The roofing business is booming in Charleston, fueled by growth, replacing “Hugo roofs,” flaws made apparent by last October’s historic rainfall and insurance companies demanding replacements by threatening to cancel wind and hail policies.

With any boom, however, homeowners need to take extra care researching contractors, making sure they have certifications and liability insurance, getting at least three estimates and weighing the pros and cons between asphalt and metal roofs.

It’s not a sexy subject, but a “roof over your head” is the essence of one of the key basics in life: shelter.

Just ask anyone who lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 or even the 20-plus inch rainfall last October.

The 28-year-old life insurance saleswoman, who formerly worked for an insurance broker, bought a house on James Island three years ago and it’s turned into a trial by fire.

In the past year, she fell behind on payments due to a job change and faced not one but two of the costliest repairs that homeowners dread the most: replacing her central heating and air and discovering a leak in her roof.

After catching up on her payments and going without heat last winter, she bit the bullet and purchased a new HVAC in early June. Now she’s turning her attention to the roof, getting estimates which ranged from $4,500 to $14,000.

“It’s been a great experience,” says the strong-willed Walsh. “But this is why a lot of my friends would rather rent than buy (a home). It’s a pain to pay for all these replacements.”

And the suffering is compounded because homeowners need to be careful about researching contractors and getting a sufficient number of quotes.
Hugo roofs

Walsh’s house was built in 1985, but like many homes that faced the destructive forces of Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, the roof was replaced after the storm.

Enlarge Roofer Salim Modica of Pioneer Roofing works around a vent on the roof of a two-story house on St. Margaret Street.Local contractors say that replacements of “Hugo roofs” actually began about a decade ago as roofs, which were replaced with lower-grade asphalt shingles rated for 20 years, began deteriorating faster because of the Lowcountry’s brutal combination of heat, moisture and bright sun.

Mike Campbell, managing owner of Charleston Roofing and Exteriors, says that replacing Hugo roofs is in the back end of the cycle. He adds that the replacements will likely last longer due to improvements in codes and materials.

“When the hurricane hit, it was very hard to find architectural shingles and even those weren’t really prevalent back then,” says Campbell, of the thicker, higher-quality roofing shingles.

Campbell says the Miami-Dade County code specifications are the gold standard for having roofs be prepared for winds of up to 130 miles, which means a roof system is “hurricane-rated, not hurricane-proof.”

As far as assuring quality installation, Campbell says the CertainTeed “Select Shingle Master” certification assures that contractors and roofers know how to put on a roof to the manufacturer’s standard.

While South Carolina hasn’t had a Hugo-like storm hit in 27 years, the historic rain storm that dumped 15 to 25 inches on the Lowcountry and Midlands from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5 last year was a disaster of hurricane proportions.

And it kept roofing contractors, like Campbell and Nyman, backlogged for nearly a month.

“When you get that heavy of a volume of water, any kind of crinkle or flaw is going to rear its ugly head,” says Campbell. “There were a lot of people needing new roofs.”
Hurricane wary

While the Lowcountry has not experienced a hurricane like Hugo since 1989, the effects of mega hurricanes that have hit the U.S. coastline since then, such as Andrew, Katrina and Sandy, and the threat of more to come still hit homeowners hard in other ways, including replacing roofs.

Homeowners are increasingly finding their insurance companies drawing a line in the sand: Replace your roof or lose your policy, or part of it.

Enlarge Among the many things homeowners need to know when it comes to hiring a roofing contractor is that the business has liability insurance to cover a worker who may get injured while on the job. Photos by David Quick/StaffRobin Sheek, who lives in a 1,000-square-foot townhouse in Mount Pleasant, had a Hugo roof and her insurance company threatened to drop her wind and hail coverage if she didn’t get a new roof.

After getting a recommendation for a roofer, she was shocked to hear that he wanted to charge her $5,000 and suspects he was gouging her after he reportedly told her, “I don’t want you to have sticker shock, but well, you are in Mount Pleasant.”

She got another quote for $1,900 and replaced it four years ago, admitting, like many, that she would’ve rather spent the money on something else.

“I would have much rather taken a trip than replace my roof, but I did need a new roof,” says Sheek.

