Learn how much different types of roofs cost and how contractors come up with their prices. Research costs to install asphalt shingles, flat and metal roofs.
- You have gotten 4 roofing quotes – which one do you choose?
- How come one contractor wants to charge you $7000, while another one gives you an estimate of $4000? Does the second one work for free, or the first one just wants to make extra $3K off of you?
- What goes into the cost of roof installation and how do contractors calculate their roof prices?
- Are you better off paying a premium to have a reputable roofing contractor working on your home, or going with the lowest bidder?
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These and many others are the questions any homeowner asks when it comes time to replace a roof – especially if it is leaking and you need to do it fast to prevent further damages. Here, we will discuss how contractors come up with their prices, and briefly describe how our online roofing calculator works, since it was designed to simulate a “virtual roofing contractor”, giving you an accurate roof replacement estimate.
This guide will also describe different roofing materials, as well as give an average cost per square to install each type. Additionally, we will briefly explain the “roof difficulty” concept and describe why a complicated two or three story roof costs 2-3 times more than a simple ranch-house roof.
Note: Asphalt Shingle prices have gone up in 2011 by about 25-30%, and we have updated our roofing materials calculator to reflect this price increase, and to provide you with a better cost estimate.
Read our full review of why roofing prices are going up, and what you can expect in the near future.
How Contractors Calculate Roofing Prices
First and foremost, there are two distinctly different methods of calculating the cost of roof installation. This is also true in other construction trades, such as siding, carpentry, etc.
Method one: Price per square (1 square = 100 sq. ft.)
Per Square pricing is the most popular (common) and the most fair method of estimating roofing prices, for both the homeowner and the contractor.
Personally, I always use Per Square pricing, unless the roof is really small or it is all cut-up and consists mainly of detail work. When I price a roof, my “first” concern is not really to make an “X” amount of money, but not to lose money on the given job, due to unforeseen complications and extra work. Therefore, first I try to anticipate and include everything that will be done during installation, and second – if I know there will be an unknown amount of extra work, I always exclude it from the total and price it when we actually know what we are dealing with. Additionally, I would up-charge a roof if I know there will be extra work, but I have no way of knowing how much, until we for example remove the old roof. In some cases, I leave it as a separate item, subject to change, depending on how much extra work will have to be done.
Method two: Materials, Labor, Overhead and Profit (MLOP).
This method deals with the cost of all components of the job: cost of Materials, cost of Labor, Overhead and Profit (MLOP). This is a better method for a large contractor, but may have flaws for both contractors and customers.
The main area where mistakes can be made is the cost of labor – which is actually unknown, and is estimated based on previous experience of the contractor. If the job is easy, this labor cost estimate will be more or less accurate. If a roof is complicated, there is a good chance the the contractor will make a mistake estimating labor costs, and you may be overcharged upfront or the contractor will tell you in the middle of the job that he miscalculated the labor and there must be a change order. In reality, unless you are dealing with a VERY experienced roof estimator and the company really knows its costs of labor and overheads, MLOP is not the preferred method of roof pricing.
Which Roof Pricing Method Is More Common?
While some roofers have different ways of calculating costs, most will actually use the Price Per Square method, as for most contractors, roofs have become a commodity, and installation is streamlined. Only complicated projects or specialty installation, using premium materials will include some type of combination of the above calculating methods. Examples of such complicated or specialty projects include most Copper / Zinc installations, multi-story historical and/or really cut-up colonial homes with towers, valleys, dormers, etc.
Cost of Roof Repair:
Roof repair is completely different from new installation or re-roofing. When you are getting a quote for repair work (https://www.roofingcalculator.org/roof-repair.php), you need to consider that very little materials are used to fix your roof. You are mostly paying for the labor itself and often the set-up costs. A contractor needs to get up on the roof, find the source of a leak and repair it. This is often done in one visit, and repair calls are not “too” profitable, compared to new installations. Also, you should not expect to get quotes for roof repair – most roofers won’t even waste their time to drive to your place and get up on the roof, only to lose a potential $300 job.
