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The Ultimate Guide to Getting A Roof In Pittsburgh

There are currently over 60 roofing contractors in Pittsburgh and that number is only growing. As the slate roofs of the late 1800’s begin to melt away like clay, the number of contractors willing to give the complex Pittsburgh architecture a try is steadily increasing. With so many residential roofing companies and contractors to choose from, how can you know that you’re going with the right guy? Well, that depends on what you are looking for in a roofing company. Homeowner’s main concerns generally fall into one of the following four categories:

The Roofing Company that I’m looking for has the 1. Lowest Pricing, 2. Best Reputation, 3. Most Durable Product, 4. Best Looking Product

There is a fifth category that seems ever so present and those people probably won’t be reading this article. Those people would have filled in the sentence something like this… “The roofing company that I’m looking for doesn’t matter because my close friend or relative is a roofer and he said…” If you have a friend or a relative that owns or is part of a roofing crew, DON’T HIRE THEM to do your roof. Unless they are part of a very large company (in which case you’re probably safe in hiring them in most cases) they will offer to do your roof for a rock bottom price, and then round every corner and skip every nail possible in order to compensate. In other words, you’ll be replacing the roof in another few years and by then you should have paid a bit more on the original roof and hired a reputable company that you did your research on. I digress.

I assume those of you who are reading this article are looking for the best Pittsburgh roofing company. Since I’ve been in the industry for quite some time, I’ll go through each of the categories and advise you on what to do and what to avoid doing. I expect this article to be quite lengthy so consider it currently under construction. Keep checking back for updates because I’m slowly working to finish the entire thing so all you Pittsburghers know what to expect when investing in a roofing system.

Lowest Pricing

I will list the options starting with the cheapest

  1. Build a tiled roof hut using only primitive tools and materials – $0

I’m not kidding you, it’s very possible. Check out the cave man from over at Primitive Technology is this is an option you’re seriously considering. He built a hut with a kiln-fired tiled roof out of some sticks and clay. If you think you’re the world’s biggest money-pincher, put your money where your mouth is and prove it. I’m serious – the first person to build a kiln-fired tiled roof from the Pittsburgh region and contact me will be greatly rewarded. The founders of this blog will personally pay you a visit so I can take pictures and see the thing for myself. In addition, I’ll take you out to lunch with 5 of the region’s top Roofing CEOs, we’ll see if we can work out a deal to put a new roof on your actual home for free, and I’ll write an entire article about you and your roof and you’ll be world famous. It’ll be epic. Do it. You won’t.

  1. The blue tarp option – $755.70


I haven’t seen this option taken too often, but it’s definitely an option. The blue tarp is often a side effect of waiting way too long to get your roof repaired. This happens often with homeowners who are under unfortunate circumstances and can’t afford a new roof (or even a repair) and don’t do everything in their power to take immediate action. I’ve also see this caused by extreme negligence or ignorance in regards to home remodeling and home care. Let this be a lesson in getting your roof done BEFORE there is a visible leak or problem. Once that small leak that you keep ignoring gets to your rafters, it will cause permanent structural damage to the house and you may be left with no choice but to foot a bill up to 10x greater than the original cost of a new roof, or evacuate the home and find a new place to live.

The $755.70 price was calculated by doing a quick google search to find the cheapest and most gigantic tarps easily available online (50ft x 100ft) and buying six of them which is enough to cover the average size roof in Pittsburgh (30 square).

  1. Do it yourself – $2000 – $8000 depending on the size of your house and your ability to follow directions

This is actually a great option for some people. If you have the ability and knowledge to do your own roof, go right ahead. I will however note a few things. One of my college professors said something that will stick with me forever – he refuses to cut his own grass. He apparently did a cost benefit analysis and arrived at the noble conclusion that the hourly rate to hire someone to cut his grass is far lower than his valuation of his precious time with his family. Bringing that notion over to the roofing industry isn’t that big of a difference. Consider that (assuming you’re not a professional roofer) you aren’t a professional roofer and being on the roof is dangerous. However long you think this project will take you, it will take 3x as long. By doing it yourself and using builder grade materials you are guaranteeing that you will be redoing the roof in another 6-12 years given the current quality of shingles on the easy to access market. In order to keep your job, you’re required to go to work for the full 40 hours each week. I suggest you keep your job, go to work for the full extent of what is required, and come home to spend time with your family because that’s the only time you get. I always tell people – and it’s very true – it’s not worth the stress unless you literally can’t afford to pay someone to do your roof for you.

Shingles (90 bundles – there’s three bundles to a square, $27.50 ea) – $2475

Drip edge (5 ft. long, $5.20 ea.) – $57

Roofing Cement ($29.99/case, 2 cases) – $60

Roofing Felt ($18.25 / roll, 6 rolls) – $109.50

Plywood ($22.18/ ea. 10 square total) – $598.89

Ice Guard ($53.00 ea. 2 rolls) – $106.00

Misc items (nails, valley flashing, tools, ladders, beer, etc.) – ~$1000

Total: $4406.39

  1. Your friend who is a contractor said he can do it for super cheap

Unless you can’t afford anything else, stay away. Reread the top part of this article if you don’t remember. I wrote a bit about a possible fifth category of roof-seeking homeowners who have a friend who is a contractor and because of this they feel pressured to hire him in order to help our his business or because it seems like the easiest thing to do. If you don’t feel like your friend is only offering to do your roof because he needs the money, this might be a slightly more viable option. Let’s face it, if you’re one of those people who always “knows somebody” in whatever business it may be, it’s highly likely that your friend is one of the best roofer s in Pittsburgh and you actually are getting the deal of a lifetime. But to keep it safe, stay away from this option if you can.

  1. Any for-hire contractor

Roof contracting isn’t rocket science. Almost all contractors operate off the same basic model. The typical story goes as follows: Chuck has been roofing since he was a child when his father had him up on the roof of the family home helping install shingles. Chuck helped a few of his neighbors over the years as they attempted and semi-successfully self-installed shingles from Home Depot or Lowe’s on their own homes. While his father primarily paid him in pride and love, his neighbors paid him with a case of soda then his distant friend paid him a small amount of cash for his time, and suddenly Chuck bought a truck (likely before he bought insurance, bondage, or licenses) and metamorphosed overnight in the Chuck-and-the-truck. Some of these people are very good roofers but just have yet to get the word out. If you can find them at the right time, this is probably your best option if you must stay on the extremely cheap end of the spectrum. Usually about the time that a young roofer chooses to put a listing into the local listings such as the yellow pages, google maps, or yahoo business, he will still be charging very little. If hiring a very cheap contractor is the route that you wish to take, look for the newer listings on google business by navigating to google maps and typing in Pittsburgh Roofing Contractors (or whatever region you are in). Or you can just click here. To find the best bang for your buck, look for the newer listings that don’t have a website and maybe have one or two positive reviews.

  1. Home Depot / Lowes

If you can’t find your own cheap roofing contractor, your local Home Depot or Lowe’s will find them for you. Places like these already know who the cheapest roofers in the area are and actually bit out the roofing contracts to the people who can get it done for the cheapest. On the plus side they do ensure that their crews are licensed in the state of operation, but on the flip side, you’re going to get the shoddiest job possible.

Remember, this post is a work in progess, we have to do alot of research to bring you the very best information so it takes time! Visit again soon to see the next part in this series