How much does a roof cost?
By Josh Veach
Roofing, and construction in general, are rare industries where the price to have work performed can be obscure. Unlike walking into a grocery store where the prices are listed or buying a car where a quick online search can yield some promising insights, the roofing and construction industry is more like buying a tailored suit. There are so many options and variables it’s more like looking at the menu at your favorite steak house and instead of a price next to your favorite cut, you see “Market Value”. A lot of us would translate that as “If I have to ask, I probably can’t afford it”. While we understand that this can be frustrating, there are many reasons why straight forward pricing is hard to find.
The main reason… every job is different, and the cost can change depending on many factors beyond your home’s square footage. In fact, actual home square footage plays very little role in the overall price. The layout and design of a roof are more critical factors, along with supply and demand, labor costs, job complexity, materials and even the company you hire to perform the work. I am going to break down these factors one by one to show you not only why it’s difficult to find a “price” but also, why companies may vary wildly across estimates and how to choose the right roofer based on your needs, not on price alone.
To keep it simple, we will be focusing specifically on residential composite shingles which is the most common roofing material here in the Houston area.
Does Size Matter?
In the Houston area, the pricing for an asphalt shingle re-roof (old shingles removed down to the decking and new ones installed) can range from $300-$500 a square. A “square” is the form of measurement used in the industry and represents 100 sq ft per 1 square or, 10’x10’ area. In Pearland, where we perform most of our work, the average roof size is approx. 35 square or 3,500 square feet of roof.
While the size of your home does have an effect on this calculation, you can have a 2000 square foot house that is a single story where the roof is 45 squares, and a 3000 square foot 2 story home where the roof measures 33 squares.
The range of pricing between these two homes could be $9,900-$22,500 based on the price ranges per square we already discussed, and the options chosen. This can be difficult when comparing your roofs price to your neighbors and could leave you feeling like someone is being cheated even if that’s not the case.
What Are The Factors?
The first one we may have already touched on without you even knowing, complexity. Complexity encompasses several facets within the category. Below I will break down each of them.
Layers– Sometimes in order to save money, an older home may have had a new roof installed over the last one. While it can save cost initially, it’s not enough money to justify the future headache and may also void manufacturer warranties. These additional layers can add labor and disposal costs for future roofing projects as well. This is a major reason why inspections are important prior to requesting an estimate. Many homeowners don’t want to deal with a salesperson, so they request an online estimate. Just know ahead of time that this will increase your estimate because some assumptions will be made about your roof.
Pitch– The pitch or steepness of your roof plays a big role. Not only does it add square footage to your roofs surface, but it can also require additional equipment to perform the work. This affects time and labor cost. Pythagorean Theorem anyone?
Design– This is referring to the simplicity or technicality of your roofs design. A roof that is simple can be easy and quick to install and requires less material. A complex roof design is beautiful but requires more material to account for waste and produces high disposal costs. The additional waste means more labor for cleanup. Waste is the unusable material that is cut from larger pieces to accommodate the roofs form and can add 10-20% to the cost. Valleys and eaves also require additional, more costly materials so more design features mean those amounts increase as well.
Details– Things like chimneys, skylights, vents, flashing, and pipe boots are all technical areas that require additional time, material, tools and skill to install properly. While this could be considered design, a simple roof can have many details while a more complex roof with a well thought out floorplan can have less, and accessories like these should be replaced with the new roof.
Access– While earlier we discussed that a two-story home may not have as many square feet of roof, it can require more time, labor and tools due to access requirements. Having to climb a two-story ladder with materials is harder and takes longer. If the raw materials can’t be dropped within close proximity to the installation, this takes more time or additional labor. Some installations may require a man lift and a daily fee for its use.
Location– This can play a role by setting certain standards for installation within a given area. Brazoria country for instance requires a larger drip edge be installed to meet local requirements. As you travel to the coast, additional things like hand nailing is requires which increases labor cost.
Material definitely has an effect on the cost. Though we have eliminated some of that by focusing on asphalt shingles alone, there are still a wide variety of choices to be made and they all effect cost.
Shingles– What grade of shingle do you want? There are three main types of shingles and while we won’t go into too much detail, prices will vary. Three-tab shingles are typically the cheapest of the three but do not have the durability or life span of an architectural or designer shingle. Architectural shingles are tougher and more durable than three-tab and offer a more stylish appearance which is often preferred, but at a slightly higher cost. In turn they offer a much longer life expectancy so in the long run are the more economical choice. Designer shingles offer the same durability and life expectancy as the top-rated Architectural shingles but with a more luxurious look and a higher price tag. Color can also have an effect as some manufacturers offer exclusive color options for their premium shingles.
