Roofers know a lot about roofing — that seems kind of obvious. They also probably know a lot about attic construction, general home construction, gutters and more. However, there’s one thing they’ll invariably run into during their working careers, which some new roofers may know very little to nothing about: Satellite dishes.

We quickly lost track of the number of times that we’ve had satellite service calls where the customer had a new roof installed days or weeks before. Prior to getting the new roof, the customer had their Dish Network or DirecTV dish installed on their roof. When the roofers arrived, they needed to remove the dish in order to put on the new roof.

After the roof is installed, the most common practice is re-installing the dish “in the same holes.” But there’s a far better practice that doesn’t involve potentially causing needless damage to the newly installed roof, and minimizes the amount of time customers go without television service.

Satellite Dish Care

Every satellite dish system comes in two (or more) parts: The dish assembly, and the mounting bracket.  Many who aren’t intimately familiar with these systems (including roofers) might see it as one big hunk of metal. It only intersects with their work area at one location — the roof. So they often unbolt the footplates and remove the dish. These satellite systems were never meant to be disassembled in this way, and it’s very easy to bend the reflector or damage some other part of the dish when it’s still connected to the mounting hardware.

To remove the dish correctly, first loosen the bolts and nuts holding the dish to the mounting bracket and gently lift it off to remove the dish separately from the mount. The sizes of these nuts will vary, but most are 1/2” (for DirecTV) or 7/16” (for Dish Network). The footplates are almost always secured using bolts with 1/2” heads.

Cabling Removal

Just taking down the pieces of metal is one thing. In most cases, that dish will be connected by one or more coaxial cables. Again, the dish was never meant to be removed with the cables attached. Cutting them may save the roofing company time, but that’s causing direct damage for expediency’s sake.

In order to remove the cables without causing damage, you’ll need a small to medium sized Phillips head screwdriver and a 7/16” open ended wrench. Look near the end of the satellite dish’s LNB arm (the LNB is the “eye” on the end of the dish). You’ll see one or two small Phillips head screws. Loosen them, then pull off the LNB. Some DirecTV dishes have a handy lever that releases the LNB when pulled down — no tools needed. The cables will be attached just inside the plastic housing and you can loosen them with the 7/16” wrench (or an adjustable wrench). Carefully cut any cable ties, and gently pull the wire back away from the dish.

Roofers don’t need to worry about damaging the roof upon removal (which is otherwise a major concern for dish removal projects). So once the dish is off the house, great! Now what? Naturally, the new roof needs to be installed, and the customer will be without service for at least a day, if not several.

Re-Installing the Dish

If a roofing contractor puts the dish back up in the same spot, potentially unnecessary damage has just occurred to the new roof.

Now I know there will be some roofers out there who’ve had luck trying to put back the dish into the same holes. The most common practice seems to be putting the dish back up, checking to see if the homeowner gets a picture on their TV and everyone is happy, right? Not quite. Consider this:

The dish is a big wind sail. It’ll get pushed and pulled during its lifetime, and it’s the responsibility of the person installing the dish to ensure it’s secure. This means the lag bolts should be installed firmly into roof rafters where possible.

The mounting bracket also needs to be properly sealed, which roofers can usually handle. But if the dish isn’t secure, it could work itself loose over time and break the seal.

Then the mounting bracket (that needs to be installed separately from, and before, the satellite dish) must be perfectly level in both directions. Specifically, both sides need to be vertically plumb. The top of the mast pipe doesn’t need to be horizontally level.

The one thing that roofers often can’t do (unless they want to spend $500 or more on a professional grade satellite meter and even more on training to use it) is repeak the DirecTV, Dish Network, or other dish. Just because the customer has a picture doesn’t mean the dish is installed and peaked properly. It may have just barely enough signal for a sunny day, but if clouds or rain come then the picture will cut out in what’s called “rain fade.” The customer probably won’t ever put two and two together — they may end up just getting mad at their provider for poor services when the issue is with their own particular dish installation.

What’s a Roofer to Do?

It’s very tempting for a roofer to try to reinstall a satellite dish to help the customer out. So what should roofers do when they run into a satellite dish on a roof they’re working on?

Depending on their expertise, confidence level and type of roofing services they provide, their particular approach may vary.

Option 1 - Great Roofing Service

With this solution, your customers will be without service for minutes, not days. Call an independent professional satellite installer before you begin tearing off the old roof. While you could ask the customer to contact their network in advance, this can be inconvenient. It’s best to reach out to an independent technician on your own and ask for a dish removal or relocation. The cost can be itemized separately or included in your estimates.

What you really want is to see if the satellite technician can find a new dish mounting location somewhere off the roof. This way, the technician can move the dish immediately and service disruption to the customer is minimized.

But if the dish does need to go back onto the roof, then you could at least have the technician remove the dish while there so that it won’t get damaged. Schedule a time for them to come back to re-install it once the new roof is done.

Option 2 - Good Roofing Service

Ask the customer to call their service provider and schedule an appointment for the same day that you’ll be done with that part of the roof where the dish was located. Normally, they’ll have to pay for a service call because it’s typically considered a “customer-caused issue” when a new roof is installed. Take the dish down yourself using the tips mentioned earlier. But don’t attempt to re-install it without training and a high-end meter.