Simply call the contractor and say: “I have a roof problem. This is what I am seeing … . Can you help me?” Let the contractor come out and tell you what’s going on. Is there a chance he might say you need a new roof? Sure. But the odds are pretty good your roof can be repaired utilizing commonly accepted restoration practices.
Next, get a written proposal and ask how long the proposal is good. Some proposals have an expiration date. Make sure you know what that date is. The last thing you want to do is select a contractor based upon his or her proposal only to find out the price was raised 25 percent because the firm has more work than it can handle. Don’t make the contractor’s problems your problems. If he can’t get it done when and at the price you originally agreed upon, hire someone else. There are plenty of fish in the sea!
Unless you have waterfall-like water cascading into your building, always get three quotes for any work done on your roof. That means you will have to vet three different contractors at the same time. On the other hand, if you have a catastrophic leak in your building, go with the most responsive contractor to start. Vet the firm as quickly as possible, but get your building in a dry state. An emergency repair can be temporary and then repaired in a more permanent fashion later. Sometimes just putting down a tarp will solve a problem for the moment; then you can get additional bids to properly repair the roof once the water has stopped pouring into your building.
Insist the proposals be as detailed as possible. If the contractor is proposing your roof be recoated, ensure the types and quantities of the product recommended are clearly specified in the quote. More importantly, ask to have labor and materials stipulated separately on the quote. After the materials have been identified, ask whether the contractor is an approved applicator of those materials. Most manufacturers have contractor programs in which they provide application instructions and training on their products. Some manufacturers have installation/contractor subsidiaries that only install the products they make.
If the contractor does not have some kind of relationship with a manufacturer, ask why. The manufacturers who do have certification programs have distinct contractor qualifications that prospective installers must meet. These qualifications are frequently the same criteria important to you: company size, years in business, licensed and bonded. If your prospective contractor was not good enough for the manufacturer, there is a good probability he or she is not good enough to fix your roof.
Also, ask whether the materials being recommended meet all current codes, standards and approvals. Many materials manufactured today have to meet a variety of industry standards, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual and ENERGY STAR If the contractor cannot or will not supply that kind of information, ask for reasons why. When the contractor responds, take good notes and don’t be afraid to check out those reasons with other contractors. You also can do a lengthy Internet search; the previously noted agencies have extensive searchable websites for your use. In the event you find comparable products that meet current standards, demand those products be used. If the contractor refuses and can’t provide a credible explanation, find another contractor who will utilize products that meet those standards.
At this point, you have received three quotes from three different contractors to repair your roof. Now you will have to compare what is most likely apples to oranges. Most people’s first reaction is to choose the low bid. Please resist this temptation. What you need to do is review the vetting process you already completed and apply that information to each quote.
For example, the low bid is a local contractor with a good reputation but has had some problems with shoddy work. When the contractor had a problem in the past, he was slow to resolve it. The high bid is a major contractor that is expensive. However, when problems occurred, the high-bid contractor was quick to respond and resolve them. The middle bid is a medium-sized contractor who, depending on his backlog, did good work but sometimes took a long time to complete the work. This contractor, too, was slow to respond to problems but did make good on his work. As you can see, you have risk/reward decisions to make. Do you want to go with the most reputable contractor at the highest price or do you want to take your chances with the low- or medium-priced contractor and see if saving some money is worth future potential headaches? Only you can decide what works best for you and your budgetary constraints.
Once you have narrowed the field to the contractor you are most likely to select, ask for three customer references with contact information. Let the contractor know you intend to contact these customers and then do it. If none or only one or two of the references respond, go back to your contractor and ask why. Then ask for additional references as needed, so that you get three good references. If you can’t get any credible references after the second go-round, you should to go back to the previous contractors and start the process all over again.
Don’t Be Complacent
I frequently see companies using the same contractor for many years only to have a terrible experience the last time. How is this possible? It goes back to vetting. Two years ago, Honest Bob Roofing decided to sell his company to Disreputable Roofing. The client assumed everything stayed the same. The customer should have asked the same old questions and reviewed the contractor as if they had never met prior to retaining his services this most recent time. If the customer had done that, he or she would have learned the business had changed hands and is now a totally different company. People retire, die, move away, change jobs and sell companies every day of the week.
If you follow this process every time you have a problem requiring a contractor, there is a pretty good chance you will have a positive outcome. Skip any of these steps and buyer beware! Never assume anything stays the same, and never be afraid to ask lots of questions.
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