There is an art to climbing up on the roof.
And it starts before you take the first step.
“You need a good, sturdy ladder—and a lack of fear,” says Alex DeSousa, owner/founder of Union County–based De Sousa Contracting. “Going up is not a problem. But coming down, going backwards, you have to practice that to get used to it.”
He makes it sound simple, but that’s probably because heights have never bothered him.
De Sousa, born in Newark, raised in Hillside and now living in Union County, learned about climbing ladders and home renovations while helping his father with small projects when he was growing up.
“I’m self-taught,” he says proudly, adding that in 2021 alone he and his curated team of subcontractors, who each have 20 years of experience laying shingles, have replaced 50 roofs.
In 2018, unsatisfied with the work of contractors he had hired, he started his own company, which specializes in roofing, siding and exterior paving.
One of his first projects was his own house, a 1968 bi-level that he bought in foreclosure after it had been vacant for four years. He gutted it, and of course, replaced its roof and siding, showing it off to potential clients as a sample of the caliber of work De Sousa Contracting completes.
A good roof—one that’s made of high-quality materials and that is installed properly—can cost $8,000 to $16,000 depending on the style and size of the home and should last 25 to 30 years.
“Ranch houses, which are predominant in towns like Bridgewater, have bigger roof surfaces so they are more expensive,” he says.
Technology has lessened De Sousa’s time on the ladder considerably. To come up with cost estimates for clients, he uses a comprehensive system based on aerial imagery that allows him to precisely plot points and calculate the pitches and angles of the roof.
“It’s 100 percent accurate, and it means I can do it from my own home office,” he says.
Replacing the siding is another way to add aesthetic and dollar value to your home. DeSousa recommends either vinyl siding or fiber cement siding, such as the popular brand James Hardie.
“Whatever you choose should be good quality and sun-fade resistant,” he says.
If you take good care of your roof, you probably won’t have to climb up on a ladder very often.
For De Sousa, downtime means hanging out with his wife and two sons, who are 5 and 2. “The boys are into karate and swimming,” he says. “My oldest has come to some job sites with me to see what daddy does. But they’re too young. They’re not ready to join me on the roof. Yet.”
Find out more about De Sousa’s work at 973-951-7748 and see before and after photos at instagram.com/desousa.contracting.
If your shingles are sprouting moss, delaminating or are loose or missing, it probably means that your roof needs replacing.
Clean your gutters at least once a year, preferably in the autumn right after the leaves have fallen, to prevent clogging and to allow snow and rain to drain properly.
High-quality gutter guards are a good investment for homeowners who don’t want the worry of climbing and annual cleaning.
As part of routine roof maintenance, check the attic, dormers, chimney and chimney exhaust pipes for signs of leaks.