Are All Roofs Created Equal

As we enter another summer in South Florida, 2 things seem to come to mind for Homeowners: “Rainy” Season and “Hurricane” season.  The latter being fueled by media reporting and the expert’s predictions on the quantity and severity of the impending storm season.  Many homeowners may begin to get that knot in their stomach wondering if their home is prepared to take on some of Mother Nature’s wrath.  Of course, one of the most significant areas of the home that keeps our personal belongings, furnishings, life collections, and most importantly; our families…safe is the roof covering on our home.  At this time of year, many homeowners choose to hire a contractor to either perform repairs to their roof or completely replace the roof on their home.  So many questions arise, with the most important one being:  Are all roofs created equal?

The answer to this question, and many others, will be addressed here on a summarized basis to provide direction when deciding to make the large investment in possibly the single most important weather protector of your home.

With the severity of the storm seasons of 2004 and 2005, we have seen an influx of new contractors and materials to our market place, making it more difficult to figure out when we are receiving the best possible “Value”…notice we didn’t say best “Price”.  They are different.  The amount of choices for contractors and roof types is greater than ever, and the homeowner’s investment in time to perform “Due Diligence Inspection” when choosing a contractor and roof system could prevent major headaches in the future.

1. Does the contractor have a state license?

By state Law, all roof installations must be done by a licensed contractor in Florida.  The license number must appear on trucks and advertising.  If you are in doubt, call The Department of Business & Professional regulation 1-850-487-1395, or visit  Check all forms of identification.  An occupational or Business tax license does not qualify an individual to act as a roofing contractor.

2. Check with County and local building departments.

Check with the county building department where you reside and if applicable, the town/city in which you live for specific requirements and contractor history.

3. Check contractor references.

All reputable contractors that have performed work in a close geographical proximity to your home should provide references. Be wary of the claims that they are a “New” contractor or are from “Out of the area”.

4. Get a written estimate from a few licensed contractors meeting these guidelines.

Do not accept verbal commitments, and beware of the fine print on many contracts. Completion time needs to be addressed, materials must be identified and have “Product Approval” as required by the building code, and when comparing prices, make sure the roof systems being proposed are equal. Underlayments vary, as do adhesives, methods, and fastening procedures. All must be clearly identified. Significant delays in getting the materials for your project may be a red flag for the contractor’s financial stability and/or track record. Ask the contractor about their employees. Are they employees or subcontractors? Using “Out of town” subcontractors became popular after the past few storm seasons. This may compromise quality.

5. Beware of sales pitches and dishonest individuals.

If the contractor claims to be the fastest and the cheapest, hiring them may result in poor workmanship, inferior materials, or unfinished jobs. Unlicensed contractors target the uninformed or elderly an often go door to door frequently traveling in either “Unmarked” vehicles or using portable signs temporarily stuck to the side of the vehicle. They may offer a post office box in lieu of a physical street address.

6. Does the contractor have the proper insurance?

Roofing is a tough, risky business where injuries and damage claims occur. Professional contractors will maintain insurance to properly cover their employees and customers. Ask to see copies, and verify current coverage with the listed insurance agent. Policies should be in the name of the company proposing the work, not an individual or company officer.

7. Make sure the contractor gets the building permits.

Every installation requires permits and inspections by the local building officials. Ask to see the permits when they are obtained, and evidence of all completed inspections prior to making “Final” payment.

8. Contracts should include:

The contractors name, address, telephone number and state license number, along with a precise description of the work to be completed; including a schedule, list of materials, cleanup provisions, and all warranty agreements. Wood fastening and replacement, if applicable, should be identified both in quantity and cost.


There are many types of Roof systems available to the Homeowner today.  It can get confusing because unprofessional or unlicensed contractors prefer to market products that allow them to bid “Cheaper”, or provide “Faster” production, regardless if the products provide the waterproofing capability or longevity that the homeowner desires.

After the removal of the “Old” roof system, and all rotten wood has been replaced, the wood should be refastened in accordance with the requirements of the building code.  When this is completed, the inspector will usually perform an inspection and make a notation on the permit document.  The next step is the installation of the underlayments, which is where the differences in types of material and methods get confusing.

Underlayment, as defined by the National Roofing Contractors Association, is “An asphalt-saturated felt or other sheet material (may be self-adhering) installed between the roof deck and the roof system, usually in a steep-slope roof construction.  Underlayment is primarily used to separate the roof covering from the roof deck, to shed water, and to provide secondary weather protection for the roof area of the building”.

With the recent building code changes and insurance industry requirements, the underlayment of your roof system is critical.  The underlayment can be the most important factor in determining the longevity and waterproofing capability of your new roof system.

