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9 Steps to Replace Your Roof

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Are you a little nervous about getting your roof replaced? Whether it’s your first time or you’ve been through the process before, getting a roof replacement can be a nerve-wracking experience. To help ease your nerves, we’re going to explain the process you can expect when that day comes.

The team at On Tops Roofing has been replacing roofs in Raleigh and the surrounding areas since 1991. We’ve found that our homeowners are always curious about what steps we’ll take to ensure a successful roof replacement. That’s why we created this list of steps you can expect when getting a new roof.

From choosing the right roofing material to final inspection, by the end of this article, you’ll know the nine steps your contractor will take to replace your roof. Let’s dive in.

1. Choose the Right Contractor

Finding the right contractor is the first step towards having a successful, long-lasting roof. Without a quality contractor, there is no guarantee you’ll get a quality replacement. You’ll need to do a little research to choose the right company. Look for a contractor who:

  • Has Great Reviews - If you want to find a reputable roofer, you should check out reviews from past customers. You can use sites like Angi, Porch, and Houzz to find honest reviews.

    When doing your research, make sure you’re looking at reviews from the last 2-3 months. This will allow you to view the company’s most recent work and see whether they’re getting positive or negative recommendations.

    If you’re hiring a local contractor, you can ask for a list of local references to verify the quality of their repairs and replacements. Reputable roofers may also invite you to visit past homes they’ve worked on so you can personally inspect their work.

  • Comes with Certifications - Top shingle manufacturers like GAF, CertainTeed, and Owens Corning pick just a handful of contractors in any given area to go through their certification process. If a roofer earns one of these certifications, it means they’ve been vetted by the manufacturer and will install their roofing systems according to the company’s best practices.

    Check your potential contractor’s website for a list of their certifications or simply just ask them if they have any manufacturer certifications. If they’re certified, it means the shingle manufacturer trusts them and they’re likely a reputable roofing company.

    If a roofing contractor isn’t certified, it doesn't mean they’re a bad company. However, by checking for certifications, you’ll learn who top manufacturers trust and get the best roofing material warranties.
  • Has Experience - When trying to find the best contractor for your replacement, experience matters. While your project might not be 100% stress-free, having a seasoned contractor on-site can help.

    For example, roofers often find hidden issues after they remove the first layer of roofing materials. With years of industry practice under their belt, you can trust an experienced contractor to understand the cause of the problem and the best materials, approaches, and practices to solve it.

2. Choose Your Roofing Material

Before you get your roof replaced, you’ll need to make some decisions. Alongside finding the right contractor for your replacement, you’ll also need to choose the right roofing materials.

There are several things you’ll need to consider. For example, some roofing materials work better in certain regions than others. Choosing a material that works well in your climate will help extend the life and quality of your roof.

Here are some of the most common options for roofing materials:

  • Asphalt Shingles - Featuring a durable asphalt coating that is resistant to moisture, inclement weather, and fire hazards, asphalt shingles are designed to protect your home with minimal maintenance. Their relatively low cost for their lifespan make them the roofing material of choice for the vast majority of homes in North America.

  • Metal Roofing - With a long lifespan, and sleek, modern look, metal roofs have begun to be more popular outside of rural markets, where they have long been a popular option. Standing seam metal roofs can get pretty costly, but don't usually require frequent repairs, and have the durability to show for it.

  • Wood Shakes - Although these shingles are attractive, they can be expensive. While they tend to be very durable, they are not ideal for areas with dry climates that are prone to fires.

  • Slate - While these high-end shingles are durable and appealing to the eye, they’re also more costly. If you need work done on a slate shingle roof, the repairs will be a little more tricky and expensive than with an asphalt shingle or wood shake roof.

3. Preparing the Job Site

The next step towards your roof replacement is preparing the job site. Your contractor will bring in a dumpster to catch old shingles and other roofing debris. Ladders, roof jacks, and other pieces of necessary equipment will also be brought on-site, along with the roofing material itself.

Here are some ways you can prepare your home to ensure a smooth replacement:

  • Move Vehicles Out of the Way - Your driveway will act as the staging area for the tools, dumpster, and materials your roofers will use during your replacement. If it’s a one-day install, the dumpster will stay overnight and be pulled the next morning prior to inspection. Because of this, it’s best to move your vehicles away from your garage and driveway before your replacement begins.

    A dumpster in front of a home that's roof is about to be replaced
    If you keep your car on the street or at a neighbor’s house, it’ll keep it far enough away from the work zone to avoid accidental scratches or damages. It’ll also create room for the roofers’ trucks to quickly load and offload materials.

  • Property Protection - As workers clear and replace your roof, debris will fall onto your patio and garden. You’ll need to remove valuable items from these areas to make sure they don’t get damaged.