Cheryl Moniz and Douglas Carr Cunningham found a new insurance policy on their home in Summerville that was $700 lower than the former one, but when the company came out to see their house, also built in 1985, the insurance company told them the 10-year-old roof did not meet code and needed to be replaced.

“So our $700 savings turned into a $4,000 expenditure, but it turned out to be a blessing because the roofers discovered some of the boards to be in bad shape,” says Moniz. Campbell says such problems occur in nearly all the roofing jobs they do.
Limited assistance

Nancy Vinson of Charleston plans to replace her roof within the next two years and hopes it will bring less expensive insurance.

She is eyeing a grant program, Safe Home, administered by the S.C. Department of Insurance.

The Safe Home program, established by the Omnibus Coastal Property Insurance Reform Act of 2007, provides grant money to individual homeowners to make their property more resistant to hurricane and high-wind damage.

The funds provided by this program are for the sole purpose of retrofitting owner-occupied, single-family homes, and may not to be used for remodeling, home repair or new construction.

Among the repairs include reinforcing roof-to-wall connections and roof coverings.

The idea behind the program is fewer insurance claims, which could ultimately reduce insurance premiums for all South Carolinians.

However, the website notes that it is not currently accepting applications, which Vinson knows too well.

“The waiting list is a mile long, and they have not taken any new applications in a long time, last I checked,” says Vinson, calling the $2,500 toward reroofing for average income homeowners “overly generous.”

“The grant could have been $1,200 or $1,500 and gotten more storm-safe roofs on with plenty of applicants,” says Vinson.
Going solar

Like Walsh, Sheek and Moniz, Sally Bette Newman bought a house and then was hit with a requirement by her insurance company to replace her roof.

The 33-year-old lawyer and first-time home buyer purchased her 76-year-old, 1,700-square-foot house in Wagener Terrace in July 2015, knowing that she was probably facing a roof replacement in three or four years.

“I was on a budget and wasn’t looking to replace my roof right away,” says Newman.

And while the replacement cost $5,500, it enabled her to go forward with another project that had to wait for a new roof: getting solar panels. Last winter, she had about 20 panels placed on her new roof and is reaping the benefits of lower electric and gas bills.

Her last three bills included a $4 credit in May, $11 in June and $50 in July, the latter of which set a new monthly record for hot weather.

Getting solar panels often calls for getting a new roof and contractors are starting to see more replacements because of solar.

“You’ve got a figure that most solar panels have a 25-year output warranty, so you definitely want to make sure the roof has at least that in longevity,” says Campbell.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.

Metal roofs vs. asphalt shingles

In the Lowcountry, metal roofs are increasingly being embraced as much for their longevity as for the tradition, according to Chance Nyman, owner of Lowcountry Roofing & Exteriors.

“Metal is popular in the Lowcountry because it’s more durable and lasts longer,” says Nyman, adding that it also reflects sunlight and therefore is more efficient.

But while a metal roof lasts longer, it’s also more expensive, often two to three times as much as asphalt, says Nyman.

“A lot of people ask about metal, but when you tell them how much, they tend to shy away. It’s a want and not a need. If you had to choose between upgrading your roof or you’re kitchen, the emotional pull is for the kitchen,” says Nyman.

Residential metal roofing is generally made of steel, aluminum or copper.

For Mike Campbell, managing owner of Charleston Roofing and Exteriors, less than 10 percent of the roofs his company works on are metal. He says that metal roofs come in three basic types: classic rib, 5V and standing seam.

“The latter is the only one that fastening systems are hidden and (gaskets and screws) are not exposed to the sun and UV rays. In 5V and classic rib, you’ll see the grommets around the screws get eaten by the sun. That’s why you see some rust stains on metal roofs.”

And while standing seam is the most expensive of the three, he adds that “if you put a standing seam roof on your house, you’re not going to have to do anything for a long, long time.

What’s a long time? “Maybe 50 years.”
From The Post and Courier
Trenton H. Cotney
Florida Bar Certified Construction Lawyer
Trent Cotney, P.A. 
407 N. Howard Avenue
Suite 100
Tampa, FL 33606