Beyond Roof Cost Per Square

How Does Roofing Get to be So Expensive?

There are only a few categories of items that contribute to the cost of your roof, but there are a lot of items in each category and all together they really do add up. 

Roofing Supplies and Materials

The part of the roof that you see from the curb is just the top layer of your roofing system. There is much more to each project! Exact amounts and types vary depending on the roofing material used. 

  • Sheathing, the wood layer beneath it all
  • Flashing, metal along the roof edges
  • Ice and Water shield, a waterproof adhesive material in especially vulnerable areas of your roof
  • Underlayment, a layer of protective material between your sheathing and roofing materials
  • Roofing Material (shingles, tiles, wood, slate, etc.)
  • Ventilation
  • Additional flashing or boots, to cover holes and protrusions through your roof
  • Chemical fasteners (caulk, adhesives, etc.)
  • Mechanical fasteners (nails, clips, etc.)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Safety supplies
  • Forms and other project-related paperwork


There are a number of roles to be covered in a competent company. Whether it is one person doing it all, subcontracted out to other companies, or an in-house team, labor expenses are a big contribution to the cost of doing business.

Wages are likely to be higher in metropolitan areas and lower in rural places. On top of competitive wages, many other employee costs like taxes, time off, and other benefits must be covered to both stay legal and keep good people on the job.

Here are some of the positions that have to be covered to run a roofing business with excellence:


  • Roof Inspections
  • Roof Tear-Offs
  • Roof Repairs
  • Roof Installation
  • Cleanup
  • Warranty Support

Safety Professionals

  • Safety Manager
  • Safety Inspectors
  • Safety Trainer
  • Vehicle Mechanic


  • Owner or Directors
  • General Manager
  • Human Resources

Legal and Professional

  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Tax Professional
  • Legal Expert: Contracts; Federal, State, County, and City Government Regulations
  • IT Team

Customer Service

  • Project Consultants or Salespeople
  • Customer Support
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Materials Estimating
  • Materials Scheduling
  • Roofing Foreman
  • Technician Scheduler

Wages and many types of insurance are likely to be higher in metropolitan areas and lower in rural places. On top of competitive wages, many other employee costs must be covered to both comply with regulations and keep the best people on the job. 

  • Wages
  • Training & Certifications: Craftsmanship, First Aid, Material Safety, Physical Safety
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Time off and other Benefits
  • Uniforms or safety gear


    Overhead is the combination of things it takes to be in business and do the work, beyond people and products. Every industry has some type of overhead, even it it’s just a notebook, pen, and taxes. In the construction industry we have to go quite far beyond that! Here are some of the bigger components.

    • State Contractor’s license with required bond and insurance
    • Labor & Industries
    • Corporate filings
    • Business licenses for each city we work in (65 towns at time of writing)
    • Taxes: Federal, State, and Regional
    • OSHA Specified Safety Equipment (see Equipment tab)


    • Vans, Trucks, Trailers, Forklifts, Site Dumpsters, Dump Trucks, Conveyors, Lifts, etc.
    • And the things it takes to keep the vehicles going:
      • Fuel and Fluids
      • Parts and Maintenance
      • Tires
      • Licensing and Tabs
      • Tolls
      • Insurance
      • Loss due to Theft or Collisions


    • Assorted Ladders up to 40 feet tall
    • Scaffolding
    • OSHA Specified Safety Equipment: Hardhats, Rope, Harnesses, First Aid Kits, Fire Extinguishers, etc.
    • Power tools, compressor, and cords
    • Hand tools
    • Loss due to Theft and Wear

    We can’t do all our work from a customer’s driveway. There needs to be a place for additional activity to happen.

    • Office building
    • Manufacturing shop
    • Mechanic’s shop
    • Fleet Parking
    • Indoor and Outdoor Storage – We purchase standard supplies in bulk so we save you time and money. This stock on hand needs storage space, but saves us pointless trips to the store in the middle of your project. Sometimes other contractors call us to borrow tools or materials!

    Along with Real Estate are the things that make the property safe and useful:

    • Utilities: Electricity, Heat, Internet, Cell Phone Service, Office Phone Service, Security, etc.
    • Insurance: Fire, Theft, etc.


    • Desks, Chairs
    • File Cabinets, Shelves, etc.

    Hard Goods

    • Office: Staplers,  Desk Phones, etc.
    • Break Room: Microwave, Refrigerator, Coffee Pot, etc.


    • Paper, Pens, Tape, Archive Boxes, etc.


    • Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, Mobile Phones
    • Cords and Wiring
    • Software
    • Printers, Copiers, Ink or Toner
    • Technical Support and Maintenance

    More than just a way to get attention for the company (which is also necessary), some combination of the following is required just to communicate with today’s customers in the multitude of places where they expect a response:


    • Signs
    • Envelopes, Paper, and Postage
    • Business Cards
    • Forms
    • Brochures
    • Billboards
    • Radio
    • TV
    • ID Cards
    • Vehicle Graphics
    • and more!


    • Websites and Search Engines
    • Review Platforms
    • Directory Sites
    • Social Media Content and Monitoring

    Continuing on the topic of overhead, here’s one of the many things that makes us special: we do so many jobs each month that our overhead is a smaller percentage of roofing cost when we run the numbers for your specific project. This makes the combination of our high-volume discounts and our modest overhead less of a burden to your invoice. That’s really something to smile about.

    Another thing to note is Legacy Roofing Northwest’s strict focus on roofing. Many general contractors can do a perfectly adequate job of working on your home from attic to basement, but they have to invest in a whole separate package of equipment, staff, and training for gutters, pest control, insulation, painting, etc. We have the right set of equipment and training for the one thing we do best: Quality Roofing.


    As there are cyclical ups and downs in the economy in general, and in construction specifically, it’s only a matter of time between the inevitable financial ups and downs of companies. Some companies are prepared and some are not. Historically, contractors have gone out of business in both good and bad times.This leaves the employees without work and the customers without a warranty.

    We’re still here because we are intentional in the way we do business. We strive daily to work with excellence as we plan for the worst and hope for the best.

    We’re not greedy. Nobody on staff has a jet or a yacht. We do need to make a little something on the majority of our jobs, however. This lets us keep going so we can weather the storms and are still strong when you need us – a lot like the roofs we install.

    The Bottom Line

    Unfortunately, the factors that make the cost of roofing so expensive aren’t just the things on your rooftop after the truck drives off into the sunset. Regardless of the size of a roofing company, the roofing industry has a lot of obligations and expenses.

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