How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

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.

Comparing Contractors

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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About Jeffrey Blank

Jeffrey Blank is the vice president of Research and Development for the SR Products Division of Simon Roofing, Youngstown, Ohio.

Comments

  1. I appreciate your tip to make sure you find a roofing contractor who is licensed and certified. I also like that you pointed out that good roofing contractors should have proper insurance coverage. I’ll be sure to watch out for those things the next time I’m hiring roofing contractors.

  2. Excellent Article…I believe too many homeowners today are still unaware of the importance of hiring a licensed, bonded and insured contractor. Unfortunately many people just want to save a few bucks, but in the big picture the savings could end up costing them much more!

  3. I have some roofing work to do, and I have been looking for the right contractor to fit my needs. I agree that it is very important to verify the legitimacy of the company. You don’t want to hire somebody who is not up to your standards. I’ll keep that in mind and make sure to call trade associations to verify.

  4. I can see how all these questions about hiring the right roofer are valid. I never thought about the fact that a roofer would need to be bonded when they work on your roof. I never realized that I could be liable if they fall off my roof if they aren’t bonded. I can see why you would have to look beyond an internet post when it comes to hiring a trustworthy roofer.

  5. Be careful! I own a roofing company, and we’ve gotten a lot of clients from the shoddy past work of our competitors. If they had found us first, we could have saved them a lot of money and headache. Definitely make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. That goes without saying.

  6. My wife has been trying to find a company to come and take a look at our roof, and I wanted to help her out. It’s interesting that you should see what kinds of certifications the contractor has. That way, they might be able to help you out with other things as well.

  7. Finding the right roofer takes time, research and faith. I agree with Megan, finding the right roofer is a huge decision. I suggest asking alot of questions!

  8. Besides checking to see if the contractor is licensed and insured, it is also a good idea to check with previous clients about their work. Ask the contractor to put you in contact with their last 3 clients. If they did a good job, the clients shouldn’t mind sharing about their work.

  9. Things are different here in the Uk in terms of being licensed and insured. But we are proud to promote that we go over and above all the regulations.

  10. As most of the comments have mentioned… it goes without saying that you should check certifications and insurance etc. but who really has the time to do this? Especially when you’re planning on getting a few roofing quotes to compare.

    Nowadays it’s far simpler to use one of the online services that can arrange free quotes for you, and better still they pre-screen and vet all roofers on the network so you don[t have to worry about quality etc.

  11. Getting the right roofing contractor can be hard. I know that you have to do a lot of research because you want to make sure that the work is quality. I agree that you should also check to see if they are legit as well.

  12. Thank you for the help. My roof was damaged in a storm, so I am trying to find a roofing contractor to repair it for me. I am not even sure how to describe the problem, as you discussed. Should I try to have someone come inspect it and give an estimate afterward?

  13. I loved the way you put things so bluntly. If he’s not licensed, that really is a red flag. Reading through this article I was surprised just how common it is to find a fraud. I’ve always have had good experiences. When I look in the near future, I’ll be much more aware.

  14. This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to find a roofer that is licensed. My roof has been having some problems with a leak that I can find, and I want to have a professional come and take care of it for me. I’m kind of new to the area, so I need to search for someone, and I’ll make sure that whoever I decide on is licensed. Thanks for the great post!

  15. I have recently realized that my roof is much older than I thought it was, so I really appreciate this information on how to choose a roofing contractor. I like how you point out the importance of finding one that will come out and look at your roof before giving a price or promise that they can fix it. I imagine that it would also be important to find someone who has good reviews from former clients. Thanks for sharing this information!

  16. Checking certifications is a really great idea for finding a roofing contractor. I know I’m in need of some roofing work done, but I really wasn’t sure how to get the best roofers out there. I’ll have to call around and ask them what kinds of credentials they have. Thanks for the tips!

  17. Choosing a roofing contractor is a very big choice! I mean, if you don’t have a good roof, it’s almost impossible to feel safe and comfortable in your house. I loved what you said about the importance of finding someone who is licensed. You’re totally right: if someone isn’t licensed, there’s probably a reason!

  18. I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m supposed to choose someone to do my roof. There’s just so many options! I didn’t even think about asking those questions beforehand. It makes sense that you would want to ensure that the contractor was licensed! Thanks for sharing.

  19. Setting your terms in the proposal is a really good idea. In my mind, it sets a clear expectation of what exactly will be done to the roof and what will happen. I’ll have to pass along this article to a friend of mine who’s been looking at roofing contractors to get some work done on his home. Thanks for the awesome info!

  20. I like that you brought up checking to make sure your contractor is licensed bonded and insured. Working with an unlicensed contractor is extremely risky and could cause all sorts of problems. Always err on the side of caution, and in this case, certification.

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