When we repair flat roofs in the Metro Boston area, we charge a $375 flat fee for materials and 2 hours of work. Some roofers do it differently, but most will have some sort of a flat fee for repair, and any additional work will be extra. Also note that 99% of the time, roof repairs are not guaranteed, which is more or less an industry standard. I’ve yet to find contractors that warranty their repair work.
The cost for a decent roof repair should be between $250 and $400 or more, depending on the scope of work, ease of access to the roof, and total time spent.
Below we will list average roof pricing, which our roofing calculator is based on. These prices are generic and can only be used for reference purposes, as your actual quote will differ depending on your geographic location, and the contractor you choose to hire. For example, if your contractor is fully licensed and insured, and hires legal workers, your cost will be significantly higher than if you hired an uninsured roofer, who may be using illegal labor.
Asphalt Shingles Prices
Asphalt shingles is the most common residential roofing material in US. Due to lower material prices (as compared to metal, cedar shakes or tile roofs) and high competition, it is also the least expensive material.
Based on our experience and survey of contractors from different regions of continental US, the average price per square of Asphalt Shingles is in the range of $250-300. This price is to install a new 30-year dimensional (architectural) shingles on a walkable (3-6 roof pitch) ranch-type house. This price includes a tear-off + disposal of 1 layer of existing shingles, 15 lb. felt underlayment, new pipe flashing for plumbing vents (stink-pipes) and ridge cap, using either special ridge-cap shingles or color-matching three-tab shingles.
Chimney re-flashing, Ice & Water shield, ridge vent, rotten wood replacement, sky-light flashing, etc. are usually extra, and most contractors charge for them “per item” or per linear foot, as is the case with ridge vent and Ice & Water shield.
The average cost to flash a chimney is $300, and should include new counter-flashing. Skylight flashing is about $200.
A ridge vent is $5-7 per linear foot. Ice & Water shield is $4-6+ per linear foot, depending on the type / brand of Ice & Water product used. Smooth-faced Grace I&W shield is the most expensive type and is rarely used, while a granular surface I&W shield is the least expensive and most common.
Ice & Water barrier is required by building code in most areas with significant snow falls – northern US and Canada – while it is optional in most of southern US. If your building code does not require use of I&W barrier, I would recommend not using it as it prevents the roof deck from “breathing”, consequently shortening the life of your roof deck.
The average cost-per-square for an asphalt shingle roof will vary greatly based on where you live. The same roof in Metro Boston, MA will cost almost double one located somewhere in rural Alabama or in the now-struggling metro Detroit area. The average cost of a roofing square in Massachusetts ranges from $375 – $425 per square. Basically, roofing costs are directly related to the cost of living in your area.
Metal Roofing Prices:
Metal is an excellent choice to solve your roofing problems for a VERY long time, and most metal roofs are considered life-time material. They offer long-lasting protection, reduction in energy costs (as most are in fact cool roofs, and qualify for $1500 federal tax credit). When properly installed, metal roofs eliminate / solve most leak issues such as Ice Dams. However, metal roofs cost significantly more than conventional asphalt shingles.
Since there are many types of metal roofs, from a multitude of manufacturers, I will concentrate on the three most common types: Standing Seam, Exposed Fasteners Metal Panels (corrugated steel, R-panel, V5-crimp, etc.) and Interlocking Metal Shingles.
As is the case with asphalt shingles, our average metal roof prices are based upon a walkable, ranch-type house with 1 layer of roof tear-off and disposal and normal penetration flashing. However, in case of metal roofing, things like Ice & Water and ridge vent installation, are included in the price. Other things that should be included are: Snow Guards in the northern US / Canada, synthetic underlayment (if your contractor proposes to use Felt / tar-paper with a metal roof, kick them out of the house and tell them to never call you again). A complete chimney re-flashing, using color-matching flashing and counter-flashing, as well as custom-fabricated skylight flashing must be installed, though it can be charged for separately.
