products. Most brands use patented materials exclusive to the brand, which does mean better performance and a higher price. While cheaper products are tempting, the more subpar durability means you'll end up with repair and replacement costs that come out of pocket rather than covered under warranty.
The second reason that affects this price difference is the cost of installation. As we covered in the section about uncertified workers, when you choose a manufacturer system, you also get a roofer certified by the brand to know how to install the system properly. Certified roofers have a higher cost than non-certified roofers.
However, some certified roofers may not agree to install a mixed system over a manufacturer system, leaving you with a non-certified roofer.
Did You Know: Manufacturers are more likely to approve a warranty claim if you used a certified installer over a non-certified one.
- Compare Companies
You should never choose the first company you talk to just because you like the price. Take the time to get quotes from multiple roofers.
You should also check references from previous customers, look for reviews or complaints on the internet or Facebook, and ask about any certifications the roofer holds.
Also, be wary of contractors who don't offer warranties on work. Reputable roofers will offer a craftsmanship warranty varying from one to five or seven years. If the contractor doesn't provide this type of warranty, chances are they use shoddy installation techniques that they know will not hold up the expected amount of time.
- Wait for the Right Time
Roofers have busy seasons, which can drive the costs up and put you on a waitlist to have your roof installed. If your roof has issues that need fixing immediately, you could end up in trouble.
It's best to wait until slower times before getting a new roof replacement. Shopping off-season can save you money and get the job done faster. Avoid spring and summer, as these are the times when everyone wants to remodel. Aim for late fall, winter, or early spring for the best quotes and shortest wait.
- Make Claims with Homeowners' Insurance
If your roof is in good condition and well maintained when you experience damage such as hail impacts of wind ripoffs. You can claim to have the repairs or a replacement done through your homeowner's insurance.
- Get Your Hands Dirty
If you want to cut labor costs to the minimum and your roof needs a tear-off before you can add a new roof, do some work yourself. Climbing up on a roof isn't ideal if you're afraid of heights, have instability issues, or don't have the proper safety gear. This task is labor-intensive, and you may have to figure out disposal yourself rather than letting the contractor take it off.
- Consider Having an Overlay
There are times when you can have an overlay, which eliminates the costs of tearing off the old roofing materials. An overlay occurs when the new roof goes over the top of the old roof material.
Before choosing an overlay, check to ensure it won't void any manufacturer's warranties. If you decide to use an overlay, consult your local building code to determine if there are restrictions on the number of layers you can have under your new roof. Most states allow for two layers.