To hear Dale Thornberry tell it, the people who measure roofs the old-fashioned way with a tape measure are quite literally wasting their time. He says his company, GeoEstimator, offers a quicker and easier way to perform this function, thanks to the Internet and high-tech imaging tools.

With this new tool, roofing contractors no longer have to drive out to a jobsite and climb a roof to get the job estimation done. GeoEstimator uses aerial and satellite images and the company’s proprietary software to generate a report with complete calculations and precise measurements of virtually any roof surface. The digital images, integrated with the software, determine the correct correlation between the image size and actual size.

“The typical roof measurement process is rather daunting when you consider the time it takes to drive to a potential client's house, the money spent on gas, the time spent on the roof, the time spent dropping the measurements in a spreadsheet, and the time it takes to prepare the finished report,” says Thornberry, president and CEO of the company.

“Insurance adjusters and contractors do not get paid for measuring a roof," he says. "We perform that service remotely for less than they can do it themselves without sacrificing accuracy.”

Roofers stand to gain the most from GeoEstimator in terms of time and less building material waste, according to Thornberry, but he also thinks builders, contractors, and remodelers also will find the service beneficial. But how accurate are aerial and satellite imaging? How does this computer-dependent approach compare to a contractor physically standing on a roof and taking field measurements? According to Thornberry, the high-tech system is better. “We have been proven to be far more accurate than a human being on a roof," he claims.

GeoEstimator is more accurate, Thornberry explains, because calculating the area of a roof is far more complicated than a simple four-corner measurement. Human error is common, but the service can accurately calculate the lineal feet of ridge, valley, perimeter, and step flashing. Plus, the system generates a material take-off for the flashing, plywood, and other materials—and in less time and with fewer headaches.

Thornberry, a former contractor and a software entrepreneur, adds that the service uses satellite imagery and aerial photography from three providers, reducing the risk of the system generating a report based on outdated photos. It also allows for the greatest national and international coverage available, he says.

Though the price of a complete roof measurement report varies starting at $29.95, the cost is based on the extensiveness of the report, the number of planes, and volume of reports. Users may pay based on a per-use system or through a subscription, with discounts available for larger users.

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Nigel Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.