Dear Angie: How much do roof inspections cost? — James F., Greenville, S.C.
Answer: If you're aware of a problem with your roof and want to know the scope of the issue before you pay for a fix, a professional roofer probably will do an inspection at no cost.
But if you simply want to check the condition of your roof, you'll probably have to pay for a general maintenance inspection. Sometimes, such an inspection might include minor repairs.
In interviewing highly rated service providers and perusing member reviews, our researchers found the cost of roof inspections ranges from free to $200.
One member reported paying $300 because the company returned the next day to replace several shingles. Also, some inspectors charge more to include an interior, attic-view roof check.
Experts say one benefit of scheduling a "peace of mind" type of roof inspection every one or two years is the ability to catch potential problems before they become bigger. It's also helpful to get a professional estimate of how much useful life your roof might have left.
Here are common components an inspector will examine:
■ Overall appearance of the roof, both exterior and interior. This will indicate whether there's surface deterioration or any physical damage.
■ Evidence of cracks and leaks.
■ Condition of fascia, gutters and drains, skylights, chimneys and vents.
■ Curled or broken shingles.
■ Areas where water might collect.
■ Damaged or missing flash points.
Should you hire a professional to conduct a roof inspection?
There are a couple of reasons to consider hiring an expert. For one thing, climbing a ladder and getting on a roof can be dangerous. For another, there could be subtle signs of problems that only an expert would notice.
However, it pays to beware of roofing scams. You want to be sure to hire an established, reputable and reliable inspector. Before agreeing to any suggested roofing work, be sure to do your hiring homework.
That includes asking friends, family and neighbors for recommendations, and checking online reviews. Get multiple bids, ask for and check references, and make sure the company you hire is appropriately licensed and insured.
In the wake of potentially roof-damaging weather, be on the watch for so-called storm chasers, who typically travel around the country looking to take advantage of people in distress. Make sure the company you hire has an actual permanent, local office, not just a P.O. box.