Features– Shingles are rated by thickness and designated using years. 15, 20, 25, 30 and 50yr shingles are common. Beyond this, they offer ratings for wind, hail, and fire. The more features, the more expensive the shingle. In some areas or in HOA’s like Shadow Creek Ranch in Pearland, there are minimum requirements. If you live in Florida, the restrictions are even greater. In fact, most manufacturers have specific certifications for Miami Dade County, which has the highest standards for roofing in the industry due to its extreme weather conditions.
Brand Name vs Generic– When it comes to the shingles themselves, your best option is to go with a major brand. We recommend CertainTeed or Owens Corning, but GAF, IKO and Atlas are regularly in the top five for industry choice shingles and all have their niche (which we will cover in more detail in another article). While use of generic products does not necessarily affect performance in most cases, be sure to talk to your roofing contractor about how this can affect your extended warranty options. For higher level warranty coverage, use of brand name materials may be required. While the savings is not significant, sometimes every penny counts, and we get that.
Availability of material/Market prices– I put these two together because they go hand in hand. During the pandemic, the industry saw wood and other material prices skyrocket. The estimate you had from July will likely be different now and not in a favorable way. Often my clients will ask me if waiting is a good idea… as a general standard, I tell them NO! Shingle prices have gone up 12-18% and the accessories have gone up 30-40% in the past year. Now I have only been alive for 40 years but in that time, I haven’t seen inflation go down, so I don’t think waiting is going to save you money. The best time to get your roof done is now! Especially if your 30yr shingle roof is 15-20 yrs old in Houston, Texas. (more on this in another article). I just had a commercial client decide to move forward on a project after deliberating for several months, in that time the material cost went up 40%! Once you have the ability to replace, don’t wait… choose a good contractor and pull the trigger.
Upgrades– In some cases, upgrades are required. In most, they are optional. So why would I want to upgrade and add expense to an already expensive project? Easy… because it adds value. Many people are looking at the bare minimum when deciding to replace their roof. What they don’t usually consider, is for slightly more money, you can add more value to your home in aesthetics, curb appeal, and resale value. Designer Shingles, ridge and hip cap upgrades, ridge vent instead of traditional airhawks or whirly birds, radiant barrier, and synthetic underlayment’s are all things you can do to prolong the life of your roof and add a spectrum of value to your home. Several value report studies showed that nearly 65% of the expense of your roof can be added directly to the value of your home. So, in reality, that $20k you are spending is more like $7-8k because you are increasing your home’s value by nearly $13,000! One National Association of Realtors Research Group study showed that it may be possible to recover 107% of the new roof cost during resale!
The qualifications of a company will have a major impact on price. Experience, insurance, credentials, quality, ability to offer extended warranties, skilled/professional/higher paid employees all come at a price and contribute to higher satisfaction and replacement costs. Typically, the bigger the company the higher cost for a roof. Although most of the time you get what you pay for, there can be a balance. The difference in price can be thousands of dollars in either direction and it all stems from the cost of operation for that company. Think of it like this, you can buy a burger from any fast-food restaurant for around $5 but if go to Killen’s Burgers down on 35, you will pay twice as much. While either burger may fill your belly, one of them is of higher quality and taste.
Established business– Well established businesses typically have good customer service, do quality work, use quality products/materials and offer things that small companies can’t like extended warranties and financing. Being established means they come at a higher price but offer value in exchange. Chucks in trucks or your cousin Billy who did his own roof may be able do the job cheaper but what guarantee do you have that it will be done right? What happens if they make a mistake or damage is done to your property? Will they have the right insurance to cover it? Will they be around to handle warranty issues? While it may be tempting to go with the lowest bidder, it’s not wise to skimp here.
Experience– Not all companies or crews are created equal and skilled workers are hard to find and come at a premium. While a newly formed business with little experience may be able to complete the job, there may be technical aspects that require previous experience and knowledge and having them addressed properly will save you money and headaches in the future.
