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Rehabbing From the Roof Down

By Brian Kline | May 11, 2018

Rehabbing can be a very profitable business or it can cost you your shirt. The two most expensive repairs can be a new roof and repairing the foundation, although rewiring an old fuse box can be spendy as well. Here we examine the costs and variables that go into replacing a roof and when it becomes a deal breaker.

Roof Inspection

When you are considering purchasing a rehab, one of the first parts of the house you want to thoroughly inspect is the roof. If you're not experienced with roof repairs, you'll want to hire a professional inspector or you could be taking on an unprofitable rehab project. Even when using the basic rehab cost formula of buying for 30% less than the repaired value can get you into trouble if you underestimate the cost of putting on a new roof. Leaking roof damages much more than only the shingles. By the time there is a leak into the living area, the entire roof system is likely to have serious damage. Besides replacing the shingles (or cedar, or tiles) you'll have rotted roof decking, damage to the "A" frame trusses, mold in the insulation, and wood, as well as a ventilation problem.

Besides inspecting the rooftop, it's essential that residential or commercial roofers to thoroughly inspect the roof from the inside of the attic. Look for wood damage everywhere. It can start with the decking (plywood) or be in the framing. One sign that the roof is beginning to fail are rusty nails that are letting rain in. Another important part of the roof system to inspect are the plumbing and exhaust vents. When these damages are caught early, a roof repair can be relatively inexpensive. But once the surrounding wood starts rotting or molding the repair can make your rehab too expensive to be profitable.

Roofing Costs

From hurricane winds to ice dams, different parts of the country experience different roofing damage. The roof is the house's first line of defense against the weather and is likely to be both the first to be damaged and the most expensive to repair. Roofs are designed to withstand the weather of the local geography. A roof designed for one part of the country but installed in another will have a much shorter life span or even fail from the first bad weather event.

It can cost as little as $6,000 to replace a shingle roof on a 1,400 square foot house. But before you come to that conclusion, consider the many variables that go into replacing a roof. In most locations, you can put up to three layers of shingles on a roof before being required by code to rip off all the old roofs before putting on a fourth layer. Ripping off old layers is costly not only for the labor but to dispose of the old materials as well.

Other costs to consider are replacement plywood, flashing, and cement. But the repair costs often go beyond the basics. Even if the "A" frame trusses are in good repair, other costs can include repointing of a chimney, repair of gutters, or resealing of skylights. If you are planning to profit from a rehab, don't plan on going the cheap route by replacing a tile roof with a shingled roof if the neighborhood is dominated by tile roofs. Doing so will only devalue the property. Vice-versus, you don’t want to replace a shingle roof with tiles. Shingles are much heavier and will require extensive and costly strengthening of the entire structure from the roof down.

Finally, most rehabbing projects are based on upgrading an old house to modern standards. When the roof is involved, this can add additional costs to install skylights and other amenities. The bottom line is that if you're not a roofing expert and you know there is a problem with the roof, you need to bring in a roof contractor like the one from sites like to get a full and accurate estimate of the roof replacement or repair costs before making a purchase offer or you may spend more repairing the roof than you estimate to be your rehab profit.

Please comment on your roofing experiences.

Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 12 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. With the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.

Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years with articles listed on Yahoo Finance, Benzinga, and uRBN. Brian is a regular contributor at Realty Biz News
  • 4 comments on “Rehabbing From the Roof Down”

    1. What a nice write up on often hidden costs in rehabbing a house, though I think you mean "tiles" not "shingles" in the sentence: Shingles are much heavier and will require extensive and costly strengthening of the entire structure from the roof down.

      1. Thank you Lukasz. You are absolutely correct about my misuse of the word shingles. I was thinking tiles when I wrote it.

        Brian Kline

    2. Hi Brian,
      It’s cool that you have shared about rehabbing. You have shared the most practical tips when purchasing for a rehab. It's a must to take note and bookmark this page. I also agree that you truly need to check the roofing. It’s vital to inspect it thoroughly.

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