Residential Re-Roofing 2010: Challenging details

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The wisest homeowners are your best customers. Homeowners armed with experience and knowledge are looking for quality — they don’t do things halfway.

Mike Mason of Guilford’s Roofing in Mulliken, Mich., has been installing roofing as part of the family business for more than 30 years. Guilford’s, which opened a branch office in South Carolina last summer because business was slowed severely by the Michigan economy, has been installing metal shingles from Rare Manufacturing for three years.

“The Rare products install easier than most of them out there,” Mason says, “and it’s got an aggressive look, it’s not as flat. We’ll work with them as long as they’ll have us.”

Since opening up shop in South Carolina, Mason has worked several home shows in the Greenville and Spartanburg areas, spreading the word about metal. “One seven-hour Saturday, I never got a chance to sit down because people wanted to learn about our products,” Mason says.

Problem: A 100-year-old Michigan farmhouse, with multiple additions, was in need of a new roof. The existing asphalt shingles were in disrepair. At various times, asphalt shingles and wood shakes had topped the home.

The home featured “almost every detail imaginable” and was going to be a challenge, no doubt. “We had a skylight, valleys running into each other and fascia running into the roof itself,” Mason says. “With all the additions there were some interesting details. It had a valley that led to another valley going in a different direction with a different pitch and that was leaking. With the different layers of roofing that had been installed through the years, there were also a few sags here and there.”

Options: Mason says the homeowner had done research online and wanted to re-roof for the last time, so metal was his choice. “I guess he could have gone with a standing seam, but it wouldn’t have looked as good,” Mason says. “He had a budget and we were able to work with him and his budget and it was a big job, 43 squares.”

Mason believes customers in their late 40s and older, homeowners who have likely been through a couple re-roofs already, are looking for a “one-and-done” roof. And they’re willing to pay a little more.

Selling point: “I’ve been roofing for 30 years and we started with asphalt shingles,” Mason says. “Those shingles were more pliable than the ones they make today. When the price of oil first went up, they raised the price of shingles and took out some of the oil. Today’s shingles are brittle, you can break them with your hands now and I do that when I’m talking to customers. I’ll show them what they’re getting with asphalt.”

Material costs for metal and asphalt shingles are getting closer all the time, according to Mason. Premium asphalt shingles can run $160 to $170 a square, while Rare products cost between $220 and $250 a square. “The labor costs will be a little higher, too, because you can’t just cut the metal with a utility knife, but the numbers are getting closer,” he says.

Verdict: The job was completed in January — in tough economic times, you keep right on working through the Michigan winter — and Mason says the homeowner is happy. “That’s where we’re fortunate,” Mason says. “Our crews are made up of cousins, sons, nephews and uncles … we’ve all got an interest in the company and doing the job right.” MR

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