Insurance– This is a must! if the company that wants to do your roof can’t provide proof of insurance, RUN! While most reputable companies will be able to address concerns without going through their insurance, (because sometimes mistakes happen) it’s nice to know that they have backup should something happen to your home. Companies that have insurance cost more, but they come with peace of mind. A past client of mine decided to go with another “contractor” for their remodel because their price was more appealing. In fact, the difference in price was substantial! nearly $15k. When the other company came in, they busted a pipe and flooded the house. The company they hired didn’t have insurance so the repairs are coming out their own pocket. The cost to get everything back to normal will exceed that original price differential and take more time for completion. Saving money didn’t save them money. It cost them more money and time and their house is a wreck in the interim.
Credentials– Most major manufacturers offer credentialing programs that require a company to be vetted, trained and proven before they can install their products and offer their warranties. Without those credentials, you may be on your own should you need to execute your warranty. These credentials can mean cost in training and staying current which translates into higher overhead costs.
Online presence– While this is not a direct cost, it’s a must for any established/legitimate company to have an online presence. As consumers, we drive this and the cost of providing this for clients can be high. An established company should have a website that looks professional and offers you information about their history, their business practices and what services they provide. Someone has to build and maintain that site. While Google business is free, advertising on Google is not and in order for you to find a roofer they have to be online. Places like Angi, Yelp, BBB and others all charge to advertise on their sites for ease of consumer access and they aren’t cheap. Buyer beware, all the above stated companies, including BBB, are pay to play. Just because they are on there, does not make them a quality company.
Warranty– Two things here! Manufacturers warranties (Standard and Extended) and Workmanship warranties. Only companies that are certified through the manufacturer can offer extended warranties that will cover the system for its lifetime. Because warranties are dependent on who installs the system, it’s good to have a company that offers a strong workmanship warranty as well. While you may not bit on the extended product warranty, knowing that the company can offer it gives them some additional credibility.
Local vs Chain– Yes… there are regional roofing companies that span several states or even from coast to coast. These roofing companies typically meet all the above criteria for a good company… that’s how they became a chain! But these companies can be hard to vet and come at a premium. A local roofing company can offer you the same level of quality and similar service with a few less bells and whistles but at a very competitive and affordable price. Chucks in truck or your Uncle Billy, while they may be local and cheap, you will likely need to call upon one of the other options in the near future when you start having issues with your “new roof”.
Price vs. Cost
There are two other factors that you should be considering before choosing your contractor and the type of roof you want. That’s the price- the amount you will pay for that roof when it’s finished, and the cost- the amount you will pay overtime to maintain that roof. While we often focus on price since, for most of us, that’s the immediate obstacle, we fail to see the cost. To best understand the total financial value of your roof, you must combine these two factors to determine which option provides the greatest value over time. Here are a few things that will affect the cost.
Material- While it’s tempting to go with whatever is cheaper. Shorter lifespans, lower wind ratings, lower home resale value, and early replacement cost far out weight the price of a better, higher quality material. While you might save $500-$1000 now, you will be replacing or repairing sooner which means higher cost over time. Average repair costs can be $300-$1500.
Company- Going with the cheapest bidder is tempting. In the moment it may make sense, but most roofing contractors pay about the same price for material within a few dollars, so what are you paying for? If your roofer is the cheapest, they likely don’t carry the proper insurance, they are cutting corners, lack experience and use cheap labor and are desperate for business (which is not usually a good sign). Likely this company is not operating with a sustainable profit and will be out of business well before you have an issue. If they cut corners by hiring cheap labor, do you really want someone who was a furniture mover yesterday, installing the most expensive and important part of your home today? If they aren’t carrying the necessary insurance, will you be stuck with expensive repair bills or a deductible because you have to go through your own insurance?
Given all these factors, it’s more understandable why it can be difficult to get a straightforward answer on the web. Knowing the average price per square in your given area can help.
We recommend that our clients get three estimates. To get the best results, we recommend you select one local company, one regional/national brand and one recommendation from a friend or neighbor. Likely the major company will be the most expensive as they have the most overhead and highest demand but will give you a great starting point for what is available to you… for a price. A local company that is established and a referred company should give you fair, competitive pricing and you can go from there, adding and removing the features and services you want. Beware of companies that are willing to drop several thousand dollars on price after you see their initial offer, and typically if one of the bids is really low, that’s a red flag. Find out why they are so much lower and compare what they say to these factors.
We recognize that while there is no clear-cut answer for your specific home beyond calling a trained professional, we hope this helps you answer some of your questions and gives you a good basis for understanding pricing. At a minimum, this list can help you make the right selection at a fair price.