Do you need to replace or repair your roof yourself?

A new roof is an expensive affair. It’s rarely less than a four-figure job, and costs can run as high as $45,000. Of course, given the importance of a roof to a home, you shouldn’t skimp on repairs, but it would certainly be nice to save. Which leads to the thought: can repairing/replacing your roof be a DIY project? Should you even consider doing your own roofing?

Here’s when you should and shouldn’t, and what you need to know about roof replacements and repairs to help you decide.

DIY roof advantages and disadvantages

When considering a DIY roof replacement, here are some of the pros and cons to weigh.

Pro: You save money

Every time you can do a home improvement project yourself, you save on labor costs. And with roofs, the labor costs are significant — often totaling 60 percent of the price tag, according to HomeAdvisor. According to the latest American Home Survey from the US Census Bureau, the average cost estimate to have your roof replaced by a professional is $9,079, versus $5,036 to do it yourself. Therefore, it can save you almost half if you go it alone.

Pro: You don’t have to wait

If you sooner or later need a repair – see leaks, feel drafts or see kinks – waiting for a contractor may not be a luxury for you. (And rest assured that some companies charge more for emergency service.) Doing it yourself can quickly solve the problem, limit damage, and protect your home.

Con: Roofing is dangerous

At the risk of saying the obvious, roofing takes place high and if you fall, it’s a long way down. You may think you have a fear of heights, but crossing your roof can be tricky, especially if it has a steep slope or multiple levels. You also need to be in good shape, as bending, climbing and dragging are required all the time – often in hot or windy conditions.

Con: Roofing is difficult

Being a roofer requires strength and agility: 75 pounds of bench press at the gym isn’t the same as lifting 75-pound packages of shingles up a rickety ladder. And while roofing itself isn’t brain surgery, there are many steps involved and you could be in for some surprises along the way — like discovering serious structural damage to the roof after you remove the old shingles.

You’ll also need some specialized tools to make the job easier and faster – such as a roofing nailer, air compressor, air hose, caulking gun, extension ladder and clippings, to name a few. Be prepared to drag many of them up the ladder as well.

Can you replace a roof yourself?

Replacing a roof is a large, multifaceted project: it usually involves removing the existing shingles, making spot repairs to the underlying shingles and structure, and then installing new shingles. But there are two key elements to consider to see if it’s worth doing it yourself.

Roof size and orientation

The larger your roof, the more materials you will need. And the more time you invest in transporting and installing it.

Another factor to consider is the angle of your roof, or slope, as the pros say. Low pitched roofs are easier to install with shingles because of their flatter angles. Conversely, pitched roofs are more time consuming and more difficult. If your roof has many additional elements, such as chimneys, dormers or skylights, the job also becomes more complicated.

Roofing material

There are several roofing materials to choose from, such as asphalt, metal, wood, clay and slate. And some are friendlier to DIYers than others. Lightweight materials such as asphalt or wood shake will be easier to install than heavier or more ornate materials such as metal or slate.

In general, asphalt shingles – while not the most glamorous – are affordable and surprisingly durable, with an average lifespan of up to 30 years. If you decide to go this route, pay close attention to the hail classification, as not all asphalt shingles are of the same quality. Look for those with a UL 2218 class 3 or 4 rating.

Meanwhile, metal roofs offer exceptional durability for up to 50 years. And they can withstand hurricane and hail, protecting your home in the harshest of weather. But with metal roofs, you can’t just replace one shingle. Instead, you have to create an entire panel based on the way they are put together.

Other things to consider about doing a roof job

You may need a permit before you start working. You can check with your local council to see if they need one – and if they will give one to an amateur. And if you have a HOA, make sure you get their approval as well. They may insist that you hire a professional.

You will also want to check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Most will not cover roof repairs and replacements due to normal aging and wear, but many will cover roof damage caused by common hazards such as hail, fire or wind. However, they may require a professional, bonded and licensed roofer to do any job. If your roof gets further damaged by your efforts, they may not cover it. They also probably wouldn’t cover bills for any injuries you sustain.

What kind of roof repairs can you do yourself?

Frankly, replacing an entire roof is often too daunting for most DIYers. Repairs, however, are a different story. Here are some simple ones you can do with a minimal investment:

Replacing Shingles: If a storm or winter weather or the ravages of time have damaged a few shingles (they may appear cracked or rotten), you can probably repair them yourself. Replacing a shingle basically involves removing the nails and breaking the seal if necessary. Then remove the clapboard and replace it with a new one.

Fix the blinking: If your roof has a chimney or dormer windows, it will have flashing, a thin metal material used to direct water away from entry points in your home. While inspecting your shingles, quickly examine the flashing to see if it is leaking. If you notice any leakage, reseal the joints with a caulking gun filled with roofing cement.

Savings on roof repairs and replacements

If roofing costs are a concern — but you’re not sure if you should go it alone — here are some other ways to match the project’s price.

  • Buy the materials yourself: Usually, professional roofers provide the materials (which you pay for). But if they don’t have exactly what you want or need, you may be able to save some money by ordering the items yourself and even collecting them from a supplier.
  • Contributions: You can do a demi-DIY job, where you hire a roofer but still do some of the work — the more basic tasks, like hauling new clapboards to the roof and taking down old ones, or removal of debris. You’ll save even more on labor costs if you can get a few friends to play the contractor’s little helper.
  • Hire a general contractor: Instead of hiring a roofing company, you can hire a general contractor to guide and supervise while you do the work. They will be invaluable in choosing the right materials in the right quantities; can help you if you run into something; and save you costly repairs and errors. A general contractor can add 10 to 20 percent to the total project price, but it’s still cheaper than using professional roofers to do all the work, doubling your DIY costs.

The Bottom Line on DIY Roof Replacements and Repairs

When it comes to redoing roofs, time, cost and physical effort dictate your decision making process.

If you’re a DIY novice, doing minor repair jobs like replacing shingles is a sensible way to learn more about how your roof works and save money. If you have more technical expertise, replacing a roof yourself can save you thousands of dollars in labor costs, but be realistic about your skills and strength.

And while you can save money by doing it yourself, it can take days or even weeks to complete the project. Meanwhile, professionals can install a roof in just a day or two. So you’ll want to weigh savings against time to determine which one is best for you.

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