How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

The greatest challenge for anyone responsible for any physical asset is how to keep it operating properly. The key is finding qualified maintenance providers to solve problems that are beyond our own abilities. With the advent of the Internet, our options are limitless. If we need a doctor, we Google the type of doctor we need and get a list of options. The same can be said for all other types of goods and services. But with more options, are we really getting more quality from these numerous choices?

Unfortunately, people and companies can make any claim on the Internet and, as long as they don’t slander anybody else, it’s perfectly legal. I get emails every day claiming to have a cure for cancer, obesity, hemorrhoids, etc., and all I have to do is log on to the website, enter my credit card number and the “cure” will be sent to my house within 72 hours.

Everyone knows this is a hoax, right? Yet more and more of these websites keep popping up every day. Clearly someone is falling for these frauds or there wouldn’t be any! But I digress. The topic of this article is “how to choose a roofing contractor”, not “how not to get ripped off using the Internet.”

Preliminary Questions

Consequently, if I have a roof leak, the first thing I will do is conduct a web search for roofing contractors in my area. I will probably look for ones located closest to my facility. I will call the company and say something like: “I have a roof leak. Do you fix those?” The contractor will probably say, “Yes, I can fix leaks.” I will then say: “Great! When can you be here?” And the rest is, as they say, history. Hopefully, the contractor I selected is licensed, bonded, insured and competent. As you can see, I didn’t ask any of those questions, so I really don’t know. But he must be good; he was listed on the Internet!

If he’s not licensed, there is probably a pretty good reason why he isn’t—he’s not a real contractor, just kind of a handyman. If he’s not bonded and there is a problem with the work he performs and he refuses to fix his mistakes, I will have no recourse to take legal action because he doesn’t have a bonding company backing his work. If he isn’t insured and he falls off my roof, he can sue me personally for causing him bodily injury.

Before any contractor comes out to your facility, make sure the company is licensed, bonded and insured. Always ask for the license number, bonding company name and number, and personal liability insurance policy number. Once you get this information, verify these numbers and providers. I once had a contractor give me his license number only to find out the number was made up! If the information checks out, set up an appointment for the contractor to evaluate your problem. Don’t set the appointment and then check out the company’s qualifications. If a roofer comes out, climbs on your roof and falls off without liability insurance, you are on the hook paying for “Mr. FastRoofs Inc.’s” medical bills or worse: he sues you for not having fall protection on your roof—not that you should know what that is—and rest assured you will pay his medical and legal bills!

Once you have determined a certain level of legitimacy, you should also check what other types of certifications the contractor has attained. I would determine whether he or she belongs to the Better Business Bureau. This is no guarantee that these companies won’t have problems, but it does show a willingness to be responsible once the work has been completed. Also, determine whether the company belongs to trade associations. A roofing contractor should be “a member in good standing” and belong to the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association or one of its affiliates.

Don’t assume just because a company says it belongs to a trade association it does. I once dealt with a painting contractor that listed on its website belonging to the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, Maryland Heights, Mo. I called the trade association and learned the contractor did not belong at all! In other words, if a contractor makes a claim, make a call and check it out—no matter what!

The Proposal

Once you have properly vetted your prospective contractor, call him and describe your problem in the most basic terms. Most people want to solve the problem themselves and then just have the contractor effect the change.

Customers often will call and say: “I have a lot of problems on my roof. Can you come out and give me a quote for a new roof?” I am sure many of you are reading this and are completely incredulous this happens but, be honest, it’s human nature to not want to seem ignorant. As a matter of fact, I find those with the most experience are quickest to opine on their problems when they really don’t have a clue as to what’s wrong with their roof.

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