A dying roof gives off tell-tale signs

Home Work

April 11, 1999|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

SPRING IS HERE, and you are likely to find yourself outside looking at how your house has held up through the winter. It may be a dismal survey. The paint that was barely cracked last fall is peeling away, the gutters are full of debris and there are pieces of shingle lying on the ground.

We had a mild winter in Baltimore, but it still takes a toll, and roofs are especially vulnerable. If you are wondering if your roof is nearing the end of its life, there are some tell-tale signs. Finding pieces of shingle in the yard or in the gutters is the most obvious. When roof shingles begin to fall apart, they are heading for the great rooftop in the sky.

Another sign is when shingles start to buckle or appear to have bubbles in them. This is also an indication that the attic space is not properly ventilated, as excessive heat can cause this problem as well. Holes or spots with little or no grit left on them are easy to see from the ground.

If someone is telling you that you need a new roof, take a look yourself. It should be obvious that you do. If it isn't, get another opinion.

Once you decide you need a new roof, you have a number of choices. All roofing manufacturers offer a variety of options. Twenty-year fiberglass shingles are the most common, but for only $5 more a square, you can get 25-year shingles. A square -- which is how roofing is measured -- is enough shingles to cover 100 square feet.

A typical roof is 25 squares. To tear off and replace it, at $120 to $150 per square, would cost $3,000 to $3,700. For an extra $125 dollars for the 25-year shingles, you get five more years of warranty.

Prices for roofing will vary, depending on several conditions. Among them:

The pitch of the roof. The steeper it is, the more difficult it is to work on.

You can shingle over one existing layer. However, if there are already two or more layers, they have to be removed. If you have more than two layers of roofing on your house and the roof collapses, by Maryland law your homeowners insurance will not have to pay.

Obviously it will cost less to shingle over one layer than it will to tear off and replace several layers.

As with any home improvement project, do your homework. Learn a little about the wide variety of roofing products available. Ask questions of the roofer. If you are not comfortable with the answers, ask someone else. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples -- that is, all the specifications are the same -- if you are taking bids from several contractors.

Controlling dust

When Massachusetts floor finisher Jeff Whittemore had to work in a space that was mostly open, he needed a good way to block off the work area. Nothing on the market gave him the control and flexibility he needed. So he invented ZipWall, a dust-containment system that uses telescoping poles, polycarbonate jacks, and plastic, light canvas, or drop cloths.

The jacks, made of the same material used for bulletproof glass, fit atop the poles and hold the containment material tightly to the ceiling. The company says one person can install a 20-foot-long ZipWall in less than a minute.

Although the system is designed for contractors, it should interest homeowners who are renovating a whole house, or remodeling several areas of the house.

ZipWall poles and jacks are available from the manufacturer. For more information, call 800-718-2255, or check out the Web site at www.zipwall.com.

Home-repair scams

A recent survey by the American Association of Retired Persons concludes that older people and people in lower-income brackets are often targeted in home-repair scams. About 1 in 4 people surveyed said they had a bad experience with home repairs, with homeowners 50 and over most likely to have had a complaint.

Although both high- and low-income households can be vulnerable to fraudulent practices, the study says, the consequences for lower-income families are more dire. AARP warns particularly about scam artists who work with loan brokers, directing borrowers to high-cost mortgages that can leave them in debt and in danger of losing their homes.

AARP suggests that before signing up for any repairs, homeowners should, among other things:

Beware of salespeople who show up at the door or call offering unsolicited "bargains" that are good "only for today." Legitimate firms don't use pressure tactics.

Get at least three estimates in writing.

Ask for references, and check out the company with the Better Business Bureau and state and local consumer protection agencies (and in Maryland with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission).

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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