Imagine if you, as a remodeling contractor, signed an agreement to build an addition and had to have it finished in six weeks. Or that the contract you just signed for a kitchen job stipulated that the job must be completed in four weeks? Or how about two weeks? Could you do it?

You would, if you had to. The Extreme Makeover TV series is the documented proof that a residential renovation project can be accomplished in just about any time frame, given a certain level of planning, organization, and resources. But if roofing was your business, all this would go without saying.

The Need for Speed

Roofers have no choice but to get it done fast and on time. With an uncomplicated shingle roof, that means completing the job in one day. “Roofing is an unforgiving business,” says Ed Ladouceur, owner of Stormtite Home Improvement,  in Warwick, R.I. “We look at it this way: Of all the work we do, roofing has the most responsibility,” he says, because if crews strip a roof right down to the sheathing and a “weather event” (read: rain) occurs before the roof is replaced, it’s a disaster.

“Our rule of thumb,” says Jeff Head, owner of Head Construction, in Evansville, Ind., “is that you never tear off in a day what you can’t put back on. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people who tore off roofs and a rainstorm came and they got caught with their pants down.” Something like that, even one time, Head says, would ruin a company’s reputation and mire it in lawsuits.

Crews have to get the roof on fast. Speed is a consequence of how many people are actually working at any given time. But having the right materials is even more critical.

The good thing about a roofing-job materials list is that it’s not extensive. It might contain, Head says, 10 to 12 must-have items that, in addition to shingles, would include ice-and-water shield, nails, caulk, flashing, felt, and sheathing. Stormtite uses a materials list that Ladouceur designed. It helps to ensure that everything needed will be on site.

Other Factors for a Smooth Process

When planning a roofing job, here are some other factors to bear in mind.

  • Get the quantity right. You have the items but maybe not in the right quantities. That, Head says, is far more likely to slow down a job than is missing something essential. On any complicated job, Mark Kaufman Roofing, in Sarasota, Fla., avoids running short of shingles or other essentials by commissioning an aerial report from Eagleview, which provides all the information needed for correct specs. “For $55 or $60, it shows you all the measurements you need for drip edge, ridge, and valleys,” owner Mark Kaufman says. That ensures you will have the right quantities.
  • Take photos of potential problem areas. That picture of the leaky dormer or damaged valley or roof edge prone to ice-damming is invaluable to installers arriving on the jobsite. The photo makes them aware of problem situations so that they can budget the time and attention needed to take care of them.
  • Carry extra. Especially useful when it comes to unforeseens—which more often than not involve rotted wood. Mark Kaufman Roofing recently had a job, for instance, where multiple layers of shingles disguised soft sheathing. “We had some wood on our trailer,” he says, “but not enough.” Typically, crews carry a dozen extra sheets of plywood, above and beyond what’s called for in the estimate. “The more well-organized subs carry extra drip edge, felt paper, and nails because they don’t want to run out,” Head says.
  • Have a designated driver. To the supply house, that is. Supply-house runs are a last resort because it means pulling someone off the job. “I don’t want to spend money on having some guy shopping,” Kaufman says. An understanding with suppliers is useful here. “Sometimes we get to the site and find we’re short a roll of felt or there’s no lead for the chimney,” Ladouceur says. This is where a strong relationship with the supply house comes in handy and cell phones are indispensable. Suppliers should know that every roofing job is a priority job. “We will not leave a roof open,” Ladouceur says. The worst mistake a roofer can make is “to try to anticipate Mother Nature.”