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Is Your Housetop Ready for Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season is here, so homeowners should prepare for storms. A roof is especially vulnerable to storm damage so seek professional advice.

TAMPA, Fla. – When it comes to putting a new roof over your head, you should do your homework before hiring a contractor, according to several experts in the field.

We are at the start of the rainy season when roof leaks begin popping up. If you are facing roof repairs or replacement, here are some things to consider.

It goes without saying that you should look for a Florida state-licensed contractor. But, according to Jason Polly of Roof EZ in Cape Coral, that's not enough. You should make sure your contractor actually owns the license and isn't just renting or borrowing the license to work in this state.

He further recommends that you check out customer reviews.

"Reviews do help indicate the quality and level of expertise and customer care you can expect to receive," he said. "Start with Google reviews and keep looking. Check for Better Business Bureau ratings. Ask for references, not just with customers, but with their suppliers. Are they on good terms? How likely will they be able to quickly acquire the materials needed to do your job?"

After you've narrowed down your search, get estimates from several companies. When you scrutinize them, make sure you are comparing apples to apples, advises Polly. Material costs vary, but they correspond to quality. Make sure the materials are the same quality and the scope of work is the same. Some companies use cheaper materials that will not withstand the Southwest Florida climate's intense UV rays and strong storms.

Expertise speaks volumes

A company's volume of business can also speak volumes about a company's level of expertise and ability to get your job done. According to Polly, the more experience they have, the more skilled their workers should be.

"After Hurricane Ian, some contractors took deposits for jobs and then went on vacation, leaving the customers to deal with damaged roofs. We did our best to lower prices and make people whole," Polly said.

"You should always work with a local company for several reasons. They are vested in the community and likely support local charities, schools and community activities. The money you spend pays local employees, who then spend their money in Southwest Florida. In short, it helps the local economy and your neighbors, especially after a hurricane.

"After Hurricane Ian, a lot of homeowners found themselves in need of help. We replaced 20 roofs for disabled veterans free of charge. We are veteran-owned and have about 20 employees who are veterans. I grew up here and we really do give back to the community."

An ounce of prevention

Byron Toups of RoofPro Roofing Specialists in North Port notes that this year is shaping up to be a busy one, stormwise.

"With the La Niña year predicted, we expect to see less wind but more rainstorms," he said. "We recommend that — if you haven't already — you should hire someone to do a roof inspection to make sure you are ready for this rainy season. Although your roof made it through Hurricane Ian, it may have loose shingles and other issues that could be a problem.

"Some customers are finding that their insurance company decides when it's time to replace the roof. We are seeing insurers insisting that roofs 15 years and older be replaced — or customers face cancellation of their property insurance. This is a lot sooner than most material manufacturers' warranties expire.

"Looking at the warranty, however, is a useful gauge of the quality of the materials."

Materials matter

If a new roof is needed, should it be replaced with asphalt shingles, tile or metal?

There are high-quality dependable materials on the market in each category, according to Toups. "It depends on your budget and your own preferences. Asphalt shingles are the most affordable and can cost about 60% less than metal, but you should look for higher UV ratings."

Metal is becoming more popular, and within that category are different types with different price points. A new offering is called "stone-coated steel." Available in both 24- or 26-gauge metal, it has a look of grit embossed in the metal and has a warranty in winds of up to 200 mph. It can be the most expensive option.

Metal roofing is available in a variety of colors. You've probably never considered white a roof color but, according to Toups, it will reflect the most sunlight, offer the most energy efficiency and save on your energy bill over time.

"A lot of people are looking to upgrade from asphalt shingle or tile to a metal roof, and we try to make it as cost-effective as we can," Toups said. "People need to know that if you live within 1,500 feet of salt and brackish water, including the Gulf of Mexico, along with the rivers and canals connecting to it, you are prone to rust and corrosion with a galvanized metal roof, which negates the warranty. The best option, then, are painted aluminum panels."

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