    If you can’t move your setup, you can protect at-risk items like patio furniture, potted plants, and grills by covering them with tarps and/or plywood before your replacement starts.

    blue tarp covering patio of house getting roof repairs
    To go one step further, ask your roofer what steps they’ll take to protect the items you couldn’t move. For example, our crew will help you move items and install tarps to avoid damage. This also allows your contractor to be aware of objects that fall within their workspace and gives them a better idea of how to work around these items to keep their work crews, and your valuables, safe.

4. Tearing Off the Old Roof

After the job site has been prepped, the contractors will start tearing off your old roof. After each section is torn off, some installers will stay behind to begin installing your new roof while others continue tearing off. Your contractors will work this way to save time and create less traffic on your roof.

Roofers scraping off the old shingles


5. Inspecting the Roof Deck

At this point, the roof deck will be inspected. If your contractor finds that the decking is rotten, sprinkled with black mold, or shows heavy water damage, it will need to be replaced. 

Rotted, and damaged roof decking

However, decking isn’t usually completely replaced; only sections showing signs of damage will need replacement. If the roof deck is missing nails or bounces instead of laying down flat, it will likely need some re-nailing work.

6. Preparing the Roof Deck

After the deck has been inspected, it’ll then be prepared for shingles. That means laying down drip edge along the eaves and rakes, flashing around chimneys, and ice & water shields around all roof valleys and penetrations. 

A picture of flashing around a brick chimney, with labels

We also install synthetic underlayment over the whole roof deck before other materials are installed. Check out this article to learn more about the different materials used during a roof replacement.

7. Installing the New Roof

Before the actual shingles are installed, your contractor will lay down starter shingles. These are designed to cover shingle joints at the eaves to help waterproof your roof. They’re typically installed along the edges of the roof to greatly improve wind resistance by sealing finished shingles at eaves and rakes.

Working from the bottom edges of the roof upwards, your contractor will then install the new shingles in an overlapping pattern to make sure they properly shed water.

Men on a roof conducting a roof replacement

When they’re done with the shingles, they’ll install ridge cap shingles on the ridges of your roof. One of the very last things your contractor will install is all the vents that are needed for your roof’s ventilation system.

8. Cleanup

After installation, your crew will take several steps to make sure everything gets cleaned up. After they leave, it should be like they weren’t there at all. Let’s go over what the cleanup process should look like:

  • Clear the new roof - After your new roof is installed, your roofer will use a powerful backpack blower to clear your roof of any debris or leftover granules that might have come off the shingles during your replacement.

  • Clean the gutters - To remove loose debris and nails, your gutters will either be cleaned by hand or with a leaf blower. However, it is possible that a nail could be missed, particularly if it goes unnoticed or down a downspout that hasn’t been cleared during ground cleanup. We always advise homeowners to keep an eye on downspout areas the first few times it rains to assure that any stray nails don’t end up in their driveway.

  • Sweep the property with a magnet - After final cleanup, your contractor should sweep your property with two different magnets to remove loose nails: A small, handheld magnet should be used around shrubbery and flower bed areas, while a larger roller magnet should be run around the perimeter of your home to make sure the yard is free of loose nails.

9. Final Inspection

The project manager will perform a full inspection once your replacement is complete. They’ll get on your roof, take a look around, and make sure the quality matches the high standards you expect when investing in a roof replacement. 

Here are some things you can expect to happen during your final inspection:

  • Your driveway will be blown to remove any lingering debris.
  • Your gutters will be checked for nails or leftover trash.
  • The project manager will make sure the shingles on the gable line are straight.
  • They’ll make sure any drip edge installed on the gable line is straight.
  • They’ll clean any siding that’s been marked by shingle debris.
  • They’ll answer any remaining questions you have about your replacement.

Keep in mind, your final inspection usually happens the day after your roof is installed. No matter the contractor you hire, they should always inspect their workmanship to ensure your roof was properly installed and that everything agreed upon in your contract has been finished and meets your approval.

How Long Will Your Replacement Take?

Now that you know the nine steps your contractor will take to ensure a successful roof replacement, you may be wondering how long the whole process will take.

Replacement times can vary according to the type of shingles you choose, the complexity of your roof, and even current weather conditions. You can read this article to learn more about how long your replacement could take.

Our best piece of advice for getting a high-quality replacement experience is to hire a certified roofing contractor. We aren’t telling you this because we’re trying to sell you, but because we have seen too many homeowners needing to replace their roof before they should, due to a poor installation job.

We know a little something about experienced roofing contractors because we are an experienced roofing contractor. For the past 30 years, we’ve offered roof repairs, replacements, maintenance, and other top-notch roofing services to homeowners in Raleigh and the surrounding areas. If you need help with your roof, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to help.

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