The discrepancies and expected performance of a two-ply hot mopped underlayment system, or a single application of self adhering underlayment system, need to be investigated using the sources provided.  The homeowner should have a clear understanding of the differences, pros and cons of each, and the cost differential.  The “2-ply” hot mopped system has been around for years, and is the old standard where you have a crew mechanically fasten a dry-in sheet, followed by a heavier sheet installed in an application of hot asphalt.  Installed properly, this system will provide many years of leak free waterproofing.  It is generically similar to the systems used on many commercial flat roof applications for over a century.  The “Self-Adhering” underlayment, also called “Peel-and-Stick”, is relatively new compared with the hot-asphalt system, and often is installed directly to the wood sheathing, eliminating the mechanically fastened “Dry-in” sheet.  It is installed by removing the contact paper from the rear of the sheet, then setting the sheet in place and “Sticking” it down to the wood sheathing.  Installers should be professionally trained to assure the correct installation procedures and detail requirements.  When installed properly, this underlayment can also provide many years of leak-free service.

Roof covering choices

For many Florida Homeowners, this is the “Finished” component.  This is the visible part we see when looking at our home, and will usually be a tile system made of concrete or clay, an asphalt-based composite shingle, wood “Shake” shingles, or a metal panel roof system.

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Asphalt composition Shingles

The composite asphalt shingle roof system for many of us is what we grew up with in the northern geographical areas, prior to our jump down to Florida for the warmer climate.  The asphalt shingle is comprised of shingle strips that get overlapped and nailed to the roof deck thru the underlayment.  There are many types on the market today, allowing the homeowner a vast number of choices in color, design, and thickness.  The material composition has improved over the past several years, increasing the shingles ability to resist fungus growth, and more importantly; provide greater wind resistance.

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Concrete/Clay Tile

Tile roofs are a popular choice of roof covering in South Florida and they have been for decades.  Roof tile is made up of concrete or clay, and comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors.  The installation method for tile has varied over the years, from using a concrete mixture as the primary method of adhesion, to nails and/or screws, and more recently to the use of a “Foam” adhesive.  There is a cost difference associated with the different installation methods, as is their ability to resist wind.  The “Product Approvals”, as mentioned earlier, are required by government agencies during the permitting process and indicate the wind “Uplift” pressure designs for each method. This information can be helpful in providing the homeowner with a better understanding of the pros and cons to specific methods, but also can be confusing.  Discuss these methods with your professional contractor.  Additionally, the major tile manufacturers have extensive information available through their customer service phone lines and their websites, where you can also get an idea of the different shapes and colors of available tile.  The shape of Roof tile generally is either flat, or provides a rounded peak.

The rounded (“Roll”, “Spanish S”, “Barrel”) tile has become popular in the past several years, especially with the new construction and real estate growth experienced in our area over the past decade.  The difference in the rounded tiles is basically the size of the “Roll”, whether it’s a couple of small rounded Peaks (Roll Tile) or 1 large rounded Peak (Spanish “S”).  Barrel tile is the larger single ½ round tile that is installed over a bottom single ½ round tile, also called caps and pans.  This is the most expensive and used less frequently than the others.   The colors, shapes, and sizes purely dictate the overall cost and aesthetic appearance of the finished roof and should be reviewed extensively.  The best way to get a clear picture of which tile would have a pleasing aesthetic appearance is to see the preferred tile installed on an actual home.  Deciding on a tile from brochures or small samples does not provide an accurate representation of what a specific tile would look like on your home.  Some tile manufacturers and professional contractors have showrooms, which give the homeowner the opportunity to see several types, styles, and colors of available tile, and also will provide guidance during the selection process.

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Metal Roof Systems:  

We have witnessed a growth in metal roofing over the past several years.  While used primarily in commercial applications up until a few years ago, metal roof manufacturers have introduced different systems to accommodate different architectural appearances for homeowners.  Metal “Panel” systems have a “Flat” panel style appearance, similar to what is often termed the “Key West” style, while some recent products provide either a “Tile” look, or a dimensional look with textured surfaces that look similar in design to concrete or clay tile.  Reviewing these roof systems should be done in the same manner in which the tile selection process is outlined above.

Wood “Shake” Shingles:

Wood shingles, or “Shakes”, are wood shingles made from cedar.  They provide a more rustic appearance to a residence than any of the previously mentioned styles of roof coverings.  They are installed using nails thru the underlayment system.  Although not as common as years ago, in certain geographic areas the appearance is desired, and when maintained properly, cedar shakes can provide years of service.  In today’s marketplace, there are also manufacturers that offer products made from composite materials that aesthetically resemble cedar shakes, without the costs associated with the maintenance of real wood.

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South Florida’s premier residential Roofing Contractor for over 35 years.

Based in Boca Raton, we pride ourselves on being the most respected Professional Roofing Contracting company in South Florida.