Cost of Standing Seam
While a standing seam roof may seem easy to install, it is only the case on roofs, such as straight gable with a minimal number of penetrations. As the roof gets more complicated, installation of Standing Seam becomes MUCH more complicated, as compared to interlocking shingles. For example, a non-walkable (9-12 roof pitch) hip-roof is VERY difficult to nearly impossible to install, without the use of a hydraulic platform lift, as the installer has nowhere to hook his hook-latter, and it is also impossible to install roof jacks without penetrating roof panels. Therefore, a relatively difficult roof will cost dramatically more to install standing seam on, vs. metal shingles.
The cost to install the metal roof in a picture above, was about $1300 per square.
Cost of Steel Standing Seam ranges from $800-1000 for a simple gable roof.
As soon as the roof becomes more complicated, the price goes up to $1200-1500 range. Aluminum standing seam will add about $75-100 per square to account for additional materials cost of aluminum vs. steel. Sky-light and chimney flashing on a standing seam roof will cost an average of $400 per unit, vs. $300 per unit on a metal shingles roof, as they are much more involved and complicated.
Please note that unlike metal shingles, standing seam panels should not be installed over asphalt shingles, as the shingles profile will punch through the vertical panels, creating horizontal lines every 5 inches – this is a so called telegraphing effect of metal roofing.
Cost of Metal Shingles
Metal roofing shingles will cost a little less to install on a simple roof, as compared to standing seam. On a complicated roof, metal shingles will be significantly CHEAPER to install, as compared to standing seam. This is because metal shingles’ design allows to install roof-jacks (roof staging), and installers can easily move around the roof, without using a lift. It is also much easier to install and remove fall-protection / safety harnesses equipment on a metal shingles roof.
Cost to install steel shingles, on a simple gable roof: $775-850 per square.
Cost to install aluminum shingles, on a simple gable roof: $875-950 per square.
A more complicated roof will increase in price by $100-200 per square (compared to an increase of $350-500 in case of a standing seam roof).
Cost of Exposed fasteners / Corrugated Steel
Exposed fastener steel panels is the least expensive option in the world of metal roofing, but is also the worst one in terms of quality. This type of material is usually made of cheap 29 ga. steel, coated with cheap acrylic paint (compared to a minimum of 26 ga. steel and Kynar 500 metal roof coating for steel standing seam, and .032″ aluminum + Kynar 500 for alum. standing seam roofs). The difference will start to show itself in about 10 years, as the paint may / will begin to fade, peel and chip off the metal, and first signs of rust stains will begin to appear.An exposed fastener roof will also have to be “re-fastened” around the 10-year mark, as rubber / neoprene washers will dry out, and water will start seeping in.
The cost of exposed fastener metal panels ranges at $500-700 per square for a simple gable roof.
Exposed fastener metal panels SHOULD NOT be installed on complicated roofs or within 1 mile from the salt – water shoreline. As for complicated roofs, exposed fastener metal panels lack proper flashing details, and re-fastening them after 10 years will be very costly and dangerous.
As far as the salt-water environment, any steel roof should not be installed within 1 mile of the coast as corrosion will eat such a roof in a very short period of time. Aluminum is the best choice for a metal roof to be installed near the water.
Additional Up-Charges For More Difficult Roofs
Contractors will generally charge more for the following items or in the following situations:
- Second or third story roof
- More than one layer of roof tear-off / disposal
- Tearing off cedar shingles, slate or tile on sloped roofs and tar+gravel / bur roofing materials on a flat roof.
- Difficult customer – the so called PITA up-charge (Pain In The A$$).
- Difficult roof access
- Small roof / complicated roof
- Steep roof
Pricing Guides for Niche Roofing Materials
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