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Should you DIY roof replacement or repairs?

Man on a roof
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A new roof is an expensive endeavor. It’s rarely less than a four-figure job, and costs can climb as sky-high as $45,000. Of course, given the importance of a roof to a home, you shouldn’t skimp on fixing it, but it sure would 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, when you shouldn’t, and what you should 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’ll save money

Anytime you can do a home improvement project yourself, you’ll save on labor costs. And with roofs, the labor costs are considerable — overall, often 60 percent of the price tag, according to HomeAdvisor. The average cost estimate for having a pro replace your roof is $9,079, vs $5,036 to do it yourself, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest  American Home Survey. Therefore, doing it on your own can save you almost half.

Pro: You don’t have to wait

If you need a repair done sooner rather than later — you’re seeing leaks, feeling drafts, or seeing buckling — waiting around for a contractor might not be a luxury you have. (And you can bet some companies will charge more for rush service.) Doing it yourself allows you to address the problem fast, containing the damage and protecting your home.

Con: Roof work is dangerous

At the risk of stating the obvious: Roofing takes place high up, and if you fall, it’s a long way down. You may think you’ve a head for heights, but traversing your roof can be tricky, especially if it has a steep slope or multiple levels. You’ll also need to be in good shape, as bending, climbing and hauling are continuously required — often under hot or windy conditions.

Con: Roof work is difficult

Being a roofer requires strength and dexterity: Bench-pressing 75 pounds at the gym is not the same as hefting 75-pound packages of shingles up a rickety ladder. And while roof work itself isn’t brain surgery, it does involve many steps and you can incur surprises along the way — like discovering some serious structural damage to the roof after you strip off the old shingles.

You’re also going to need some specialized tools to make the job go easier and faster — such as a roofing nailer, air compressor, air hose, caulk gun, extension ladder and snips, to name just a few. Be prepared to haul many of them up the ladder too.

Can you DIY replacing a roof?

Replacing a roof is a large, multifaceted project: It typically 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 undertaking it yourself is worthwhile.

Roof size and orientation

The bigger your roof, the more materials you’ll need. And the more time you’ll invest in transporting and installing them.

Another factor to consider is the angle of your roof, or slope, as the pros say. Low-sloped roofs are easier to install shingles on because of their flatter angles. Conversely, higher-angled roofs are more time-consuming and difficult. If your roof has lots of extra elements, like chimneys, dormers or skylights, the job gets more complicated, too.

Roofing material

There are a variety of roofing materials to choose from, such as asphalt, metal, wood, clay, and slate. And some are kinder to DIY-ers than others. Lightweight materials like asphalt or wood shake are going to be easier to install than heavier or more ornate materials like metal or slate.

In general, asphalt shingles — though not the most glam — are affordable and surprisingly durable, lasting on average up to 30 years. If you decide to go this route, pay close attention to the hail rating, as not all asphalt shingles are the same quality. Look for ones that have a UL 2218 Class 3 or 4 rating.

Meanwhile, metal roofs offer exceptional durability of up to 50 years. And they can be hurricane and hail resistant, offering your home protection in the severest weather conditions. But with metal roofs, you cannot replace just one shingle. Instead, you have to do an entire panel based on the way they’re joined together.

Other things to consider about DIY-ing a roof job

You might need a permit before you begin work. You can check with your municipal authorities to see if they require one — and if they’ll give one to an amateur. And, if you have an HOA, make sure to receive their approval, too. They may insist on you hiring a professional.

Also, you’ll want to check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Most won’t cover roof repairs and replacements due to normal aging and wear-and-tear, but many will cover roofing damage caused by common perils, such as hail, fire, or winds. However, they may require a professional bonded and licensed roofer do any work. If your roof gets damaged further by your efforts, they might not cover that. They probably wouldn’t cover bills from any injuries you incur, either.

What sort of roof repairs can you DIY?

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

Replace shingles: If a storm or winter weather or the ravages of time have damaged a few shingles (they might appear cracked or rotted), you could probably fix them up yourself. Replacing a shingle basically involves removing the nails and breaking the seal if needed. Next, remove the shingle and replace it with a fresh one.

Fix the flashing: If your roof has a chimney or dormers, it has flashing, a thin metal material used to direct water away from entry points in your home. As you inspect your shingles, give the flashing a quick examination to see if it’s leaking. If you notice any leaks, reseal its joints using a caulk gun filled with roofing cement.

Saving on roof repairs and replacements

If roofing costs are a concern — but you’re unsure about going it alone — here are some other ways to get the project’s price in line.

  • 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 on hand, you could possibly save a bit by ordering and even fetching the stuff yourself from a supplier.
  • Pitch in: You can do a demi-DIY job, in which you hire a roofing pro but still do some of the work — the more basic jobs, like transporting new shingles up to the roof and bringing old ones down, or carting debris away. You’ll save even more in labor costs if you can get a friend or two to play contractor’s little helper.
  • Hire a general contractor: Instead of hiring a roofing company, engage a general contractor to be a guide, supervising while you undertake the work. They’ll be an invaluable resource in helping you choose the right materials in the right quantities; can help you if you encounter any snags; and save you from costly do-overs and mistakes. A general contractor could add 10 percent to 20 percent to the total project price, but it’s still cheaper than using professional roofers to do the entire job, which doubles your DIY cost.

The bottom line on DIY roof replacements and repairs

When it comes to roof redos, time, costs, and physical effort all shape your decision-making process.

If you’re a novice DIY-er, doing small repair jobs like replacing shingles is a wise way to learn more about how your roof works and save money. If you have more technical expertise, replacing a roof on your own will save you thousands of dollars in labor costs — but be realistic about your skill set and strength.

Also, while you might save money doing it yourself, it might take days or even weeks to finish the project. Meanwhile, pros can install a roof in as little as a day or two. So, you’ll want to weigh savings versus time to determine which is the best fit for you.

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Written by
Sean Jackson
Contributing Writer
Sean Jackson is a creative copywriter living in Florida. He’s written articles for Realtor.com, CNET and ZDNet.
Edited by
Senior homeownership editor